Posted on April 19, 2020 By Art Feierman and Nikki Kahl
K-12 classroom projectors are smaller projectors with features like advanced networking, wireless capabilities, PC-Free Presenting, and other simpler features that are easily provided by a number of projectors in this category. The primary function of a projector in a K-12 classroom environment is for providing visual aid for presentations and other course materials. 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.
The projector models below were all considered for our K-12 awards in this year’s report. Read on to learn more about these models, and if they did or did not win an award.
Projector Review [COMING SOON]
Projector Specs [COMING SOON]
The BenQ EW800ST won our Best in Classroom Smartest Projector Award. We found the features such as its ability to read Microsoft Office Documents, the Cloud File Management System, as well as the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities to be the smartest around when it comes to this year’s lineup.
As it turned out, the EW800ST was one of two “smart” projectors for school reviewed this year. They share the Android operating system, and with it get similar kinds of “smarts” you get with your smart TV at home, plus more “commercial” capabilities. Those smarts provide a lot of capability – on screen browsing, media player, and Bluetooth, of course, but also an Infographic mode and specifically for the education world, and BenQ offers teachers a cloud account to store info and manage their online and class lessons. That’s a nice extra.
The EW800ST stood out as being a short throw projector – unlike the majority of the projectors we brought in the past few years, it can be wall mounted above the screen. Short throw projectors, like the more expensive ultra short throw projectors, have been gaining in popularity in schools.
Feature wise, the EW800ST is a WXGA projector that is well priced ($999 list) with 3,300 lumens claimed, and reasonably well endowed in terms of interfacing. It sports 1 HDMI (2 would be better), a computer interface, 3 USBs (hey, it’s “smart”) and even an old analog computer input. It also has an audio output, and a serial port for command and control. Audio comes from a single 2-watt speaker that has respectable volume (if no real bass), and should handle most regular K-12 classrooms. Audio is not a strength but there is an audio out, if needed, which can feed a powered speaker system or a PA system. Bluetooth is another option for audio.
The EW800ST’s placement abilities were also a strong factor in selecting it for this award. Now, if you are familiar with the Equivalent Visibility Rule (see our article on it in this report), you realize that most classrooms today need significantly larger screen sizes than were typical in the past, because we teach differently today. In K-12, screens typically started as small as 50” diagonal, but most were (and most still are) 60” to 72”. For today’s teaching per E/V, even the typical under 1000 sq. foot K-12 classroom needs at least a 100” display! And that changes everything!
Back to the ES800ST – one of the things I appreciate is that BenQ offers a telescoping wall mount for it, that will work with screens up to about 120” diagonal! 100” to 120” should be the sweet spot for display sizes in K-12 (well, maybe not that big in K-12).
The BenQ has a few more worthy tricks up its sleeve. For one thing, it has advanced wired (LAN) networking, with Crestron RoomView support (which provides the “advanced” in advanced networking). The EW800ST also has wireless networking using a dongle, which is provided. The remote control has a laser pointer on it, and, unlike many competitors, it supports 3D. Finally, at full power, the lamp is rated a healthy 5,000 hours.
Bottom line: The EW800ST turns out to be an overall very competitive lower cost projector for the classroom, that comes with all that networking. The smarts, however, add an additional level of capabilities that can be taken advantage of in teaching environments.
Without the smarts – at an appropriately lower price, this is still a very solid projector, but adding the smarts, not to mention the very well done short throw abilities, make it award worthy, and that’s how it got to be this year’s Best In Classroom: K-12 Smartest.
The Casio XJ-F211WN won our Special Award for Value Solid-State. With the low cost of just $1049.99, there’s no better deal around when it comes to solid state projectors for the classroom.
3 years ago, the predecessor of the XJ-F211WN, the XJF210WN, was one of our award winners in this report. The newer model has been improved in several areas. The XJ-F211WN wins one of our Special awards. Why? Solid state projectors – lasers, or as is the case here, laser/LED – offer many advantages over lamp projectors, especially in maintenance costs, as well as its ability to remain brighter and hold color longer. But, they cost a lot more.
Casio is the exception. While most WXGA “affordable laser projectors” these days list for at least $1999, the F211WN, by comparison, comes in with a list price of only $1,049, and that’s before any volume or education discounts.
Casio pretty much has dominated low-cost solid state projectors for the last decade. We’re only now seeing laser projectors drop down under $2,000 list price. There are generally three types of solid state projectors. Most folks talk laser projectors. Or, on the very low end, pico projectors and some not quite as small pocket projectors, use LED light engines. Then there’s Casio!
Casio has never offered “laser projectors.” They pioneered their own design combining a laser with LED, for a compact solid state light source that offers most of the benefits of a laser light engine. The biggest challenge for the LED/laser combination has been brightness. While we see a lot of under $2,500 laser projectors with 4,000 and 5,000 lumens, getting a really bright image out of an LED/laser is more challenging.
No surprise that the Casio XJF211WN is well endowed: Wired LAN networking, optional wireless, a rather hefty, room filling 16 watt speaker on board, and a 1.5:1 zoom lens for placement flexibility (sorry, no lens shift). Casio’s Moderator function allows a teacher to connect in up to 40 computers/devices at once. Four of those can be selected at one time to be displayed, with the image split into four windows.
Color wise the brightest mode, is (no surprise) heavy greenish. But that’s typical. As a single chip DLP, this Casio loses more brightness than a 3LCD projector, before color becomes very good, but the hybrid Laser/LED light engine puts plenty of lumens on the screen to handle classrooms. (Generally solid state projectors seem brighter per lumen measured, than lamp projectors.) And the Casio’s light engine is rated 20,000 hours. The projector comes with a 3-year parts and labor warranty – normally – but for the education market – add an two extra years.
All things considered: This Casio is very capable, and it is solid state. The Casio’s rock bottom price for a solid state projector (not to mention the Casio’s solid performance), earned it this award.
The Casio XJ-S400UN did not win an award in this category, but it did win an award in this year’s report, in the Higher Education category.
We reviewed this projector in July of 2019, and were impressed by its Moderator Function and C-Assist App features.
The most notable features of this projector are:
The Casio XJ-S400UN is an ultra short throw, hybrid Laser/LED light engine projector with WUXGA resolution. Using Wi-Fi (dongle), students can project their work from up to 4 computers. The C-Assist App allows for remote control and presentation via smart devices, and for the annotation of presentation material.
The Christie LWU-530 won our Best in Classroom Performance Award. Out of all the projectors included in the K-12 Classroom Projector category, we found this Christie to have the best overall performance.
This Christie is competing in both the K-12 and Larger (Higher Ed) “classes,” and it’s very comfortable in both. This is a premium projector boasting 5,300 lumen, 3LCD tech, laser light engine, WUXGA resolution, and a $2,499 list price. That price point for lasers is a very competitive space, although in terms of K-12, we realize that lamp projectors continue to dominate due to their lower entry point, and that even entry level laser projectors offer more brightness than most K-12 classrooms require.
This is a projector that Phil noted had especially good color. It’s video performance also outperforms. In the K-12 world, this Christie would likely be found in larger high school classrooms, as well as small auditoriums or large multi-purpose rooms in almost any type of school. One feature found on this Christie, that we really liked that most $2,500 “affordable lasers” don’t yet offer – it will work with 4K content, on video up to 30fps (also having support for HDR would have been even better).
By the way, the LW530-APS is also just about the lowest price projector in the Christie line-up, a company far better known for $25,000+ projectors than $2,500 ones. (Movie theater projectors too!) Perhaps that’s why it comes with one of the best warranties in the industry, which we believe is an important value: 5 years on the projector (and laser engine) or 10,000 hours whichever comes first. Now, only in a museum type environment, running 24/7/365, or 16/7/365 will you run out of hours first. At 40 hours a week use – that’s about seven school years.
Placement flexibility is outstanding – a 1.7:1 zoom and plenty of lens shift. That’s hard to find among affordable lasers. When it comes to interfacing – no problem there either, it pretty much offers the kitchen sink, as they say: 2 HDMIs, 2 analog computer inputs (one can work as a monitor out), USBs, LAN, and HDBaseT! There’s also plenty of audio inputs, audio out, and finally, the traditional serial port for old school command and control. About the only thing missing, now that I think about it, is interchangeable lenses, and if it had those, it wouldn’t be an “affordable laser,” and be found here.
Bottom line – this is a high performance, high school level projector – or an auditorium/multipurpose room projector for the lower grade schools. It’s overkill in the typical small classroom, unless there’s a huge skylight. The LWU-530-APS comes from a high-end company well known for excellent support, in addition to the great warranty.
There really isn’t any other projector we’ve included in the K-12 section that comes close in terms of sheer performance. Other than not being a different type of projector: Short throw, a UST, or an Interactive projector, there’s little it can’t do at least as well as the competition. It’s that simple.
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)