To say that the NEC NP-UM330X is unusual among ultra-short throw projectors is both true and not quite true. The true part is that instead of coming in both interactive and non-interactive versions, it comes in only one version, with a separate interactive module also available. So if you don’t need interactivity, it’s worth considering because it’s a capable XGA (1,024 by 768) ultra-short throw projector. But if you think you might want interactivity at some point later, the optional add-on makes it of particular interest.
What makes the statement not quite true is that the add-on module is a customized variation of Luidia eBeam Edge for Business ($720 street, 3.5 stars), which will add interactivity to any projector. In that sense, the NP-UM330X isn’t all that different from any of its non-interactive competition. It’s just that it’s sold with the idea of optional interactivity specifically in mind. It also includes a mount for the interactive module on the projector itself, which helps make the combination of projector and interactive module more of an integrated whole.
You can buy the interactive option separately ($489 direct) as well buy a wall mount ($119 direct), or you can buy the projector, interactive option, and mount together, as the NP-UM330Xi-WK1 ($1,699 direct). For this review, I looked at only the projector and the interactive option.
Like the Hitachi BZ-1 and the Epson BrightLink 485Wi, which are both Editors’ Choices, the NP-UM330X is built around an LCD engine. That gives it two key advantages over DLP-based projectors.
First, you don’t have to worry about potential rainbow artifacts, with light areas on screen breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows because of the way single-chip DLP projectors produce colors. With three-chip LCD projectors they simply aren’t an issue. Second, there’s no difference between white brightness and color brightness, so you don’t have to worry about that either.
The only potential disadvantage for an LCD engine is that few LCD projectors offer 3D support, and the NP-UM330X isn’t one of them. If you need 3D now, or think you may need it in the near future, that’s an important consideration. If you’re not interested in showing 3D content, however, the lack of 3D won’t matter.
As with any ultra-short throw projector, the NP-UM330X’s central feature is its ultra-short throw. NEC says you can use an image size from roughly 61 to 116 inches diagonally, with a throw distance of roughly 17 to 34 inches. That’s consistent with my experience, using a 78-inch wide (98-inch diagonal) image with a throw distance of just 28.5 inches from the window near the back of the projector.
Unlike the WXGA (1,280 by 800) Hitachi BZ-1 and Epson BrightLink 485Wi, the NP-UM330X offers XGA (1024 by 768) resolution, which helps keep the price down. It’s also a little brighter than the Hitachi and Epson models, with a 3,300-lumen rating. In my tests, it was easily bright enough for the 98-inch diagonal image I used to stand up to a brightly lit office or classroom.
Except for the interactive feature, setup is standard fare. At 6.5 by 14.9 by 16.9 inches (HWD), the 12.6 pound NP-UM330X can easily fit on a cart for room to room portability. If you add interactivity, however, you’ll probably want it permanently mounted above whatever you’re using for a screen. If nothing else, that will keep the projector out of the way while you’re interacting with the image. In my tests, the front of the projector was just 13 inches from the screen with the interactive module added.
Connection options for images include two HDMI ports for computers or video sources; the usual VGA, S-video, and composite video ports; and two USB A ports, for reading files from a USB key and for an optional Wi-Fi dongle ($80 street). In addition, there’s a monitor out port, and you can send images, but not audio, over a LAN connection.
If you add the interactive module, installation also consists of mounting the module on the front of the projector, using two screws, and connecting a supplied 15-foot USB cable for interactive control between your computer and a connector on the module. Note too that you also have to calibrate the pen with the projector. You only need to touch nine points, which goes quickly. However, you have to recalibrate every time you change resolutions, switch computers, or move the projector, which is another good reason to mount the projector permanently if you add the interactive module.
Image Quality and Other Issues
The NP-UM330X earns points for both its data and video image quality. It sailed through our standard suite of DisplayMate tests, with vibrant color; suitably neutral grays at all shades from black to white; and reasonably crisp, readable text even at 6.8 point size.
The XGA resolution puts obvious limits on video quality, with HD content losing the kind of detail you would expect with a higher resolution. Within those limits however, the NP-UM330X does reasonably well. You won’t mistake the video for something coming from a home theater projector, but the level of quality, combined with the complete lack of rainbow artifacts, makes for an acceptably comfortable viewing experience even for a full-length movie.
Also demanding mention is that the interactive feature has some important limitations. Unlike some interactive technologies, it requires the pen to touch the screen, which means you need a screen with a hard backing. It also lacks the ability to let you use more than one pen at the same time. And because the projector itself isn’t designed for a vertical mount, with the image projecting down, you can’t use it for an interactive table top without shortening the lamp life due to overheating.
Any one of these issues may be a reason to cross the projector off your list. That makes the NEC NP-UM330X far easier to recommend as a non-interactive projector than as an interactive one. If you’re sure you want interactivity, you’ll probably be better off with the Hitachi BZ-1 or Epson BrightLink 485Wi. If you don’t want interactivity, however, or don’t want it now but think you might need it one day, the NEC NP-UM330X is a potentially excellent choice. Key features include its ultra-short throw, excellent data image quality, and better than par video quality, plus built-in future-proofing in the form of the optional interactive module.
|Native Resolution||1024 x 768|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||3000|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc