Solid State Projectors versus Flat Panels

Jan 15th, 2019

Changes in technology make projectors an obvious choice in any classroom

There’s a growing belief that large-screen, flat-panel displays could be a great addition for any classroom. There’s no doubt that they produce beautiful images, they’re reliable, and their costs keeps coming down, especially for interactive touch-enabled versions.

Yet before you consider putting flat panels into your classrooms, look at the full picture. There are many good reasons why more than 96% of American educators still choose projectors.

The first and most obvious is the screen size. While some schools are buying 55 – 65” displays, most realize that they need 100” diagonal or more.

Yet even assuming that you could afford 100” or 110” flat panel displays, would you really be better off using them?

New versus old projector technology

Many technology managers dislike projectors for several reasons. Projection lamps must be replaced regularly. They are expensive and require significant time to maintain. If the lamps are not replaced regularly, the images darken and can be hard to see. Lamp-based projectors run very hot, and consequently their electronic components are prone to failure and expensive repairs.

Then too, the lamps contain mercury, and as the lamps age, the risk of dangerous mercury leaks become significant.

While all of these arguments are true, their timing is poor. Flat-panel technology is reaching maturity, while projectors are going through disruptive change. None of these arguments apply to LampFree laser or LED/laser projectors.

Solid-state projectors versus flat panels

The truth is that today’s solid-state projectors share all or nearly all of the benefits of flat panels while offering several crucial advantages of their own.

Like flat panels, solid state projectors have a long useful life. Most are rated at 20,000 hours, which translates to 16 - 18 years in a typical K-12 classroom.

Also like flat panels, solid state projectors have proven extremely reliable. Casio, at least, has experienced less than a 1% failure rate for its LED/laser hybrids within the five-year warranty period, and many Casio customers are still getting reliable performance from projectors that are well past their rated 20,000-hour life, many service-free.

Like flat panels, Casio solid-state projectors need minimal maintenance, with no filters to clean or replace as well as no lamps to replace. (Other solid-state projectors may or may not require some routine maintenance.)

Like flat panels, solid state projectors offer a superior image, even after many years of use. Casio introduced its LED/laser hybrid technology in 2010, and so has had a chance to see that their hybrid projectors with 10,000 hours (about 8-10 years of normal use in a school) still keep about 75% of their original brightness. That remarkable performance, we believe, is similar to or better than flat panels, and far better than bulb-based projectors.

Like newer flat panels, solid-state projectors are mercury free. Casio projectors are, in addition, RoHS compliant, meeting international standards on the elimination of a wide-range of hazardous materials.

Flat panel advocates will talk about the fact that, in using a traditional projector with an interactive whiteboard, or even walking in front of it as you enter the classroom, you’ll cast a shadow over the image. But Casio and other solid state manufacturers offer ultra short throw versions of their projectors, and they eliminate shadows as well.

Solid state advantages

It’s also true that LED/laser hybrid and laser projectors offer several benefits that flat panels do not.

Ease of installation and replacement. Most projectors can be installed by one person, but because of their size and weight, flat panels most often need two people to hang them on a wall, doubling the installation labor costs. In addition, depending on the size of the screen, the walls may need to be reinforced to hold their weight. While the cost of flat panels (and projectors) keeps coming down, the costs of shipping and installation labor do not.

Ease of service. Repairs, when needed, are a major issue with flat-panels. If there’s a problem with the LCD matrix, they may not be repairable at all. Even for a simple issue, in most cases the owner must remove the display from the wall, wait for an on-site service call, oftentimes wait for parts, then remount it once the problem has been corrected. If the display is out of warranty, the cost of all that may be prohibitive. Service is not a problem for solid-state projectors, which are smaller, lighter, and far easier to deal with, whether serviced on site or shipped to a service center.

Glare-free images. Advocates argue that flat panel displays look better than projectors in a brightly lit room, and that may be true, assuming they come with non-glare screens.

Yet many manufacturers use plain glass despite image-killing glare and reflections, because they know glass is far more durable than the plastic coatings that eliminate glare. Given the problem, you’re left with a trade-off: readability versus durability. It’s not an issue with solid-state projection.

Resistance to accident, theft and vandalism. Most educators realize that a projector, mounted on a ceiling, is far less susceptible to accidental or intentional damage, or to theft, than a wall-mounted flat panel. Yet it’s worth asking if you’ve ever had a student use a real, permanent marker on an interactive white board. You may not know the answer because white boards are so easy to clean. Would that be the case with a non-glare flat-panel screen?

Larger screen sizes. The purchase price for a 100” or 110” flat panel is a deal-killer for most schools. At this writing, those that buy them usually choose 55-65” models. Yet a 65” or even an 80” display is too small for most American classrooms—students with perfect eyesight will be unable to read smaller text from the back rows of these rooms.

It’s true that the price of flat-panel displays keep dropping, but the costs of shipping, installation, and service do not. Add in the flat-panel’s susceptibility to glare, theft, and accidental damage, and the overwhelming problem of readability given the smaller screen sizes most buy, and the arguments for its superiority drop away.

If you’re considering a change to large-screen flat panel displays, it’s time to reconsider. Solid-state projection technology offers everything you were hoping to gain, while providing larger, more readable images at a lower cost.