The future is orange

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Sahara's latest is a good projector, at a good price, with excellent security features.

Roger Frost takes a peek

Sahara Protector Projector

XGA display (1,024 dots by 768 lines) data projector, based on a digital light processing chip.

Price: pound;899

www.saharaplc.com

Available through dealers.

Fitness for purpose *****

Ease of use *****

Features ****

Quality ***

Value for money ***

In some parts of the country, projectors have a habit of walking out of schools. In the past, typewriters went, but now it's projectors.

Unsurprisingly, they have most get-up-and-go in the run up to Christmas and the Olympics.

Figures suggest that, overall, 10 per cent of school projectors go astray.

In some urban areas, this figure can be 30 per cent. Losses lead to sad tales of out-of-action classrooms where ceiling mounts swing from their fixings.

While some of us may live in places where our pupils feel no need to advertise that the school has a new and nickable projector, we can still conclude that something should be done.

The Sahara Protector is a projector with security features that could help.

Most evident is its brightly coloured top, which comes in an orange so loud it is rarely seen on Earth. As a thief, I would think twice about handling it. As a teacher, I would be stuck for what to wear near to it.

The Protector can be used, remote controlled and shut down, day-in, day-out, like any other projector. However, it plays dead after it has been disconnected from a power supply. It cannot be persuaded to work again until a unique control panel - which should be stored securely elsewhere during normal use - is plugged in. This is quick and easy to do after a power cut, so long as you know where the panel is kept and can find the keys.

For a thief, the unit is useless as a projector without its panel, and, given its colour, it is no good as an ornament either. A final interesting security feature is that the supplier can personalise the start-up screen with the school's logo.

As a classroom projector, the Protector weighs in with very reasonable specs for the price. It covers the same area as a laptop and, at almost 4kg, is a touch heavy, but fine for a projector you install and don't want to run away with. Its solid build probably accounts for in-use sounds that are more like a purr than a whine.

The image is also well up to scratch and its 1,500 lumens brightness should suit most classrooms. But the flimsy focusing ring might be a worry. As ever, you should check the specifications to see that the projector's throw distance suits your screen size.

A great array of sockets connect the Protector to a monitor, PC, TV or video. It is good to find a pack of cables and a digital input (DVI) in the box, although it is mean to omit the cable for this one socket.

So begins a smart move to keep technology in schools. If there is a downside, it is a common one: the most vital "how to work it" instructions are invariably passed on by word of mouth. In short, switching it off and starting again isn't a good way to get this one working. A solution may be to stick instructions on the case.

The idea of coloured equipment holds promise and it is great to see Sahara trying a way forward. This idea has been done before, with blue laptops in France. But, please, can we all agree on one colour?

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