NEC NP-UM330W Ultra Short Throw Projector Review
Color and Picture Quality
The NEC NP-UM330W displays presentation materials with very clear text and both presentations and video are generally displayed with rich, well saturated colors. For my evaluation of the NP-UM330W, I used the factory default settings for each picture mode except I adjusted the contrast and brightness controls to produce the correct white and black levels respectively. I also reduced the setting for the “Sharp” adjustment to avoid outlines appearing around high contrast text and graphics. As a general observation, applicable to all picture modes, this projector only offers a moderate contrast ratio and blacks in the projected image appear only as a moderately dark grey while gamma levels at the factory default setting appear to run a little below the ideal values. This is not unusual for a business or education class of projector and the NP-UM330W is about average in these aspects (i.e., contrast and black level) of its performance.
In the brightest mode (called “High-Bright”) the whites had a mild yellow tint and the greens also were shifted a little toward yellow. In this mode the blues were a little too dark as compared to the reds and greens. Frequently the brightest mode on a projector has such poor quality that its of little value except in the rare cases where every last bit of light output is needed to overcome room lighting. In the case the NP-UM330w, its brightest mode is certainly very serviceable for business or classroom presentations where room lighting cannot be well controlled.
The NP-UM330W offers a “Presentation” picture mode that is nearly as bright at the “High-Bright” mode and offers somewhat more accurate colors. In the “Presentation” mode it is the reds that are just a little darker than the greens and blues, while the whites appear more accurate than the “High Bright” mode.
The projector’s “Movie” picture mode offered fairly accurate colors and saturation levels. The mid-to-brighter shades of grey appear accurate while the darker shades appears to have lower then desired level of green. This shows up in video as darker shades of green appearing a little too dark as compared to darker shades of reds and blues and dark greys had a slight magenta tint. Even with these nit-picks the “Movie” picture mode puts up a pleasant picture, with natural skin tones, when showing video.
While the projector’s “Video” picture mode had reasonable color saturation levels, the projected image had an overall blue tint to the image that made this mode less satisfying for watching video than did the projector’s “Movie” mode. Such a excess of blue in the image is typical for projectors/displays with a color temperature that is rather high.
The projector’s “Graphics” mode appeared to have fairly good colors. The color white did not have any noticeable tint and the color saturation levels appeared similar to the best of the other picture modes (i.e., not perfect, but good for this class of projector).
The “sRGB” picture mode has fairly accurate colors in all but the darker areas of the image where there was a little excessive red. Whites appears close to accurate with just a slight yellow tint and generally colors were well saturated.
The “DICOM Simulation” picture mode is tended for use in medical training where a unique gamma curve is specified. The NP-UM330W displayed whites without any apparent tint and overall the whites and shades of grey appears accurate without any obvious color shifts.
The NEC NP-UM330W image resolution and text clarity is only limited by it native 1280 x 800 resolution. Even 8-point text was very easy to read in both black text on a white background and with white text on a black background. When my attached laptop PC was set to the projector’s native 1280 x 800 resolution you couldn’t really ask for any better readability of the projected text. The was no noticeable color fringing on the text (better than typical for a LCD projector or any projector whose lens exhibits any significant chromatic aberration). I was able to get very sharp focus over the entire image, which can be difficult to accomplish with an ultra short throw projector. Credit goes to NEC for projecting very high quality images that are very well suited for displaying presentations with lots of small text and fine details in the graphics.
The next steps were to use a couple of higher resolution text pages to evaluate how well the NP-UM330W down-scales the image to the projector’s native resolution. First I increased the resolution of the image coming from the attached PC to 1680 x 1050. The NP-UM330W displayed an image that held up well with the smallest 8-point text still very readable, as seen in the photo below.
As a final test the input image resolution was increased to 1920 x 1080. The NP-UM330W’s scaling was not as successful as at the lower resolution, see the photo below. Although even the 8-point text was still legible, the characters appeared a little less well formed as compared to the case where the resolution out of the attached PC was set to either the projector’s native resolution or 1680 x 1050 resolution. While certainly still usable, ideally the attached PC should be set output at the projector’s native resolution.
I evaluated the video performance of the NP-UM330W by connecting a Blu-ray Disc player to the projector via a HDMI cable. I set the projector to “Movie” picture mode and set the projectors Contrast, Brightness and Sharpness controls to provide more ideal results as compared to the factory default settings. The skin tones appeared natural and bright colors were well saturated. Although the NP-UM330W is specified to have a contrast ratio of 3000:1, I measured about 1000:1 in “Movie” mode. Bright scenes looked good but with darker scenes the darker details were obscured as they faded into a moderately dark grey background. However, this is a very bright projector and even a 1000:1 contrast ratio is sufficient for video presentations in a moderated lighted classroom or conference room.
In a darkened room and/or when a small screen size is used it may be better to run the projector in Eco mode which reduces the light output by about 40%.
Beyond the “Movie” picture mode, there are higher light output modes that might prove useful for using the NP-UM330W in rooms lacking good control of room lighting.
The above observations were made with the NP-UM330W using its default settings (except for contrast, brightness and sharp adjustments as noted above) and when projecting the image onto a low gain matte white projection screen. However, this projector does offer additional user picture settings that can be used to further improve the accuracy of the projected image. More specifically there is a color temperature setting with 6 preset values ranging from 5000K to 10500K (but these are very coarse), a gamma setting with 3 preset values, a dynamic contrast on/off setting, and white balance settings for brightness and contrast for each red, blue and green. Also when a projection screen is not being used there is a setting for “Wall Color” with 8 available settings in addition to Off. Thus will usually be possible to improve upon the factory default settings for those users that desire the most accurate image quality.
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