This will be a key focus, when you get to the Image Quality page. There is a wide range of abilities in our fifteen projectors, in terms of how good their color is. Some projectors will work great if you must be able to perfectly match the color of, say a company logo, or the blue of an American flag. Others, can be especially poor. One thing we've noticed, is that a number of the DLP projectors in this report still can't do really good yellows and bright reds, (yellows can come out mustardy yellow-green, and bright reds, more like a dark merlot wine). Some of today's DLP projectors though, are far better at it than others, and the LCD projectors in this report, are typically a little better than the best of the DLP projectors.
The point being, if you need accurate color, for whatever purpose - even for viewing photos and video, there will be wide variation in how good some of these projectors do. Note that even the worst of them start looking pretty good in their Video or Movie mode, but, then typically the projector's brightness is down around 50% or more, and the color still isn't that good on several of them.
"What?" you say? I said Audio. In the past, portable projectors (under 10 pounds) mostly have been skimpy in terms of sound. You'll notice today, that almost all of the projectors in this report are under 10 pounds - thus technically portables. Still many of today's portables really are designed as portable/or/fixed projectors.
Usually a couple of 0.5 watt, or 1 watt speakers, is all you find in most projectors. That gives the average portable projector a bit more sound than a typical laptop, but less than the typical pair of small, cheap speakers that come with most desktop computers.
One or two of those tiny speakers isn't going to carry in a classroom over two or three dozen students. It's just not going to cut it.
And, for that reason, over the last 7-8 years we've been seeing more and more projectors with healthy sound generating abilities, as the manufacturers have come to realize that schools are the largest viable market for projectors. Now, at least for those projectors targeting the K-12 and university classrooms, at least a single 5 watt system. Other common "louder" projectors have a single 7 or 10 watt speaker, one projector I've encountered even has 4 five watt speakers but that one's not in the report.
In days gone by, AV and IT co-ordinators knew the tiny speakers in most projectors wouldn't do the job, so they would also have installed at least one more powerful speaker, and run power to it from (most likely) the same computer and video player that feed the projector. Some projectors have an audio output, which would work fine to feed that extra (powered) speaker system. That's simpler than running additional wires from the equipment, but life is still simpler, and lower cost, if the projector has enough sound that it doesn't need any help.
For that reason, you will find that almost all the projectors we've reviewed have 5 watts or more of sound, and should be fine in a typical classroom, assuming the teacher has any control at all, over his/her students. One more thing. Please don't expect any serious bass out of these projectors. They weren't designed for the 1812 Overture.
Classroom Projector Lamp Life and Cost of Replacements
If there's one certainty out here in the US in 2012, it's that most school districts are having a tough time of it, with lots of belt tightening. Hopefully for all the IT and AV managers at the schools and districts, there won't be any significant hit to federal funds used for school technology purposes. I know that when I owned a dealership, a large chunk of the money being used by districts buying high volumes of projectors from us, was coming from Federal programs. Well, so far, no one has accused the Obama administration of slashing spending, so for everyone's sake (yep, even the students), there's money for some more projectors this summer.
With things as tight as ever, it's smarter than ever to look at the longer term costs associated with projector purchases. Consider, it might be nice to save $100 a projector up front, but it wouldn't be smart, to go with that projector, if it's going to end up costing you $600 more to operate it for 5 years.
When projectors are getting lots of use (and many people realize that while a projector can get tons of use in many classrooms, the reality is many other teachers don't use them much at all, and some, not at all).
That just makes the math trickier, but the fundamentals are unchanged.
Let's consider a projector as having a 10 year life (what doesn't a school try to get at least 10 years out of)? Let's say we have two projectors. One costs $800, the other costs $1000. We'll also assume they are similar in all ways but lamp life and cost.
Projector A: $800 cost. Lamp life is 3000 hours in low power mode. We'll assume today's projectors are bright enough that low power can be selected to extend lamp life, save money. Replacement lamp cost is $300
Projector B: $1000 cost. Lamp life is 5000 hours in low power mode. Replacement lamp cost is $200
Let's see how they stack up in cost, over a decade. We'll use three examples, 8 hours a week, 12 hours a week, and 30 hours a week.
At 8 hours a week, Projector A needs a new lamp at 3000 hours, since 8 hours a week is about 300 hours a year (remember, we're talking a teaching year). That means at the end of 10 years, the first lamp needs replacing. Well, if the life of the projector is only 10 years, then there's no impact.
The same would be true of Projector B.
Scenario 2, however, has Projector A requiring a replacement lamp around year 7, at a cost of $300. That brings the projector's total cost to $800 + $300 = $1100.
Projector B with its longer life lamp, still has no need for a lamp at the 10 year point, so the total cost is $1000.(OK, we're not factoring in the Present Value of money, adjusting for inflation, etc., but you get the idea).
Scenario 3, is an eye opener: At 30 hours a week, that's about 1100 hours a year. For projector A, to get all the way through year 10, you will need to purchase a total of 4 $300 lamps. That makes the total $800 + $1200 = $2000
For Projector B, though only one $200 lamp is needed. The math: $1000+ $200 = $1200.
That sure makes you want to consider lamp life and cost, as a key part of selecting projectors.