Projector Reviews

Projectors Considered: K-12 Classroom Projectors (Continued)

Epson PowerLite 109W


The Epson PowerLite 109W is a 3LCD projector well suited for K-12 classrooms, especially with its $749 list price and education discount of over $100, bringing the projector’s price down to just $612 per unit. It has WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution and a wall-melting 4,000 lumens. With the kind of ambient light conditions that are commonplace in K-12 classroom environments, having that high of a lumen count makes all the difference. This projector actually measured over its claim – 5,354 lumens when measured at full wide angle, 3,913 at mid-zoom – which is typical of Epson projectors.

That it’s 3LCD is even better, as that means it produces as many color lumens as it does white ones. Why does that matter? When faced with ambient light, the projected image will not be as washed out as what you would see on a competing DLP projector. On DLPs, a projector might claim 3,000 lumens, but 2,000 of those are dedicated to white lumens, and only 1,000 for color. That means, those colors will be significantly more dim than they would be on a 3LCD.

The Epson PowerLite 109W has a 1.60:1 zoom lens, which is generous and allows for greater placement flexibility than some of its competition. It has plenty of keystone correction, and all the inputs and connectors needed for a typical K-12 classroom setup. It has wireless capabilities via Epson’s optional Wireless Module that allows you to wirelessly project from PCs, Mac computers, and, thanks to Epson’s iProjection app, the projector can connect up to 50 Android and iOS mobile devices simultaneously. It also has support for Chromebooks, which is a big plus as many schools are providing their students with these devices.

Epson PowerLite 1785W

Epson Power Lite 1785W Featured Image

The Epson PowerLite 1785W is a 3LCD projector for K-12 classrooms, with a list price of $899. Epson’s Brighter Futures Education Program is one of the best in the business, and knocks that price down to $779. That’s a significant savings for the school district that plans on installing these in multiple classrooms across various campuses. This WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution projector boasts 3,200 lumens at full wide angle. The projector beat its claim at mid-zoom, coming in at 3,313 lumens in its brightest mode! At full wide angle, you can expect the projector to be a tad brighter.

The PowerLite 1785W sports a 1.20:1 manual zoom lens, with powered focus controls via the remote that can even be achieved automatically. Nice touch! To say this projector has a simple inputs and connectors panel would be an understatement. It has just six inputs, but those six will be plenty for many K-12 classroom needs. It has a Composite Video port, a VGA connector, a USB Type-A and Type-B, one HDMI port and an audio input. No LAN on this one either, but it is ultra-portable at just four pounds, so if the projector will be shared among multiple classrooms, that is a major plus!

The Epson PowerLite 1785W has built-in wireless to easily connect both PC and Mac computers, as well as mobile devices. Using the iProjection App, you can connect smartphones and tablets to project wirelessly. Another way the 1785W handles PC-Free Presentations is through the on-board media player, which allows you to project JPEG files via USB. The most interesting feature on this projector also has to do with presentations, and is called Gesture Presenter. There is a sensor on the front of the projector that allows the presenter to control their presentation using hand gestures rather than a remote control. This requires the computer to be connected to the projector via the USB-B port, unless you are using EasyMP Multi PC Projection or screen mirroring to connect your computer to the Epson PowerLite 1785W.

Epson PowerLite 5520W

Powerlite 5520W

The Epson PowerLite 5520W is on the higher end of K-12 classroom projectors, with a street price of $2199. With Epson’s Brighter Futures Education Program, the price of the projector drops significantly – to $1,699. That’s still on the higher end for K-12 projectors, but this particular projector would be most suitable for larger high school classrooms that have uncontrollable ambient light, as its 5,500 lumens is positively wall melting. Of course, being an Epson, it measured over claim at 7,192 lumens at full wide angle, and 4,690 at mid-zoom.

This 3LCD projector has WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution and a host of great advanced networking features that make this projector a good choice for high schools that have the budget. It has support for Crestron RoomView and Extron XTP, which allows your IT department to have command and control capabilities for your entire projector fleet. It also has HDBaseT, which makes this suitable for auditoriums, if that suits your needs. More on those larger venue applications for this projector when we discuss it in our “Projectors Considered: Higher Education Projectors” section of this report.

In addition to the advanced networking features, the Epson PowerLite 5520W has wireless capabilities, such as the ability to use Miracast for projecting mobile devices, via the optional wireless module. The projector has a 1.85:1 zoom lens, which is quite excellent and allows for greater placement flexibility. The 5520W has all of the inputs and connectors needed for high school classroom applications, and then some. One final word on this projector – it has a spectacular image and stellar color.

Optoma EH330UST

Optoma EH330UST short throw projector

The Optoma EH330UST is the only ultra short throw projector included in this report that we reviewed this last year. Ultra short throws are fantastic for classroom environments, as their close proximity to the screen (we’re talking projecting from mere inches away) reduces the amount of shadow produced by teachers and students during presentations. Ultra short throws tend to cost a little more than your standard throw projectors, and the EH330UST is no exception, with a list price of $1,599. This makes this DLP projector most suitable for high school classrooms, especially those that require higher resolution, as this Optoma has 1080p (1920 x 1080), full HD resolution.

The EH330UST claims 3,600 lumens, but measured at 2,966 in its brightest mode – no matter, most projectors come in up to 25% under claim! Since the projector is ultra short throw, there’s no optical zoom – you simply install the projector as close to or as far from the screen as you need to for your screen size. As for inputs and connectors, this one’s got another simple panel, with good connectivity. It has two HDMI inputs, one for MHL/the optional HDCast Pro wireless module, two USB ports, a Composite Video port, a VGA In and Monitor Out input, the obligatory RS-232C connector for old-school command and control, two audio jacks, and the regular wired RJ-45 LAN connector.

This Optoma has a 16-watt speaker built into the unit, which is plenty loud for even the largest K-12 classrooms. The EH330UST has wireless capabilities via the optional wireless module, HDCast Pro, which allows for screen mirroring PCs and Macs, as well as both Android and iOS mobile devices. The projector is compatible with Crestron RoomView and PJLink for command and control. It even has plug-and-play PC-Free Presenting – using a USB drive (flash drive or external hard drive), you can project jpeg images and other documents. The projector is compatible with Microsoft Office, so you can easily project Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations without the need for a computer. It’s also 3D ready!

ViewSonic LS620X

ViewSonic LS620X Short Throw Laser Projector

The ViewSonic LS620X is the only projector considered for the K-12 Classroom projector class that is XGA (1024 x 768) resolution. Though many would opt for a wide screen display – that is, WXGA, 1080p, and WUXGA – there is still a demand for XGA projectors in the education market. Why? Not only are these projectors more budget friendly for, say, elementary schools, but school districts may wish to go with a 4:3 aspect ratio so that they do not also need to replace their screens. So, we call these types of projectors “replacement projectors” as they are often replacing outdated 4:3 aspect ratio models. Those older projectors are long overdue for an update, especially when you consider that most of those only got 500 to 1,500 hours off a lamp at full power and lamps cost a couple hundred dollars – it becomes more cost effective to simply replace with a highly capable, new XGA projector.

That said, the ViewSonic LS620X is a short throw, DLP projector with a list price of $1,216. You may think that is a high price for a projector of lower resolution, and you might be right – until you consider that replacing both the projector and the screen with widescreen would result in a similar number, plus labor hours installing the new screens and projectors across multiple classrooms. Ultimately, whether or not a school district decides to go with an XGA model versus upgrading to widescreen will depend on whether or not the XGA projector suits their classroom needs, and overall cost comparison. What really goes in favor of using this XGA model to replace an older projector that has a 4:3 aspect ratio is its laser light engine! Its lifespan is up to 25,000 hours – much better than your standard lamp, which gets about 3,000 to 8,000 hours in its life. This is the reason for the higher up front cost.

This ViewSonic claims 3,200 lumens, and came in at 3,222. It has a fixed focal length, so what you see is what you get in terms of lumens – there’s no wiggle room based on zoom, as it has none. Still, 3,222 is excellent for combating ambient light, and will be plenty for most classroom environments. It has a six-segment color wheel (RYGCBW) for truer color, and a Blackboard/Greenboard mode for classrooms using these mediums as their screen. Awesome. The projector also has support for Crestron RoomView and AMX, as well as a pretty hefty inputs and connectors panel. It has wired LAN, two HDMIs, a USB Type-A and Mini USB port, two VGA In connectors and one VGA Out, an RS232 port for old-school command and control, S-Video and Composite Video inputs, as well as two audio jacks.