Projector Reviews

NEC UM352W Ultra Short Throw Projector Review – Picture and Audio Quality

NEC UM352W Projector – Picture and Audio Quality:  Color and Picture Quality, Readability, Video Quality and Audio Quality

Color and Picture Quality

The NEC UM352W displays presentation materials with very clear text and both presentations and video are generally displayed with rich, well saturated colors.    The screen shots in the above photo gallery only provide a idea of the overall color appearance in each of the factory preset picture modes.  For my evaluation of the UM352W, I used the factory default settings for each picture mode.  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 UM352W is about average in these aspects (i.e., contrast and black level) of its performance among competing 3LCD projectors and somewhat lower performance in these two aspects than is typical for DLP based projectors of this class.

In the brightest mode (called “High-Bright”) the whites had moderate green tint and the greens also were shifted a little toward yellow.  In this mode the blues were too dark as compared to the reds and especially the 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 may be serviceable for business or classroom presentations where room lighting cannot be well controlled, but unless you must have the extra brightness, other picture are available that offer more accurate colors.

The UM352W offers a “Presentation” picture mode that is still fairly bright at over 80% the brightness of the “High-Bright” mode.  Presentation mode suffers from an excessive blue tint for the whites and brighter shades that becomes more of a cyan tint for mid-level greys.  Presentation mode color accuracy suffers with reds that are a little darker than the  greens and blues.  While presentation mode would be adequate for many business or classroom presentations needs, I would rate the out-of-the-box color accuracy as just passable.

While the projector’s “Video” picture mode had reasonable color saturation levels, the projected image had an overall blue tint to the image for mid-level greys 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 “Movie” picture mode offered fairly accurate colors and saturation levels. The brighter shades of grey appear accurate while the darker to mid-level shades have a somewhat excessive blue tint, but much less so than the video picture mode.   Overall color accuracy was good to very good with out-of-the-box settings that could be further improved with a few adjustments.  Even with these nit-picks the “Movie” picture mode puts up a pleasant picture, with natural skin tones, when showing video (better when viewed in person that in the above screen shot).

The projector’s “Graphics” mode appeared to have fairly good colors.  The color white did not have noticeable tint and the color saturation levels appeared similar to the better of the other picture modes (i.e., not perfect, but good for this class of projector).  The mid-level greys did have a obvious blue time indicated a moderately high color temperature.  Overall not as accurate as Movie picture mode.

The “sRGB” picture mode has fairly accurate colors with a little excessive blue tint in the darker to mid-shades of grey (i.e., similar to movie mode).  Whites  appears close to accurate with just a very slight yellow tint and generally colors were well saturated.

The “DICOM Simulation” picture mode is tended for use in medical training for projection of black and white images and where a unique gamma curve is specified.  The UM352W displayed whites and greys with an overall cool appearance indicating a fairly high color temperate, but that would probably not be an issue for its intended application.



The NEC UM352W 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 1st photo above shows the full text readability test image while the 2nd and 3rd images show close-ups of just the upper portion and just the lower portion of the test image respectively.  There was no noticeable color fringing on the text (better than typical for a LCD projector, especially older models or any projector whose lens exhibits any significant chromatic aberration).  I was able to get 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.

I also checked the projector’s capability to downscale a higher resolution image to the projector native resolution.  I had my PC output the text test image at 1920 x 1200 resolution (the highest the UM352W can accept).  The following close-up screen shot shows that the projector’s scaling performance with the readability of the 8-point text remaining fairly good.

NEC UM352W - Text-4-scaled 1920-x1200

Video Quality

I evaluated the video performance of the UM352W by connecting a Blu-ray Disc player to the projector via a HDMI cable.  The first 6 screen shots in the above photo gallery are from the movie “Lucy” the next 5 are from “The Fifth Element” and the final 4 are from “Casino Royale”.  Overall the color accuracy appeared better when viewed in person as compared to these screen shots.

I set the projector to “Movie” picture mode and set the projectors “white balance” adjustment for blue brightness to -2 (to reduce the excessive blue tint at darker-to-mid levels) and turned off the “dynamic contrast” feature. The UM352W is specified to have a contrast ratio of 4000:1, but this is when using the dynamic contrast feature, which dims the projector’s lamp when displaying a dark scene.  However, it takes a second or two for the dimming to fully happen and this is far too slow to be on any practical value when viewing video and, in fact, I found the action of the dynamic contrast function to be annoying when viewing video.  This is not unique to NEC projectors as many other business and classroom projectors offer this feature, which might be of some value when making presentations and also as a energy saving feature, but it’s just not useful when watching video.  With dynamic contrast turned off, the native contrast of the UM352W is similar to other 3LCD business and classroom projectors with a contrast ratio somewhere in the 500:1 range.

The skin tones appeared natural and bright colors were well saturated.  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 bright projector and works well for video presentations in a dim to 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 one third.

The above observations were made with theUM352W using its default settings (except 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 could be used to further improve the accuracy of the projected image.  More specifically there is a color temperature setting, a gamma setting and the white balance adjustments for brightness and contrast (i.e., bias and gain) for each red, blue and green that could be used yield improved grey scale tracking across the grey scale.  Also when a projection screen is not being used there is a setting for “Wall Color”.  Thus will usually be possible to improve upon the factory default settings for those users that desire the most accurate image quality.

Audio Quality

The UM352W has a single 20 watt speaker that is capable of playing fairly loud.  Although the sound lacks any bass, the volume level should be sufficient for use in most classrooms and moderately large conference rooms.  If higher quality audio is needed, the projector has line level audio outputs that can be used to connect to a powered external speaker system.  The UM352W includes a microphone input that may be convenient in some situations when making presentations in a moderately large classroom or conference room.