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      15.06.2012 11:20
      Very helpful


      • Reliability


      An expensive, high-end option.

      There's a large and growing industry around classroom technology at the moment, with smartboards and projectors at the centre of this. I'm not always in favour of this trend - the pedagogical benefits often seem to get lost in the techno-guff and desire to be seen to be modern and progressive, but that's going down a road which leads severely off-topic ...

      In any case, projectors and smartboards/interactive whiteboards have plenty going for them - this model is a little different from the norm, though. So is it up to scratch? It'd better be, for the price.
      So far, I've talked about the projector and smartboard as if they necessarily go together - in my experiences, they have, but I don't see why you shouldn't be able to buy the projector alone and use it with a regular whiteboard/wall. Nonetheless, it's the combo-option I'm familiar with, and the accompanying price - an eye-watering £2,800 for the board-and-projector package.

      Because they're so often synonymous, I'll give a brief run-down of what the board offers - it comes with four "coloured" electronic pens, which draw in green, blue, red and black on the board, plus an eraser. More advanced models allow you to use multiple pens at once on the board (a limitation with entry-level versions) and to use your hand on the board to perform a variety of commands. In schools I've worked in, it's always been impressed upon us that the pens are each worth approximately the equivalent of twelve Faberge eggs and a Large Hadron Collider, so it's handy that there are security features built-in, including an option to "lock" the pen tray. Also useful for discouraging wandering little hands from making off with them, which has happened to me.

      What of the projector? This differs from other types I've used in that it's mounted just above the board - no more than a foot away from the surface - rather than being fixed to a bracket on the ceiling. How it projects clearly from so close-in I don't know, but such are the wonders of technology. The benefits of this are two-fold - for those watching the presentation, the positioning of the projector behind the person standing at the board means no shadow is cast across the image. For the presenter, there is no blinding light in their face the whole time - so happy days all round. There also seems to be less of a reflective glare on the board for those watching.

      I can't comment on the ease of initial setup and installation, but in terms of day-to-day use, the projector is simple to use - one button switches it on, and away it goes. Waking up is reasonably quick; certainly less ponderous than other models, and you're ready to go in seconds.

      On top of being quick, the projector also delivers on quality - here you can really tell the difference between this type of model and the cheaper versions. I've previously used (or tried to) a budget Clearco projector, which may as well have been powered by a dying glow-worm given the dull, blurry image it wheezed out. The Smart projector, though, gives a sharp, clear picture that accurately reproduces colours and copes well with moving images. Films look great on this - pumped up to a fantastic size without any major loss of quality.

      One limitation of projectors as a whole is that they struggle in bright environments - but this one doesn't fare too badly. Whilst it'll be bleached out by strong sunlight, it's still clear enough in a reasonably light room, and can be used perfectly well without reaching for the blackout blinds. That said, for optimum performance, the darker the room the better.

      This isn't a cheap option - but then it doesn't come with the difficulties and limitations of such options either. If you're clear about what you're looking for, and you have a real need for a package like this, then the Smart projector is a great choice - however, there are intermediate options available which might fulfil your needs just as well at an easier-to-swallow cost.


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