2018-2019 Award Winners: Interactive and UST Projectors for the Classroom

The UST and Interactive projectors category has the most varied product. This year, we’re giving out three awards out of just five projectors in our comparison, due to a different features, capabilities and price points. Of our five UST projectors, two are fully interactive. Three have solid state light engines. 

Enough said. Let’s look at the winners of our Best In Classroom “UST and Interactive Projector” competition!

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

Interactive and UST Projectors: Best Value Proposition - Epson Powerlite 675W

epson-675w
2018-2019 Best in Classroom Ultra Short Throw or Interactive Best Value

Epson’s PowerLite 675W is one of a long list on Epson’s current ultra-short throw projector line up. Many are full interactive projectors, including the Epson 710Ui, also covered in this report.

The PowerLite 675W is WXGA resolution and one of Epson’s least expensive UST projectors.

List price is $1,190, and better still, Epson’s published education program (Brighter Futures) is $940 for single purchase or small quantities. Its 3,200 lumen 3LCD design produces enough brightness to handle just about any K-12 classroom. In higher education, it can serve well in smaller and some medium size room. As an ultra-short throw projector, of course, some interactivity would be nice, and this Epson allows that with mobile devices and apps, but we’re not talking full interactivity with pen, or finger touch capabilities, which are offered by couple other projectors in this year’s collection.

Along with the lack of full interactivity comes a valuable trade-off: A significantly lower price point. Consider that while this projector is $1,190 list, the least expensive fully interactive Epson UST is $900 more (pens) and $1,100 more for the lowest cost model that offers finger touch as well as pen control. The least expensive of the interactives in this report was the ViewSonic, at $1,499 educational pricing which shares this award with the PowerLite 675W. Of course, with those interactive projectors also comes a host of additional other capabilities. Still, if a classroom doesn’t need interactivity, but does need ultra-short throw, it’s basically half the price – or equipping two classrooms for the price of one, compared to Epson’s even more featured interactive. Even the ViewSonic is about 60% more.

Having advanced wired networking, plus the usual Epson $99 module to add wireless, is no surprise. Moderator software allows four users to share the projector. We’ve taken a look at Moderator, a few years ago. A nicely done solution that is pretty simple for a teacher or presenter to operate and use effectively to also show students, or other presenters content at the same time.

Color, from the 3LCD-based PowerLite 675W, is, as expected, rather excellent. The brightest mode has some green caste, but not too bad, and as a 3LCD projector, this model puts at least very good color in the other modes.

As we always remind, we don’t have a great way of measuring UST projectors. While we figure our accuracy within +/-5% with conventional projectors, it’s more like +/-20% for USTs.

Nikki reviewed all of the USTs in this report except the Dell, which I did. So while we can’t be precise, her measurements were taken exactly the same way with each projector, so that the results be proportional, that is, if she’s over by 12% on one, then should be over by about the same amount on the others. Well, this Epson measured (at brightest) 50% more than their claim! Impressive, even with error, it’s safe to say that it easily exceeded claim. We’re talking over 4,600 lumens in Dynamic, and over 3,700 in a very good looking Presentation mode!

In other words – brightness, and even brightness with great color – no problem!

Still, it’s not the brightness, but the feature set, that really impresses. Everything from multiple HDMIs (3) to a microphone input, plenty of audio (in and out), computer and other interfaces, not to mention a very healthy 16 watt speaker, cleverly located in the front, therefore facing the audience. And of course Epson’s standard 2 year warranty with 2 years of rapid replacement program gets extended to three years when schools buy through Epson’s education program.

Before I forget, the Epson can be mounted vertically so that it can present onto a horizontal surface such as a table top, or a ceiling or floor! That’s especially useful in the Education and Digital Signage markets (where UST projectors are also very popular).

We like that Epson does have working partnerships with folks like Smart (SmartBoard fame), and with educational software companies.

There really isn’t much that Epson left out of the 675W other than full interactivity, and 3D. Sure, it could be higher resolution than WXGA, which Epson also offers, although most of Epson’s UST projectors that are WUXGA are full interactive versions.

Great price for what you get in a UST, and no apparent weaknesses, good apps, great warranty. Slam dunk for the Value award (even if we awarded two this year).

Interactive and UST Projectors: Best Value Proposition - Viewsonic PS750W

ViewSonic PS750W Projector Front Angle
2018-2019 Best in Classroom Ultra Short Throw or Interactive Best Value

Our second winner this year of our Best In Classroom: Interactive and UST Projectors – Best Value Proposition Award is ViewSonic’s especially affordable interactive projector, the PS750W. This DLP projector has a lot going for it. By the way, don’t think of this ViewSonic and the Epson above as a “tie” or sharing the award. They are very different projectors that both earned their award.

I am about to tell you about mostly great things about this projector, but there is one caveat. ViewSonic’s full interactive companion software is PC only, no Mac version. As most of us writing for Projector Reviews are Mac users first, and because Macs and iPads are so popular in schools, keep that in mind if you have a mixed environment of Windows and Mac.

Although DLP projectors are normally at a disadvantage when it comes to serving up both bright and good color in their brightest modes, Nikki was very impressed, overall with the ViewSonic’s color handling. Brightness measured way above claim, but as noted earlier, measuring UST projectors is a challenge. The UST projectors Nikki measured are all done the same way, and all came out high. I only did the Dell UST, which also measured high, just not as much as Nikki’s reviews.

We even found the audio to be excellent, although would have liked to see a microphone input. A pair of 10 watt speakers is about as powerful sound as you will get built into a projector, and Nikki reports impressive volume. They have multiple modes for audio, including one for speaking.

The PS750W has plenty of networking with advanced support, for Crestron and AMX, which means a whole host of advanced features are available, and configuring should be relatively easy.

What really impressed us both is the pricing for a projector that has an education starting price of $1,499, for an interactive projector with finger touch as well as pen control. With Epson, for example, they offer models around the price of this ViewSonic that are pen only, but command a higher price for their finger touch models, the least of which has an education price of $1,690 – without an included mount.

Like many of the UST and interactive projectors, the ViewSonic can work vertically so it can project onto horizontal surfaces, notably tables, floors and ceilings.

When it comes to the interactivity, and their provided software, Nikki was impressed with vBoard, which lets teachers/presenters save sessions, and upload them so they can be used later, or in different locations, or be accessed by students who massed the class. It even allows teachers to stream or cast directly to students using a Google Chrome browser. Nice touch.

On the hardware side, worth mentioning is that while there are two HDMIs and multiple USBs, one of each is hidden behind a door for security. This is called Port-All. In a school environment, it would help reduce theft of Roku sticks, USB thumb drives, and other devices. That’s all a good idea, but, I think ViewSonic erred in only having one HDMI easily accessible. If they wanted to hide one, they should have put two on the back, and had a software or remote control option to select which one is active. Still, that’s a small thing. Having the security option can be a real plus.

There’s a media player for PC free presenting, a useful feature for many teachers/presenters.

Bottom Line: A lot of great interactive features, nicely bright, good color overall and aggressively priced.  Its lamp life isn’t quite as long as those more expensive Epson’s, but still pretty good.

I remind again, this projector originally won one of our Special Interest Awards, not a Hot Product Award, because the ViewSonic is somewhat limited in potential market implementation due to lack of Mac compatible interactive software. Certainly, this projector would reach a wider audience if ViewSonic entered the Apple world with comparable interactive software.

Overall, if you aren’t using Macs, ViewSonic’s PS750W is a great value, priced below almost all of the competition!

Interactive and UST Projectors: Best Performance - Epson BrightLink 710Ui

Epson-BrightLink-710Ui_Featured-Image
2018-2019 Best in Classroom Ultra Short Throw or Interactive Best Performance

Not again! Yes again, Epson takes the Performance Award for Interactive and UST Projectors.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the winner this year is Epson’s BrightLink 710Ui, their top of the line interactive UST projector. Epson’s been taking this award every year we’ve had the category, and one reason they do is that they also dominate the category in terms of number of projectors. A quick count on Epson’s website shows they are selling 9 interactive projectors, whereas most companies have one to three models. Last time I saw an industry research report (PMA), Epson had over half of the interactive projector market in North America.

The 710Ui can be considered their flagship for education. 4,000 lumens claimed (measured higher) and WUXGA resolution – 1920×1200, whereas most interactive PJs out there are WXGA resolution. They also offer a similar model the BrightLink 1470, which adds some additional collaboration abilities (not that the 710Ui lacks them completely). Price wise, Best Performance doesn’t come inexpensively: MSRP on the 710Ui, which does include a wall mount, is $3,499, but before you freak out, education pricing is only $2,699, 800 bucks lower. Still, interactivity and UST isn’t inexpensive. Consider that the education pricing is still more than double that of Epson’s PowerLite 990U – a traditional, non-interactive WUXGA model.

Mind you, companies like Epson and NEC who publish their education pricing are talking single or small quantity pricing. If your school district is out looking for dozens, or hundreds, manufacturers have a way of seeing that bid prices are lower still. Most manufacturers provide extra discounts to dealers, but let the dealers set their own prices.

If color is already very good on other Epson projectors, it’s even better on the 710Ui, thanks to its long life laser light engine, instead of using lamps.

This Epson is loaded with features, including a Mic input which I consider a very nice extra that can be paired with a wireless mic system, ideal for most rooms, although large lecture halls likely already have their own wireless mic systems and extra sound reinforcement.

Moderator, as mentioned, allows four students (or others to share the screen in four quadrants, or advance any one to fill the whole screen (and more). Epson’s networking support includes Crestron, and with all that, plenty of advanced networking features including presenting over IP (over the network – not just from computers and things plugged directly in). That’s not a feature found on a number of competitors, although it’s becoming more common.

The relatively high price and capabilities of the BrightLink 710Ui will probably keep its education sales mostly to higher education, which is understandable. It is also the brightest, so capable of handling larger rooms. The $2,699 bundled price of the 710Ui, however, is about $1,200 more than that of Epson’s 3,500 lumen, lamp based, and pen only (no finger touch) interactive. And it is $1,000 more than their least expensive WXGA interactive that has both pen and touch interactivity.

Two of these can be directly interconnected, to create an image twice as wide, without additional software. That’s a cool feature for, say, larger lecture halls, so that you might have a 6 foot high image by 14 feet wide. Now, that will display a whole lot of math formulas, or whatever’s being taught.

Bottom Line: This is just about the best available from the company that has dominated the ultra-short throw and interactive projector space. It offers the higher resolution, plenty of connectivity, excellent color, and about as much brightness as I think is offered on any interactive projector.

That, and a great warranty. Warranty is Epson’s usual 2 years parts and labor with rapid replacement program, but for educators, thanks to their Brighter Futures, their school program expands that by an additional year on everything – if you need what this projector offers, you can’t go wrong with this choice. It should get the job done, for a decade at least, in most situations, and do it very well. While we looked at interactive projectors from two additional companies this year, and others in previous years, this Epson truly stands out.

These, folks, are our UST projector winners (with or without interactivity). All three are strong contenders, in that they are all well thought out and have comprehensive, useful feature sets.

Previous Winners in the Interactive and UST Projectors Class

Best Value Interactive and UST:
Optoma ZW300UST

optoma-zw300ust

Projector Type

Best Value Interactive and UST:
Epson PowerLite 680

Epson-PowerLite-680

Projector Type

Best Value Interactive and UST:
Epson BrightLink 696Ui

Epson BrightLink 696Ui Side Mounted

Projector Type