As a brighter, higher-resolution cousin to the NEC NP-M271X that I recently reviewed, the NEC NP-M311W ($899 direct) shares a similar design and some of the same features. In particular, it’s LCD based, it’s just as easy to carry, and it offers the same impressive 1.7x zoom for more-than-usual setup flexibility. The differences are significant too, however, including higher resolution and higher brightness. The combination is impressive enough to make the NP-M311W an Editors’ Choice.
Built around a 3-chip WXGA (1280 by 800) engine, the NP-M311W offers the same resolution as the Optoma TW610ST and ViewSonic PJD6683ws, two Editors Choices that each offer a short-throw lens and are built around DLP chips. Either of those differences—the lens or the type of engine—can be enough to prefer the NP-M311W on the one hand or one of the DLP projectors on the other.
A short-throw lens makes it easier to avoid shadows, which can be an advantage if you don’t have much room between the audience and the screen. On the other hand, the 1.7x zoom for the NP-311W is a notable convenience. It gives you lots of flexibility for how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image, and it helps make setup fast and easy. That can be particularly useful if you plan to move the projector around a lot and need to set it up repeatedly.
The type of engine makes an even more critical difference. Unlike most current DLP projectors, including the Optoma and ViewSonic models, the NP-311W doesn’t support 3D at all. However, as a three-chip LCD projector, it offers two important advantages.
First, it can’t show rainbow artifacts, which is always a potential concern for single-chip DLP projectors. And second, unlike most DLP projectors, it offers the same color brightness as white brightness, an issue that can affect both brightness of color images and color quality when the two aren’t equal. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, and Why You Should Care.) If you don’t need 3D, this gives the LCD-based NP-311W the clear edge.
The NP-M311W essentially matches the Optoma and ViewSonic models on portability. At 6 pounds 10 ounces, and measuring 3.9 by 13.4 by 10.1 inches (HWD), it’s a size and weight that often winds up permanently installed or on a cart, but is also easy to take with you if you want to. NEC even ships it with a soft carrying case.
Setup is standard. Plug in the appropriate cables, adjust the 1.7x zoom, and focus the image. The back panel includes all the most common connectors for image sources, with VGA, HDMI, S-Video, and composite video, plus a USB A port for reading files directly from a USB key. In addition, you can use the LAN port to send images as well as control the projector over a network. NEC says it’s in the process of upgrading its network software to support audio as well, with the software downloadable from the NEC Web site. Options for the projector include Wi-Fi ($80 street) and a dongle ($45 street) for controlling your computer’s mouse pointer from the projector’s remote.
Image Quality and Other Issues
Data image quality for the NP-M311W is a little short of excellent, but not by much, with the projector scoring well on most of our standard suite of DisplayMate tests. It delivered both eye-catching, vibrant colors in all modes, and also good color balance in all modes, which is unusual. Most projectors have problems with color balance in their brightest mode.
One minor issue was streaking in some images, with a ghost image of horizontal bars extending well past the actual bars. The streaking was faint enough so it shouldn’t be an issue for most purposes, and it showed only on screens that are designed to bring out the problem. However, it’s worth mention because few projectors today show this problem at all. Much more important for data images, the NP-M311 did an excellent job with fine detail. Both black text on white and white text on black, for example, were crisp and easily readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points.
Video quality is limited by the projector’s native 1,280 by 800 resolution. However the image is good enough for watching a full- length movie, which makes the NP-M311W’s video better than most data projectors can manage.
Also demanding mention is both the long lamp life—at a longer than typical 4,000 hours in Standard lamp mode and 8,000 hours in Eco mode—and the built-in audio system, with a 10-watt mono speaker. The audio suffers from some bottom of the barrel echo effect, but it is unusual for data projectors in this weight class in offering acceptable quality and enough volume for a mid-size conference room or classroom.
If you need a short-throw lens, 3D, or both, you’ll need to look elsewhere, with the Optoma TW610ST and ViewSonic PJD6683ws serving as good starting points. If you don’t need either, however, the NEC NP-311W offers a long list of attractive features, from its brightness, to its data and video image quality, to its 1.7x zoom lens, to its long lamp life. Taken together, they add up to a compelling argument for making the NEC NP-311W a good fit if you need a WXGA projector, and making it an Editors’ Choice as well.
|Native Resolution||1280 x 800|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||3000|
|Rated Brightness||3100 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc