At the end of March, Casio announced 3 new ranges of the Hybrid LED / Laser projectors which many on Edugeek have been buying and / or using since they launched at BETT 2010.
Of the 3 ranges, one was the short throw that was launched at BETT 2011 to much interest from members, especially as it was a significant increase in size over its siblings from the A range which people have been fitting since around March 2010, but it fulfilled the missing gap in the market from them.
The other two range's that have been released are the M range and Pro range. The Pro range, as its name implies is aimed for larger areas, such as Halls and large seminar rooms, its 3500 Lumens and aimed specifically at that sector. The M Range is identical in every way to the A series which are the ones launched the previous year at BETT.
However nowhere in the Casio site or Press Release does it say that the A range is to end, however various suppliers I have spoken to have said that the A Range has been discontinued and production ceased in late March for it and back-orders will be fulfilled with the equivalent models from the new M Range.
So what's new in the M Range and why did they change from the A series which has been in most people's eyes a good success?
The A range has suffered from, as a few people on here have found or suggested, an over-heating problem, simply due to the ultra small size of it. Its brilliantly small, you could even say cute, the A Range looks very impressive and the fact it's very lightweight makes it great for carrying around as well as classroom use.
Another issue has been sporadic lead-times on supply. I know I was waiting nearly 5 months for an XJ-A140 and when I ordered my XJ-A130 straight after BETT, it took till late March to arrive. The supply issues have never been completely solved, with some suppliers having more success than others, this has been hinted that it is down to the incredibly small size of components in the projector resulting in delays of raw components, which if this is true, I hope will be gone with the transition to the M range.
So down to the in-depth part of the M Range. I ordered an XJ-M130, which is the direct equivalent of the XJ-A130, so it's a 2000 lumens general purpose projector without USB or Wifi connectivity, it arrived the next day from my local AV Supplier, and instantly I was shocked by the size of the box and weight of it, I nearly dropped it and its shipping handle failed as I picked it up that was the first thing that brought me to thinking this is different, packaging is the same style as the previous model, but inside I found the first major change, this new unit is a beast, with beast being an understatement as its HUGE!
As you can see from these photos, when comparing the unit to a Samsung NC10 Netbook which was a similar thickness to the A range, you begin to get a scale for the new model. Its got the larger fans in it, which has made it silent unlike its previous generation which was noisy in certain modes, so that's a bonus, it's also got a larger number of vents to let the airflow better, it still has no end-user cleanable filters which is a blessing for us.
In-use it's no different to the previous model apart from its silent operation, the menus are identically setup and styled, the on-off works the same as the last generation and the remote looks the same, although its bright white this time, the rear panel now has a more standard range of connections that other brands of projector have:
I personally am thankful for this expanded range as the old 3 way cable for AV connections was a mistake as they got lost and often when replacing old projectors required barrel connectors to join the AV leads together as traditionally you had a female socket on the projector, but the A series presented a set of male ends which was a bit of an annoyance.
Zoom and focus are now easily accessed via wheels on the edge of the projector, again more like a traditional unit
However when I placed it on-top of an A130 which is set for a Smartboard and connected it in-place and set the zoom to maximum I was only filling about 70% of the board compared to the A130 in that room covering about 90% of the board so the brilliant zoom and optics which were a major selling point in the A series have reduced slightly, however they are still very impressive.
Overall, I am still pleased with the new range and will be continuing to recommend and fit them in my own school and our feeder establishments, however its back to the size of a standard lamped projector, in-fact they are identically sized to the HP VP6110 which I bought this to replace, so they have lost the "cuteness" of the first generation, but hopefully they will be more reliable and fingers crossed for a better supply of these models.
Release dates for the ranges:
May 2011 for the M Series
July 2011 for the ST Series (Short Throw)
July 2011 for the Pro Series