Projector Reviews

Outstanding Product Of The Year: Epson BrightLink 450wi Interactive Projector-2

It's Magic?

Pick up the interactive pen, and drag it across the whiteboard mounted below the BrightLink. Or, if there’s no whiteboard, just a wall below the Brightlink. There’s no ink, no color, but as you move the pen, color appears on the whiteboard or wall, being projected from the Epson.

And you can use the interactive pen as a remote mouse, or to highlight and annotate right over a presentation or coursework from a computer, or other source. Check out the Geometry exercise to the right. To fully understand the use of an interactive projector, using the Epson, first, you realize that all the hand written answers (apparently written by kids at the board), were drawn with the interactive pen, which has no ink, and leaves nothing on the board. If drawing a line or letter in red, the movement of the pen causes the projector to lay out the red line or letter with light. No ink!

What you must realize as well, is that the drawings themselves – square, circle, triangle rectangle, and writing in black, although they could be drawn on a white board with washable pens, that’s not likely to be the case.

In reality, if, at this point, you were to turn off the Epson, and you would find the whiteboard would now be completely blank – no geometry, no hand written numbers. All the objects, and the text, as well as the student’s math are all projected. The objects and text might be from some geometry application or courseware, on the teacher’s computer. And, of course, even if there was no whiteboard, the same could appear on any light or off-white wall surface! Got it now?

How great is that for teaching – kids or adults? Especially when, at the touch of the surface (with the interactive pen) you can save the projected image – what came out of computer or video, plus what you, or a student added to it. In addition to saving it, you could print it if you like.

The power of an interactive system like this – or the more expensive SmartBoard + projector alternative, – is outstanding. It can really raise productivity of employees and the interest and enthusiasm of students. Interfaced with normal computers, there’s all kinds of education software that will be more exciting when a student can control it with the interactive pen from the front of the room. In the conference room the Epson can be a great tool for working groups, special projects, re-marking documents. Just about any interactive work you can think of works better when all the information can be shared on “the big screen” in real time.

The Epson Brightlink 450wi has support for both PC and Mac. Epson offers the BrightLink 450wi with or without 3rd party RM software. (I believe only the Intel based Macs, are compatible so Macs more than 4-5 years old may not be compatible.)

These two images from the Epson manual should give you a good idea of the basic capabilities. Any of you using a SmartBoard or other interactive boards will immediately get the idea:

The Interactive Pen just has a single button, but it gives you mousing abilities. Bring up a menu and select the function you want right on the whiteboard or wall.

The bottom line is this. With the advent of multiple manufacturers entering the new interactive projector space, there will be a significant downward move in pricing. The Epson for its $1799 with the optional RM software can project from 55 to 96 inches diagonal. For a typical SmartBoard, about $1500 gets you a mid-sized board. But you still need to buy a projector. Further the boards are heavy, ship by freight and that adds $50 – $100+ depending on the size. With the Epson, you’ve got 14.1 pounds plus packing.

The pricing for the Epson places it between about 22 and 40 percent less than a SmartBoard type solution paired with a projector roughly the same resolution and brightness as the Epson. Better still, it’s only one device to install, and connect. It all adds up to technology coordinators being able to equip more rooms for less investment.

The real question for tech coordinators and IT and AV managers involved in deciding product, is not the price of the Epson compared to, say, a SmartBoard + projector, that’s too easy. The real debate becomes – do we buy something like 12 Epsons, or 20 basic projectors, and forgo the power of interactive training, teaching, and meeting. I don’t have the answer for that, but my recommendation for any school district would be to at least start integrating a few of these into the mix for your next batch of projectors. Be smart – we all know – not all teachers take to technology. Some classrooms never see their projectors fired up, except to see a movie. In other classrooms, though, a good teacher, who’s not afraid of technology, can accomplish great things with this technology. If you can only afford a few, put them where they will be used most effectively. Neither a regular projector or an interactive one is a good investment, if it’s only turned on a half dozen times a year.

The Epson BrightLink 450wi has earned our Oustanding Product of the Year, in part, because it’s more than just a projector, in part for being the first interactive projector and heralding in a new category of teaching and training tool. And, definitely in part for also doing all of the above so well. Both the projector itself and the interactive abilities are well thought out, and function very nicely.It’s got the desired networking, and the system is software “agnostic”. It doesn’t care what you throw at it, in terms of coursework or other software, it just makes the presenting of it easier and more successful. While there’s always a way to improve any product, with this Epson Brightlink 450wi, you have to ask yourself: “What’s not to like?”