Projector Reviews

Other Classroom Projectors Considered: Pocket and Interactive Projectors 2

Our last two projectors – “non-standard” ones, consist of another interactive projector, this one from Optoma, the EH320USTi, and a Pocket LED projector – also from Optoma, the ML750.

Note, Optoma ML750 was reviewed as part of our Millennials and Projectors series, with a slightly different approach, although education use is definitely covered in the review.

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

Optoma EH320USTi Interactive Projector

Optoma’s DLP powered EH320USTi (nice name?) projector claims 4000 white lumens.  DLP’s may not have as many color lumens as 3LCD, but this projector has plenty of brightness, when you can compromise a bit on color performance.

While not significantly more or less expensive than most of the serious interactive projectors we review, the EH320USTi stands out in a couple of ways – most notably being the highest resolution. Optoma claims this projector to be the first fully interactive 1080p resolution projector, despite it’s $1799 MSRP, considering the competition is all the lower WXGA (1280×800) resolution.  In other words, while the price may be typical, the value proposition is better.  Considering the high resolution, no wonder Ron described the 320USTi as extremely sharp.

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We expect very capable feature set from interactive projectors and this Optoma doesn’t disappoint!  There’s the almost expected advanced networking, including support for Crestron RoomView and AMX Discovery, assuring lots of features such as push notifications, scheduling, monitoring and more.  There are a pair of HDMI inputs, but no monitor out.  Like our other interactive contestant this year (from NEC), this Optoma supports DICOM Sim for properly displaying medical films.  Unlike the NEC – though, the EH320USTi offers 3D capabilities.  I realize that’s not important to the vast majority of educator/users, but it will be for a few.

Circling back to brightness, the Optoma came up less than 2% short of it’s 4000 lumen claim in brightest, mode, and around 2200 lumens in Presentation, which had respectable, but not great color.  For serious color accuracy, Movie mode was best but with a “mere” 1685 measured lumens.  Ron did measure color lumens, for those of you curious.  The Optoma measured just slightly less than 1000 color lumens in brightest mode.

The projector offered very good precision for interactive work after the usual quick calibration. Precision was very good with both pen and finger touch operation.

Kudos for the warranty, which is an excellent 3 years, and includes a rapid replacement program! That’s about as good as it gets.

From a practical standpoint there are real tradeoffs between this Optoma, and the bulk of the interactive projector competition (most of the sales go to 3LCD models), such as having 3D, but having weaker color except in lower brightness modes.

Because of the trade-offs – both strengths and weaknesses, the Optoma 320USTi is a serious competitor.  With those differences in mind, whether it’s the right fit for your school district, is something for you to determine!

Optoma ML750

As a pocket projector we have found the ML750 to be most impressive.  Unlike a lot of pocket type projectors, for starters, the Optoma models tend to produce just about what they claim in terms of brightness.  So for example, the ML750 claims 700 lumens.

Although we don’t measure the brightness of projectors in our “Millennials Series” of reviews, we found the lower cost ML550 in a normal review to top out at 514 white lumens (it claims 500).  And it did about 370 lumens with very good color.  Based on that this ML750 should top out around 700 lumens and have really good color down around 500 lumens.  That completely crushed one of our other contestants, the 800 lumen claiming LG, that barely broke 300 lumens.

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The Optoma ML750 is a typical WXGA projector (1280×800).  Unlike some pocket projectors it had no problems with aspect ratios – on computers or video sources.  The LED light engine is rated 20,000 hours.

It is surprisingly small for the brightness.  Not counting its power brick it weighs in just under 1 lb!  That makes it an ideal size and weight for the totally mobile educator.  Whether moving from classroom to classroom, school to school, or using it on field trips, the ML750 should prove very capable.  Unlike the AAXA also covered in this section, it does not have an internal battery.

It does, however support 3D, including Blu-ray 3D.  Even more important, it does have a media player built in for “PC Free”, and it’s a very good one, which supports not just the usual photo and video formats (like jpg or .mov), but it also supports projecting Microsoft Office documents.  I consider that an important “extra” for those going PC free.  For many educators, it is what will allow them to choose to go PC Free.

It’s really hard not to like the ML750 as it delivers a healthy feature set, performs well, and is capable of a very good projected image.  Warranty is one year (no surprise there for a pocket projector).

Of course, for those not needing true portability, there are bigger heavier projectors for the same price, that have even more features – and probably 4-5 times the brightness, but, then, you really don’t need 3000 lumens in a K-12 classroom. Certainly the ML750 should be an interesting choice for schools looking for something small, for room to room, rather than an install model.