Posted on June 3, 2017 By Art Feierman
This group of projectors includes six, relatively small, fixed install / portable projectors, that represent the “standard” type of projector that gets installed in today’s K-12 classrooms and some small college classrooms as well (and conference rooms in the business world)..
This year’s collection of six “standard” projectors has one large “pocket projector” using a solid state light engine. That projector, the BenQ CH100 is significantly smaller, lighter, and more portable than the others, which consist of a four lamp based and one other solid state projectors. The standard category this year is represented by five major manufacturers: BenQ, Casio, InFocus, NEC, and Sony.
It should be mentioned that there is no Epson in the group this year, which, of course is strange as they have over 50% of the entire projector market in North America. That’s OK, as we always also list previous years’ winners that are still current models. Epson had two winners in last years report so you will find info on those in this report as well. I would have liked to also have Hitachi represented, but couldn’t line up a projector in time to review.
The projectors are presented here in alphabetical order.
We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.
BenQ’s CH100 is an unusual projector. Overall, it is the size of a very small traditional projector, but in many ways, is more like those pocket projectors in design, except for the larger size. At 5.5 pounds it’s a lot heavier than most pocket projectors. It has a street price right around $1000 despite a very high list price.
This BenQ CH100 is the least bright projector in this year’s report, claiming 1000 lumens, and producing in the high 800’s when measured. Still, the 1000 lumen range is respectable. 15 years ago, 800 to 1000 lumens was the standard for projectors being installed in K-12 classrooms, although today the normal range is 2500 – 4000 lumens. Remember though, by having an LED light engine that’s good for 20,000 hours at full power, it will hold brightness pretty constant for a very long time, while lamp projectors dim far faster. Maximum power draw is an economical 146 watts, about half of most of the others in this “standard class”.
Count the BenQ as more of a specialty projector, usable in small classrooms or ones with great lighting control (rare). Like most pocket projectors, there’s no zoom lens for placement flexibility, but then you aren’t likely to mount this projector, rather move it from classroom to classroom or school to school, and on a table top, a lack of zoom is normally not critical.
The BenQ CH100 is simple and easy to use as it is a relatively no-frills projector. There are a limited amount of inputs and connectors – only the ones you need. Though it does not have a wired LAN input, there is an option for wireless presenting via the BenQ QCast streaming dongle. Wired, you can connect a computer to the projector using HDMI or VGA cables. Impressive for the small size (and solid state light engine) are the pair of 5 watt speakers which produce respectable sound in a classroom.
If anything the CH100 is most similar to the LG PF1000U we included in last year’s report. That LG had the advantage of being physically smaller, and a touch brighter, it has more features (for more money), the major advantage of the BenQ (besides costing $250 less, is the BenQ’s far more powerful sound.
In the past two years’ reports we included a Casio from their entry level V series, which were to say the least – extremely basic, and extremely affordable for solid state projectors. This year, though we chose a full featured Casio, the XJ-F210WN with WXGA (1280×800) resolution. Those last two models we reviewed, lacked even a speaker – a negative I noted despite one of the previous Casios receiving an award in previous report.
This Casio XJ-F210WN, the flagship of their F series, has a list price of $1049. The LED/laser engine makes it impressively priced, considering that it is, a WXGA projector, one that is very feature laden. There’s built in wired networking, an optional wireless plug in module, and a 1.5:1 zoom lens – impressive. As is, the 16 watts of speaker – easily enough to cover a typical K-12 classroom. MHL, a media player and more.
Casio, as mentioned above, is the leader in affordable solid state projectors, by virtue of only offering projectors using their hybrid LED/laser light engine. We’ve been reviewing Casio models using this tech for, I believe, six, possibly seven years. Overall, we’ve been very impressed with Casio. Their earliest entrees, at least eight years ago, were ultra-slim “road warrior” projectors, but this F series is geared for classroom and conference room.
It’s true, Casio’s we review rarely get close their brightness claims. The XJ-F210WN is no exception, missing by a good deal, producing a smidgeon less than 2200 lumens at mid-zoom. (Most projectors get within 20% of claim.) Remember, it has that advantage of only slowly losing brightness, so, the Casio still has to be considered pretty strong when it comes to brightness, and the solid state light engine produces a white that seems brighter than a lamp projector putting out the same lumen counts. Consider that with a “solid state” 2200 lumens, the Casio will be very respectable in the K-12 and smaller college classrooms. Relating to that, even the very best modes aren’t that much less bright. with Theater – the best mode still being about 1500 lumens.
Remember, most lamp based DLPs tend to lose about 40%-50% brightness to their best mode, so when you want great color, this Casio’s Theater mode holds up well against the lamp based competition in both color performance and brightness.
Sharpness is better than most – with Ron describing this single chip DLP projector as “very sharp.” Audible noise is “typical.” not overly loud, or quiet, compared to the competition.
Casio provides a very respectable warranty for this solid state projector – 3 years parts and labor on the projector, and 5 years, or 10,000 hours on the LED/Laser light engine.
There’s a built in media player for computer free presentations, along with a USB port for plugging in a thumb drive. The Casio’s wired networking supports Crestron RoomView, providing a lot of advanced networking features.
All of the above make this Casio XJ-F210WN a serious contender for schools’ and school districts’ classroom dollars.
Some InFocus folks I had known for many years, had left the company (InFocus was purchased by Planar), and in the past year or so, returned to InFocus. With that, my access to review units improved.. Way back in 2013-14 we gave the InFocus 114 – a Standard Classroom category very portable projector, the Best Value award, but since then, only one additional InFocus was reviewed until this past year, but we’ve got two in this year’s education report. The first of those is this “standard classroom” projector, the IN1118HD, the other, is a larger venue model.
The IN1118HD is the most portable projector in this year’s report, at least the most portable with good brightness and good feature set (including a 1.3:1 zoom lens). We’ve looked at the BenQ CH100 above, and mentioned last year’s LG PF1000U (still current), a very competent large pocket projector. Like both of those, it is true 1080p resolution. It’s $999 typical street price is the same as the BenQ’s.
Of course like the BenQ, this InFocus IN1118HD being 1080p resolution, is typically more than most K-12 classrooms need, but there are less expensive lower resolution projectors in this InFocus series.
This InFocus projector is for the “road warrior” teacher, or presenter, typically one that travels from school to school, or needs a projector for field trips, but also can be fine for classroom to classroom travel. Why? Small footprint, and, only 3.5 pounds. Folks that’s lighter than a lot of drastically dimmer “pocket projectors.” The IN1118HD claims 2400 lumens, dazzling for a true portable. It can, however be ceiling mounted if needed.
There is no networking standard (most reasonable for a mostly portable projector), but, there is optional wireless, via InFocus “LightCast” USB module.
And there is a truly impressive media player – not just videos and still picts (and Powerpoint by converting a presentation to JPGs), the media player is Microsoft Office compatible, meaning it can project formats like .doc, .docx, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, etc. Nice!
Unlike the competing pocket projectors, this InFocus IN1118HD is lamp based, not solid state. That’s ok, and consider – the lamp is rated 6000 hours at full power, (and 10,000 hours in eco-mode)! Of course since most of these are likely to be used in more portable environments, they aren’t likely to have a lot of hours put on their lamp relative to one mounted permanently in a classroom.
Although overall solid, Ron, when reviewing this InFocus reported a couple of issues – notably evenness of illumination was not great (ok, not that surprising in such a small projector), and there was an occasional issue with audio volume from some sources.
Despite those issues consider the IN1118HD to be a dictionary definition of a good road warrior projector (a lamp based one) which will have specialty uses in the education world.
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