Back in May, we reviewed two popular interactive whiteboard solutions offered by SMART Technologies and Mimio (now owned by Dymo).  As we said at the time, key considerations include:

  • The value of “finger touch” control that comes with a touch sensitive surface
  • The need (or not) for a portable solution, i.e. one that can be easily relocated
  • Budget constraints – How much do you have to spend per installation?

Since writing that post, I have been following another very compelling option that deserves consideration:  Polyvision’s eno line of interactive whiteboards.

Polyvision’s approach is unique.   (Warning . . . brace yourself for some “techy stuff!”) The Polyvision solution uses an active stylus that senses its position as it moves across the Polyvision ceramic on steel whiteboard.  How does it do this?  There is a passive “grid” buried in the whiteboard that the stylus senses.  The stylus then transmits the position information via a wireless Bluetooth connection to the host PC.   This is accomplished without any wiring or electrical connection from the whiteboard  to the PC or the projector (you still need the projector!).

How the Polyvision Eno Solution Stacks Up

Pluses

  • A robust whiteboard that looks like any standard dry erase board with the added benefit of  being magnetic.  The look and feel of the board goes a long way to eliminate the “be careful you don’t break it!” reaction I have seen from SMARTBoard users.
  • Lower purchase price and less expensive to install than the SMART Technologies boards since there are no electrical or other connections that have to be made to the board itself.
  • Available in versions that can be hard mounted, mobile mounted or that “snap” over existing chalk boards or whiteboards that have a steel backing or surface.
  • Supports two interactive users at a board at the same time (current model SMART Technologies boards have this capability).

Minuses

  • No “finger touch” control. This is only possible with an active touch sensitive surface (e.g. SMARTBoard).
  • A stylus that isn’t too bulky, but could be a bit of a challenge for younger users (about the same size as the Mimio or SMARTBoard styli).
  • If you lose or break the stylus, you’re “offline”  until you obtain a replacement (the same as Mimio).
  • More expensive and less portable than the Mimio solution.
  • Polyvision includes a choice of bundled third party software applications.  They are not focused on providing the level of user community support that is available from SMART Technologies or Mimio.

So Which is Better?

As is almost always the case, “that depends”.  Mimio continues to offer the lowest cost solution and an easy upgrade path for classrooms with an existing dry erase board.  It is also the most portable solution, if that is important to you.  For new installations or a classroom remodeling project, I now believe that Polyvision offers the more compelling solution.  The only “however” is this:  How important is it for your users to be able to tap into an established, active user community to help them get started?   SMART Technologies, Mimio and several other established interactive whiteboard suppliers have the advantage in this area.

Those are my thoughts.  What do you think?

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