The NEC M300X
Light, Bright Presentation Projector
The NEC M300X is an outstanding, all purpose conference room and classroom projector that is surprisingly bright for its level of portability. Built around a 1024x768 LCD engine and rated at 3000 lumens, it offers a 1.7:1 zoom lens and, at 6.4 lbs, it is both small enough to fit into a shoulder bag and light enough so your shoulder won't complain from the weight. The combination makes it a highly attractive choice at $899 direct.
Bright image with good brightness uniformity. We measured our M300X test sample at 2798 lumens with the lens at max wide angle. That's more than 93% of its rating, which is far better than most projectors can manage. It's easily bright enough to throw a 100-inch diagonal image that can stand up to typical office lighting. Moreover, the brightness doesn't drop much with different zoom settings. Even with the lens set to full telephoto, we measured the brightness at 2398 lumens, or 80% of the 3000 lumen rating. That's a better percentage of the rating than many projectors can manage at full zoom.
The projector also did well on brightness uniformity, at a measured 79%. Any differences in brightness are not only minor, they're far enough apart so that even on a solid white screen there aren't any noticeably dim or bright areas.
Wide brightness range. For smaller images and lower light levels, the M300X also offers a wide range of brightness levels to choose from. We measured the additional preset modes at levels ranging from 1350 to 2200 lumens. Even more significant are the two Eco modes, with Eco 1 in the brightest mode coming in at 2102 lumens (about a 23% drop) and Eco 2 at 1059 lumens (a 61% drop).
The Eco modes also lower power use, from a measured 218 watts for normal mode to 178 watts for Eco 1 and 129 watts for Eco 2. Fan noise, similarly, is noticeably lower in Eco 1 mode, and lower still for Eco 2. That said, I should add that fan noise isn't unusually loud in standard mode, and I wouldn't consider it bothersome. The main reason I noticed the difference in the different modes is that when I test a projector, I sit right next to it.
Near excellent image quality for data. Despite some minor issues, data image quality was just short of excellent overall, with vibrant, fully saturated color. I saw a slight color balance issue in the brightest mode, with bright shades of gray showing a yellowish tinge. However, it's not unusual for the brightest mode on projectors to have color issues. More important is that the same problem didn't crop up with the other preset modes.
Similarly, with an analog connection there was some slight pixel jitter on images that tend to cause jitter, but the key word is slight, and, of course, there's no jitter with a digital connection. Very much on the plus side, both black text on white and white text on black were easily readable down the smallest sizes we test with.
Surprisingly high quality video. For our video tests, we connected the M300X to a video source using the HDMI port, and set the source to upconvert to 1080p. The results were surprisingly good. Colors were a little dull due to a low contrast ratio and lack of deep, dark blacks. But the projector did a good job with skin tones and with maintaining shadow detail, even for scenes that most data projectors have trouble with.
You wouldn't want to install the M300X as a permanent home theater projector, but it offers good enough video quality that you might consider taking it home occasionally to watch a movie. It's certainly good enough to show video in a business or educational context.
Excellent connectivity. When it comes to making connections, the M300X is nothing if not flexible, with every connector you're ever likely to need. To begin with, it offers all of the usual choices for sending images to a data projector, including two VGA inputs for computers or component video sources, an S-Video port, and an RCA-phono plug for composite video. It also includes the HDMI port I've already mentioned for a video source or digital computer connection. The HDMI port by itself takes the M300X a step beyond typical for a data projector, particularly for one with only 1024 x 768 resolution. There's no DVI connector, but if you want to connect to a computer's DVI port, you can use a DVI to HDMI cable.
In addition, the projector offers an Ethernet port you can use for data or for controlling the projector, and it offers a USB Type B connector that will let you send images from a computer as well as control the computer mouse through the projector's remote. There's also a USB Type A connector to let you show JPG files directly from a USB key.
For audio, each of the VGA inputs is paired with its own stereo miniplug input, and the composite video and S-Video ports share a set of stereo RCA phono plug inputs. Finishing up the list is a stereo miniplug output, a VGA output for a monitor, and an RS-232 port for external control from a PC. NEC also sells a WiFi connection option for $80.
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