Projector Reviews

Other Classroom Projectors Considered: Interactive and UST Projectors

We reviewed five projectors this year, that are UST projectors, that is, meaning they sit either right above or below the screen, with the projector typically no more than 4 to 10 inches away from the screen at the most. This is obviously beneficial in preventing the teacher/presenter from being blinded by a projector while, say, writing on a white board being used as a screen (if an interactive) or just for getting close to the screen with a traditional projector.

Of these five, two are fully interactive with pen and/or touch control, while a third (the Ricoh) offers optional interactivity from eBeam. Three are laser projectors, one is not interactive (Dell S718QL), one is the optional interactive (Ricoh) and the fully interactive one is the Epson 710Ui.

The five represent three different resolutions – three of them are WXGA, which keeps those relatively affordable. Then there’s Epson’s BrightLink 710Ui, which is WUXGA, and one, the Dell S718QL, is 4K UHD, so it is capable of producing the sharpest image of the “class.”

Except for a select group of classrooms needing or working with 4K content – you know, perhaps higher education classrooms where scientific modeling, or engineering, or similar – WUXGA, or even WXGA is all the resolution that most should need. WUXGA is the top of the food chain right now for higher education (with exceptions) But for that occasional exception, the Dell’s 4K UHD will be slightly sharper, and reveals slightly more detail than the others. Only the Dell of this group even accepts 4K content.

Here are our “contestants” and our basic overviews on each, presented here in alphabetical order:

Interactive Projectors Considered

To read short overviews of all the ultra and very short throw projectors considered in this report, click here!

Projector Model

Overview

Review

Specs

Dell S718QL

Front side view of the Dell 4K UHD Laser Projector

DLP, 4K UHD, Networking, Laser

Epson BrightLink 710Ui

Epson-BrightLink-710Ui_Featured-Image

3LCD, WUXGA, Networking, Laser, Interactive

Epson PowerLite 675W

Epson PowerLite 675W Projector Front Angled

3LCD, WXGA, Networking, Lamp

Ricoh PJ WXL4540

Ricoh PJ WXL4540

DLP, WXGA, Networking, Laser

ViewSonic PS750W

ViewSonic PS750W Projector Front Angle

DLP, WXGA, Networking, Lamp, Interactive

Dell S718QL

Front side view of the Dell 4K UHD Laser Projector

Dell’s S718QL provides solid performance, and razor sharpness. Its 4K UHD DLP engine (2716×1528 x 2 pixel shifting) does not disappoint. While there are true 4K projectors out there that should take sharpness up another notch, consider the only ones that are ultra-short throw are Sony models at $25,000. Not exactly a “bell ringer” price for district or university buyers and AV/IT techs trying to work with limited budgets. The Dell makes a great alternative with very good sharpness, at a fraction of the price.

Being an ultra-short throw, of course, there’s a definite limit to screen size, which with this Dell S718QL maxes out at 130″ diagonal. That, of course, will be a bit small for folks in the 24th row of a large lecture hall to see/read anything but the large PowerPoint type, but in anything smaller than a lecture hall, this Dell should perform admirably.

Color: The brightest mode, as is typical, had pretty poor color. But Presentation mode although very cool/blue, was not bad at all, and still over claimed brightness (please note, as mentioned elsewhere – measuring UST projectors is an iffy proposition for us. Typically, our reviewers come out on the high side of claim, often 20% higher. As normally few projectors beat their claims, we’ll take the hit for the inaccuracy in the way we measure.

Still, 5,000 lumens by our measurements looks pretty good, but most modes need some adjustment. sRGB has the best color, but we measured only 2,900 lumens (still rather bright).

Overall, the Dell is impressive, but it lacks both serious interactivity and an extremely good value proposition (since few will really need 4K UHD in the classroom), so it failed to take home an award. That said, with color adjusted a bit for real improvement, this projector is an excellent performer for those needing its special capabilities (4K UHD and UST).

Epson BrightLink 710Ui

Epson-BrightLink-710Ui_Featured-Image

I’ll keep this short, since there’s a nice long section on the award winners’ page. The BrightLink 710Ui is Epson’s flagship interactive/UST projector for the education market, and other than missing a collaboration feature or two that Epson’s flagship interactive business projector has, they are identical. The educational 3 year P/L warranty with 3 years of replacement program is close to the best offered from these manufacturers.

The Epson is bright, it’s sharp, and its finger touch and pen controls work very well. And, of course, this one has a laser light engine. Nikki and I have reviewed most of the interactive projectors these past two – three years. Epson continues to dominate this segment, with a lot more models than anyone else.

Really good color helps, with the 710Ui having decent color even in its brightest – Dynamic mode (5,900 lumens) – and very good to excellent color in all its other modes. An almost-always-usable Presentation topped 5,500 lumens while even the dimmest regular mode, sRGB, almost reached 3,500 lumens. That makes this projector brighter than, for example, any of the Standard (K-12) projectors we looked at this year.

Epson PowerLite 675W

Epson PowerLite 675W Projector Front Angled

Strip away the laser light engine, reduce resolution from WUXGA to WXGA, reduce brightness by about 25% and get rid of the interactivity from Epson’s flagship BrightLink 710Ui, and mostly what you end up with is a slightly less bright ultra-short throw projector called the PowerLite 675W!

Although not the least expensive UST projector around, it is far more affordable than those Epson UST projectors that are fully interactive. And with Epson’s education program pricing, the 675W drops down to $940. While the lamp life is downright dazzling, at 5,000 hours full power, 10,000 in Eco, life gets even better when you realize Epson has the lowest cost replacement lamps. In this case, for educators: Only $49 per lamp. There’s more information about the PowerLite 675W and why it rated an Award, on our Winners page for Ultra Short Throw and Interactive Projectors.

Ricoh PJ WXL4540

Ricoh PJ WXL4540

The Ricoh PJ WXL4540, overall, is a pretty solid DLP-based ultra-short throw projector with a 20,000 hour laser light engine. Ricoh takes a different approach than most, making interactivity an option. Count the projector itself as not being an interactive one, but with the addition of eBeam software and pens, the Ricoh gains some pretty standard interactivity.

By comparison, the PowerLite 675W which also lacks interactivity doesn’t really have a path to add it.

The Ricoh is DLP, and while it measured well enough – pretty much right on the money. Ron reviewed the WXL4540 and is the only reviewer with different gear than the rest of us – his UST projector measurements don’t end up nearly as high as the rest of us get.

As a DLP color quality at brightest leaves much to be desired, resulting in the projector dropping down to about 2,500 lumens for respectable color, but, as you will see if you visit the full review, Ron did something we rarely do, which is to measure color lumens as well as white ones. In that Movie mode, the Ricoh’s color lumens were still only half that of white ones – but the color was good (3LCD almost always have the same number of color, as white lumens).

Add up the features and you have a nice UST projector – but one with optional pen-type interactive capabilities, at a pretty good price point, especially considering the long life laser light engine. Warranty is 3 years parts and labor.

This is about as inexpensive as I think you will find a laser driven UST projector, with only Casio that I can think of, being hundreds less – but the Casio uses a hybrid LED/Laser design, not the traditional laser phosphor engine.

ViewSonic PS750W

ViewSonic PS750W Projector Front Angle

The ViewSonic PS750W proved to be an overall solid performer. Nikki congratulated it on particularly good color handling, including preset modes that needed a bit less tweaking to get good color than some of the other DLPs in this report. It’s a shame, when some projectors, even dropping down to their best modes where excellent color is possible, settle for mediocre color tables so that some adjusting is necessary to get much better results.

The PS750W has multiple color modes – all but the brightest (aptly, but confusingly named Brightest) have at least pretty good color, with Standard being the next brightest, and much better, acceptable for most presenting purposes. Brightness wise, this 3,300 lumen projector topped out at almost 4,500 lumens, but as pointed out many times in this report (and reviews) our lack of ability to measure UST projector lumens accurately tends to have us significantly over rate the lumens in each mode.  Still, going by our lumen counts (makes for fine apples to apples comparisons), Standard mode cranked out just over 3,700 lumens. Even figuring that we’re 20% too high, these numbers would indicate that the ViewSonic should easily beat claim, with a precise measuring system.

Besides the lack of Mac support for interactivity, the other downside is lamp life, not too bad at 3,000 hours at full power, but that’s not much of a challenge to beat, as only one of the 15 projectors in this report claims less hours.

The ViewSonic has a failing – for some – which is that the projector is happy to work with both Macs and PCs (and mobile devices), but when it comes to interactivity this ViewSonic only supports PCs, not Macs (tsk tsk). Apple has grown some impressive education market share gaining a lot of ground on Windows in recent years, so that more than a few schools or districts will opt for an interactive projector equally capable of doing interactivity in both operating system environments.

The other “miss” is lamp life – which at 3,000 hours at full power, is the 2nd lowest claim of the 10 projectors in this report that aren’t using laser engines.

We liked and gave the PS750W a Special Interest Award in the review (not a Hot Product Award, mostly due to the Mac interactivity issue). In other words, overall, this is a viable choice for an interactive projector for users of Windows and mobile devices.

Previous Winners in the Interactive and UST Projector Class

Best Value Interactive and UST:
Optoma ZW300UST

optoma-zw300ust

DLP, WXGA, Networking, Lamp

Best Value Interactive and UST:
Epson PowerLite 680

Epson-PowerLite-680

3LCD, XGA, Networking, Lamp

Best Performance Interactive and UST:
Epson BrightLink 696Ui

Epson BrightLink 696Ui Side Mounted

3LCD, WUXGA, Networking, Lamp, Interactive