Projector Reviews

2015-2016 Award Winners: Larger Venue Projectors for the Classroom

Large Venue Projectors are an important segment of the overall education projector market.

When lower powered, less featured education projectors can’t handle the job – especially in large classrooms and K-12 small auditoriums, these projectors can.  Our winners should have no problem handling a typical university classroom or lecture hall with a hundred, even two or four hundred students.

Until recently most sufficiently high powered projectors were also extremely expensive and incredibly capable.  This year we’ve seen more segregation, The high priced feature laden projectors are still the majority, but companies are bringing out more high power projectors, that are leaving out expensive features such as interchangeable lenses, lens shift, edge blending, etc., that aren’t needed in most large classrooms.  The result is that some of this year’s winners are less expensive than last year’s. Some may not be quite as versatile as others, but make a whole lot of sense in many, if not most cases.

All the projector winners this year are WUXGA resolution.  In most cases, the manufacturers of these projectors also offer similar versions with lower resolutions for less money.

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.

Epson Powerlite 1985WU - Best Value Proposition

2015-2016_classroom_best-value_large-venueThis Epson typifies the type of projector I just mentioned above.  4800 lumens will handle almost any classroom around, including larger university classrooms/lecture halls with well over 100 seats. Advanced networking will tie into a university’s or school district’s networks nicely, and with Crestron RoomView compatibility offer a host of advanced projector and networking features.

The Powerlite 1985WU, with a well below $2000 education price, is full WUXGA (1920×1200) resolution.  Yet it is a small fraction of the price (for comparison purposes) of last year’s Epson G6900WU ($5999 MSRP) 6000 lumen projector with the same resolution.  Gone are multiple lens choices (but the 1985WU has plenty of range in its built in zoom lens), and lens shift…

The Epson Powerlite 1985WU offers the strongest value proposition of any of the high brightness projectors considered in this year’s report.  It’s 3 year warranty with three years of rapid replacement program for education buyers, is tough to beat as well.

Epson’s 1900 series is extensive, if you don’t need WUXGA resolution, or one or two other features, consider many other projectors in the series that might better suit your specific needs.

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Canon WUX6000 - Best Performance (with Flexibility)

2015-2016 Best In Classroom Award:  Best Performance - Large Venue ProjectorThere certainly is no shortage of well equipped, bright WUXGA projectors in the $4000 – $8000 range.  The Canon WUX6000 isn’t the least expensive  of those, but it does come across a cut above most.

Unlike the Epson above, which is very capable but lacks the extensive placement flexibility due to no interchangeable lenses or lens shift, this Canon has both interchangeable lenses and plenty of lens shift in addition to advanced networking.  DICOM is available if you need it, in the slightly more expensive WUX6000D, for medical imaging applications.

One feature offered, but still not widely found on projectors at this price point is support for multi-projector work.  True there are a number of competitors that do, but probably far more that lack this feature. That ability is not required in a typical higher education classroom, but universities might find it handy in some labs, or in art displays, and museum type areas.

Of particular note is the image quality.  Two things stand out.  First, color in the brightest mode – Dynamic was noticeably superior to most other projectors’ Dynamic modes.  There’s some green–>yellow shifting, but overall, it looks far better than the bulk of the competition.  That would indicate that if Canon wasn’t Canon – a photography company that reveres color performance – they probably could have given us an uglier Dynamic and found at least several hundred extra lumens to boast about.

The other point is that its combination of really impressive sharpness, WUXGA resolution and the almost invisible pixel structure of LCoS creates even tiny text (8 point) that appears very sharp and readable.  Really impressive!   Brightness – about 5500 lumens at max with the standard lens, and over 4700 at mid-zoom.  The other modes are mostly clustered right below 4000 lumens, plenty of power – at mid-zoom.  A basic Canon WUX6000 seems to street for about $4000.

Finally, it is one of the most compact projectors around that offers the interchangeable lens option.  Why it could even be treated as a portable, if need be, although I expect almost all would be mounted.


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Panasonic PT-RZ670U Projector - Best Pure/High Performance

2015-2016 Best In Classroom High Performance Projector:  Large Venue
The PT-RZ670BU or RZ670U, is a large, high performance feature laden – tackle just about every situation – projector.  It’s a long life laser projector, and can be positioned vertically, horizontally, off angle, basically every-which way.  It will be ideal for any situations which require 24/7 operation thanks to it’s laser design (rather than dual or quad conventional lamps). It’s also ideal for art display, and museum like areas.

It’s got lots of lenses, but of particular note, I want to mention that one is an ultra short throw lens that lets the projector be positioned in the tightest places, including, rear screen applications.

The only scary thing about the Panasonic, is it’s list price, but fear not, because despite an over $24,000 MSRP – with lens choice optional, that price has little – almost nothing to do with real selling prices, which are typically not much more than half of that.  Whew!

As you would expect, it supports edge blending, and multi-projection setups.  That makes it ideal for permanent displays, museum environments, simulators, and whatever other unique applications you educators can come up with.

Amazing as this DLP projector performs – measuring over 7000 lumens – and remember it’s a laser projector it will take years to lose significant brightness – it’s not perfect, a faster than 3X color wheel would have been nice, and there’s no wireless networking.  That said, it is impressively capable.

BTW, for some reason we have never been able to get Christie or Barco (two companies that specialize in large venue projectors) to send us some of their competitors, but perhaps that’s because they are scared of this Panasonic’s performance.  This Panasonic RZ670U is going to be tough to beat.

PS.  To you K-12 Educators:  I don’t think you’ll be able to rationalize one of these Panny’s.   Alas!

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Two Large Venue Projector Award Winners from Last Year

As mentioned elsewhere, this year we’ve discovered that over half of the winners in last year’s education report are still current model projectors, and very relevant.  As a result, we’re also covering them on this page, for your consideration.  (In alphabetical order, of course.)

By including them here, you have a larger selection of stand out projectors to consider.

Epson Powerlite Pro G6900WU: Best In Classroom - Large Venue 2014-15

The Epson G6900WU was our top pick thanks to being an aggressively priced (especially for schools) high brightness projector, that is just loaded with features.  Suitable for small auditoriums or large university type classrooms, it measured close enough to it’s claimed 6000 lumens to tackle almost any indoor environment.

Here’s a very capable projector with education pricing in the $5000 range.  It is definitely a direct competitor of this year’s Performance winner, the Canon WUX6000.  Each has some advantages, but overall, they are more similar than different.

The G6900WU remains the flagship of Epson’s G series commercial projectors.  It is a true WUXGA projector.  Only their Z series is more capable (brighter and sporting features like dual lamp design), but then their WUXGA Z series projectors have list prices mostly in the over $20,000 range!

Advanced networking, interchangeable lenses, of course.  But also HD-SDI, and HD-BaseT for easier installation in larger rooms.  That means low cost wiring to sources, and especially to live video, and in both cases, over large distances, which can mean huge savings in large classrooms and lecture halls.

Single lamp design, 6000 lumens, WUXGA.  Great three year warranty with three years of replacement program, and aggressive educational pricing!

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Sony VPL-FHZ55: Best in Classroom - Large Venue – Solid State

Last year Sony’s laser projector wow’d us.  OK, it’s no match in brightness compared to this year’s Panasonic winner.  The Sony claims a mere 4000 lumens, an delivers over 2800 with especially good color,  but it’s also dramatically less expensive than the Panasonic, and still readily available. Advanced networking, WUXGA resolution, 3LCD panels, laser – I said that already – and lots of other goodies, including edge blending, 360 degree operation, DICOM.  And then there’s the warranty:  5 years parts and labor, and overnight replacement program, plus, a 12,000 hour warranty on the laser light engine.  All of that and an under $5000 MSRP!

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This Sony WUXGA (1920×1200) 3LCD projector produces really good color in all but its brightest mode (Presentation) which has the usual extra green push, but not as bad as many.   More to the point, the projector will produce about  2800 lumens with respectable color, and great color still well above 2000 lumens.  Bettter still, the Sony VPL-FHZ55 should still be producing close to 2000 lumens of great color years from now.  Note that 2000 lumens was the standard for years for rental and staging (and few had new lamps, so produced far less).  The key here, is good color and brightness that fades far less than lamp projectors, and over far more years.

The rest of Sony’s feature set includes a standard 1.6:1 zoom lens, the picture by picture (side by side), DICOM support – for displaying medical films and images, and advanced networking with Crestron and AMX support.  Geometric related features include lens shift, 360 degree operation, edge blending, and warping and corner correction.

All considered, the FHZ55 was the best representative of a full featured solid state projector we could find in the price range.  Last year we had expected the Panasonic RW430 to compete directly against this Sony, but it measured far, far less useable lumens (despite high lumen claims), so the Panny could not qualify as a large venue projector.  The lumen counts aren’t that high, but then lamps lose 50% brightness before replacement.  The FHZ55 I felt, at the time, had just enough brightness to qualify for larger venues.

Upfront costs of this Sony laser projector may be higher, but long term savings especially when it comes to not having to change lamps, should make the Sony’s value proposition seem very reasonable, and it’s convenience, superior.

Sony is really standing behind the VPL-FHZ55 with a five year parts and labor warranty, and a best I’ve seen yet, 12,000 warranty on their light engine!  Sony also offers a rapid replacement program.  Nice support!

Epson PowerLite 1965: Worth Mentioning

We didn’t come up with a Best In Classroom award for Epson’s Powerlite 1965 projector, but this projector does deserve a mention here.  It happens to be at “end of life” although there are a number of similar 19xx series projectors in the Epson line-up.

What makes the PowerLite 1965 a fascinating Large Venue projector is its price point which is under $2000 and that’s even before the educational discounts Epson offers.   The secret to the low price for a larger venue projector lies primarily in that its really a portable projector, weighing only about 8.5 pounds, but it does output an impressive 5000 lumens both white and color!  That’s definitely enough for those large university classrooms, and small auditoriums.

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The limitation compared to other large venue type projectors is that it lacks interchangeable lenses and lens shift.  What that means is even with a nice 1.6:1 zoom lens, it may not be convenient to place in some of those classrooms.

Well, if it won’t work from a placement standpoint, that’s that, but if it will, know that this projector has most of the networking compatibilities and related features found in the more expensive Epson G series offers, including Crestron RoomView, allowing push notifications, monitoring, closed captioning, and much more.  There are several other similar projectors sporting different resolutions.   Product is still available as of mid-May 2014, but probably wont’ last through the summer.