Projector Reviews

Projectors Considered: K-12 Classroom Projectors

Projectors are a staple of a large percent of K-12 classrooms. Teachers use them to convey concepts to their students and project educational films, while students often rely on projectors as visual aids for their presentations. Choosing the right projector for your K-12 classroom depends largely on the environment itself – lighting conditions, etc. – but also on specific needs for features.

These smaller projectors typically don’t boast a lot of advanced features, because that’s hardly necessary for K-12 classrooms.  Most of the capabilities needed for most K-12 classrooms including things like, advanced networking,  wireless capabilities, PC-Free Presenting, and other simpler features that are easily provided by a number of projectors in this category.

This year’s K-12 Classroom projector class includes eight relatively small, fixed install/portable type projectors across five manufacturers: Acer, BenQ, Epson, Optoma, and ViewSonic.

This year’s collection of projectors offers a variety of throw distances including standard throw, short, very short and ultra short models.  Only the Viewsonic is a laser projector, this mostly due to typical budget restraints at the K-12 level. Casio has education oriented hybrid Laser/LED projectors for K-12, but the only Casio in this year’s report is in the Higher Education category.

An Optoma projector is our only Ultra Short Throw projector this year.  There are no interactive projectors in this year’s report, but you will find still current winners from previous years in this report. Note:  Last year we focused on USTs and interactive projectors.

K-12 Classroom Projectors Considered

Projector Model

Overview

Review

Specs

Acer S1386WHN

Acer S1386WHN Conference Room Projector

DLP Technology

BenQ MW535A

Based on its $550 list price, the BenQ MW535A is the least expensive projector in this year's report, despite claiming 3,600 lumens and WXGA resolution.

DLP Technology

BenQ MH733

BenQ-MH733

DLP Technology

Epson PowerLite 109W

Epson-PowerLite-109W_Front

3LCD Technology

Epson PowerLite 1785W

Epson Power Lite 1785W Featured Image

3LCD Technology

Epson PowerLite 5520W

Powerlite 5520W

3LCD Technology

Optoma EH330UST

Optoma EH330UST short throw projector

DLP Technology

ViewSonic LS620X

ViewSonic LS620X Short Throw Laser Projector

DLP Technology

Acer S1386WHN

Acer S1386WHN Conference Room Projector

The Acer S138WHN is a DLP projector with WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution. This and its low price of just $649.99, makes it suitable for typical K-12 classroom applications. The Acer is a short throw projector, which is fantastic for setups where this projector will be wall mounted, as it can be mounted from just one to two feet back for most screens. The S138WHN claims 3,600 lumens, which is plenty to combat the ambient light conditions seen in most K-12 classrooms. This claim is based on having the zoom at full wide angle – we measure at mid-zoom, and, in its brightest mode, the Acer comes in at 2,162. At full wide angle, you can expect an extra few hundred lumens. Still, anything around 2,000 is respectable.

This projector has very low placement flexibility, as it has a fixed lens – that is, no zoom. Still, with it being short throw, you should be able to easily find the right throw distance for your screen size with minimal frustration. It has a super simple inputs and connectors panel, but with everything you need for K-12 classroom applications. There’s two HDMIs, a couple USBs, some VGA connectors, wired LAN and audio inputs. The Acer also has its own built-in 16-watt speaker that is powerful enough to fill those larger high school classrooms.

The Acer S138WHN has an onboard media player that allows you to display content from a USB. You can export your PowerPoint presentations as ordered JPEGs to present without a PC, but there are other ways to do PC-Free Presentation with this projector. The Acer S138WHN is compatible with Android 5.0 and above mobile devices (no iOS devices), as well as PCs or Macs. Androids require the free Acer eDisplayPro app to be installed to use this feature.

BenQ MW535A

Based on its $550 list price, the BenQ MW535A is the least expensive projector in this year's report, despite claiming 3,600 lumens and WXGA resolution.

The BenQ MW535A is a WXGA (1280 x 800), DLP projector priced at $550. With a 3,600 lumen claim, this projector should be bright enough to overcome the ambient light seen in K-12 classrooms. We measure at mid-zoom, as it is more typical for projectors to be installed this way rather than at full wide angle. Since the aperture is half-closed, the lumen count is lower – in its brightest mode, this projector came in at 2,541 lumens. If you can install at full wide angle, you can expect an extra couple hundred lumens. This one is brighter than that Acer, so if you have bright room conditions, you’ll want to take that into consideration.

The BenQ has a 1.20:1 manual zoom lens. This provides a little placement flexibility – more so than that Acer – but not much. Its inputs and connectors panel is basic, but has everything you need for standard K-12 classroom applications – even some old-school inputs! The MW535A has two HDMIs, a few VGA connectors, a Mini USB, and some audio inputs. As for those old-school inputs, there’s an S-Video port, a Composite Video port, and the obligatory RS232 connector for old-school command and control. No LAN port, though, so if that’s one of your deal breakers – look elsewhere.

The most notable feature on the BenQ MW535A projector is that you can connect multiple computers for presentation purposes at once. There’s no split screen function, so only one computer can be used to project at any given time, but the second HDMI and VGA In connectors allows for the next presenter to queue up their presentation, saving time. That’s particularly useful in this age, where K-12 classrooms often have between 20 and 30 students. The projector has a SmartECO Mode, which determines the brightness required for optimal color and contrast, while conserving up to 70% of lamp power. Speaking of the lamp, its rated lamp life is up to 15,000 hours when using its ECO modes. That is excellent for a lamp based projector, as their lamp lives usually hover around the 3,000 to 8,000 mark.

BenQ MH733

BenQ-MH733

The BenQ MH733 is a DLP projector with a native resolution of 1080p (1920 x 1080), priced at $799. Not bad for full HD! The projector boasts a wall-melting 4,000 lumens. Again, that’s at full wide angle, which isn’t typical of most installations. When we measured at mid-zoom, its brightest mode came in at 2,826, so you can expect the projector to be around the 3,000 lumen mark (most likely above) at full wide angle. That is plenty for most ambient light conditions. Some K-12 classrooms cannot turn off all of the overhead lights, and in those instances, you’ll want a bright projector like this one.

The MH733 has a healthy amount of zoom, with a 1.30:1 manual zoom lens. The built-in 10-watt speaker should be loud enough for most K-12 classrooms. It has a simple inputs panel with all the basic connectors needed for K-12 applications – it even has a LAN! So, if you liked the BenQ MW535A, but needed a LAN connector, the MH733 has you covered. As for the other inputs, there are two HDMIs, a USB Type-A and Mini USB, a VGA In and VGA Out, that LAN port, an RS232 connector for old-school command and control, a couple of Audio inputs, and even a port for a wireless dongle!

With the optional wireless dongle and QCast app, you can wirelessly project up to four mobile devices or PCs simultaneously – a major plus in today’s world of smart phones, tablets, and student Chromebooks. Another awesome feature of the BenQ MH733 relating to presenting is the USB reader. It allows you to project various documents from a USB, such as PowerPoint presentations, Word and Excel documents, and images. This BenQ has a lamp life of up to 15,000 hours in LampSaver Mode.