Projectors Considered: Standard Classroom Projectors 2

Here’s the second batch of small install and portable projectors we refer to as the “standard” class of education projectors.  If anything, these three are more “typical” than those on the previous page.    The previous page has the tables that include these three, along with all the other projectors in this “class”.  There is also a table on that page showing those previous winners of this class, which remain current models and should be considered fully competitive.

The three education oriented projectors covered on this page are the NEC NP-ME331W, the NEC NP-V332W, and the Sony DW240.

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.


NEC NP-ME331W

The NP-ME331W is a pretty classic small install/portable projector, that is especially well suited for the classroom.  While there are a lot more smaller projector models out there that are DLP, this one is 3LCD, and with that, expect better color in the brighter modes close to the manufacturer’s claim (which is also true compared to the other NEC projector immediately below.  The ME331W is WXGA resolution (1280×800) claiming 3300 lumens which it easily beat (just reaching 3500 lumens).

NEC packed about as much of everything as they could into this relatively small, rather affordable and aggressively priced projector (so don’t let the $1000+ list price scare you).

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The price on the street seems to range from under $650 to $699 before any additional discounts for education.  Standard warranty is 3 years parts and labor, with first year replacement program.  Now that’s really good, but don’t forget NEC offers their Star Student education program with additional discounts and a 5 year warranty!

It’s worth noting that there are eight projectors in the ME series – all XGA or WXGA, which means a lot of the XGA ones and maybe some WXGA ones, will end up being purchased as replacement projectors in old installations.

Color is very good, even the NECs brightest modes offer better color than most of the competition’s brightest modes (including the other NEC below).

The feature set is stellar for a projector selling to schools at it’s price point.  Consider:  There’s advanced networking (wired) with Crestron RoomView support, and optional wireless networking.  For the medical and scientific types it’s got a DICOM mode for viewing X-rays and other films.  There are two HDMIs and two USBs, plus computer in, and out, and two audio inputs (plus HDMI audio) and an audio out.  There’s a media player too, however, it supports videos and pictures (and Powerpoint presentations converted to JPGs, but does not support Microsoft Office documents directly like some media players.

Sharpness is excellent (other than the usual slight mis-convergence of a 3LCD projector), with Ron reporting the optics being particularly good.  Speaking of optics, this projector has a 1.7:1 zoom. That’s about as good as it gets for placement flexibility!

9000 hours lamp life in Eco, and it looks like 5000 hours at full power.  (NEC doesn’t publish, but their air filter requires attention every 5000 hours, so that would make sense.

When it comes to sound, the 20 watt speaker is surprisingly beefy, and should be able to handle some larger classrooms (although I wouldn’t recommend it going alone in those 100 to 400 seat lecture halls without additional help.

Ron was really impressed when he reviewed the ME331W.

We created a pair of videos for those wanting more info on this projector, but preferring video to our in-depth online reviews.  The online review still has the most info, of course.

NEC NP-V332W

The NP-V332W is one of NEC’s Value projectors.  The V332W, a DLP projector with WXGA resolution,  can’t compete head on with the ME331W above for pure performance.  But at a lower price point – with a street price that varies more than most – being around $550, it costs roughly $150 less than the other NEC.  For the lower price, it still performs respectfully.

The V series also has a lower cost XGA (V332X) model and a more expensive ($799 list price), 1080p version.  The warranty on the V series is 2 years parts and labor.

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OK let’s see what else the V332W has going for it, keeping in mind that it’s relatively stripped down compared to the ME series:

3300 lumens – not a thing wrong with that, (same as the ME331W), although this is a DLP so the brighter modes won’t look as good, and the best modes lose more brightness, compared to the ME, this is still very respectable.  Surprise!  The V332W blew away it’s claimed 3300 lumens measuring a maximum of just over 4000 lumens.  Now a projector exceeding claim by 20% is, well, rare, to say the least.  That, by itself, is impressive!

Sharpness, per Ron, is very good with very good focus across the the entire image.  Ron reports that color brightness is noticeably less than white brightness (color lumens are typically lower on DLP than 3LCD).

Theres a basic media player on board for USB thumb drives, – there are two USBs – for PC free presenting.  And as you would expect, MHL on one of the two HDMI inputs.  The speaker is a respectable 8 watts, suitable for small classrooms.  Of course no real bass.  The networking is very good though, Crestron RoomView compatibility provides advanced features. There is, however, no wireless option.

The zoom lens is minimal:  1.1:1.  That’s just enough for fine tuning an installation, rather than providing a lot of placement flexibility.

Overall a pretty excellent projector if you don’t need more zoom range, but considering the feature sets the ME331W seems to be more than worth the difference in selling price.

Sony VPL-DW240

The Sony VPL-DW240 is another WXGA projector. Good color comes without much loss of brightness, which is good because the Sony claims 3000 lumens, with only the BenQ CH100 in this group claiming less – way less – although the Casio in this group doesn’t measure as high as this Sony.

The DW240 is 3LCD and serves up as many color lumens as white ones, providing that advantage compared to DLP projectors.  That should give the Sony more color lumen output than most DLP projectors claiming 3500 – 4000 white lumens!

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The DW240 measured a maximum of just under 2700 lumens (Presentation mode), or just a tad more than 10% below claim.  That much below claim is very typical when we measure projectors.  Strangely Sony labels their brightest mode Presentation – most companies use Dynamic or Vivid.  Turns out the Sony has both of those modes too, and they both have much better color than Presentation, which has the heavy yellow greens).  Both Vivid and Dynamic output well over 2000 lumens.

Ignore the high list price of $970 as the projector sells for less than 2/3 of that- typically under $600.  At 6 pounds the Sony is reasonably portable, but the reality is that in schools, the DW240 will most likely be ceiling mounted.

The VPL-DW240 has a limited feature set.  Most of the usual, except no networking, either LAN or wireless.  It does, however, support optional Miracast and PC-stick modules for presenting wirelessly or wired from phones, tablets, etc.

The zoom lens has a fairly typical 1.3:1 ratio. There are those with more, and lots of projectors offering less, but 1.3:1 is respectable, and a healthy amount in terms of providing placement flexibility.

Lamp life claims up to 10,000 hours – note that’s using techniques like dialing down brightness dramatically when the source material is off, or static for a while.  The bottom line though is 3000 hours at full power, so probably double that in Eco, if not using the static saver mode.  Relative to the competition, less hours than the other lamp models.

Audible noise is typical for a classroom projector.  Audio volume from the built in speaker – 1 watt, is weak.  That means this projector normally will need some help in even an average K-12 classroom. Fortunately, there is an audio out jack so an external powered speaker could be mounted near the projector (or the cabling run to an external sound system.)  Ron was notably impressed with overall sharpness and image uniformity!  (He’s not easy to impress.)

The Sony VPL DW240 perhaps has a bit too limited feature set for its price point these days, as most K-12 schools are looking for networking abilities, but the Sony’s biggest strengths are it’s picture quality and image sharpness.

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