Education – how projectors have changed over the last 15 years
I laugh when I first started Just Projectors in 2001 we were selling 500 lumens SVGA models to education at £2,000, the Ez Pro 500 from Optoma Projectors was a great seller and when I think about how bright there are now compared to them. They couldn’t be mounted very easily and everyone had to sit in the dark. The lamps lasted about 100 hours, had to be changed once a month and they cost £1.50.
If you wanted a one that could work in a school hall then the price was £5,000,it was the size of a spaceship, it came with the horrible composite poor quality input and it weighed about 20 Kgs and you got an amazing 2,000 lumens XGA for that.
There certainly wasn’t one in every room, interactive whiteboards like Smart was just being released and everyone flocked to the Bett Show to see what was on offer. We used to have a stand there, people would come with their order pad (those were the days).
In 2002-2004 we saw the introduction of brighter ones around 4 Kg’s and still pretty much SVGA resolution. My favourite was the Mitsubishi SA51, I think we sold over 1000 or them they lasted so long. The bulbs were £300 but for the first time someone could see the image.
In 2005-2010, Beta tried to set the standard for classrooms, improved the warranty the manufacturers had to offer but wanted to limit the lumens to 1500, mainly for health & safety of the glare for teachers, but that did stop the natural progress of improvement in lumens and often brands had 2000 lumen models and they had to use firmware to limit them to 1500. We saw the rush of orange model, the Sanyo’s were bright orange, Epson had an orange strip on them and they idea was to stop the theft of them because nobody but education would want orange in their rooms. Often the same model was made in grey/white for non education and this initiative didn’t really work as Ebay had loads of orange ones for sale and so after about one year the orange plan was ditched. With the popularity of visualisers then Toshiba and Epson brought out an integrated model. Resolution started moving to XGA, about 40% better than SVGA and the prices started to fall. I put that down to Hewlett Packard entering the DLP market and started to produce very cheap models, Philips also brought out the C-Bright range which had a reported lamp life of 6000 hours, and this was 3 times what all the other models had. Other brands such as Infocus & BenQ entered into the price where and we saw the start of DLP starting to make huge inroads to the LCD market but Sanyo & Epson still held the keys certainly to education. Mitsubishi was a strong brand who offered but DLP & LCD, lots of schools still had to buy LCD due to their previous ones being installed and the cost to move was prohibitive. DLP also only had 3 segment colour wheels and the oranges and red were very poor, but schools saw a way of saving money on mobile solutions and DLP grew & grew It wasn’t long before HP withdraw from the market, best not say too much as they might sue, and then Philips put their love of projectors on hold.
2011-2014 Mitsubishi our top seller in education just stopped producing education projectors. Casio at the Bett Show launched the slim green range of LED hybrid DLP models which promised to give 10,000 lamp hours and no maintenance, no doubt the ICT technician named their children after Casio, gone were the days when they had to buy lamps each term, get them down from the installation, fit them, instead it was put the projector up and forget it. No many brands followed suit, instead they got their act together on the price of lamps, instead of only lasting 2000 hours and costing £250, they get them up to 4000 and cut the price to sub £200. Since then the lamp hours although most brands are still to limit the hours on the warranty now easily reach or say they claim to 6000 hours. Hybrid laser ones were produced by BenQ but still seemed too pricey for the education market. Then ultra short projectors took the education sector by storm, could you really fill a whiteboard from a mount hanging on the wall, no more costly installations, no more glare in your eyes or shadows and they have never looked back. There are models with throw rather less than 0.2 but most tend to be around 0.4-0.6, yes they look like a typewriter and are very fussy, they don’t like pull down screens, they want to beam onto the wall or mainly onto an interactive whiteboard. The cabling of an installation was made simpler; all the equipment was the same end of the room. It wasn’t long before someone decided that these short throw models could be interactive for both LCD & DLP solutions, spend an extra £400 on the projector and get an interactive whiteboard functionality and save £500 overall. Epson & BenQ produce some great models and are still popular today. Sanyo stopped making projectors and the was some coming together with Panasonic to bridge the gap. I should mention 3D in these developments, so much hype for education but nobody thought about the cost of DLP link technology and 3D with the huge cost of the glasses, a passive solution in this time of recession wasn’t going to take off and I think a trick was missed here. So many calls schools asking for a projector for their hall which was 3D, ok but with glasses costing £30-80 each then it was such a huge cost and nightmare to not get them broken or lost. The other major change was the death of the small bright projector, I think that is the EU to blame for that wanting them to go to 1.5watt standby and I’m sure the smaller models just couldn’t do it, so all our models around 1KG soon became 2 Kg’s again and the gap was filled with the pico projector, tiny LED ones which went back to the bad old days of 300 lumens and people wondered why we would say to them don’t buy them or education, and of course with the flood of any name Chinese pico’s people think somehow being LED and being tiny can work in the classroom, they can’t and the battery pack sometimes is bigger than the unit itself. WXGA resolution and 1080p came available at affordable price but that was a bit of an uphill struggle to get ICT technician off the XGA solution, Windows 7 helped and the emergence of tablets being widescreen really challenged why people would still get a 4:3 solution. DLP got better, the colours improved and the sales rose & rose.
2015 The first real threat to projectors or to be more accurate interactive whiteboards in the education market has been the interactive flat panels, they have got bigger, 55” 60” are now affordable compared to a solution with whiteboards, my view is that they have a price drop to come yet as all the brands seem star struck with them offering to drive around every country lane to do a demo in the hope to get an order for 20. Each technology change has meant that they have to get better, of the manufacturers have to offer better warranties, I have even seen a 7 year warranty offer at one point but during July it is very popular to get 5 year warranties, always a good time to buy. DLP manufacturers have started to take on the traditional LCD replacement market as they have the ability on standard throw models to get closer, this will offer them open to more business in the futures.
The Future : projectors will adapt for teachers needs, connectivity will be the big thing next not just Hdmi rather than the good all faithful VGA connection, but real time video wireless, the dongles we sell now already have started to perform better. Infocus have developed range with a brain inside; memory can be loaded onto them, making them truly portable. I look forward to education which is the biggest market demanding more. I cannot wait to see a 4K projector in every classroom, watch this space!