Up Close and Bright
Ultra-short throw projectors are great for teaching because they don’t cast as many shadows onto the screen and allow a proper set up in oddly shaped rooms, but few have had the brightness to compete with a sunny day. NEC’s NP-UW330W blasts more than enough light to keep the blinds open and lights on for a multimedia lesson.
At 6.5- by 14.9- by 16.9-inches, the UM330W is a lot of projector. It may be large but it can be attached from underneath with four mounting screws for hanging from a ceiling or set up on a tabletop with a pair of adjustable front legs.
Inside is a single 0.59-inch LCD panel that delivers wide-screen 1,280 by 800 resolution images, making it a step up from XGA projectors, but slightly behind the latest HD devices. Rather than a barrel-shaped lens, the UM330W has an output mirror near the back that points to the screen. The projector’s inner workings are protected by a glass window, which makes cleaning it a lot easier.
It uses a single lamp that is rated at putting 3,300 lumens onto a screen. While its focus ring is awkwardly placed underneath the projector and, like other short throw models, it lacks an optical zoom, the UM330W does have a 1.4X digital zoom.
Once set up, there’s a huge bonus to the UM330W: the back has a large area for stashing cables. On the downside, one of the Philips screws that hold the cover in place is so recessed that you might have trouble finding a screwdriver for it. In fact, it took me 15 minutes and going through several tool boxes before I found one that worked.
Behind the cable cover is an incredible assortment of connections, making the UM330W one of the most flexible projectors on the market. In addition to a pair of HDMI and VGA-in and -out ports, the projector has the old standbys of S- and composite video connections. There’re USB connections as well as an RS232 for remote control. It has a LAN port for networking and controlling the system over a school’s network. On the downside, to connect it to a WiFi network you’ll need to get NEC’s $80 USB accessory.
On the other hand, you don’t even need a computer to feed the projector with images, because it can grab them from the school’s network or from a USB memory key; the projector comes with built-in player software. You can even lift items off of an iPad with NEC’s Wireless Image Utility.
As far as sound goes, it has a single 16-watt speaker as well as audio-in and -out jacks and the bonus of a microphone jack that can turn the projector into a classroom-ready public address system. It has the software for Crestron’s RoomView built-in.
The UM330W has a simple control panel with buttons for keystone correction, volume and getting into the projector’s Menu. There’re also buttons for turning the system on and off, selecting the source and putting it in one of its three power modes: Auto Eco, Normal and full Eco. These power profiles that let you customize how much light the projector delivers, how much electricity it uses and how loud the fan gets.
All this can be done via the remote control, but it lacks a laser pointer. The remote can let you choose the input, control the mouse on screen and make adjustments. To stop the action, you can either freeze the image with the audio continuing or hit the A-V mute button to blank the screen and sound.
With NEC’s $500 NP02WI eBeam kit, the UM330W can be transformed into an interactive centerpiece of any digital classroom. The infrared pen lets a teacher or student write and annotate directly on the projected image. With the pen kit, the UM330W includes school software.
With the projector against the wall, it can create a vivid 45-inch image and tops out at filling a 9.1-foot screen. It takes 4 seconds for the UM3300W to get started, but at least a minute to get to full brightness. Its 9-second shut-down time is quick and will come in handy for rooms that serve many different purposes over the day. On the downside, there’s a brief loud blast from the system’s pair of fans when it’s turned off.
Overall, it was able to put 3,764 lumens on screen in its High Bright mode, 14-percent higher than its specification. In Presentation mode, that drops to 2,864 lumens. Eco mode reduces it even further to 2,250 lumens. On the downside, at full output the system’s fans become loud and annoying in an effort to dissipate the system’s heat. At its exhaust outlet, it registered 162 degrees.
In addition to being one of the brightest projectors aimed at classroom use, it has an exceptionally uniform focus that makes for pinpoint sharpness across the screen. To help speed its installation, the UM330W includes a useful green grid test pattern.
While its competitors often charge an extortionate $250 or more for a replacement lamp, NEC’s lamp for this projector is a reasonable $80, making it even cheaper than Epson’s lamps. Happily, the lamp also includes the filter you’ll need to change every three or four years. The lamp is rated at 3,000 hours (6,000 hours if you use Eco mode) and comes with a one-year warranty.
Assuming the projector is used for 8 hours a day during the school year and the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour of power, it can cost an estimated $110 a year to operate the UM330W in the classroom. That’s because it uses 348 watts of electricity in full mode, 267-watts in Eco mode and 6.6 watts in sleep.
The projector comes with a 2-year warranty, but if you register it, the coverage is automatically extended to 4-years, equaling the industry’s best protection. At $1,300, the UM330W may prove to be too expensive for most schools to afford, but the company has a package that includes wall mounting hardware and the pen kit for $2,200, making it competitive with similar devices from NEC’s competitors.
In other words, the UM330W puts a lot of light onto the screen and does a lot of things well, but can be had at a reasonable price.
+ Very bright
+ Sharp focus
+ 4-year warranty
+ Optional interactivity kit
+ Port assortment
+ Cable cover
- Loud fans
- Cable cover hard to open