Posted on April 14, 2020 By Art Feierman and Nikki Kahl
The Higher Education Projectors category includes projectors well suited for university classrooms, lecture halls, auditoriums as well as large K-12 multi-purpose rooms and auditoriums (Larger venue), many with multiple lens options.
Projector Specs [COMING SOON]
The Optoma ZU506-T won our Best in Classroom Price Performance Award.
The ZU506-T is a DLP laser projector. Turns out, this year it is the only DLP/laser combination in this year’s higher education class. The Casio is the other DLP, but it is a Laser/LED hybrid, not a straight laser/phosphor type projector like the Optoma or the others, and those don’t get as bright. This ZU506-T-W (officially) is a 1080p widescreen projector with impressive additional resolution skills (below).
The Z is a 5,000 lumen projector. Like most of the others, it is well endowed. I should mention that it is DICOM capable – with the contrast and capabilities to display medical films like MRIs CAT-Scans, etc. meeting teaching quality demands.
The 1.6:1 zoom combined with just a small amount of lens shift (15%, which is a bit better than typical for small DLP projectors that have shift). That makes for pretty good placement range (3LCD’s can exceed 50% shift, but that’s rarely needed). The selection of inputs and outputs rivals any of the other projectors in this collection. It does have a mic input, a nice extra that some will take advantage of. Plenty of legacy inputs, so it is one of the best equipped as a replacement projector for something around for a decade or more.
Let’s talk performance, and price. Our Price/Performance Award doesn’t go to the best performing projector in a class (that one gets the Performance Award) but that one is often the most expensive projector as well. Price/Performance goes to a projector that performs really well, but also provides a very good price for the performance delivered, with price and performance balanced (Value Awards favor price over performance).
When it comes to real brightness, the Optoma ZU506-T measured 4,380 lumens in its brightest mode, at mid zoom on its 1.6:1 zoom. Not sure why we don’t have a wide angle measurement for this projector in brightest mode (an error), but with that amount of zoom lens, expect an additional 250-350 lumens at full wide angle. That will leave the Optoma still a bit shy of claim, but reasonably close!
All modes but the brightest mode (at mid-zoom) measured between 3,800 and 3,900 lumens – so down 10-15% approximately from the max. Turns out that all of the other modes do a very nice job on color. Now that is important to note as this is a DLP, here’s why: Most “business” DLP projectors, with their clear slice on their color wheels to boost white lumens, tend to very, very greenish in brightest mode, but good looking modes are usually there 25% – 40% less bright.
Optoma did NOT (it seems) try to push every last max lumen out of the 506-T. Rather, their brightest mode (Bright) still had greenish-yellow shift, but not near as terrible as many others. Taming that brightest mode explains the surprisingly small drop from Bright to the very good color modes like sRGB, Presentation, and Cinema.
We tend to favor 3LCD projectors overall, because there is less drop from claim to really good color, than with DLPs, but that simply isn’t the case here. This Optoma is capable of some great color, less than 20% below claim. That’s fairly typical for 3LCD, which has an inherent advantage over DLP projectors with “business” color wheels. Good job Optoma!
If Optoma would have opted for a max brightness, max-ugly mode, it likely could have easily exceeded its claim! Good for you Optoma, for giving us a reasonable “brightest mode”!
Networking – Optoma definitely has that covered, it has all the usual advanced features we expect today, with the ZU506-T supporting Crestron RoomView, Extron and AMX Discovery networking protocols, which add all types of capabilities. This Optoma will also network wirelessly in the classroom, with an optional module.
Resolution – Native resolution is standard 1080p, slightly lower that WUXGA. Like some competitors, though it can accept 4K UHD content, including HDR! One of its HDMIs is 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 which should allow all 4K UHD Blu-ray discs to be played, including movies with HDR. Can you picture the Jumanji movies being shown in Geography class?
Other tidbits – The ZU606-T supports 3D. It also have exceptionally powerful sound with a pair of 10 watt speakers. That may well be enough to carry a regular sized lecture hall (although those usually have their own sound systems for reinforcement. In any room smaller than that, this Optoma should have no problem at all (unless you need some real bass – that will always require an external speaker system – for any projector).
The Bottom Line: The ZU506T is a serious “affordable laser” projector. While its list price is on the high side, street prices are not. There is little the 506-T cannot do, from very good placement flexibility to superior color. At just over 12 pounds, it is smaller and lighter than (by at least 4 pounds) than the 3LCD competition, which also puts it with the Casio as the most portable, if mobility and brightness is required.
Count the ZU506-T as an especially well thought out projector with excellent performance, and (for education) a 5 year warranty, with…ready for this: 3 years of replacement program.
Performance + Value = Price Performance = ZU506-T.
The Panasonic PT-VMZ50 won our Best in Classroom Performance Award.
The PT-VMZ50 picks up our Performance Award in the Higher Education “class.” Performance is the highest award given in each class of projectors. The VMZ50 is a most interesting “affordable laser” projector, for a number of reasons. First, most affordable lasers are about 4,500 – 5,000 lumens claimed, like this VMZ50. But, Panasonic also offers a more expensive VMZ60 with 6,000 lumens – unusually bright for the class, but more expensive. Most others haven’t provided an over 5,000 lumen alternative in their affordable laser lineup.
We decided to review the PT-VMZ50 instead of the VMZ60, because we felt that the price difference, combined with 5,000 lumens being plenty for most education uses, make it the more logical projector to review. Nice to know, though, if you need more “horsepower” but the VMZ50’s feature set is fine for your purposes, that you can buy the brighter projector without busting the budget. Other than the brightness and price, the feature sets are the same.
A $2,499 list price puts the VMZ50 squarely at the same price point as the Christie in this report, as well as a host of affordable lasers from Epson, Sony, NEC, BenQ and others. This is the hottest, most competitive class of projectors out there right now.
These can go into large K-12 rooms like multi-purpose, but we really see this as a higher education projector. And, it is small (very) and light enough (less than 16 pounds) to be practical to move from room to room, from say a large classroom to a lab, and back.
The feature set is rather impressive, but this Panasonic projector, stands out among a class of pretty similarly equipped projectors. First, its small size makes it one of only two particularly small models that use 3LCD.
Portable, and laser projector, are rarely found in the same sentence, but this Panasonic is unusually small for a laser projector. Both this Panasonic, VMZ50 and also the Sony CWZ10 (which we will be reviewing Q2 2020) are the two smallest laser competitors I’m aware of.
Since 3LCD provides higher color lumens, that would make the Panasonic seem brighter – with excellent color, than the DLP competition (but there’s plenty of 3LCD competition too, so what else does this projector have going for it? Expect this Panasonic to easily outshine the 5,000 lumen DLP projectors, especially since Phil measured the VMZ50 at 5,042 lumens in its brightest mode – Dynamic. Standard Mode, with High-Bright Mode selected and measured at wide angle on the zoom 5,698 lumens! All the major modes measured at least 4,000 lumen at mid-point on the zoom. And, of course, as a laser projector those lumens will only drop over long periods of time (unlike lamps). Dynamic, without High Bright, tops 5,000 lumens! Check out the image.
Phil reviewed the VMZ50 and he raved about it to me. The color and overall picture, he pointed out was especially excellent. In terms of sheer picture quality, as well as overall, he favored it over the Christie, (the other 3LCD laser in this group), and also over the two DLP lasers – the Vivitek DH3660 and the Optoma ZU506T.
The laser engine is rated 20,000 minimum (that is to half brightness – the usual standard for lasers and lamp warranties). Warranty is 3 years parts and labor. Maintenance needs are easy, and really minimal: It has a cleanable air filter which depending on dust conditions is designed to last at least 10,000 hours without any maintenance.
Small enough to find it used in small but very bright rooms, the VMZ50 is also reasonably quiet. At 27db in its QUIET mode, that makes it comparably quiet to a quality home theater projector. Even at full power – High Bright, its claimed 37db is still reasonable – (my fav Epson home theater projector – the HC5050UB claims 33db at full power, so just slightly quieter.
This Panasonic, like many (most) laser projectors will work at any angle. That makes portrait use viable in an Art class and likely some other interesting classes. The wired networking has one connector for LAN. And it also has HDBaseT for running HDMI up to 100 meters (affordably with CAT6). Somehow Panasonic managed to pack a respectable 10-watt speaker system into its compact design.
Finally, it supports 4K up to 30fps. This will provide sufficient future proofing for 4K UHD player content, and intelligent streaming (that won’t try to shove too many fps to devices that can’t handle 60fps 4K). That’s an excellent compromise for a non 4K projector. And, let’s face it, in 2020, there is demand in higher ed for 4K, but typically engineering and scientific applications, simulations and simulators. But hardly needed for most classroom type use.
Bottom Line: Exceptionally small (for a 3LCD laser), quiet, really excellent picture quality, reasonable 4K capabilities for a WUXGA projector with a WUXGA price. Additionally, it is rather feature laden with everything from PC free computing, to media player to web browser…
The Vivitek DH3660Z did not win an award in this year’s report.
The Vivitek DH3660Z is a 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution, DLP projector intended for business and education environments, though it is primarily positioned as a projector most suitable for conference rooms or meeting rooms. Nicely bright at 4,500 lumens, the image seems even more vivid thanks to its laser light engine.
This projector would also be at home in K-12 Classrooms, multipurpose rooms, small auditoriums, museums, and houses of worship in addition to conference rooms, meeting rooms, board rooms, other office environments, and even medical classrooms and facilities, thanks to its DICOM SIM. Mode.
The Vivitek has excellent placement flexibility with a 1.50:1 manual zoom lens, +13% vertical lens shift, and 360° projection (flexible installation from all angles). It sports an RGBY color wheel and a 10-watt mono speaker. Special features include 3D, Instant On/Off, wireless connection via NovoConnect, and advanced networking features (support for Crestron RoomView, Extron, AMX, SSDP and Telnet).
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)