By Justin Dover
Epson's BrightLink 450Wi is intended as a replacement for the interactive whiteboard and projector configuration you may have used in the past to create an interactive learning environment. The ultra-short-throw 450Wi can be mounted on just about any wall on which it projects and has a very flexible software package, making it well-suited for both the classroom and the conference room.
The BrightLink 450Wi features 2,500 lumens of white and color light output, a contrast ratio of up to 2,000-to-1 and a native 16-to-10 aspect ratio. The device includes most standard connectors, such as S-Video, VGA, composite, USB and RCA mini stereo audio, plus a network jack. Epson markets the 450Wi as "future-proof," but, oddly, it lacks HDMI and display ports.
The 450Wi has heft but isn't cumbersome, weighing in at 13 to 14 pounds (depending on whether you use the slide plate for wall mounting) and measuring 14.5 inches wide by 19 inches deep by 6.1 inches tall. The projector ships with all of the basic cables needed to connect it to a range of computers, whiteboards and video sources, and also includes interactive and network software packages, a remote control and two pens.
Attaching the 450Wi to the wall using the included setting plate and mounting hardware was much easier than I expected. What really shocked me â€” and this is where it is meant to shine (and does) â€” is just how close to the wall I could mount the projector. The 450Wi projects high-resolution (WXGA) images measuring up to 96 inches diagonally from its mounting position just 2 to 14 inches above the screen.
I mounted the device to my garage wall, using the drywall as my whiteboard. The 450Wi's ability to project images onto just about any other solid surface â€” including chalkboards, light wood paneling and foam-core boards â€” is notable because it eliminates the need to purchase a separate whiteboard.
The Epson BrightLink 450Wi is a great solution for the classroom. The projector installs easily and works on any flat wall; the learning curve is minimal because of the projector's compatibility with almost every interactive software on the market; and the price point fits most budgets.
What's more, any software or application that runs on a notebook or tablet will run on the 450Wi as well. Instructors can use such software to develop course plans, for example, and to save classroom sessions for later use or for posting online.
The 450Wi also comes with Epson's Easy MP network management software, which empowers users to project images from their computer screen via a local wired or wireless network and to manage the projectors from any location. The latter feature is especially handy for IT staff, who can use the tool to monitor when bulbs need to be changed or filters need to be cleaned.
The interactive pens that accompany the 450Wi are on the small side, measuring 6.5 inches long and less than an inch wide: perfect for a first-grader, but a bit awkward for bigger hands, in my opinion. It would be nice if Epson offered a choice of pen sizes. And the cost for replacing lost pens â€” at $70 apiece â€” can add up quickly.
Also, while it's reasonable to expect that users might want to show a video as a component of a lecture or presentation, the 450Wi's video playback quality isn't top-notch. The built-in mono speaker is somewhat weak, too, but at least there's an external speaker option.
Despite these limitations, the BrightLink 450Wi is a very good product. It's akin to getting a projector and an interactive whiteboard in a single device, making it a versatile, cost-effective option for all types of users.
Justin Dover is network administrator at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tenn.