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We are frequently asked by customers whether they should be replacing their interactive whiteboard – projector combinations with interactive LEDs as the latter become increasingly cost competitive to the former.  2Touch supplies both options, and our Xorro software is perfect in both cases too – so we really do not have an “axe to grind” either way!

There is no universal “right answer”:  Depending on your situation and your particular needs, either solution may prove to be right for you.  We hope that the following table will be useful in outlining all the advantages and disadvantages for each option.

PRO’s

CON’s

Interactive Whiteboards (IWB’s)

(Solution including projector, IWB and usually sound system, installed)

Less expensive for large images · Marker-ready · Magnetic · More flexible in use · Wall efficient

Size versus cost:

Projected images become much less expensive than LED displays for images over about 60”. Because the underlying production cost of LED displays increases dramatically above this point, this advantage has proved very durable for the IWB; inevitably the price advantage will continue to erode as LED display volumes continue to rise.
Robust: This comes down to steel versus glass. In certain settings, even safety glass used on screens of large LED displays will not be sufficient against direct impact from hard objects. In contrast, a whiteboard manufactured from porcelain steel will dent, crease etc but never shatter; furthermore it is most likely to continue to function albeit aesthetically affected.

Marker-ready:

Sometimes there is no better tool than a “real” ink marker. In such a case, the LED display’s surface is manifestly unsuited (not because of the use of glass, which of course would be fine, but rather the absence of white background).

Magnetic:

Furthermore, your IWB’s steel facia is magnetic so you can still use magnets to hold papers etc on the surface (be aware though that magnets need to be low profile or they will affect interactive touch performance).

Flexibility in Use:

Extending the above (regarding use of ink markers & magnets): The IWB has the unique advantage over an LED display of being able to support both natural ink and digital ink / interactivity, even at the same time where the projected image occupies only part of the board (commonplace with 2Touch IWB’s). This opens up appeals such as being able to mark up (in real ink) longer term items such as daily goals, session goals, “free parking” (notes of topics which arise but are “parked” to return to in later discussion), even names of individuals in the audience who might be listed for detention! – all without compromising the digital interactive area on the same board surface.

Wall efficient:

Another angle on this same advantage is that many settings are restricted in terms of available wall space. A whiteboard is usually a requirement. Both a whiteboard and an LED display may demand too much wall “real estate”; combining the functions provides more flexibility on how that real estate can be used.
And of course, when the power goes out, the IWB is still useful (as a whiteboard).

Worse image clarity · Higher running costs · More complex & less re-deployable

Projected images are not as good:

There is no getting around the fact that projected images are not as crisp and clear as those from a high quality LED display…:

  • Resolution: Almost all projectors sold for IWBs use a significantly lower output resolution (WXGA versus Full HD or these days, 4K/UHD. In practice this affects applications such as spread-sheeting, fine graphics & design, and text-rich document work where excellent font definitions are a top priority to those in the audience seated furthest from the display.
  • Impact of external light: Projected images suffer more from diffusion by other light sources such as windows, overhead lights etc.
  • Vibration: Although not a big problem now with ultra-short-throw projectors, the projected image will shake in response to vibrations from traffic, overhead footsteps, doors slamming etc. This is aggravated by leverage of the projector position from the display position.

Higher running costs due to heat, lamps, power:

Projector lamps consume more power than LED backlights, and produce more heat from a more concentrated source. The required fans produce noise. If they fail or if filters clog, then lamps overheat and this leads to premature failures.

Projector lamps impact on total life cost since most projectors will need 3 or more lamps through their lives, with associated costs to source and fit these adding to the bill. To try and keep lamps lasting, consumers need to check and clean filters regularly: an oft-neglected task and one which comes at a price.

This effect is becoming less important however as lamp prices fall, lamp life increases, and lamps become more energy efficient: Tremendous gains have been realised in recent years, reducing maintenance costs for projectors to about a third of previous typical levels.

More complex

There are several components involved in an IWB solution, each needing installation, cabling etc relative to the other.  The overall system requires more time to install and hence installation costs are much higher than for an interactive LED display, which generally involves installation of just one item.  The higher installation cost offsets initial savings on lower component costs in some cases.  Also, the increased complexity means that changing or redeploying an IWB installation to another location is equally expensive.

Interactive LED Displays

(Solution including display, bracket, installed)

Far better image quality · All-in-one convenience · Compact & adaptable  · Lower running costs

Excellent image:

The really big advantage of LED displays is their superb image clarity relative to (the commonly used) projected image alternatives. Today, Full HD definition (1920×1024 pixels) is the norm; 4K / UHD (four times higher definition than Full HD) is fast becoming standard. This leaves the conventional WXGA projected option far behind. The difference is very obvious on large images featuring fine text, fine design and graphics. Furthermore, the image is better controlled than can be achieved with projectors, which remain vulnerable to competing image sources. The result ultimately is improved audience attention for longer periods, assuming the same size of image.

All-in-one convenience:

Because the interactive LED comes in a single device, there is no need to provide power, cabling and connection points to different locations. Installation is much more straightforward therefore, and can often be performed in just an hour or so. This compares to the much higher cost of an IWB fit-out requiring from 3 hours to a full day depending on setting.

Compact physical format for more adaptability:

There is minimal protrusion into the room by an LED display on a wall, compared to that of even an ultra-short-throw projector. As a result, there are more options available to make the LED display easily adjustable: swiveling & rotating, sliding on tracks, extending into the room on brackets, adjusting height. All of these can be achieved with projected IWB’s but with more complexity required.

Lower heat, power consumption:

As LED displays continue to evolve, so too do the backlight options. Today’s displays are remarkably power efficient, producing very low heat levels. This translates into longer life expectancy, lower running costs and better environmental tolerances.

The following list identifies issues generally associated with the LED display category. The list neglects such issues as glare spots, and restricted angle of view since these issues can be addressed effectively through specification and selection of the display.

Large images are much more expensive · Heavier · Single use only · Vulnerable to impact · Complex electronics

Costly:

The cost of LED displays has diminished greatly in recent years, making them very competitive against projected images at 60” image size (diagonal) and below. By the time installation costs are included (much lower for the LED), the 55” and lower category now safely belongs to interactive LED’s. At around 65” display sizes, approximate price parity applies between installed IWB and interactive displays and decisions might be made either way based on other non-price factors. However, most classroom requirements today demand image size capable of sustaining an audience of up to 30 for an hour at a time. In this case, the display must be over 70”, and preferably over 80”. In the 80”-120” image size bracket the IWB is still much more cost effective and is likely to remain so for some years to come.

Weight:

Often not considered, the much higher weight of a large interactive LED display can be a negative factor in many settings. An 80” display and bracketing can way around 100kg, and this needs to be effectively supported on the wall or floorstands etc. Eccentric positioning away from the wall imposes very significant loads and risks: much more so than considerably larger IWB’s with ultra-short-throw projectors. Toppling risks from rolling height adjustable units are significant and must be carefully considered, for example when manoeuvring such a unit down a ramp or over a step. The consequence of a topple could easily be fatal. These factors should be top-of-mind for customers living in earthquake-prone areas.

Inflexible:

Interactive LED displays are used exclusively for watching and interacting digitally. They cannot use with ink markers, nor with magnets. In the event of a power failure, the screen “real estate” occupied on the wall is useless.

Impact vulnerability:

Provided that suitable glass specifications are used (toughened anti-glare glass should be a minimum requirement on any interactive LED display), LED displays should not present any additional hazards. However there is no denying that in some aggressive environments, direct impact to the display glass will result in the destruction of the device.

Vulnerability of electronics:

Some commentators argue that the sophistication of electronics within LED displays may render them more vulnerable to vibration, movement, fluctuations on power supplies, climactic changes etc, and that such failures are more expensive to remedy compared to the risks and remedial costs associated with projectors. In the great majority of cases, where the device remains mostly in one location and where environmental conditions are relatively controlled this is not likely to be a significant factor.

 

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