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Classroom Projector Buyer's Guide

Finding the Right Projector for Your Classroom

With hundreds of projectors claiming to be the right choice, let us take you through the process of finding the best solution for your unique situation. Almost every step will lead you to Feature Search The most powerful thing about the Projector Central Feature Search utility is that it is the only tool of its kind—anywhere. Feature Search puts you in control of your projector purchase. Projector Central houses up to the minute technical data on every projector in existence and maintains it for the exclusive use of our site visitors.

The hardest thing you have to do is to think about the following:

  • Where is the ideal position for your screen?
  • How far is the farthest student from that screen?
  • Where can you position the projector?
  • How do we narrow the list?
  • The final step!

Read on and learn about the projector features you may need to consider for your unique classroom application. Plug them into the Feature Search utility and save hours of research time as it narrows the choices to only the projectors suited to your needs.

Where is the ideal position for your screen?

This may seem like a strange question, because the ideal position will clearly be at the front of the classroom. However, sunlight, room light, and light colored walls, floors and ceilings can have a profound negative effect on the quality of the projected image.

Ideally you want the screen placed where the least amount of sunlight and room light will strike the screen. Being able to cover windows and turn down lights is ideal. Having dark walls, ceilings, and/or floors will also help as they reduce the amount of reflected light striking the screen.

So darken your room as best you can and take a look around. Where is the darkest area that you could reasonably use given the room constraints? You may find that a corner of the room may provide more shelter from ambient room light than the center of a wall. Sometimes just darkening the area behind the screen can help improve perceived image quality.

How far is the farthest student from the screen?

The answer to this question will determine how large a screen you need. Generally speaking the height of the screen should be about 1/6 the distance of the farthest student. For example if the farthest student is 30 feet away, then the screen height should be 5 feet (60 inches).

If the seating area is level then the bottom of the screen should be about 4 feet off of the floor. If the seating area rises as you move to the back of the room, the screen can be lower to the floor. If you can accommodate it, you'd like the closest student to be not closer than twice the screen height. In our example that would be about 10 feet.

Where can you position the projector?

Ideally you want the projector located where your students cannot intentionally or unintentionally block the light from the projector by their movements or look directly into the projection lens.

One solution is to mount the projector on the same wall as the projection screen or very close to that wall, as this removes the projector from the seating area. This can be done with short throw wall mount projectors or short throw projectors. Unfortunately there are not a lot of projectors that can provide this solution and they tend to be more expensive than more traditional projectors.

If you decide that short throw and short throw wall mount are not your best solution, you have a considerable number of projectors from which to choose. These traditional projectors can be mounted on the ceiling, on a platform suspended from the ceiling, or a table, but at a farther distance from the screen than the short throw projectors.

Let's take our earlier example where our farthest student is 30 feet away from a screen that is 60 inches high and look at classroom/conference room projectors with XGA (1024 x 768) resolution, less than $2000, with 2000 to 3000 lumens of brightness, and capable of projecting an image that is 60 inches high. Click here and you'll see a list of projectors that satisfy our conditiions with some prices well below $1000.

How do we narrow the list?

First you need to define how far from the screen you want to place the projector. This decision may be driven by the location of light fixtures, air conditioner vents, desks, or other any object that might might interfere with the installation of the projector or the light path from the projector to the screen. This "throw distance" that you select will narrow the number of projectors that can meet your requirements.

For the purposes of this discussion, let's assume you want to place the projector 10 feet from the screen, which is a third of the distance of our farthest student. We now have a shorter list of projector candidates. Feature Search showed us all the projectors that met our specific requirements.

The final step!

All that's left to do now is pick the features you want and we have a few that you might want to consider:

  • Blackboard Mode - projectors with this feature allow you to project onto a wall, white board, or chalkboard. This is handy if you don't have an electronic whiteboard as it allows you to annotate the image. However, there is a down side. While projectors with Blackboard Mode can optimize the image quality by analyzing the projected surface, there is loss of image quality and brightness. For the best image quality, there is no substitute for a good projection screen.
  • Zoom Lens - the advantage of a zoom lens is that it allows you to change the size of the projected image without moving the projector. This is particularly handy when installing a projector as you don't need a precise installation as long as you mount it within the throw range of the projector. If you can mount it at the center of the projector's throw range, it will give you the best performance and allow you to switch to a smaller or larger screen in the future.
  • Wired or Wireless Networking - if your school is networked, one or both of these features may be of interest to you. Networks can detect the removal of a projector and thereby give an early warning on theft. Networks can also allow you to share information from a number of resources and alert you to problems or routine maintenance requirements of each projector.

We hope this has been instructive. To help find the solution that is best for you, we'll start you with some of the selections we have made. All you need to do is change them as you see fit and add or subtract features that are important to you. The selections we have made are shown on a yellow background or as a check mark that selects a specific feature. Click here to start.

We would appreciate your feedback so that we can better serve your needs. Click here to send us your questions or comments.