Toshiba TLP-S10 projector - good value
TLP-S41 £1361 projector with visualiser camera arm
Epson EMP-S1 projectors and Sony VPL-ES1 projectors – good value
In a fast moving market, with school classrooms almost driving it, data projectors are at last becoming affordable. Though you may not feel that a 20-25% price drop warrants dashing out to the shops, the low end of this market where schools buy has now ducked under £1000. Just a year ago such a projector was a rare and noisy beast but now with remarkable coincidence, you will find at least three big names at BETT beating the magic thousand pound price point.
But first we have to talk Lumens, which tells how bright a projector is. Lumens values are like fashion. Education supplier RM, who sell a good spread of brands, say that projectors are settling down at around 1200 to 1500 Lumens which is a clue that these ratings give you a unit fit for most classrooms. Take your projector to the hall or a south-facing room and you will be looking for around 2000 lumens. The 1000 Lumen models, the fashionable model of a couple of years back, are only serviceable if you position them well. Still they work for many.
From Toshiba we have the TLP-S10 (£849) giving 1200 lumens brightness which is clearly value for money. The vital cable bits are all in the bag, the on-screen menu is one of the best and there’s a ‘press and hold’ one-button setup that synchronises the system to reduce flicker. Like most budget projectors, the S10 is SVGA which means that it handles almost any computer, but shows its best at 800 x 600 screen dots.
Epson have the EMP-S1 (£849) which is another 1200 lumen model, complete as any with bag and cables. It starts fast, is ready in seconds and its cooling cycle lasts just 20 seconds. Although it looks large, it feels light and is easily carried using a pull out handle. If you need the extra brightness Epson’s EMP 54 (£1599) achieves 2000 lumens, is still very portable and again good value.
Sony has the VPL-ES1 which is the third sub-£1000 projector here. The coincidence of S model numbers across the three can only remind see what to compare. The Sony claims an easy plug-in and turn-on feature, as well as a short focal length lens so you can position it close to the screen. Its 1500 Lumen rating may also impress.
Back at Toshiba, the TLP-S41 has the unique visualiser arm – a mounted camera that lets you show a science experiment or a page from book to the class. As a built-in unit on several models, it works without fuss, plus can rotate it fully or unclip it to use a metre away. Few other makers have twigged how indispensable this is for practical subjects, although Avermedia sell an add-on document camera that plugs into any projector you have. Called the AVerVision 330, you use it similarly to view photos, objects or detail. It bubbles with features including a card reader to view presentations without a PC.
New last year was the wireless projector that lets you beam out from a PC as if by magic. Though evidently at the cutting edge of the technology, RM say that these are finding their homes on school networks. Called ‘network projectors’ in some places, the wireless units receive their image via a wireless access point from any PC on the system. Toshiba have the TLP-520, Epson the EMP-735 (£3,499) and you can find others. They are worth having whenever cable access causes issues – say you wanted the class to take turns to present something – though these are invariably high end machines. If you want to display video over the wireless link, bear in mind there are few signs of this being possible at present.
Trade shows offer the rare chance to compare machines side-by-side and you can get expert quite quickly. Look for one button set-up, menus for brainless use, auto keystone (for a rectangular image) and frankly, ignore the remote control. If you’re keen to get it right, measure up your screen and the projection distance too because the zoom lens features vary somewhat. Visit the makers (Philips, Sony, NEC etc) to help you work out the spec you need. Use the dealers like Savilles, Stejies, RM and whiteboard dealers to pick up knowledge across the brands. Projectors ‘bundled’ with other items, like whiteboards, will sweeten the deal but as ever unfortunately throw you off the course of buying your ideal model.
AverMedia – document camera Web: www.averm.co.uk
Time Education www.timeeducation.com
Interactive Education www.interactive-education.co.uk
Saville Audio Visual www.saville-av.com
Epson projectors www.epson.co.uk
Toshiba projectors www.projectors.toshiba.co.uk.
Canon projectors www.canon.co.uk
Sharp projectors www.sharp.co.uk
Sanyo projectors www.sanyo.co.uk
Philips projectors www.philips.co.uk
Sony projectors www.sonybiz.net/education