There are now 24 different interactive whiteboards available in Ireland being sold by lots of different companies. It’s getting quite saturated out there. Last time I did the review, I was pondering on the implications of Promethean’s new distributors Westcoast. Prim-Ed were beginning to focus on two boards – the Genee Board and the Hitachi Starboard while Promethean’s new distributors were starting to get involved in charitable organisations like the Jack and Jill foundation and building up their reputation.
Since then, it seems like every new board on the market is following a strict formula. Almost all of the 6 new IWBs in this review have followed my three criteria. They allow touch interaction; they allow you to use dry-wipe markers on the surface; they provide a good service. We have also reached a point now where the minimum spec for a projector is short-throw. I believe the days of the long-throw projector are over for IWBs. We also have bridged the €2,000 mark for a full short-throw solution including instalation.
Other interesting changes since November are the emergence of older software making a return to our IWB screens and even newer software being developed specifially for IWBs. Teachers are also beginning to rely less on developing their own content and using the ever growing resources on the Internet. Having said that, Promethean’s ActivInspire is still the only IWB software worth using at primary level. Although many companies have improved on their software’s content, it usually still has that “Micrsoft” look about it, which isn’t child friendly.
We also saw some aggressive marketeering from some new companies. The IPPN (Irish Primary Principal’s Network) conference was sponsored by IMEX who have two boards featured in this review. IMEX have a huge market share in Northern Ireland and are hoping to edge into the south. Their software is probably to closest to Promethean’s quality right now. Two of the top five boards are new entrants to the list. Price is their biggest asset.
Below is my list of Interactive Whiteboards currently available in Ireland in order of how much I like them. The number in brackets is the position they were in in the last review. I have also created an app, which you can use to help. The app has links to complete reviews and videos of the IWBs on the list. Please remember that I make mistakes in this list. Please use the comments feature below to correct anything that you see is incorrect and I’ll fix it for the next time. All prices below are for a full IWB set-up with short-throw projector, instalation and service included.
- (14) Genee Powerboard (from €2,850, Prim-Ed)
Last time I reviewed this I didn’t realise how powerful it was. This board has taken all the good things from every board on the market and put them into one amazing model. Genee are a trusted name in the UK and have complete classroom solutions including visualisers and slates. It beats every other board by having pseudo-gesture control. You can pick up their eraser from the “Smartboard style” tray and use it without pressing any buttons. If you pick up the blue pen, you can write in blue. It also allows the user to write on it with dry wipe marker. This is the board Smartboard should be making. (Update April 2010) Just found out that Prim-Ed are recommending that you DON’T write on these boards with Dry-wipe marker. Now I did write on these boards with dry-wipe markers and they were fine. However, I’m going to have to go with the company’s recommendations. This means that this whiteboard will have to drop down the league table.
- (1) Teamboard (from €2,900, Sight and Sound)
This board allows users to interact with both finger and pen. It also allows the user to write with dry-wipe markers. Another cool feature is the ability to record annotations made by dry wipe markers on to a computer without the projector switched on, which keeps it high up the list.
- (-) Intech Easyboard (IR) (from €2,295, Neux)
This board has just come on the market and fulfils all the criteria I have for a board. Its price puts it into third place. The instalation CD is in Chinese but is easy to figure out if you just keep pressing the Next (N) button.
- (-) IQ Board PS (from €2,395, Mediascene)
Mediascene are a company who have been selling IT equipment for over 25 years. They have made links with several companies and resell lots of different boards. Their own focus is on the IQ Board, which ticks all the boxes. Right now, they’re offering boards for €2,395 for a limited time. It gains 4th place due to its current price.
- (2) Traceboard (from €2,495, Lennox Lab Supplies)
This board allows users to interact with both finger and pen. It also allows the user to write with dry-wipe markers. It is very accurate due to the mesh surface. Guarantee and service is excellent. Training is thorough. Double-clicking on the board can be a little tricky.
- (4) TouchIT (from €2,580, Resources 4 Learning)
This board allows users to interact with both finger and pen, using infrared beams to map the cursor position. It also allows the user to write with dry-wipe markers and has an enamel magnetic surface. Service is extremely helpful. The updated software has made the board even more accurate and user friendly than before. It has also lowered its price.
- (-) IMEX Touch (from €2,795, IMEX)
IMEX Touch is a touch-based IWB which allows dry wipe markers to be used on it. IMEX have a 75% market share in Northern Ireland and are beginning to make their mark in the south. Their accompanying software is good too.
- (3) Hitachi Starboard (from €3,150, Prim-Ed / Interactive Classroom Solutions)
Prim-Ed have chosen the Hitachi board as their replacement for Promethean boards so now there are two excellent companies selling these boards. I would consider the Hitachi Starboard to be of the highest quality in terms of robustness, accuracy and guarantee. It allows interaction from finger and pen. It allows two handed interaction like in the film, “Minority Report”. It allows up to nine people to use the board simultaneously. You can use dry wipe markers on the board. This board is always going to be higher in price than the rest but Hitachi are a trusted brand and their service and guarantee can’t be beaten.
- (-) Cleverboard Dual (from €3,150, Shaw Scientific)
Basically this is a clone of the TouchIT board with a different label on it. Its price needs to come down a bit but a good board overall.
- (5) Smartboard (from €3,500, Various Suppliers)
The most famous IWB of all allows users to interact with their finger or pen. However, be careful – it doesn’t allow you to use dry wipe markers on it. The software supplied is excellent but doesn’t have a primary school feel to it. Service and guarantee are good.
- (6) Vosa iBoard Multi Touch (from ???, MRP)
I still can’t get in touch with the company who sell these boards despite several attempts. I’ll try again as I believe this could be potentially an excellent board.
- (7) Vosa iBoard Touch (from ???, MRP)
I haven’t seen this board in action but it looks like it is similar to the Smartboard and I would imagine that it is a lot cheaper. It may get a higher rating when I am given a demo from the company.
- (-) Epson Brightlite (from €1,800, Epson Ireland)
This is the first projector available in Ireland with inbuilt interactivity tools. Basically there’s an infrared device built into the projector which shoots beams onto any hard surface. Using a magic pen, much like the eBeam, (but smoother), it turns any surface into an IWB. Eventually all projectors might do this and it will surely end the life of Promethean and eBeam and all of their clones.
- (11) Rainbow IWB (from €1,995, Rainbow Education)
These boards use the eBeam as their method of power. It now comes bundled with some excellent software. They become good value for money if you buy them in bulk, and were the first short throw solution to break the €2,000 mark in Ireland.
- (9) Clasus (from €2,899, Maltec Solutions)
This board is another Promethean clone but at better value. The short throw solution saves you about €1,000.
- (17) Cleverboard 3 (from €2,995, Shaw Scientific)
The Cleverboard came down in price dramatically. It is now at a competitive price with Promethean and IMEX.
- (12) Imex (from €3,000, Imex)
This board works very much like the Promethean board but much better quality. It allows for dual interaction and its native software is pretty good.
- (13) Promethean (from €3,995, Clarity)
Clarity are the new distributors of the Promethean board. Its biggest selling feature is its excellent software because the board itself only allows interaction from a “magic” pen. However, since you can get Promethean’s software separately, there’s little need for a board like this.
- (-) Intech Portable IWB (from €1,900, Neux)
Using the same technology as the Epson Porjector and the Onfinity below, this is a much cheaper version of the same technology. The dongle itself costs only €295 and I’ve added €1,100 for short throw projector, speakers, whiteboard and instalation costs.
- (15) EBeam (from €2,200, Resources 4 Learning)
The eBeam is a dongle that converts any flat surface into an Interactive Whiteboard. It’s at the centre of many IWBs on the market and uses infrared signals for input. Only accepts input from a a battery powered pen. I don’t think you can get this board installed so you’ll have to buy projector, etc. separately.
- (16) Mimio (from €2,200, Diskovery)
Mimio is similar to the eBeam, using the same technology. Again, it only accepts input from a battery-powered pen. Doesn’t seem to be used as much as the eBeam but is not a reflection on its effectiveness. I don’t think you can get this board installed so you’ll have to buy projector, etc. separately.
- (-) Onfinity (from €2,200, Sligo Graph)
Just when I thought the Onfinity had disappeared from Ireland, I found out that there’s a company in Sligo selling these devices. They work by placing they beside the projector and it throws out infrared rays to a surface. Essentially it’s the technology the new Epson projector is using. I don’t think these guys install the device for you so this is an estimate. I’m also not sure how effective these are with ultra short throw projectors.
- (18) 3M board (from €4,000, 3M)
This board uses eBeam technology. It boasts a really good projector but that’s about it. Way overpriced.
- (8) Vosa iBoard (from ???, MRP)
This board allows users to interact with a battery-powered pen. It uses the same technology as eBeam. A feature that the salesman didn’t see as a big selling point is its height-adjustability, unique for this price-bracket. Disadvantage: No finger interaction and no way of knowing the price yet. As prices have changed so much, I’m not sure what the price of this will be.
So there you have it. Prim-Ed, in my opinion, are on the money with their new board. I visited the GeneeBoard UK stand at BETT this year and was blown away by how successful they are over there. Prim-Ed are also a good company to deal with and I hope they will have success with their new board. With the rest of the pack, price seems to be the critical factor. The two new boards in the top five are there because they have sourced the same good technology cheaper. It could now be a race to the €2,000 mark next time.
I would say in the next review, as well as price being one of the determining factors, the next generation of whiteboards, ones that are gesture-controlled may be upon us so that may change things dramatically. In the meantime, please feel free to add your comments, suggestions and criticisms!