Projector Reviews

Special Projector Features

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In this section we discuss the importance of a number of special features found on the various projectors in this report. I should point out that we’ll also discuss some very basic items such as brightness, and how much is enough…

These sections below talk about the features (and benefits) that are important to consider in projector selection.

MORE COMING SOON! We will be adding more features as we update this page from the 2011-2012 Report.

Ultra-short throw lens

Until the last couple of years, ultra-short throw projectors were rare, and expensive. Also, there were a number of projectors calling themselves ultra-short throw, that really weren’t.

An ultra-short throw projector is one that has an optical system allowing the projector to be placed extremely close to the screen. For a respectable sized screen in a conference room or classroom environment, say 72 inches diagonal (if using a 4:3 ratio projector), ultra-short throw would typically have the closest part of the projector anywhere from an inch, to perhaps 4 feet from the screen. That’s a huge difference due to some unusual technologies.

One key purpose of having ultra-short throw capability is to place the projector so close that it is between the presenter or teacher, and the screen. That way no one gets blinded, and annotating becomes far simpler.

One that can be placed inches from the screen can sit on tables or credenzas right below the screen or can be wall mounted right above. Of the projectors reviewed here, only the Hitachi CP-AW250N and the Epson Brightlink 455wi mount within inches of the screen (or wall). Of the two, only the Epson is an interactive model. Hitachi announced new interactive projectors about the time of this report, but none were in the country, in time to be included in the report. We anticipate reviewing one of them in the next few months.

Most of the ultra-short throw projectors that are more of the 2 to 3 feet back (measured to the lens) rather than several inches, are also designed to work with a telescoping wall mount. That mount would typically be anchored to the wall, right above the top of the screen (centered of course). The telescoping pole would likely allow placement from less than a foot away, to as much as 4 feet, based on the mounts I normally see at trade shows. Some of the manufacturers with ultra-short throw projectors also sell such mounts, but, that’s not critical, since most of the major ceiling mount manufacturers also offer wall mount solutions for these projectors.

In this report you will encounter several ultra-short throw projectors, and discover that they vary quite a bit in their “throw” abilities. Three of them, an Epson, BenQ, and Optoma, are true interactive projectors, adding a host of “smart” capabilities, including annotation, saving work, touch screen functions and, really, a whole lot more.

Monitor Out (also known as VGA out)

Not everyone presents or teaches from a laptop. Schools in particular, tend to rely more on desktops in the classroom, than laptops. With your laptop, if you hook up a projector, you can still see your work on the laptop screen. With a desktop computer though, you disconnect your monitor to hook up a projector. Since it’s often desirable not to have to look at the projected image, but view the computer instead when speaking, the solution is to split the signal – one for the projector one for the local monitor.

To accomplish that, you either buy a VGA splitter, or, buy a projector that has a VGA out or Monitor out (whatever you wish to call it). The alternative is to use a projector that provides the monitor out.

For that reason, monitor out has long been an important feature considered when buying for school installations. Running the extra cable (from the monitor out on the projector, to the input on a monitor), does add a slight labor cost to an installation, and a few dollars of cabling, but is going to cost less in most cases than buying a splitter.

In case you missed my point, monitor out is a potentially big thing if you are working on a desktop. If you are shopping for a school district, though, where all the teachers are using laptops, then, you don’t need this feature.