Much like a good sound solution lends voice to your professors and teaching staff, a good projector solution lets educators bring learning to life, often reaching out better to a generation of students who have grown up with computers. Not to forget anyone who teaches understands the importance of keeping the class attention riveted to the front of the class!
That said, choosing the right projector is by no means an easy task for procurement managers in todays classroom. Not only are projectors not regular investments due to the high costs involved, but there are also a slew of technological features and considerations one must make to ensure the investment brings valuein todays context and for the foreseeable future as well. Bear in mindno two rooms and no two projector placements are alike.
Heres our primer on what you should keep in mind while picking the next projector for your teaching facilities.
Brightness: Faded, poorly lit images and presentations can make a world of difference in how your teaching content is viewed and retained by students. A key consideration, brightness, is measured in lumens, so the higher the lumens level, the brighter the projector. But waityou shouldnt go out and buy the brightest projector availablecertainly budgetary considerations and what brightness is ideal must be kept in mind so you dont end up buying much more than you need. Consider the following:
Can you control the light in the room? If yes, a less bright projector may work. However, if curtains or other light-blocking mechanisms arent available, the projector will have to be brighter to compete.
What is the size of the audience?: The formula is simplethe more the people, the bigger the picture will have to be, to be effective. The bigger the picture needs to be, the further (typically) the projector needs to be away from the screen, thus increasing the need for a brighter projector.
What is your content?: The more detailed the image/contenttext, graphs or detailed drawingsthe brighter the projector will need to be.
Once youve identified each of these parameters, the choice becomes simpler. Pick a projector with brightness less than 1000 lumens only if you have a darkened small-size room, between 1000-2000 for training rooms with some amount of ambient light, and between 2000-3000 lumens for large conference rooms and classrooms (most preferred). While the latter will suffice for most needs and ambient light situations, a
projector with brightness more than 3000 lumens might be needed for large venues such as auditoria where a large screen is required in somewhat bright conditions. Of course, goes without saying if its possible, ask for a demo in the actual classroom to verify results before purchase.
Resolution: The number of dots on the screen (pixels) at any given time, resolution has a big role to play the more dots there are, the sharper the image is, so small text and images are sharper. Every projector has its own native resolution or standard resolution, where the image it displays looks best. While entry level resolutions like SVGA (800x600 pixels) and WVGA (854x480 pixels) offer low purchase costs, it is recommended to look at XGA (1024 x 768 pixels) and above, ideally HD2 (1280x720 pixels) or WXGA (1280x800 pixels, for widescreen laptop sources) if the budget allows. Specialized needs, such as CAD drawings or medical applications, may necessitate higher resolutions, so its best you match the native resolution of the source material you most often plan to use with the projector you buythis will ensure you get the sharpest and cleanest image.
Lamp Life: An important consideration, given that your projector will see 3-5 hours of daily use and lamp replacement costs can end up being a sizeable percentage of the cost of your projector. Check for projectors that offer a high stated minimum lamp life expectancy, as well as those that offer an Economy mode which prolongs the life of the lamp.
LCD vs. DLP: Finally, theres a question of which technology to invest in LCD or DLP or LED. The technical details on this make for quite dull reading, so for a layman, its suffice to know that DLP projectors are lower maintenance and better for video (better contrast levels) but suffer from a rainbow effect - brief flashes of perceived red, blue, and green shadows observed most often when the projected content features high contrast areas of moving bright or white objects on a mostly dark or black background. LCD projectors on the other hand are more affordable but suffer from some degree of pixellation and poorer contrast levels. There is also a relatively new entrant to this discussionthe LED projectorswhich is more eco-friendly and offers significantly longer lamp life of up to 20,000 hours!
Other considerations: Does the projector have wired/wireless connectivity, or the ability to go into a interactive whiteboard mode? Can it work in short projection distances (short throw) or reshape your image to fit on your screen if the projector is installed at a different height (keystoning)? Is it user friendly, or do you need a PHD degree to operate it? Keep these in mind if you have specific requirements unique to your classrooms.