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Should a school choose an interactive screen or an interactive whiteboard and projector or interactive projector?

That is the decision facing many schools. With budgets having to go further than ever, it is essential that the right decision is made. TCIB Installations have prepared some guidelines you may wish to consider before making your purchase.

Interactive Whiteboards and projectors have been used in classrooms for many years enabling teachers and students to interact with a PC and write notes over any computer software application. The UK market has been dominated by SMART and Promethean with Epson enjoying considerable success with their Interactive Projector. With high quality computer based resources available for teaching and learning increasing improving constantly, the reliance on durable, high quality display technology is increasing all the time.

Interactive Whiteboard and Projector v's Interactive Panel


Interactive whiteboard with projector

Interactive screen

Multi touch

Dual touch

5 to 10 point touch

Lamp life

2,000 - 8,000 hours per lamp

No lamp, estimated 50,000 hour life

Decreasing Brightness

Degenerative, even when new lamp is installed

Estimated 50,000 hour life and no decrease in brightness


Regular cleaning required to prolong the life of the unit

Light external dusting


All projectors cast a shadow even an ultra-short throw



Usually 1024 x 768 0r 1280 x 800

HD - 1920 x 1080 or Ultra HD -3840 x 2160


VGA, video and 1 or 2 HDMI

2-3 HDMI. often Display Port or DVi as well as VGA and video


Projector, board and speakers typically 300W

Typically 125W

The Challenges Facing the Current Interactive Whiteboards and Projectors?

There are a number of challenges facing the current Interactive Whiteboards and Interactive Projectors including

  • Multi Touch - interactive whiteboards are struggling to keep up to date with the direction of system and application software. Typically boards have 2 touch. Gestures in Windows 7 & 8 sometimes require up to 6 touch recognition to control the full range of gestures. Pinch/zoom/rotate etc. However this is controlled fundamentally by the system software NOT the screen. (I.e. you won't get 10 touch using Windows XP - or Apple ironically)
  • Lamp Life - Most projectors have lamps that will last anywhere from 2,000-8,000 hours. When they fail they require replacing at an average cost of £150. There are lamp free projectors now but they will still only last up to 15,000 hours, are more expensive, than and not (yet) as bright as their lamp equivalents
  • Decreasing brightness - There are now DLP projectors available which are better at maintaining their brightness than LCD projectors but even so, all projectors will lose brightness as they are used.
  • Cleaning - All projectors require cleaning, even the ones without filters. If they are not cleaned the projector and lamp life and performance will be significantly decreased
  • Shadow - Despite ultra-short throw projectors being available all projectors still cast a shadow on the screen. The shadow makes the screen less user friendly and if the projector is not short throw, can cast a very bright light back in the eyes of the user
  • Resolution - the demand for higher resolution is happening throughout technology. High definition videos, photos, diagrams and documents are becoming a standard requirement in many cases
  • Recently there have been a couple of new Full HD (1920 x 1080) short throw or ultra-short throw projectors released on the market, but they are expensive. All monitors come with 1080p as standard
  • Connectivity - devices requiring multiple HDMi and Display Port are becoming more common all of the time. This drive towards digital inputs leads to better quality pictures and performance but many older models lack the required connections (typically projectors have 1 x HDMi connection). In addition, often the projector is installed in the ceiling and it is difficult to get HDMi cables to run over 10m as well as then carrying audio back to a separate audio system

Are Interactive panels a better long term investment than projectors with Interactive Whiteboards?

  • Multi Touch - For all intents and purposes all interactive panels have a minimum of 4 point touch. There are now options for 6 or 10 point touch. Gestures in Windows 7, 8 and 10 sometimes require up to 6 touch recognition to control the full range of gestures
  • Lamp Life - All commercial interactive panels purport to have at least an estimated 30,000 hour life and most claim 50,000 hours. To put this in perspective a school day is 6 hours for 200 days a year - 1200 hours. Even 30,000 hours is 25 years. The screen will not be an issue (that's not to say broken cable ports/power supply won't be so the overall warranty is key here)
  • Decreasing brightness - Interactive panels do not lose brightness and perform well in direct sunlight and when viewed from the side.
  • Cleaning - Although screens should be kept dust free there are no filters and the panel is sealed to dust
  • Shadow -There is no shadow
  • Resolution - All interactive panels are full HD resolution (1920 x 1080). There are Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) available - which should be regarded as specialist (or for assisted sight)
  • Connectivity - All interactive panels have a minimum of 1 HDMi, many have 2 or more and multiple other connections. All screens have integrated speakers eliminating the expensive need to de-embed audio and add extra plugs/wires/amplification

Other Considerations

There are a number of other considerations to be made before you make your decision including

  • Interactive panels are heavy! You will require to have a wall capable of holding them (with, in some cases, extra support.). If not, you will need a more expensive stand to spread the load over the floor.
  • You should plan to keep the faceplate (or AV sock) within 5m of the panel. This will ensure that the interactivity (USB) and picture (HDMI) are optimal and trouble free and install has no 'hidden' costs - HDMI/USB extenders.
  • All panels are widescreen. Your existing computer may be 4:3 aspect ratio. You should ensure that your source computer can upscale the content to drive the panel at the resolution you expect
  • Depending on the panel manufacturer the built-in speakers can face forward or backwards. You MAY require an additional sound bar/speakers in areas of high ambient noise.
  • Your panel will only provide the number of touches that your computer system is capable of supporting.
  • Panels make more sense for small children as they understand them as giant iPads AND they can reach all parts of them whereas the smallest Interactive board is now 77" in diagonal and even if installed on the floor can't be used by Nursery/P1/P2 students

Technology changes faster all of the time, but at TCIB we have no hesitation recommending a panel every school should consider an Interactive LED screen to replace an existing projector or for any new classrooms.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of purchasing a new Interactive Whiteboard, Projector or Panel call John or Pat on 01698 357000 or email sales@tcibinstallations.co.uk