Posted on April 20, 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 Epson PowerLite U50 did not win an award in this year’s report.
The Epson PowerLite U50 is a WUXGA resolution, 3LCD projector claiming 3,700 color and white lumens.
The most notable features of this projector are:
The NEC MC372X won our Special Award for Replacement. The projector has XGA resolution, making it a clear choice for those looking to upgrade their current 4:3 projector setup.
Everything you just read in the previous winners’ summary, is pretty much true for the MC372X. It’s unusual that we do two projectors in the same series when reviewing, but we brought in the MC372X which is an XGA resolution projector, with it in mind as a low-cost replacement projector in many classrooms with older projectors (more on that below).
List price is $509, so I would expect volume education prices to be down around or below $400 a unit! Consider the networking (although wireless is low cost optional), the best in class warranty for schools – 5 years with 5 years of rapid replacement warranty. 3,700 lumens claimed – which it beat claimed (white and color). With really good color, Presentation Mode measured just over 3,200 lumens! That should be enough “horsepower” to be able to dominate any K-12 classroom.
As a replacement projector: Most older projectors in need of replacement are 4:3 aspect ratio, and typically (if ancient) VGA, or not quite as old SVGA (still that resolution goes back to around 1998 in projectors).
There are also plenty of older XGA projectors. If you go back 10 years, (and as you all know projectors installed in schools are often there for a decade – or even longer), but the older ones are probably 1,000 – 2,000 lumens, not 3,000+. And their lamps typically last 1,000 – 2,000 hours, not 5,000, or even as this NEC claims 10,000 hours at full power. In other words, replacing an existing 4:3 projector with a low-cost NEC MC372X which will cost schools well less than $500 a piece.
If that older projector has been used, regularly, it probably needs a lamp every year or two, and filter maintenance. With this NEC – nothing needed for 10,000 hours of use, which is probably a lot more usage than one will get in the next 10 years in most classrooms! The savings in terms of maintenance, and hassle, is more than enough to justify replacing older 4:3 aspect ratio projectors in the classroom with this NP-MC372X!
Feature wise it is the same (but for the resolution and 100 lumens) as our Price Performance winner this year – yes, that’s NEC’s NP-MC382W, the WXGA widescreen projector. This MC372W delivers all the same things that earned the WXGA version one of our top awards.
The MC372W simply has to settle for a Special Award for being a great replacement projector, in terms of value and performance. And, should you need XGA not widescreen for whatever purpose, consider that this is just as much a Price Performance projector as its sibling.
The NEC MC382W won our Best in Classroom Price Performance Award. This projector had excellent color performance, a good feature set, and a super affordable price for K-12 classrooms.
It is really hard not to be impressed with the MC382W. It started out as a $999 projector with some pretty good performance for the dollar. But NEC seems to have gotten aggressive dropping the price to $599. While this lamp based projector can’t compete with the $2,499 Christie laser projector for pure performance, it crushes the competition for value, based on its $599 price. That, it should be noted, is before any additional education program benefits from NEC’s Star Student program for schools.
The MC382W is a standard throw projector sporting 3LCD technology. It comes with wired networking built in an a wireless option (part: NP05LM1), but not HDBaseT. As these will tend to install in K-12 classrooms, the long distance (100 meters – over CAT6 cable) capabilities of HDMI over HDBaseT typically are not needed (and if they were, there are plenty of 3rd party add-ons for HDBaseT).
3,800 lumens claimed. Nikki measured it and it topped claims, measuring 4,050 lumens, so no issues there. As a 3LCD projector, it should have as many color lumens as white ones, which means it can handle ambient light better than many DLP competitors – those that have lots of white lumens, but come up a lot short on color ones. 3,800+ lumens is more than enough for virtually any K-12 classroom, and it should be able to handle most larger multi-purpose rooms.
Of course, if you want really good color, you don’t select the brightest mode of most projectors. The NEC’s very respectable looking Presentation mode still cranks out over 3,300 lumens! Nice. Should you need to place the MC382W in a bright room with a very large screen, we would recommend selecting a light rejecting (ALR) type screen. The combination should be able to tackle a healthy amount of ambient light!
Screen Mirroring – a Great Classroom feature. NEC does a particularly good job with its MultiPresenter capability that allows up to 16 computers (requires the wireless module) to be screen mirrored. With the wired networking, you can still connect up to 16, but you can’t mirror multiple screens.
Another interesting feature is support for 4K input, despite this being only an WXGA projector. This will allow some 4K videos to be run, for example. Now, there really isn’t any demand for 4K in K-12 classrooms, unless, perhaps in a special class – perhaps art, or drafting/engineering, at a magnet school. But NEC also promises future upgrades to its 4K handling. Let’s count this as a “nice extra,” but one few IT/AV coordinators have on their list as a capability they must have in their projector selections.
If there’s one limitation, it’s the 1.20:1 zoom lens. That’s a pretty basic amount of zoom, so for most installations in a K-12 classroom there will only be about 1.5 to 2 feet of placement range for a typical screen. As long as classrooms are fairly capable in terms of where you can install – as most are with drop ceilings, no problem. However, there will no doubt be some rooms where you need to place the projector either closer or further back, so this projector may not work for all installations. Of course, most of the projectors in this price range have limited zoom lenses like this NEC, typically 1.3:1 or less, but there are some with more range, and of course, there are also short throw projectors as an alternative, that can be mounted on the screen wall.
But let’s stick to the NP-MC382W. Its 10,000 hour lamp life claim at full power is the highest I’ve seen for a lamp. We can say that they aren’t doing what many do, and assume that the projector will kick into lamp saving modes when the image isn’t changing, for a period of time, but no matter. Even if that is the case, that wouldn’t double the lamp life claim. So, count this NEC as one of the projectors that should have long term maintenance being almost as low cost as a much more expensive laser projector.
Here’s one more small item worth noting: The NP-MC382W does have a built in media player, but it is “old school.” That is, it is basically a jpg and video format player. Some competitors “PC Free” media players directly support Microsoft Office, so that you don’t have to convert your PowerPoint, Word, Excel, etc. documents to JPGs first before you can present them.
If you read my comments about the Christie LWU530-APS, I praised its warranty saying few offered better. Well, NEC is the one to beat, warranty-wise. This low-cost projector normally has a 3 year warranty with 3 years of rapid replacement program. Now, that right there, is excellent, but with the NEC Star Student Program that schools and museums can sign up for, the MC382W (and all the other NECs) will receive two extra years of both – that is, 5 years parts and labor with 5 years of rapid replacement! Badda-bing!
Add it all up, and this is a rather exceptional performer considering the roughly $500 to $550 street price, brightness, advanced networking (including Crestron support) and knowing that it will cost even less for schools – even in single quantities, never mind school or district wide implementations.
It may not be the top performer in our K-12 class this year, but it is an impressive performer, for what is normally barely above an entry level price! That’s what we call having great Price/Performance, so that’s the award it has received!
The Optoma EH330UST did not win an award in this year’s report.
The Optoma EH330UST is a 3,600 lumen projector with DLP technology for business and education applications. This ultra short throw projector can project a beautiful 100” image from just inches away! I like UST projectors for presenting, as their close proximity to the screen eliminates the worst of the shadows of the person presenting – if the presenter isn’t pointing on the screen itself, then you’re unlike to get any shadows at all. The EH330UST has a native resolution of 1080p (1920 x 1080), and a maximum resolution of WUXGA (1920 x 1200).
The Optoma EH330UST has an ultra short throw design, which is highly desirable for classroom environments where wall-mounted installation is prominent. The projector has HDCast Pro for screen mirroring Android, Windows, Mac, and both Android and iOS Mobile Devices, as well as PC-Free presenting of photos and documents.
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)