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2015-2016 Award Winners: Standard Classroom Projectors 1

Posted on June 3, 2015 by Art Feierman

Although we only had eight of what I call "standard" projectors of very differing abilities in this largest slice of projector types used by schools, please note:  Their families of projectors - similar models with different resolutions, and slightly varying feature sets, likely number close to forty total models.  Only a couple of LED pocket pocket projector and the Casio EJ-V1 have no really similar siblings, although we expect Casio to roll out similar models in the near future.   We try to mix up XGA, WXGA and even WUXGA projectors in this group.

While the shift is to widescreen - WXGA and WUXGA, two of the key reasons XGA models still have large market share, are that:

XGA projectors cost slightly less than WXGA.  More importantly, ecause many are bought as replacement for older VGA, SVGA, and XGA projectors, that means a new XGA projector can utilize the same screen, and typically the same mount.  Bottom line:  sticking to XGA may mean significant savings when replacing outdated projectors.

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

Standard Classroom: Best Value Proposition - Casio XJ-V1

2015-2016_classroom_best-valueThis award was the toughest one to determine.  Each year the value award is inherently given to a projector that has lots of compromises in exchange for a low long term price tag.  Most typically, these lower cost projectors lack networking, wired or wireless, and so on.  And there are often other things.

I had a couple of possible projectors slugging it out in my mind, but ultimately decided that this new Casio - just shipping, receives the award because it changes the equation more than any other.

The Casio is by far, the least expensive reasonably bright projector that it would make sense to ceiling mount or place on a table in the average classroom.  But it lacks lots of features.   The Casio fits between some very good pocket projectors, that are far less bright, (and mostly cost more), on one end, and better equipped standard projectors on the other. It is XGA resolution, and has a fixed lens.

It's the LED/Laser light engine combined with a $699 MSRP, that did it for me, and a 3 year warranty on the projector, 5 years on the light source for schools!  No lamps to buy, in almost any classroom this XGA projector will run for more than a decade - that should be past the point of obsolescence.   If you figure that's going to save at least $200 - $300 in lamps, and other $100-$200 in the labor and planning (per projector) that goes into replacing lamps district wide, the projector starts looking terribly inexpensive in the long run.

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I know many most projectors bought by K-12 get money from federal grants, and that's how schools/school districts pay for them.  But often there's no local money to replace a failed lamp.  Problem solved with this Casio.

Audio - or lack thereof:

I frown upon projectors for the classroom with only a 1 or 2 watt audio system, because they will have trouble carrying the room.  So what do I say about a projector - the XJ-V1, that has no speaker at all?  Well, I figured that out, and:

The answer is Bluetooth.  Today any teacher or the district folks can hook up some $39 - $49 Bluetooth mini boombox that can handle a typical K-12 classroom, and do it wirelessly, and as well as most projectors with 10 or 15 watt systems.

Perhaps the greatest issue in giving the XJ-V1 this award is the lack of Closed captioning built in.  That may prevent this projector from going into classrooms in some cases.

Getting beyond those issues, the XJ-V1 is more than sufficiently bright for a K-12 classroom even if competitors are brighter.  Overall picture quality is perfectly acceptable.

I see this XJ-V1 as a game changer for some.  I hope next year Casio ups their game, say with at least wireless networking - maybe a media player, and definitely Close captioning.  If they can do that for $100 more, they will have an even higher value proposition.  And give us a WXGA version too, please.

Bitching aside, congrats to Casio on the XJ-V1.  By itself it may not change the playing field but I detect a definite tilt to the field, as we have the first really affordable solid state projector that's easily bright enough for the classroom.


Standard Classroom: Performance w/ Networking - ViewSonic PJD6350

2015-2016_classroom_best-with-networkingMy selection of this Viewsonic, shouldn't be a surprise to those who read last year's report.  The PJD6350 is one of Viewsonic's newest.  I'll start by saying that I would have preferred to review the almost identical WXGA version, but it wasn't ready in time.

What we have here is a very capable projector.  It's got plenty of brightness, unusually good color, and a typical classroom filling 10 watt speaker.  Perhaps most important, relative to the award, is that it offers very good networking capabilities, even allowing a school district to control and monitor up to 256 of these and related models.

Not only is there wired networking, but there is optional wireless networking, via a plug in module.

This Viewsonic is a DLP projector with XGA resolution and a claim of 3200 lumens, which it easily beat.  It is bright!  There are several aspects that I really like:

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Lamp life is definitely better than most, for lower long term cost of operation, and less labor intensive.  Color is better than most (in all but brightest mode), and it seems to be a bit quieter as well.  One of the best things about the Viewsonic, though, for schools is the 3 year parts and labor warranty, and first year replacement program!

As Mike pointed out, it's definitely not the least expensive XGA projector around with networking, but the overall package provides better than average performance.  Last year we had a two way tie for this award - another Viewsonic that's still around, with some differences, and an Epson.  I recommend you compare the three.

Finally, I've really selected this projector from the ones reviewed, at least as much because of its siblings, already shipping and about to.  One of them (which include short throw versions) will have to be considered a top contender when placed against the list of capabilities you are looking for.

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