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Basic and Bright

Me301w aThe classic classroom projector takes a big step forward with NEC’s NP-ME310W, a $575 device that not only puts a large and bright image on-screen but is one of the least expensive classroom projectors to get and use.

At 6.4-pounds, it’s a bit heavier than Optoma’s 5.5-pound HD142X but is still small and light enough for a single person to install and maintain. It measures 3.9- by 14.5- by 11.5-inches and its white plastic body should blend right in to most classrooms. Underneath, the projector has three adjustable legs and five threaded attachment points allowing it to be set up in a variety of ways – from ceiling hardware to a shelf or nook.

It is conventional all the way with a standard-throw lens that has two control rings for adjusting the 1.7X zoom lens and focusing the image. It can be a little frustrating to use at first because it can be hard to get your fingers properly angled to precisely focus the projector.

Inside, the NP-ME310W has a 0.59-inch LCD panel and the device can fill up to a 25-foot screen. While its wide-XGA resolution is enough for showing the typical lesson, it can’t compare to HD projectors, like the HD142X.

It has things that other projectors in its class lack: horizontal and vertical keystone correction as well as pincushion control, making it a snap to get a perfectly rectangular image. The figure 8 control panel might be off-putting at first but it is an improvement over a basic control panel, with a large on/off button and access to adjusting the volume, opening the Menu and adjusting the image. There’re warning lights for overheating and when the lamp is reaching the end of its life.

Rather than skimping on ports, the NP-ME301W has everything you’ll need for today and tomorrow’s classroom. In addition to a pair of HDMI, VGA (in and out) and composite video connections, it has audio-in and -out jacks. The projector’s 20-watt speaker sounds surprisingly good and is loud enough for most small and mid-sized classrooms. The USB port lets you directly open image files from a memory key, but neither videos nor .pdf Acrobat documents.

Me301w cA big bonus is that the NP-ME301W includes wired Ethernet networking. Expanding its horizons to connect to the school’s WiFi network requires an $80 adapter that fills up the USB slot.

It connects with tablets and phones wirelessly. Oddly, the company’s Wireless Image Utility doesn’t work with the projector. Instead, you can use NEC’s Multi-Presenter, which allows up to 16 student screens to be projected.

You can also use NEC’s Virtual Remote Tool to control the projector from a phone or tablet, but the remote control is a gem. It not only fits well in the hand, but lets you instantly pick the source and control things like volume, keystone correction and the projection mode.

To get started, the NP-ME301W took a long 23 seconds to put its image onscreen and another minute to get to full brightness, which can kill precious time at the start of a class. On the other hand, it shut itself off in 2-seconds. In between, the projector’s fan was annoyingly loud at 47.4dB and variable with it changing its tone frequently as what was being projected changed.

Of its seven different projection modes (High-Bright, Presentation, Video, Movie, Graphics, sRGB and DiCom Sim), sRGB looks the best with lifelike flesh tones and saturated colors. At full blast in High-Bright mode put 3,330 lumens onto a screen, about 10 percent above its stated spec, but this drops to 2,700 lumens in sRBG mode.

Me301w dWhile running, the projector used 272-watts of power. With its $99 lamp (rated to last 4,000 hours), this translates into estimated annual expenses of $69 if it’s used for 6 hours every school day and electricity costs the national average of 12 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s slightly higher than the HD142X but several times more than a Casio EcoLite XJ-V1, which doesn’t require replacement lamps.

The projector comes with a four-year warranty for schools and can be had for $575 with NEC’s K12 Star educational discount. This makes it a small projector that’s a big bargain for schools not ready to take the HD plunge.

 

A

Me301w b

NEC NP-ME301W

$575

 

+ Very bright

+ Large image

+ Input ports, old and new

+ Good price

+ Inexpensive

 

- Loud fan

- W-XGA resolution

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