Love them or hate them, Interactive Whiteboards are the number one resource on most Irish teachers’ wish lists for the classroom. Since starting my reviews of them over three years ago, the market has become completely saturated with different makes and models all competing to be the number one board in Ireland.
At a conservative estimate, I think that about 70% of Irish schools possess at least one IWB. I would hazard a guess that 40-50% of classrooms now contain IWBs. This compares to my guess of less than 10% last year. I’m not quite sure where the money has come from to buy these boards but there must have been a lot of cake sales in the last year. Perhaps some of the government grants for ICT hardware were also used.
Two out of three teachers on my summer course, this year, had an Interactive Whiteboard in their classroom. The majority (40%) had eBeam derivatives, 30% had Smartboards or Promethean boards and the rest had a mish mash of the others.
With such a big increase in IWBs in classrooms, the focus of Interactive Whiteboard courses and seminars has shifted. Whereas in previous years, the focus of courses was on purchasing IWBs and showing the basics of how to use them, this year teachers wanted to know what to do with the board in their room. That is, they wanted to know how to use the software that came with the actual board in their classroom.
With so many different types of board, each coming with their own individual software, it’s an impossible task. When it’s all stripped down though, every Interactive Whiteboard is only as good as the teacher who is using it. Having said that, some Interactive Whiteboards make the job of the teacher easier. More than ever before, buying an Interactive Whiteboard is a similar experience to buying a car.
Many potential purchasers will be brand-loyal, some will want features that other boards don’t have, others will demand luxury “leather-seat style offerings” such as electronic height control and so on. Some boards will have excellent software “built-in” and with others you’ll need to add it on.
With all this in mind, my review below is merely my own opinion of what I like in an IWB. I’m not brand-loyal. I need to interact with my finger. I like good value for money. I insist on decent after-sales service. Whatever your own thoughts, this review is complemented by my Interactive Whiteboard App, which is available on http://anseo.net/apps/chooseiwb/ and it might help you with your decision in buying your next board.
So without further ado, here’s the top 26!
1. (1) Genee Powerboard (from €2,850, Prim-Ed)
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. As of June 2010, all Geneeboards sold by Prim-Ed are now dry-wipeable.
2. (2) 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.
3. (4) IQ Board PS (from €1,995 2,195, 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. They’ve even broken the €2,000 barrier for touch-based IWBs for a limited time putting them in third place. Update September 2010: This offer has now finished but it’s still a great price!
4. (3) 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. It is touch-based and dry-wipe marker enabled. The board is of excellent quality and worth a look. Its price places it high up the list.
5. (8) Hitachi Starboard (from €2,800, 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 slightly higher in price than the rest but Hitachi are a trusted brand and their service and guarantee can’t be beaten.
6. (-) Panaboard (from €2800, Prim-Ed)
This is the newest IWB on the market and is being sold by Prim-Ed. It fulfils all criteria in that one can use dry-wipe markers and one’s finger on it. A cool feature is that the board recognises “accidental” touches of the board and ignores them. The software that comes with it is good too. As it’s being sold by Prim-Ed, you can expect good after-sales service.
7. (5) 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.
8. (9) Cleverboard Dual (from €2,400, Clever Products)
Exactly the same as the TouchIT below, this board is now being sold by a conglomerate of 4 companies under the name Clever Products. They have reduced the price significantly and are providing a brilliant after sales service, including a web site with additional resources for the board.
9. (6) 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.
10. (7) 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.
11. (10) 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.
12. (11) 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.
13. (12) 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.
14. (13) 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.
15. (14) 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.
16. (18) Promethean (from €2,750, 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. A price-drop and the fact that its excellent software comes free with it edges it further up the list.
17. (-) Hitachi Pen-Based Starboard (from €2,400, Interactive Classroom Solutions)
A budget version of the far-superior Touch-based Hitachi Starboard, this IWB has been tailored for schools on a budget. It comes with Hitachi’s excellent next day swap in swap out service and might be a suitable solution for schools who like a “lite-version” of the other Hitachi board.
18. (17) Interwrite (from €2,600, 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.
19. (15) Clasus (from €2,899, Maltec Solutions)
This board is another Promethean clone but must reduce its price now to compete.
20. (16) Cleverboard 3 (from €2,995, Shaw Scientific)
The Cleverboard came down in price dramatically. It is now almost at a competitive price with Promethean and IMEX.
21. (23) 3M board (from €3,000, 3M)
This board uses eBeam technology. It boasts a really good projector but that’s about it. Although it’s much cheaper than last time, it’s still overpriced.
22. (21) Mimio (from €1,900, 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. It is slightly stronger than the eBeam due to its handwriting recognition. A Mimioboard is due out soon, which should be interesting.
23. (20) EBeam (from €1,900, 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.
24. (19) Intech Portable IWB (from €1,595, 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 €1,300 for short throw projector, speakers, whiteboard and instalation costs, which may even be an over-estimate. However, I’m not sure how well it works with ultra-short throw projectors so may not be suitable for those purchasing them.
25. (22) 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.
26. (24) 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.