2016-2017 Award Winners: Other (LED) Projectors for the Classroom

This year we didn’t review enough interactive – or for that matter, ultra short and very short throw projectors, for their own category.  We also looked at 3 true large “pocket” LED projectors, for the truly mobile teacher.  Not enough Interactive projectors to rate an award.

That said, for this year,  after considering the five widely different non-traditional classroom projectors, one of the five projectors stands out as something truly special.  That’s not to diss the two interactive projectors – the NEC or the Optoma, are both are solid performers, and both worth of consideration.  When I compared both of them to previous winners, I didn’t feel either would have been able to best the interactive champs of the past two years.

So, enough said, let’s look at the winner of our Best In Classroom Non-Traditional projector competition.  In this case, it’s an LED pocket projector so we’ll name the award accordingly.

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


AAXA P700 Best In Classroom, Ultra Portable

2016-2017 Best in Classroom: Ultimately Portable LED Projector Award
2016-2017 Best in Classroom: Ultimately Portable LED Projector Award

Let’s face it, for the most part, LED light engine projectors are simply not price competitive against lamp based competition.  Casio’s line of LED/Laser engines offer brightness approaching that of standard lamp based models, but those Casios’ aren’t near as small, or portable, as pocket projectors and sure won’t work on battery power.

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But there’s a need for some truly mobile projectors.  We’re not just talking US, here, but internationally.  Projectors can come in handy on field trips, but there are also places where electric isn’t reliable – think rural/2nd/3rd world, where a battery powered projector may be the only best choice.

If that’s the case, the hands down solution is our winner in this category, the AAXA P700!

If it wasn’t for the AAXA P700’s internal battery capability, it would still be a very respectable LED pocket projector, a worthy competitor for both the NEC and Optoma models addressed in this report.

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AAXA P700 shown connected to an iPhone for size comparison. Talk about portable!

But it is the battery ability, and the ability to carry several small light batteries for extra runtime that makes the P700 stand out.  It’s a good time to mention here, that the P700 will run up to 70 minutes on one battery.

More than a decade ago, when I sold my large online dealership, Our company had sold well more than 1000 of the earliest pocket projectors (20, then 50 lumens) to missionary organizations who sent them around the world to teach poor students in rural areas.  Missionaries, school teachers, government entities, are all potential users of a projector like the P700.  There really is a significantly large market, even if relatively small compared to traditional projectors.  And as I previously mentioned, there’s potential for a projector like this on a field trip, or simply to provide one to special teachers, and other support staff that travel from not only classroom to classroom, but school to school.

So, what, besides battery power makes the AAXA P700 a worthy contender?  Most everything.

For a small projector there’s enough lumens to do a respectable job in a classroom, just try to avoid full lighting, please.  The P700 had measured a dazzling (for a pocket projector) 741 lumens. That’s respectable in a classroom under partial lighting on a typical 60 or even 72 inch screen!

If you really do need to go mobile on batteries, the P700 drops into Eco mode where brightness drops to 237 measured lumens.  Perspective time. Back in 1994 in the earliest days of projectors, models, projectors with 150 to 250 lumens claimed to be bright enough for a 25 foot diagonal screen in a hotel ballroom.  (OK, the assumption was that the room be fully darkened – no lights.)

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The P700 looks very good projecting a 72″ diagonal image in a room with modest ambient light

 

Still you get my point.  roughly 240 lumens isn’t a lot, but if we were talking home theater type use, that would light up a 60″ – 70″ diagonal screen to the same brightness found in most movie theaters.  That’s enough horsepower to be viable in the classroom.  Also remember, the long life LED engine will loose very little brightness over several years of operation, unlike lamps which start losing brightness immediately.

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Seen here, part of the same projected image above, but showing two of the three windows with partially opened shutters, and lights on.

 

Sharpness, won the P700 brownie points – it proved surprisingly sharp for a pocket projector.  Color was respectable, not great – our review posts some recommendations for even better color.  Skin tones are respectable, but again, hardly great out of the box, but overall color is fine for most business and educational uses.

There are only 3 noteworthy shortcomings, and one not so noteworthy.  That’s pretty few for a pocket projector.  Not so noteworthy i is the lack of 3D, which is not going to be an issue.  Even if you need 3D in the classroom, that calls for having a very bright projector, so 3D and pocket projectors simply just aren’t a good fit.

More noteworthy:  The built in media player, which does support the usual range of photos and video formats, does not support Microsoft office (but can do the usual Powerpoint presentations by exporting the presentation as jpg files).  Also missing is pdf support.  The 2nd one, is the lack of Wifi.  That would have been nice, perhaps the feature most missed.

Finally, The HDMI input does not support MHL for streaming sticks.  You’ll need to find mobile devices that offer MHL type adapters.  Not having MHL is more of a missed opportunity than a likely deterrent to purchase.

Warranty is 1 year parts and labor.  That’s typical for sub $1000 projectors, (although many offer more) and is even more typical of pico and pocket projectors!

But on the bright side – in addition to the surprisingly sharp image, more brightness than the competition, the reasonably good color (especially for a pocket projector), the battery power, and the portability overall, this AAXA projector turns out to be rather reasonably priced considering what it delivers – at least compared to other pocket type projectors.

I found the list price of $449 to be almost laughably low for a projector with these capabilities, especially considering how bright it is for a pocket projector, and that it can run on battery.

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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