When it comes to buying a school projector specifically, there are several things you need to take into consideration. Projector manufacturers don’t market to schools even though academic projector use is quite popular. Instead, they market to their two biggest customers — businesses and home cinema enthusiasts. The latter market came about later. Business (digital video) projectors came first, emerging from the overhead and slide projectors of yore. They were originally used to mirror the monitor display and (digital) desktop of a computer to easily showcase slideshow presentations.
Schools, like businesses, also regularly project such presentations and even videos for their students’ scholastic needs. Our personal recommendation for a good school classroom projector is the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector. You will soon read why this is so on the school projector shopping guide below. Long story short, the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector ticks all the necessary boxes needed to be considered as the most excellent and highly rated projector for your scholastic needs.
What to Look for in School Projectors
Digital video school projectors of yore in the 1980s and 1990s were mostly LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projectors that served as display device alternatives to CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) television sets. They were usually used as mounted projectors in an A/V room or as part of a wheeled A/V moving tray containing the projector, VCR, computer, and TV set. They were mostly used to play educational or public service videos when the TV is too small for the class to see
They also served as mirrors to the display found on your PC to allow PowerPoint Presentations and slideshows to be easily viewable on the big screen. Eventually, other types of digital video projectors began emerging such as the DLP (Digital Light Processing) and LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projectors. All three types are used for business or home cinema type projectors in the 2000s and 2010s.
With that in mind, what should you look for when it comes to shopping for school projectors exactly? You should ask the following questions specifically:
- What’s the ideal position for your screen?
- How big should the screen/projection be?
- Where can you position your school projector?
- How does the seating area affect the placement of the screen?
- How do you narrow down your list of prospective school projectors?
Let’s now discuss your logistical considerations when it comes to finding the right projector for you one by one.
- Where Is The Ideal Position for Your Screen? When shopping for projectors for school use, you should first consider the ideal position of the screen. Typically, it’s the front of your classroom, along with your blackboard or whiteboard. Sometimes, you might have to adjust screen and projector placement due to ceilings, floors, light-colored walls, room light, sunlight, and so forth. All of these surfaces can have a negative effect on your projected image quality. Ambient light, after all, affects the intensity and clarity of the projection when push comes to shove.
Projector and screen placement should be done wherein the blinds and windows could easily be closed so that the least amount of daylight or ambient light will strike the image. The more daylight is around the weaker the projection gets. It’s ideal that you have ways to turn down lights and cover windows indoors to make a dim enough room for the projector to project at its brightest. After all, even weak lights are strongest at pitch-blackness or low-light venues. Having dark floors, ceilings, and/or walls will help reduce the amount of reflected light that’s striking your screen and image.
- How Big Should The Screen/Projection Be? It’s difficult to decide on screen size. It’s not always better to go bigger. You’re limited by the size of your classroom and the size of the blackboard. The rule of thumb here is to make use the screen height is about a fifth of the distance from the screen to the farthest seat, which shouldn’t be confused with throw distance. For instance, if it’s 36 feet from the back seats to the screen, you should have a 6-foot high screen installed. If the farthest student is 30 feet away, the screen height should be 5 feet if the screen should be a sixth of the distance of the farthest student. A 100-inch or 8-foot screen, meanwhile, requires the student to be 48 feet away.
A typical classroom should easily be able to house a 60-inch to 70-inch screen with the same image size to match. You only need to adjust for huge auditoriums. You can consider bigger screen sizes and making use of your projector’s short-throw distance capabilities or zoom lens features to make the screen size balloon up without pixilation or blurring from the resulting projection. It’s also recommended that you call a customer assistant to help you out in picking out a screen or a projector relative to the size of your classroom for additional assistance. The screen shouldn’t create a “puddle” on the wall when it’s at full extension. This will cause waves in the resulting image if the screen isn’t fully extended and there are 12 inches of the screen remaining on your roller.
- Where Can You Position The Projector? The ideal literal location of your projector should be anywhere where your students cannot accidentally or intentionally block the light from the device as it is projecting. Their movements could also directly cause issues with the visibility of the projection. Don’t let them look into the projection lens either, that’s blinding and a potential lawsuit on your watch. Instead, you should position the projector in a manner that’s conducive to student safety and uninterrupted projection. You can achieve this by buying a mount along with the projector for it to be positioned on the same wall as the projection screen or on an adjacent wall nearby. You can also mount it on the ceiling instead.
Doing so removes the projector from the seating area where your students are. This is best done with a short-throw, wall-mount type of projector. Short-throw means it’s capable of producing big screens without being positioned too far away from the screen, hence it having a short throw distance. Alas, there aren’t a lot of projectors available that could provide you this benefit. They tend to be more expensive than long-throw or traditional projectors with a long throw distance. Mounting the projector high on the wall parallel to the screen at the back of the classroom might also be called for, a la the digital projector of a cinema.
- How Does The Seating Area Affect The Placement of the Screen? If the seating area is level, you should make sure the bottom of your screen is 4 feet above the floor. If the seating area goes up like terraces as you move to the back of the classroom, the screen should be lower to the floor to allow those at the higher levels to see it. You will notice this when in certain colleges that have this balcony-based or theater-based seating design. Cinemas also have the screen down low the floor to accommodate the seats at the so-called “nosebleeds” as well. Projector placement should accommodate the back rows.
It’s best that the closest student to the screen should not be closer than twice the screen height. If your screen is 100 inches like in the case of certain home cinema projectors, the student should be around 200 inches or about 16 feet away from the screen or farther. For traditional projectors that can’t be mounted near the screen, they can be safely away from student interference by being ceiling-mounted or put on a suspended platform hanging from the ceiling. It should obviously be farther in distance from short-throw projectors since it has a long throw distance. Consult your instruction booklet or user manual for more details on throw distance recommendations for classrooms and conference rooms.
- How Do You Narrow Down Your List of Prospective School Projectors? You should use two main criteria when narrowing down your list of prospective school projectors—quality relative to cost. This balancing act can be applied to virtually anything you buy, but for the sake of projectors the more cost-effective the better, especially in light of the low budgets of public schools and community colleges. You should also know how far from the screen the projector should be placed. Take into account the desks, vents, light fixtures, tables, and so forth that could interfere with the installation and projection of the projector’s light path.
For certain classrooms, it’s better to bite the bullet and simply avail of an LCD projector rather than a more expensive DLP or LCoS one that instead belongs to a drive-in movie theater or home cinema for the rich and famous (DLP projectors are the same type used in most commercial cinema establishments). LCD is a tried-and-true type of projector that remains valuable to this day despite the latest digital video projector enhancements because of its cost-effectiveness and its own technological innovations that allow it to project 1080p of resolution. Also, there’s no need to go 4K just yet since 1080p resolution remains a perfectly viable HD solution even in 2020.
What the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector Specifically Brings to the Table
The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector is our chosen projector for high school and college use because it’s a “business & education” projector with 3,400 lumens of brightness. Additionally, it’s compatible with various computers and media players. It’s a business-class projector for scholastic use that’s compatible with all the latest laptops and USB-C ports. It’s also flexible when it comes to being installed due to its 1.3x lens zoom and RJ-45 feature. Additionally, its 15,000-hour lamp life assures longevity with minimal maintenance. What more can you ask for?
Regardless, when looking for a school projector, here are your options and why Optoma is able to tick many of the boxes required for your school projection needs (unless otherwise indicated). To wit, a school projector can be any of the following.
- Modern Business Projectors: You should firstly search for the right business projector, specifically the WXGA (1280 x 800 resolution) or WUXGA (1980 x 1200 resolution) variety of business projectors (such as the Optoma WU336) that both feature 16:10 aspect ratio. They’re designed to mirror laptops displays for your school PowerPoint Presentation needs while also allowing you to play movies and streaming video to boot. The only discrepancy they have with home cinema video projectors is that they’re a little larger and have more pixels to spare. WXGA is equivalent to the 720p projector and WUXGA is equivalent to the 1080p projector. The old business projector types of XGA, SXGA, and SVGA are all obsolete at present.
- Home Cinema Projectors: If the business projector, despite its compatibility to modern laptops and media players, proves too expensive or too unavailable for the school and its budget, you can avail of their home cinema equivalent instead. After all, modern HD home cinema projectors can also connect to laptops at this point anyway, allowing you to mirror laptop displays the same way a business projector could. Incidentally, there are 1080p projectors with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio that can handle 16:10 as well. Some cropping might occur from a 1980 x 1200 resolution laptop broadcasted on a 1920 x 1080 projector, but nothing too major or distracting.
- A Projector with The Right Size of Screen: You can determine how large your screen is depending on how far the farthest student is to your screen. Certain home cinema projectors come with its own 100-inch screen but certain huge classrooms might require something bigger, like 120-inch to 170-inch screens. 170 inches of screen height is enough to stage an outdoor picnic or backyard movie screening, for your information. For the purpose of making an example, let’s say you wish to place your projector 10 feet away from the screen, which is a third of the distance of the farthest student. You can use such criteria to find the right price of the projector for your needs.
- Business or Home Cinema Projectors and Screen Sizes: You can buy a 60-inch screen and an XGA business projector with 1024 x 768 (close enough to a 720p resolution home cinema projector) for less than two thousand dollars or so (prices vary) to meet your scholastic projector needs in classrooms where the farthest student is 30 feet away. Preferably one with about 2,000 to 3,000 lumens. However, the beauty of the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector is that you can avail of it for less than 600 bucks and not even just less than a thousand bucks yet it offers 1920 x 1200 resolution and 3,400 lumens of brightness. You don’t need to break the bank to get a decent school projector.
- Projectors with Decent Price Points and Money Value: As discussed above, one of the most important considerations of a school when investing in a brand new projector is to make sure it’s money well spent. The money value of the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector cannot be denied. It gives you more bang for your buck—as the turn of the phrase goes—because it’s able to find ways to get you quality features without compromising too much on the price. It’s able to compete with DLPs of similar specs such as its native resolution is at 1920 x 1200 or way higher than 1080p because of its no-frills, no-nonsense design.
- A School Projector with Its Own Screen Included: School administrators and the treasury department are always after the best deals. Therefore, it can be quite comforting to buy a projector with its own 100-inch projector screen that’s slightly bigger than the minimum 60-inch to 70-inch projector for classrooms of standard size in U.S. high schools. More importantly, such a projector’s improvements in contrast ratio and brightness are readily apparent when used with the projector screen it came with. This screen is also portable so that you can take it anywhere with you to different classes, schools, or conferences as needed. You can do presentations, lessons, or lectures with supreme convenience thanks to this compatible screen.
- Projectors with HD Resolution: You can technically still go with SD resolution using ancient projector technologies or even an overhead projector. However, if you wish for your modern laptop to easily connect with your projector without special adapters, the current standards for display is 1080p. The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector has a reduced price point because of its 1920 x 1200 resolution, its 3,400 lumens of brightness, its 20,000:1 contrast ratio, its 15,000-hour lamp life, and its 10-watt speaker. Its contrast ratio also doesn’t require the closing of blinds and windows to get maximum contrast.
- Projector with Blackboard Mode: There are certain projectors out there capable of blackboard mode. Through this model, you’re able to project the image of your projector unto a chalkboard, blackboard, whiteboard, or wall. This is a handy solution if you lack an electronic whiteboard or a screen that allows you to do annotations on the image being projected. Regardless, it has a downside of losing brightness and image quality. A projection screen is still your best bet. The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector doesn’t have this but in a pinch it works well enough to project on walls and chalkboard even though it’s not specifically designed to do so.
- Zoom Lens and Keystone Correction: The zoom lens of the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector offers a 1.3x lens zoom to ensure you that you can maintain the integrity of the image even if you’re projecting outside the recommended throw distance of the projector. It allows you to adjust the image no matter where the projector is placed to make it perfectly fit into the screen or blackboard every time. Being able to change the size of the projection without artifacting or moving the projector is an important part of installing or mounting the projector properly. Keystone correction, meanwhile, is an important feature that keeps your image from becoming trapezoidal when projected at an unavoidable angle. Just be wary of resolution drops when you do keystone correction a bit too much.
- Wired or Wireless Networking: The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Projector is wireless-ready. You can use networking via an Internet app or a wireless transceiver dongle to allow you to operate the device without any HDMI or USB cables required. If you have a networked school, you can make use of the wireless features of your favored projector to connect to any laptop or computer in the vicinity of your class. It also detects when a projector is removed as a warning system of sorts. Networks also enable you to share info from various resources, from the LAN to the Wi-Fi Internet, allowing you to send your lesson plans and notes to all your students’ PCs right after discussing them in class via projector.
- A Multimedia Portable School Projector: The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector is designed specifically to be a business/school projector due to its compatibility with various devices, from laptops to Blu-Ray players. Unlike home cinema projectors that are dimmer than their business projector counterparts and more in-tune with media player connections, this WUXGA projector is made for business purposes and can be used for Excel, Word, or PowerPoint Presentations. You can still opt for using a home cinema projector, but keep in mind they’re not as good as mirroring laptop displays or presenting presentations. They’re mainly for watching movies.
- Home Entertainment Projectors for School Use: The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector is admittedly mainly a projector made for home entertainment. It’s designed to be compatible to not only PCs and laptops but also tablets, TV boxes, DVD players, BD players, SD cards, USB flash drives, media players, smartphones, satellite boxes, and so forth. You can connect to even more devices by optioning a wireless HDMI dongle that gets rid of any cabling and cable management concerns on your part. This makes mounting the projector to the ceiling or the back wall of your classroom even easier. More and more schools are buying cheaper home entertainment projectors since they work just as well in doing presentations and mirroring PC displays.
- Pros and Cons of Optoma WU336 for School Use: Obviously, the biggest benefit of having the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector is that it’s specifically made for school and business purposes. A home cinema projector worth a hundred bucks or lower can double as a school projector, but it’s not specifically made for displaying PowerPoint Presentations, making annotations on Word documents, or mirroring your notebook PC’s display so that you can share your lessons or tidbits of knowledge to the class at large. You can watch movies on a home cinema projector or even stream YouTube, but it’s not quite school material. The Optoma is made for educational purposes.
Also, the Optoma WU336 comes with a built-in speaker that’s loud enough for small classrooms and might only require an extra Bluetooth speaker to make it louder for bigger classrooms. It also has ports on the side that allow you to place the device as close to the wall as possible to project bigger screens. There’s also the fact that it has an Ethernet port for remote control (no more need for RS23C). It has less latency and requires no video processing since it’s a business projector as well. The 1.3x zoom is plenty useful for maximizing projection size and it can fit on an 8-foot screen setup with images as high as 80 inches. Finally, it’s quite bright and can clearly project images even in the midst of daylight.
When All Is Said and Done About the Optoma WU336 Projector
The Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector might not be made by a famous brand name like Epson and BenQ, but for many school budgets, it’s the perfect fit. Not only does it cost less than six hundred dollars. This WUXGA projector also has quality specifications such as having 3,400 lumens of brightness, a 20,000:1 contrast ratio, extensive I/O support with 2x HDMI (with MHL), VGA-in, composite, audio-in, audio-out, USB power and RS-232C, powerful 10-watt speaker enhances presentations, with crisp and clear sound, and an LED lamp with a 15,000-hour lamp life. However, it does falter in certain aspects, like using cheap plastic on the lens control and 5 to 10 seconds required in changing the input from HDMI1 to HDMI2.
It’s a business-class projector that’s more than perfectly serviceable for your school presentation needs, with ports available for many types of laptops or notebook PCs. In conclusion, the Optoma WU336 WUXGA 3400 Lumens Business & Education Projector is our budget-friendly choice for a decent projector for almost any standard-sized classroom. In a pinch, you can substitute a business projector for a cheaper home cinema projector, but do take note that using the latter is akin to using a wrench like a hammer. It can work but it’s better to use a real hammer instead.