Smart Technologies is one of world’s largest manufacturers of interactive whiteboards. It also makes many other innovative solutions for education and business, including interactive displays, student response systems, interactive tables, and much, much more.
“Smartboard” is a term coined by Smart Technologies, however, it has become synonymous with interactive whiteboards in general. Although many people refer to interactive whiteboards as smartboards, a “Smart Board” is actually a product made by Smart Technologies. It is very similar to the way people refer to any brand of tissue as a Kleenex, or any photo copier as a Xerox machine. For example, a board made by Hitachi is an interactive whiteboard, although people will commonly refer to it as a Hitachi smartboard.
Here at Touchboards, we sell all brands of interactive whiteboards and we help people find a solution to suit their application and budget. We like to refer to Smart Technologies’ Smartboard as the “Toyota Camry of the whiteboard world.” It is very popular, offers good value, and has a host of features popular within the industry. However, in reality, not everyone needs, or even wants, a middle of the road whiteboard. And in this case, we can help you choose a more economical product, or even a more sophisticated system.
Interactive whiteboards from Smart Technologies will include one of its popular software packages - Notebook, which was designed for use in schools; or Meeting Pro, made for corporate customers. Each is compatible with both PC and Mac. Smart Technologies specializes in making software and products which are intuitive, easy to use and work well in a collaborative environment. A perfect example of this is the Smart Notebook software, where teachers can share lesson plans and ideas with each other, all done through the Internet. Smart also hosts a website called SMART Exchange which allows teachers around the world to collaborate, and is categorized by subject, grade and even file type. Smart also has games for children which can be played on your interactive whiteboard.
For a general review and demo of the most popular 600 series smartboard, please check out this video of the SB680 which is 77inches. Smart Technologies boards range from 48" to 94"but we do have larger models from other brands. Please not that the 600 series is being replaced with the new SBM series (SBM680 and SBM685 models.)
Now we would like to discuss some factors that you should consider when choosing any interactive whiteboard, not just a Smartboard brand interactive whiteboard.
How many people are in your average audience?
Bigger is always better in this world, but that obviously comes at a cost. Seating arrangements and distances will play a factor when determining what size whiteboard you need. We will go over some general guidelines:
For smaller meetings of 2 – 10 people, we recommend screens which are at least 50 inches diagonally. For 10-25 people, it is best to be in the 60-80” range, and then for audiences of up to 50 people, the largest boards are the ticket (80 – 105 inches.) For larger audiences, we recommend that presenters also use a small interactive LCD screen which would be placed on a podium. The presenter makes annotations on the screen, which are then broadcasted by a projector, onto a large projection screen or even a wall. These are commonly used in auditoriums or college lecture halls where there can be hundreds of audience members.
Which resolution – widescreen (known as WXGA) or regular format (known as XGA)
This is an easy one. WXGA is hands down the way to go, however it does cost slightly more. All computers made in the last few years are in the widescreen format, therefore, you should match the projector and whiteboard resolution to that of your computer. This will give you the optimal picture quality. However, if you do not have enough money to purchase a widescreen board, you can still use a regular format, as there is only a slight decrease in quality.
Portable systems like the aforementioned eBeam or MimioTeach can run from $600-1000, depending on the model. A full size interactive whiteboard would range from $1000-3000, however, you then need to add the cost of a projector on top of this. Interactive LCD and LED screens are available in sizes from 30 inches, to currently around 90, ranging in price from a few thousand dollars, up to tens of thousands of dollars. This is where Touchboards can help. If you let us know your needs and budget, we can design a solution that works.
What kind of projector do you want?
In terms of distance, there are two answers to the question – standard projector, or short throw. A standard projector is a unit that mounts further back into the room, and would either be installed in the ceiling, or placed on a desk or cart. A short throw projector mounts directly above your whiteboard and projects from a short distance. Since it is close to the projection surface, this helps to eliminate any shadowing caused by the beam of light being interrupted.
There are obviously many different brands to choose from. The “biggest” is not always the best for you. We have the largest selection of brands in the world, and the right team to help you pick out a product that works for you. To note, we carry all major brands: Hitachi, Steelcase, Polyvision, Teamboard, Mitsubishi, Smart Technologies, Panasonic, Hyundai, Sharp, eBeam, Mimio, Planar, Numonics, TouchIT, Qomo, Plus, NewLine, and more.
Do you need the board to be mobile? (able to roll from room to room)
Many interactive whiteboards can be placed on a rolling stand and moved from room to room. The type of cart you need is dependent on the type of projector you have, whether it is a standard unit, or short throw. If you have a standard unit, you need a stand that holds only the board. This is because your projector will be in the middle of the room, either on a desk or in the ceiling. Conversely, if you have a short throw projector, you need a cart that holds both the board and projector. The projector will be attached to the cart on an arm, and your system will be self-contained. You can roll the system in one piece from room to room.
Do you need the board to be height adjustable? (will people of vastly different heights be using the board? i.e. Teachers and younger/smaller students)
Touchboards offers numerous options for creating height adjustability. This can be done on either a wall mount, or a rolling stand. You also have the option to adjust the board manually, or through a motorized lift.
What accessories do you need to make your presentation/class more dynamic?
Rather than spending the entire budget on a board and projector, there are ways to enhance your room without breaking the bank. Many people simply do not realize that there are a wide range of ancillary products which will add a huge element of style, sophistication and versatility to your class or boardroom.
• Starting at around 200 dollars, a document camera is a wonderful tool for any whiteboard http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78WRq34wOo8
• Wireless tablets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrwnPT_fqSc
• iPad collaboration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=he8Cyubwx9U
What features are most important to you? Make sure you are not overpaying for features you will never use.
o Durability: some boards are incredibly durable and can withstand punctures, permanent marker, water etc.
o Dry erase friendly
o Wireless connectivity
o Direct printing from board
o iPad and Android compatible (comes with app)
o Resolution: do you need a very high resolution like 1080P or 4K? Most people do not, but some demanding applications require the utmost clarity, and in this case, the interactive LCD or LED screen is the way to go.
o Ease of use: some boards are very easy to use and have “toned down” software, while others have much more advanced software with features such as
• Dual touch and even multi touch
• Multi-user (more than one person can use the board at the same time. We have products such as the Teamboard T4 that can have 4 people using it simultaneously)
• Multi force (board senses how hard you are pressing and adjusts the line thickness accordingly)
• Video conferencing
• Hand writing recognition