At Projector Reviews, choosing the projectors to be included in the Classroom Projector report each year is more of an art, than a science. This year was more unusual than most years, so I thought an explanation might answer some questions some of you may have.
We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year's Best Classroom Projectors report.
This report's objective is to include reviews of projectors that are, in one way or another, particularly suitable for some aspect of the education market.
In our regular reviews we do not specifically write for education. Each projector brought in is reviewed for what it is, it may be ideal for education, not so hot for business, or it could be a projector that's very good in different environments - such as a small fixed install / portable projector that might end up in a K-12 classroom, or being carried around by a sales person, from customer to customer. In this report, however, we look at each projector from the perspective of how it fits into and education environment, classroom, or other uses, but ultimately of interest to educational institutions.
We try to be selective. Most major manufacturers have between 15 and 50 business and education projectors in their lineup (many similar but with different resolutions or brightness).
As with all projectors we review, we look first, for those we consider "a cut above." When talking to a manufacturer about bringing in a projector for review, we are selective. I'll routinely pass over many possible projectors, and pick one that I hope will stand out, not just another "me too" with average performance or value proposition. That's the reason why we rarely publish a "bad review." We've even brought in projectors and decided not to review them after a first look, for just that reason. With hundreds of projectors to choose from, we do try to avoid the weakest entries and most of the mediocrity. For that reason we believe that most of the projectors in this report are overall, very good, to top performers when viewed against the hundreds of models available.
The Criteria - Timing
A key criteria that matters for our Education Projector report is that the projectors we want to include in the report should all be available for purchase in the June-July-August timeframe by schools, when K-12 schools purchase most of their projectors. This year, all the entries will still be current product at least until the end of the 2015 summer.
True, much of the higher education buying is during the same timeframe, but it seems less organized, less huge purchases, and they tend to happen more all year round.
Why Some Brands Are Missing
In last year's education projector report I wrote about three major brands that had we had not reviewed, and explained why. Also how we decide which gets reviewed. Two of those three - Hitachi, and Casio, are back. I'll mention those again, then get into who's missing this year.
Each year it is always a challenge to balance things out. Last year the three "players" that had no new projectors in the report were:
Hitachi - always a big player in the education projector market, Hitachi was certainly invited to send us projectors last year, but for some reason, I was told, last year Hitachi had a "No Reviews" policy. That has been lifted, so I am pleased to report we have a Hitachi - an ultra short throw interactive projector in the report this year. BTW, Ron found it to be a major improvement compared to the last interactive Hitachi projector we reviewed, some two plus years ago.
Casio - Last year it was a timing thing - Casio's latest and greatest new models did not arrive in time, and their existing ones would not be available through the end of summer. This year we managed to review one of their interactive projectors. Since once again, some new models weren't going to be available by April, we allowed Casio to send us a pre-production projector that will be shipping June 1st.
In that case, their new XJ-V1, I found it impossible to walk away from this opportunity to review what is now the least expensive projector (not counting those far lower brightness pico and pocket projectors), to sport a long life solid state light engine. Casio, as many of you know, by far sells the most solid state projectors. That is their focus, they don't offer lamp based projectors anymore.
Optoma - Overall, we've reviewed more Optoma projectors over time than any other brand but one, but for the second year in a row, no Optoma graces the pages of this report. This is a communications issue. Our contacts are normally with the PR firms for these manufacturers. Optoma dropped one firm, didn't replace for a while, and we've barely established contact with their current folks. We did manage to bring in a couple of home projectors in the past months, but none for education. Next year I hope. Optoma is one of the biggest players in affordable DLP based projectors.
This Year's Report - Who's In It, Who's Missing
Here's the scoop for the current report: These ten projector manufacturers are represented based on reviews performed in the last year:
BenQ, Casio, Canon, Epson, Hitachi, InFocus, NEC, Panasonic Sony, and Viewsonic.
Missing this year is ASK Proxima, a respected old brand that had disappeared, but re-emerged as a Chinese owned company last year. They rolled out a brand new line, and we reviewed two. This year though, they are primarily showing the same models, and declined to send us anything that would meet our timing criteria.
There are "only" 3 Epson's this Year
That's less than usual. I get an occasional question as to why we review more Epson's than any other brand.
I think that's worth a response. There are really two reasons. One, they are about the easiest company to work with (even aggressive), always contacting us to review new projectors. If they had their way, I'd be reviewing 40 Epson projectors a year.
But another factor is more important.
It seems that Epson is the 800 pound gorilla in this jungle of projectors. According to Pacific Media Associates - considered by many the leading research firm in our industry, they recently reported that Epson has over 40% of the US projector market - (and an astonishing 63% of the interactive projector market.)
Since they have 40+% market share and have far more models than anyone else, and since we feature 18 projectors this year, one could argue, that we should have had 7 of their projectors. I hope their not mad at me.
I have worked with PMA for more than 15 years, going back to my dealer days, when we reported our unit sales by model, every month - something they still do to this day - reporting the best selling projectors in every category. (We occasionally report their findings in one of my blogs).
With Epson's level of market domination in a field with so many big names, if anything it's surprising that we only reviewed 3 (especially since two are variations of each other). Of particular note:
Missing this year is an Epson in the main category - standard projectors. That was truly an oversight, considering they had about 30 models to choose from. It came as a surprise to me when I started working this report. Epson is, however, in part represented, as we have included (as previously noted) all of last year's winners that are still current product, throughout this report.
Epson had one of last year's top winners, in the standard class, their Powerlite 99W, which remains highly competitive and is one of the best selling projectors to education (again, PMA) Last year's winners, however, were not considered for new awards this year, but you will read more about this Epson.
A last thought - My independent contractor reviewers do the bulk of the reviews that are covered in this report. I've got two: Ron is a retired engineer, and so is Mike. Mike is also a certified THX calibrator, and does our calibrations of the home theater projectors I review.
Using these two is a real plus for objectivity. None of them have any real contacts with any of these companies, unless they have a technical question or two. I pick the projectors for the reviews (sometimes consulting with these guys but not aways). We route them to the most appropriate (and available) contractor. For example almost all interactive projectors, and large venue projectors go to Ron, who is on the other side of the country from us here in CA.
These guys have no axes to grind. I rely on their reviews and additional feedback in determining the awards we hand out. Myself, I manage to review a couple or three projectors each year that end up in this report, but focus most of my reviewing on the home segment. OK, that's more explanation of what's going on than is probably needed. So, let's talk projectors!