2015-2016 Award Winners: Interactive Projectors for the Classroom

Posted on June 3, 2015 by Art Feierman
This year we considered four interactive ultra-short throw projectors, but one was a variation of another.  Of the three "different" projectors, all three were pretty impressive, so decided on two awards.  We also have two award winners from last year still very available, worthy of your consideration. Remember, we can only review so many projectors, and that certainly limits the number of interactive projectors we can get to.  These projectors are the best of those that we got to review. There may be a better choice for your specific needs, but these projectors are excellent examples of what top performing projectors providing great value, look like! We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year's Best Classroom Projectors report.

Epson BrightLink 595Wi - Winner: Best in Classroom - Interactive

2015-2016 Interactive Projector - Best PerformanceThis was pretty much a slam dunk.  Epson's been dominating our list of interactive projectors for several years, and others must agree with us, as a leading industry research firm recently stated that Epson has 63% of the interactive projector business in the US (or was it North America?)

The BrightLink 595Wi is an ultra short throw interactive WXGA projector with good edge to edge sharpness and at least, very good color in all but it’s brightest mode (with too much green/yellow).  It is especially full featured.  Perhaps its biggest claim to fame, and its major difference compared to last year's winner (see below), their 585Wi, is that while you can still use pens for interactivity, you can just as easily use your finger, and up to 8 fingers at once.  Line up those students and have them to math problems...  The lamp is rated an impressive 4000 hours at full power and 6000 in eco, for low cost of operation. Epson's lamp prices for education are all under $100 (some only $79) taking the "high price of replacement lamps" issue, and relegating it to insignificance. Wireless requires an optional $99 plug in module.

Its 3300 lumens (it measured very close) is plenty for ultra short throw use on screens up to 100" (the max interactivity supports - or is practical).  Multiple projectors can be used side by side, networking is advanced, color excellent, image especially sharp, good even in the corners!  3 year warranty with 3 years of rapid replacement - unbeatable!  Epson's 5xx series is still the one to beat.

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Hitachi CP-TW2503 - Runner-Up: Best In Classroom, Interactive

2015-2016 Best Interactive Projector (Runner-up)Hitachi's back!  One of the top players in the Education marketplace, for some reason we were told they weren't putting out review units last year, so we had none to work with.  They changed their mind this year, and guess what - they were wise to do so.

The CP-TW2503 in many ways resembles the Epson.  It is a rather full featured ultra short throw projector that comes with 2 interactive pens (supports up to four).  While it doesn't have finger touch capability standard, it is optional for a bit below $400 extra.  I'm not plugged in as well as with Epson regarding Hitachi's educational programs but best I can tell, the Epson has something of a price advantage, and if not at that, then in terms of operational costs.  That, despite Hitachi also offering low cost replacement lamps ($130). Epson, though has a good bit longer lamp life claims, and that means the Hitachi will need more frequent attention, which has a cost.

This Hitachi CP-TW2503 is an LCD projector, it's plenty bright, and it is versatile, there is supporting software for Macs and PCs, as well as free apps for iOS and Android.  It's networking is advanced.

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Let's just say that the Hitachi is very similar to the Epson in a great many ways, and is serious competition.  Ron, though found the Epson to overall, have a few more advantages than the other way around.  This Hitachi comes in a close second.  BTW, if you aren't interested in the interactive touch aspects, the CP-2503 competes directly with last year's winner, the Brightlink Pro 585Wi.

The Hitachi has the advantage of optionally adding touch interactivity at a later time, perhaps saving money at time of purchase, but costing more in the long run.

Take a close look.  A worthy contender.

2014-2015 Best In Classroom - Ultra Short Throw: Epson 585Wi

2014-2015_classroom_best-performance_interactiveI'll keep this short.  Last year we considered projectors in this class primarily as ultra short throw projectors, some were fully interactive like this Epson, others weren't, or were interactive only with remote mousing or an android or iOS app.

The Brightlink 585Wi though, came loaded for big game, with full pen based interactivity, advanced networking, and a great picture.

But, enough said, other than lacking finger touch, the 585Wi is identical to the slightly more expensive Brightlink 595Wi, which takes top honors this year, as an ultra-short throw interactive projector.  It's this simple.  Want finger touch interactive, you'll choose the 595Wi, if your school district or university classroom doesn't need that, choose this 585Wi, and save a couple hundred dollars or so, per projector.

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2014-2015 NEC UM330W: Best in Classroom - Ultra-Short Throw - Value

2014-2015_classroom_best-performance_runner-up_interactiveOur runner-up award for ultra-short throw projectors last year also goes out to a projector with a host of interactive features.  This WXGA NEC projector can project up to 110” diagonal (a little large for interactivity as that often means the screen is too tall for most folks to interact with the top of the screen.)  At that large size, the front of the projector is only 20” from the screen.

What makes the NEC UM330W rather unique is that it starts out as an ultra-short throw projector with a $1299 list price, but a street price below $1000. If you want the UM330W to be interactive, there’s an optional kit for less than $500 that attaches.  The NEC partnered with the E-beam folks, who have been making interactive devices for projectors and white boards for more than a decade.  The E-beam provides the usual pen based features (one pen included) for annotating, and more.  With the optional E-beam kit, the NEC is a solid interactive player, but not as "tight" as having it built in.   We favor the Epson or Hitachi operation over the optional E-beam interactivity, but the NEC is aggressively priced.  It has plenty of networking capability although unfortunately, it is not Crestron RoomView compatible.

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