Computer projection devices vary in price and functionality, from $300 AverKey and Presenter converter boxes to $11,000 NEC projectors. Somewhere at the low end of these extremes are the LCD panels which sit on top of overhead projectors. Tmes are changing as far as the quality of the high end devices, but sadly the prices of nice computer projectors are still out of the reach of virtually all classrooms and may even preclude the purchase of a single unit for quite a few small districts.

One thing is for sure: when you show computer consultants and lab teachers the quality of a nice projection device, they will abandon the old panel devices like a wornout recliner. It’s the overhead projector replacement of the 21st century classroom, but unfortunately still too steep in price for most educators.

Over the past year projector prices have hit a plateau–for a really nice device you’ll pay about $5,000. Cheaper ones are available, but the brightness in lumens is noticeably different. Spend another $5,000 and you can get a really incredible projection device that can serve hundreds, if not thousands, of people in large auditoriums.

The beauty about brighter projectors is their ability to work in a classroom without dimming the ceiling lights. Proper lighting for projectors seems like an afterthought. Convince the powers-that-be to put in lights that can be dimmed coupled with banks of lights that can be turned off directly above the projection area.

Buying inexpensive projectors can be another mistake. Don’t spend thousands of dollars, however, on a projector that is 400 lumens or lower. If you only have $2,500 to $3,500 to spend, don’t spend it on a low-powered LCD projector. You would be better off to buy a large screen computer system like the Gateway Destination and you’ll get a giant TV/monitor as well as a nice computer for the same price.

For the best bang for your projector buck, you want at least a 600 lumen projector–and only if you can get it for less than $4,500.

But if you can spend more, check out the new 700 and 750 lumen lightweight projectors. These will work in virtually any classroom lighting situation with superb screen display. Of course your mileage may vary, but if you need a little analogy to convince your administrators about the educational value of expensive technology use this one: “We don’t train students to drive cars by using bicycles, so why should we settle for less in the computer classroom?”

Here’s a roundup of the most popular models. There are scores of vendors producing projectors in this lucrative and growing market. This list includes some of the best sellers in traditional LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projectors and a separate section for the new DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors.

3M
http://www.3M.com

CTX Opto, Inc.
http://207.201.53.66/

InFocus Systems
http://www.infocus.com<

NEC
http://www.nec.com/

Panasonic
http://www.panasonic.com

Sharp
http://www.sharp-usa.com

Sony
http://www.sel.sony.com/

Toshiba
http://www.toshiba.com/tac