Blog

Showdown

SMART Boards vs Interactive Projectors

  • Posted by Joel on May 15th, 2012

One of the most common questions we are asked is how interactive projectors such as Epson’s EB-475Wi stack up against a traditional SMART Board and projector combination. The interactive projector performs the same function without the need of an interactive whiteboard at all, meaning you can get a full interactive setup for about half the cost.

For this product comparison we’ve put together four interactive packages – two entry level and two mid level – that pit Epson’s interactive projector against a standard Epson projector and SMART Board combo. We’re going to look at the specs and compare the advantages of both setups against their cost to help you determine which is best for your business or classroom.

Entry Level Match-Up

Interactive Projector with Whiteboard Setup SMART Board with Projector Setup
Price $2394 ex GST $4588 ex GST
Aspect 16:10 (Widescreen) 4:3 (Normal)
Display 89” or 226cm diagonal 77” or 195cm diagonal
Brightness 2,600 lumens 2,600 lumens
Contrast 3,000:1 2,000:1
Warranty 3yr (projector) / 10yr (board) 3yr (projector) / 2yr (board)
Audio 1 x 15W speaker 2 x 14W speakers
Touch Dual touch (pen only) Single touch (pen or finger)
Calibration Automatic Manual
Annotation With or without PC Only with PC connected

In our entry level match-up, the interactive projector setup comes with the Epson EB-475Wi interactive projector and a Penrite premium 2.4 metre magnetic whiteboard, while the SMART setup comes with the SB680 SMART Board and an Epson EB-470 projector.

The interactive projector setup comes in at almost half the price of a SMART Board setup – you simply can’t get a SMART Board with a quality projector without paying over $4000. While both projectors feature 2,600 lumens colour and white light output, the interactive projector’s 3,000:1 contrast ratio gives it a leg up over the SMART Board package.

The interactive projector package really shines when it comes to display size. It offers widescreen 16:10 aspect ratio, and a display size of 89” diagonally on a 2.4 metre whiteboard. The SMART Board package, by contrast, only offers 4:3 standard ratio and is constrained by the size board with a maximum display of 77” diagonally.

Sound quality leans in favour of the SMART Board package, with SMART’s 2 x 14W speakers providing better quality than the built-in 15W speaker in the interactive projector. The enormous difference in price however means you could easily add a set of powerful speakers for less than $200 and still come in $2000 cheaper than the SMART Board package.

The interactive projector offers dual touch technology, but through the use of pens only, while the SMART Board offers only single touch but can be controlled by finger touch as well as by pens – making it a matter of personal preference, really. Having used both technologies, though, we’ve found the SMART Board has a much slower response time and can’t keep up with the speed and accuracy of the interactive projector when making quick movements on the board.

Both projectors come with a 3 year warranty and 12 month lamp warranty. SMART Boards come with a 2 year warranty, while a premium whiteboard includes a 10 year surface warranty. The interactive projector definitely wins out here; the SMART Board is much more expensive and much more delicate than a whiteboard, and any damage to the surface is going to render the product useless. The interactive projector has all of its technology within the projector itself and the pen – replacing a damaged pen is going to be a lot less costly than replacing an entire SMART Board.

SMART Boards come pre-bundled with the SMART Notebook software and a library of resources for lessons, but the Epson interactive projector holds an advantage in being compatible with any other interactive software, including those provided with SMART Boards, Panaboards or anything else you may have used. The interactive projector holds the advantage here too, being compatible with any other software allows you more choice when it comes to lessons and resources.

Epson’s interactive projector features PC-free annotation, which allows you to power up the projector and draw on the board without a PC connected. The projector also offers portability with its table-mount bracket (sold separately) meaning you can project onto a horizontal surface while auto-calibration software makes setup a one-click process after moving the projector.

With a much greater display size, more options and one less piece of technology to worry about once the warranty runs out, I think the Epson interactive projector would hold its own against the SMART Board package even at a similar price point. When you consider that it’s almost half the price of a SMART Board setup, the interactive projector is a clear winner in the entry level market.

Mid Level Match-Up

Interactive Projector with Whiteboard Setup SMART Board with Projector Setup
Price $2833 ex GST $5418 ex GST
Aspect: 16:10 (Widescreen) 16:10 (Widescreen)
Display 89” or 226cm diagonal 87” or 220cm diagonal
Brightness 2,600 lumens 2,600 lumens
Contrast 3,000:1 3,000:1
Warranty 5yr (projector) / 25yr (board) 3yr (projector) / 2yr (board)
Audio 2 x 15W speakers 2 x 14W speakers
Touch Dual touch (pen only) Single touch (pen or finger)
Calibration Automatic Manual
Annotation With or without PC Only with PC connected

In our mid level match-up, the interactive projector has been upgraded to the Epson EB-475Wie interactive projector, an educational model with an extended warranty. We’ve also upgraded the board to a Penrite porcelain surface with a 25 year warranty, and a pair of Epson ELP-SP02 speakers have been added. For the SMART Board setup, we’ve upgraded to widescreen with the SB685 SMART Board and an Epson EB-475We educational model projector.

Again, the interactive projector setup comes in at almost half the price of a SMART Board setup – a widescreen SMART Board is going to set you back about $3500 alone, compared with a porcelain whiteboard for under $500. Both projectors are similarly specced, featuring 2,600 lumens colour and white light output, 3,000:1 contrast ratio, 16:10 widescreen ratio and a similar display size of 89” and 87” respectively.

With the addition of two Epson ELP-SP02 active speakers, sound quality is now in favour of the interactive projector package, providing better sound quality than SMART’s included speakers. The speakers can be mounted above the board on either side of the projector and feature volume, treble and bass adjustments on the front panel.

As with the entry level setup, the interactive projector offers dual touch technology, but through the use of pens only, while the SMART Board offers only single touch but can be controlled by finger touch as well as by pens. The SMART Board still has a much slower response time compared to the interactive projector and really impacts its performance.

The interactive projector comes with an extended warranty of 5 years, while the EB-475We included in the SMART Board setup only comes with the standard 3 year warranty. Again, the SMART Board comes with a 2 year warranty, while the porcelain surface whiteboard comes with an impressive 25 year surface warranty. The interactive projector wins out here again for extended warranties as well as eliminating the risk of a damaged IWB making your setup virtually useless.

Both projectors are educational models which offer additional security features to protect your product from theft and unauthorised use such as an orange panel that prevents any unauthorised tampering or use of the projector without the remote, built-in warnings to deter theft and a password required on startup after being disconnected from its power source.

Software and features are the same as the entry level setup, with SMART Boards including SMART Notebook software while the Epson interactive projector remains compatible with all other touch software. PC-free annotation, table-mounted options and auto calibration are just some of the extra features that make the interactive projector a more enticing option.

With the step up to widescreen and a larger board, the mid-level SMART Board package manages to close the gap in raw performance. Extra features and more warranty protection would still lean us toward the interactive projector package though, even if they were similarly priced. Though once again, the Epson interactive projector setup manages to provide all this for almost half the price of the SMART board setup, making it the clear winner in the mid level match-up too.