The green projectors—designed to last 20,000 hours, or about 18 school years—will save schools and colleges money while operating budgets stagnate during the current economic downturn. A typical projector lamp replacement costs $400, meaning schools could spend thousands of dollars in new lamps over the life of a projector. Traditional projector lamps are also known to dull over time.

Not all lamps burn out after a few thousand hours, however. Sony in April unveiled two new project models, the VPL-FX500L and the VPL-FX30, that exceed industry standards. The VPL-FX500L model, according to Sony’s web site, has a lamp life of 8,000 hours if the dual lamps are used equally.

Casio’s Green Slim Projectors, complete with 2X zoom lens and a USB outlet for users to plug their laptops in to give class presentations, are only 1.7 inches thick, making them among the market’s most portable projectors. They range in price from $800 for an XGA (1,024 x 768) projector with 2,000 lumens but no wireless connectivity to $1,100 for a WXGA (1,280 x 800) projector with 2,500 lumens and wireless capability.

Web site identifies most popular projectors in education

A recently survey conducted by ProjectorCentral.com, a web site that monitors projector trends, revealed the 10 most popular projectors among educators this year. Epson’s PowerLite S7 topped the list, while Hitachi’s CP-X2510 projector ranked second and Epson’s PowerLite 410W ranked third. Epson had four projectors in the survey’s top 10 results.

More than 1,100 ProjectorCentral.com visitors were included in the survey, with 407 voting for projectors that made the top 10 list, said David Dicklish, the web site’s publisher. Fifteen other projectors received votes, he said.

A common characteristic among the top finishers is that they seem to have hit the “sweet spot” in combining image quality and affordability.

The Epson PowerLite S7, for instance, features 2,300 lumens, a 2,000-to-1 contrast ratio, SVGA (800 x 600) resolution, built-in closed captioning, USB plug-and-play, and an energy-efficient lamp (for extended life up to 4,000 hours) for around $500. The Hitachi CP-X2510 costs around $700, features XGA resolution, and uses a 6,000-hour eco-mode lamp and a filter design that only requires maintenance every 5,000 hours.

“The CP-X2510 lacks a digital input and network capability and has a relatively large case size,” wrote ProjectorCentral in its review of the device. “But it nicely balances performance and value and is well worth consideration for office, classroom, or any presentation use where light weight or extreme portability are not of greatest concern.”

Dicklish said high-end projectors have become preferable to LED displays, which can cost several times the cost of a projector.

“You can assume that anybody who has content that they needed to see bigger and in more detail has gone to that kind of technology,” he said of projectors like the Canon REALiS model. “It has a lot of application.”

Elizabeth Dourely, an expert on projectors for education and a contributor to ProjectorCentral.com, said the Epson BrightLink 450Wi is “one of the most buzzworthy projectors” in education today. The 2,500-lumen device includes built-in software that eliminates the need for a separate interactive whiteboard. It can project images onto any whiteboard, wall, or smooth surface, and it comes with two digital infrared pens that let teachers and professors mark images and highlight specific areas.

“We would certainly consider this projector a game-changer,” said Claudine Wolas, project manager for Epson Electronics’ BrightLink 450Wi. “It’s not just the newest and latest in projectors, but in whiteboards as well.”

Educators said the BrightLink maintains stability even when a nearby air conditioning unit turns on. Many classroom projectors shake from close-range vibration, they said.

In its Classroom Projector Resource Center, ProjectorCentral also features “Problem-Solving Projectors Under $1,000.” These include the Sanyo PLC-XW300, which features XGA resolution and a Blackboard Mode (“Who needs a screen?” writes the web site); the NEC NP510W, a networkable projector with WXGA (wide XGA) resolution that is ideal for classrooms with one-to-one laptop programs, allowing any student to project an image from his or her own machine; and the BenQ W1000, a quiet projector with 2,000-plus lumens running under 30 decibels.