Few technologies in the education industry have grown at the pace of video or data projectors. Over the past several years, what was once an expensive luxury has become commonplace in schools as this technology has become increasingly affordable. Today, nearly every major projector manufacturer has a K12 education division, with district level purchases constituting a significant portion of the industry overall.
Even with this rapidly advancing technology, the basic criteria for evaluating projectors have remained largely unchanged for years. Buyers consider the brightness, which is measured in lumens; the resolution, measured in pixels; the contrast ratio, a measurement of white versus black and a good indicator of color and image quality; and the chip technology, of which 3LCD and Texas Instruments DLP are the two main competitors. Beyond those core criteria, new developments include both wired and wireless networking for monitoring and controlling a projector from a PC without the need for a remote, as well as short-throw capability, a feature particularly relevant to education. This class of projector has grown very quickly in popularity almost entirely because of K12 users, as the projectors are needed as part of an interactive whiteboard, another rapidly growing segment of education technology. Market trends in their infancy include 3D projection, a capability for which manufacturers see great potential in education and are just beginning to build into their units, and energy-efficient LED light sources instead of lamps. Here are a few examples of the many options to consider using in your district.
This new DLP model from ViewSonic is a good example of how advanced portable projectors have become for the price. At 3,700 lumens of brightness, XGA (1024x768) resolution and a high 2,800:1 contrast ratio, this unit boasts specifications that would have cost more than double its sub-$1,000 price just a few years ago. Additional features include an HDMI port and network management remote configuration software. www.viewsonic.com
Hitachi has long offered several short-throw projectors designed for use alone or as part of the company's StarBoard line of interactive whiteboards. Short-throw technology usually comes at a premium price, however, and so Hitachi designed the CP-D10 to be a more affordable, entry-level short-throw option for schools. It projects an 80-inch image from just 36 inches away from a screen or whiteboard, at 2,000 lumens of brightness and at XGA (1024x768) resolution. www.hitachi-america.us
This new short-throw model from NEC is designed for education and includes several "green" features for reducing energy use. These include an ECO mode, which dims the projected image to extend lamp life up to 5,000 hours, power management controls that automatically shut down the unit when no inputs are detected and rapid startup and shutdown of just three to four seconds. Additional features include a widescreen picture at a high WXGA (1280x800) resolution, 2,100 lumens of brightness, and a 600:1 contrast ratio. www.necdisplay.com
Sharp is emphasizing the 3D image capabilities of its new line of education projectors, a technology currently exclusive to Texas Instruments' DLP chip. When used with 3D compatible content and active shutter 3D glasses, viewers can enjoy an immersive 3D experience, but these projectors also display traditional content if these are not available. This new model is designed for larger rooms and offers a high brightness of 4,500 lumens along with XGA (1024x768) resolution and built-in 10-watt speakers. www.sharpusa.com