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How We Selected Projectors for our 2017-2018 Classroom Projector Report

Posted on June 3, 2017 by Art Feierman
Here at Projector Reviews, choosing the projectors to be included in the Classroom Projector report is really more art than science.  That's mostly for two reasons:  Because we don't get in all the projectors we're interested in reviewing, and,  because there are limits on the number of projector reviews our small crew can handle. We have typically reviewed 30 - 45 projectors a year, but that includes a mix of business, education, houses of worship, large venue, home theater and home entertainment projectors.

Here at Projector Reviews, choosing the projectors to be included in the Classroom Projector report is really more art than science.  That's mostly for two reasons:  Because we don't get in all the projectors we're interested in reviewing, and,  because there are limits on the number of projector reviews our small crew can handle.

We have typically reviewed 30 - 45 projectors a year, but that includes a mix of business, education, houses of worship, large venue, home theater and home entertainment projectors.

Our Goal

Each year our 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 the education market or classroom use, although we likely comment on how it would perform.  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, be it classroom, or other uses, but ultimately of interest to educational institutions.
We try to be selective.  Most major manufacturers have between 20 and 75 business and education projectors in their lineup (many similar but with different resolutions or brightness).  The largest collection - Epson, has roughly more than 150 models, with more than half aimed at the education market.  (Epson offers over 30 models under $1000! - yes, that sounds crazy, especially when you realize they have at least ten different models selling to schools that are all within a $200 price range.  The more projectors in a company's line-up, the more likely one of those - will be almost exactly what you are looking for.
We really try to avoid reviewing a lot of "me too" projectors.
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 ones that I hope will prove superior at what they do.  That's also the reason why we rarely publish a "bad review." On occasion we'll even bring in projector be decidedly unimpressed,  and therefore decide not to review it after a quick look.  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-September 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 2017 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, especially also in the fall.  Not all of these projectors may still be available when schools let out in May-June 2017, but most will.

Why Some Brands Are Missing

There are really just a couple of factors:

First is availability.  There have been times we wanted to review a projector but due to timing, it doesn't work out.  This tends to happen because many new models don't hit until early summer.   But, we have to have our reviews finished by mid-May at the very latest.

In the past few years, we've had Proxima, Casio, and others simply not have what we are looking for, available in time.

Or, there may be a scheduling type issue.  Or, as was the case a a few years ago, with Hitachi - they simply told us they were no longer sending out review units.

Another factor is the companies themselves.  We're a small shop, with limited resources.  Some manufacturers are constantly hounding us to review models.  (That can change from year to year, as to who is.)  Other companies, I'll run into at a trade show and go, we'd love to review one of these, get in touch with me... And I never hear from them.   Poor communications from their PR companies (they often handle review projectors), or their product management, (sometimes due to turn over), results in no contact, no reviews.

For example we have reviewed many InFocus projectors over the years.  This year, with the return of some product and marketing folks to the InFocus stable, we're back in business, with two projectors in this year's report.

This Year's Report - Who's In It, Who's Missing

Here's the scoop for the current report:  These eight projector manufacturers (down from 10 last year) are represented based on reviews performed in the past 12 months:
BenQ, Casio, Epson, InFocus, NEC, Optoma Sony, and Viewsonic.
Let's start with those projector manufacturers with at least one model in this year's report
BenQ - They are relatively easy to get review units out of.  For this year, we included two very different projectors in the report.  One's a large portable/small fixed install, and the other a feature laden large venue projector.
Casio - We typically manage a couple of Casio's in each year's education report.  After all, they are the largest seller of solid state projectors (not counting those tiny picos), as all of their projectors are solid state (a hybrid LED/laser combination).  Casio focuses a lot of energy on the education market, touting the solid state advantage over lamp based projectors, for their those long life and no required maintenance.
Epson is by far largest manufacturer in the industry, and offers up far more different projectors.  This year, however,  they comprised only 3 of the new projectors in the report (well 4, if you count their L1505 laser projector, but while we mention it, we're not putting it in any of the award "Classes")   Epson has over 50% of the total North American market and the most extensive line up, in all categories, so one might ask why only three this year? Answer - it just worked out that way.
InFocus - We've got two interesting InFocus projectors in this report.  In the past year and change InFocus brought back some former employees I've worked with for many years. So, once again, we've got good communication, and no problem getting the review units we want to look at.
NEC - a good year for NEC - with 2 models in this year's report.    NEC is one of those companies that does a great job of advising us of all new models, and "harassing" us to review them.  Their persistent effort pays off.
Optoma - They are the number 2 best selling brand in the US, (although only Epson has more than an 8% marketshare).  Only one Optoma in this year's report - typically there are two, but, hint - this year's entry is particularly interesting.
Sony - We've got two Sony projectors in this year's report - although we reviewed 3 other Sony projectors in the past year, those were all on the home theater side of life.  This year's two, make an interesting combination, one is a very low cost standard projector, while the other is billed as the "first affordable laser projector."  (And they aren't kidding about that!)
Viewsonic - Only one in this year's report.  Normally Viewsonic (a US company - that's a rarity right there), gets a couple, and typically we're reviewing models suitable for K-12 classrooms, but this year we chose to run with one of their most powerful - a 5200 lumen beast suitable for large university classrooms and auditoriums.  They didn't have anything new to review for the K-12 market.
Notable projector manufacturer brands that aren't represented in this year's report:
Panasonic - We've had Panasonic projectors represented in this report in most years, (and they've won a couple of key awards) but in the past couple of years Panasonic hasn't seemed to be interested in sending us any projectors.  I had requested their newest laser, last year, at first they would be shipping us one, but then  - no laser projector.  No one reaches out to contact me from Panasonic anymore.  Not sure why.  We will survive that, of course, there are plenty of other brands.  Panasonic was an early leader in laser projectors but there are plenty of competing Sonys, Epsons, Barcos and others these days.  Their laser projector we reviewed over two years ago, however is still current, and listed as a previous winner in the Large Venue (aka Higher Education) section.

Hitachi - Once again, having trouble obtaining review units.  I believe my last contact is no longer involved with Hitachi.  I'll be discussing review units with them at Infocomm in two weeks, but no Hitachi's in this year's report.  Hitachi is the only major player, however, that hasn't contacted me for a meeting at the show.  (I've got about a dozen meetings scheduled with assorted manufacturers.
Dell - one of those companies that we lost communications with.  Dell, get back in touch with us if you'd like us to review newer Dell projectors.  It's been 5 years?
JVC - Easy, they basically make only make home theater projectors.
Vivitek - Nothing in this Education report, but we're working well with them.  We're reviewing one of their HT projectors at the moment).
HP, Sanyo, Mitsubishi - quitters - they are gone and quit the wonderful world of projectors (well, Sanyo's gone from planet earth too, for that matter).

Independent Reviewers

My independent contractor reviewers do the bulk of the reviews that are covered in this report.  Ron is a retired engineer, he's reviewed dozens of projectors for us.  Nikki who is newer, has worked with me producing many of the projector videos this past year (our site and youtube), and is doing a great job reviewing projectors for about the past six months.
I normally handle all the interfacing with the manufacturers, except for a typical fact checking conversation between our reviewers and the manufacturer normally shortly before publication.  As a result, our reviewers have little direct access, and therefore biases for any particular brand, (and also 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 few of the projectors each year that end up in this report, but focus most of my reviewing on the home segment.  OK, you have the gist of how it works here.  This is our 9th annual Best Education Projectors report (I figure we're gotten pretty good at it by now.)

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


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