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Buyer’s guide: whiteboards and interactive displays

What key factors should you consider when choosing a whiteboard or interactive board? Business Info asks the experts

Interactive whiteboard
Interactive whiteboard

Whiteboards
The first thing you should ask yourself, says Yvonne Partridge, business development director at Bi-silque, is how often you plan to use the board, as this will determine the most suitable surface for your needs.

For occasional use, Partridge recommends an entry-level melamine surface, which is non-magnetic and needs to be cleaned regularly, and for moderate use, lacquered steel.

“This surface has the advantage of being magnetic, which enables you to transform your board by pinning on information with magnets and using it as a notice board or as a planner,” she said. “Being magnetic, the board is also more resistant. Lacquered steel is an easier surface to maintain and we recommend cleaning on a weekly basis.”

For frequent, everyday use, ceramic is a good option. This is also magnetic but requires less maintenance. “Ceramic is highly stain- and scratch-resistant and it comes with a surface guarantee of 25 years. Easily maintained, we recommend cleaning is carried out every month to ensure the board remains in tip-top condition.”

If aesthetics are important to you, there’s the more sophisticated option of a glass board, described by Partridge as “the ultimate smooth high-quality writing surface”.

Fit for purpose
Another key consideration when purchasing a whiteboard, says Jade Ratcliffe, marketing communications executive at Legamaster, is the size of the space it is intended for.

If you only have a small space (or limited budget) to work with, she recommends a mobile, multi-purpose solution that you can move between rooms and put away when not in use.

“If you are looking for a space-saving solution to suit small groups, you might benefit from a whiteboard, pinboard and flipchart all in one, such as the Legamaster Multiboard. This mobile board can be stored in a cupboard and wheeled into the meeting room when required,” she said.

There are also mobile boards for larger groups, such as the Legamaster Multiboard XL and Legamaster Professional Revolving Whiteboard.

For more permanent solutions, Ratcliffe suggests a wall-mounted whiteboard. “For small to medium-sized groups we recommend the Legamaster Professional Whiteboard, which is easy to mount and has a concealed slot system. For larger groups, you might benefit from a Legamaster Conference Unit – a wall mounted whiteboard with an additional two, smaller double-sided whiteboards hinged on to the sides. Perfect for classrooms or large conference rooms.”

Whiteboard being used in a classroom
Whiteboard being used in a classroom

Eco-friendly
Ratcliffe points out that there are many other things buyers will need to consider, from board quality and choice of accessories to longevity and sustainability.

“Additional useful features include scratch-resistant surfaces, magnetic surfaces, additional storage for markers and accessories, ease of assembly (especially if it has to be mounted to the wall) and, of course, environmental factors. Many of the products from Legamaster have an environmentally friendly certified e3 ceramic steel surface,” she said.

Ratcliffe added: “You want your whiteboard to last, so look for an age guarantee. This means that even if it breaks you’re covered.”

To meet demand for more sustainable options Bi-silque has developed its own no-compromise Bi-Office EARTH Collection, as Partridge explains. “You can have a whiteboard with the same high standard of quality and design, with the advantage of being an eco-friendly product. The Bi-Office EARTH Collection is the company’s fastest-growing global product line, with recycled and recyclable whiteboards, certified with the Cradle to Cradle certification. Other materials used in Earth range products, such as paper, aluminium and e3 ceramic steel, are made from recycled materials or industrial waste and follow the most demanding EU ecological criteria,” she said.

“By choosing a whiteboard from BiOffice EARTH Collection, you can have an eco-friendly certified product and truly make a difference in reducing the environmental footprint on our planet.”

Interactive boards
As with a traditional whiteboard, when it comes to choosing an interactive board the first thing to do is establish the optimum size for your needs.

A good rule of thumb, according to Tony White, sales and marketing director at ViewSonic Europe, is the bigger the room, the larger the interactive flat panel (IFP) required.

“In primary school classrooms with up to 20 people, a 55-inch screen will be ideal, but for lecture halls and boardrooms with up to 100 people, an 86-inch display is the way to go. Where the IFP is installed is crucial as well – users’ eye lines should always align with the middle of the display, with the display centred in the room,” he said.

And it’s not just size that counts. White says that to get the best results, buyers need to think about screen resolution and viewing angles. “A large panel with a low resolution will ultimately not have the desired effect. The most effective IFPs offer a 4K resolution combined with an anti-glare screen to ensure content is displayed crisply and clearly, regardless of viewing angles – meaning all users have the same high-quality experience.”

Clear to see
Wolfgang Haunschild, product marketing manager, NEC Display Solutions Europe GmbH, says it is also necessary to consider how close viewers will be to the screen.

“For analytical viewing, where details must be easily readable for active participation, the viewer needs to be positioned at a distance which is 1-2 times the display width. The screen resolution will also have an impact here. For proximity viewing, where the user is up-close for touch interaction, UHD resolutions ensure detail and clarity for a pixel-free viewing experience,” he said.

Haunschild adds that ambient light conditions in a room also affect how clear the screen is for viewers. “In brightly lit rooms with lots of windows, a brighter display will ensure the content remains clearly visible. Where sunlight is directly impacting the screen surface, it can affect the performance of the touch technology. NEC’s ShadowSense touch displays maintain accuracy even in brightly lit spaces.”

User experience
It’s all well and good buying a top-the-range interactive board with a vast array of features, but if nobody can work out how to use it then it’s a wasted investment.

For Chris Wood, Business Unit Director – Visual Solutions, Sharp Business Systems UK, ease of use is of fundamental importance. “Simplicity of use is absolutely key,” he said. “A solution that demands specific drivers, software licensing and a manual as long as your arm simply doesn’t work for the modern business. People need to get connected, collaborate with their colleagues and get on with their day job quickly and painlessly. Things also need to work first time, every time without the pain of finding the right cables, remote control or special pen.”

Haunschild of NEC adds that devices that work in a similar way to smartphones are more intuitive for users. “A more user-friendly touch experience can be gained with technology mirroring that of today’s smart devices with pinch and zoom functionality. Compatibility with finger and pen touch control plus palm erasing will also enhance the user experience,” he said.

Ease of use extends to connectivity, as ViewSonic’s White explains. “In both corporate and educational environments, reducing installation and setup times ensures productivity is not hampered by the technology. The most effective IFP displays feature a wide suite of connectivity options – including HDMI and DisplayPort– and the ability to remotely access, display and share content on the display from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.”

Room for growth
Finally, Natalie Harris-Briggs, VP Marketing, Avocor, highlights the importance of considering future requirements, not just what you need right now. She recommends choosing a display that can be upgraded to maximise the return on investment.

“For instance, you might not have an immediate requirement for video collaboration, but this may be something your business needs in the future. So, one of the key considerations should be to choose a platform that enables you to connect to third party tools and applications,” she said.

2018