Classroom Projector Report 2013: Value Projector Award Winners

Best In Classroom, Value: Projector Awards

For this award the goal was to find excellent projectors at very low price points, for schools and others that have limited budgets, and favor equipping more rooms (or more teachers), with good projectors, rather than buying far fewer, but more advanced projectors.

There were two winners in this category (tied).

Best In Classroom – Value Proposition: InFocus IN114

infocus-in114Tony gets to review most of the projectors that could be described as Value projectors.  When I originally asked him for his award recommendations from the projectors he reviewed, he picked not this InFocus IN114 projector, but the projector that shares this award this year.  The thing is, when I got back to him with some additional questions and clarifications, I specifically asked him why he had preferred this NEC projector as the best value, compared to this IN114 which is pretty similar, but a little less expensive.  Tony’s next analysis came back, basically saying, after rethinking, he was slightly favoring the IN114 projector.

Fair enough. Looking a the specs and Tony’s comments on various areas, I concluded that the two projectors were definitely similar values, each with a slightly different feature set.  Remember, these value projectors are not fully loaded with features, so that having a certain feature may be the determining factor as to which you choose to purchase.

The IN114 can either be mounted, or at only 4.8 pounds, it is about as portable as you can get without going to dramatically less bright pocket projector.  The lamp door allows access while mounted, and the lamp life at 6000 hours maximum, is extremely good.  This is a pretty small projector just a little larger than a standard sheet of paper, and less than 3 inches tall (not counting the feet).

The IN114 projector is also 3D capable, supporting 120hz, PC based 3D. The IN114 lacks HDMI 1.4 for Blu-ray 3D compatibility.  The same could be said of most of the 3D capable projectors in this report.

We like the warranty:  5 years parts, 2 years labor!  Some projectors have 3 years on labor, but no other projector of these 15 offer more than 3 years on parts.  Lamp warranty is 6 months.

Note in the image below taken in Presentation mode, the best combination of brightness and image quality, has yellows slightly muddy, and the reds are traditionally DLP dark.   But also of note is the text you see below.  Not that you would want to present with 12, 10 or 8 point type, you can see that this InFocus projector does a great job on small type in its native XGA resolution.

in114_mode_presentation
InII4 in Presentation Mode

The complaints?  (There are always things to complain about with the lower cost projectors.)  This whole series of InFocus projectors has a single 2 watt speaker.  That’s not exactly room filling in most cases, we favor having at least 5 watts, 10 is usually great. Color could also be better.  While brightest mode color was possibly a little better than many others, the InFocus in less bright modes doesn’t have as good color as many of the others, but it should be more than adequate in a school environment, as long as you don’t need color precision, for say an Art, or Photography class…

Considering this InFocus IN114 has an MSRP, of $399, and naturally sells for less, it is one of the least expensive projectors on the market that sports native XGA resolution, not to mention 3D.   It is capable of handling sources up to 1080p and WUXGA (2K) 1920×200.  The IN114 is most impressive, expecially for the extremely modest price tag.

Best in Classroom, Value Proposition:  NEC VE281X

nec-ve281The NEC VE281X offers about 2800 lumens, and is very portable with a footprint smaller than a standard 8.5×11 sheet of paper.  At 3.5 inches tall, it’s not overly bulky, either, but what makes the NEC VE281X so interesting for it’s very reasonable $449 MSRP, and even lower street price, is that it is Crestron RoomView and AMX compatible. There’s no digital network interface, but it does have an RS232 for that command and control.  As expected the VE281X projector supports closed captioning Use it as a portable, or mount it and tie it into your network where administrators at school or district level can monitor, control, and more.

Another strength, that’s important in the classroom is the reasonably powerful sound that eminates from the the VE281X’s 7 watt speaker – a distinct advantage there for this NEC over the InFocus it shares this award with.  Long term operation should be good with a 4000/6000 hour lamp, a 2 year parts and labor warranty (and the lamp is warrantied for two years or 4000 hours).

This NEC projector is 3D capable, just add glasses.  As is typical, it supports PC based 3D, but its HDMI is not supportive of Blu-ray 3D.

Complaints?  Not many.  Most notably, which could affect your decision is the lack of a monitor out.  That could be an issue where destop computers are used rather than laptops, but that would be the number one limitation.  Again, like with the InFocus, we’re not expecting projectors in this price range to be feature laden, so you have to figure out if it has all the critical features your situation calls for.

 

Color was very good for a low cost DLP.  Yellows were the typical muddy in brightest modes, but the reds were rather good even then. Even High Bright mode, which definitely leaves a good bit to be desired, is going to be reasonable in terms of color.  Not great, but we figure “reasonable” is fine for when you need maximum lumens, otherwise, Presentation looks to be a great choice blending lots of lumens with good color.

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