This article first appeared in HWM Jun 2011.
NEC’s latest M300XS is short throw projector with a native XGA (1024x768) resolution. Being a short throw beamer means that it can project at a nearer-to-screen distance than a typical projector. For example, a 60-inch image can be achieved at about 57cm away from the screen, and 110-inch at 110 cm. Comparatively, a conventional projector usually requires 1.5 to 1.8m for a 60-inch image. There are some clear benefits of having a short throw projector: the lower probability of casting shadows on the screen because you happen to wander into the light path, as well as easier placement in a space-constraint room.
Besides its 3,000 lumens (in High-Bright mode) rating, the M300XS has a set of fairly garden-variety features. While the Eco mode drops light output by about 25%, you do get a quieter projector (from 35 to 29dB). Lamp life is also improved from 4,000 to 5,000 hours. Since the M300XS uses a fixed focal length lens, physical zoom adjustment is not possible (though digital zoom is). In other words, to shrink or enlarge an image without degradation would almost certainly require a physical relocation of the projector itself. The top panel provides for the standard fare of navigation controls, with a few specific ones for auto image adjustment, source toggling, and Eco mode selection. Focusing is done via a manual lever at the top of the lens. The bundled Image Express Utility Lite software has a Geometric Correction Tool function where you can correct distortion of images projected on a curved surface.
The M300XS scores well on the connectivity front. For video, you get HDMI, analog RGB (two of them), S-Video, and composite inputs. The usual RCA and stereo mini jacks for audio in/out are also present (the built-in monaural speaker is rated at 10W). Also available are RS-232C and RJ45 (LAN) interfaces for third-party control and wired LAN hookup respectively. A pass-through monitor connector can also be found. Removing a screwed-down cover on the right side of the cabinet reveals the port where you plug in the optional USB wireless LAN dongle. Alternatively, you can project through a USB cable connected to the computer. A separate USB port allows you to use a flash drive and playback residing JPEG images. For PowerPoint slides, you can easily convert them into JPEG files using the converter supplied on the installation disc.
Overall, brightness uniformity was good. At High-Bright mode, the M300XSG has enough lumen power that a totally dimmed room isn’t necessary, unless the light is shining directly on the screen. Data projection performance was noted to be very good, exhibiting sharp text, vibrant colors, and very little pixel jitter even when analog connections were used. Comparing Video and Movie modes, the latter gave better contrast without sacrificing too much light output, so we prefer it for motion picture viewing. Still, its lower brightness makes for a less suitable mode in cases of strong ambient light. Very minute artifacting and black-level crushing were also noted in some test clips.
All things considered, the M300XS is an all-round performer. If you need to project large images at short distances, this is one of the better options we’ve come across this year.