Hands on: Gearbest PRW330 LED Projector review

A very good idea – but badly executed

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Our Early Verdict

Grab it while you can – this is the cheapest HD-capable projector currently on the market. While it’s noisy, the PRW330 features an integrated computer and has far more connectors than we’d expect.

For

  • Plethora of connectors
  • Unbelievably low price

Against

  • Noisy
  • Very old version of Android

For most businesses, especially smaller ones, projectors are an expensive luxury despite their proven usefulness for meetings. While large-format displays have seen prices tumble, the fact that they take up a lot of space and cannot be moved around have limited their appeal somewhat.

And this is the sort of audience that the PRW330 is targeting – one that is not only price-sensitive, but also willing to invest in a projector that’s portable and delivers a good performance. 

Oddly enough, this device’s manufacturer remains a mystery – a quick search online reveals that it is sold as Uniway, Vivibright, Simplebeam and Docooler.

The PRW330 was provided to us by Gearbest, and it costs £107 (about $137, AU$184) – albeit with a US plug, which is much less expensive than the EU plug model – making it by far the cheapest HD projector on the market at the time of writing.

Note that this price is exclusive of any taxes that may be levied by HMRC or the courier companies on behalf of the vendor. Want to buy tech from online Chinese retailers? Read this first.

Other than the price, the other feature that makes this projector stand out from the competition is that it integrates a computer; more specifically, a quad-core, Android-powered device. 

For an unknown reason, the manufacturer opted for Android 4.4. KitKat, as it is known, is almost four-years-old now, and Google has already announced Oreo, the eighth iteration of Android.

Using an older version of Android – one that cannot be updated – carries a number of issues. The most important consideration is the security risk, because you won’t be able to apply patches to cure vulnerabilities, which means that this projector could potentially compromise an entire organisation if the on-board PC is used.

Then there’s the fact that an older version of Android will be incompatible with a number of popular apps, which simply won’t run because of security issues or the lack of newer features which Google has introduced to the OS in the last few years.

The built-in computer runs a quad-core Cortex A5 system-on-a-chip clocked at 1.5GHz with 1GB of RAM and 8GB on-board storage. You won’t be able to add extra storage as there is no microSD card slot. So, while integrating a PC is a smart idea, the execution is sadly rather pathetic.

This computer is roughly equivalent to the Raspberry Pi 2 and should perform as well (or indeed as badly) as smartphones from 2014 (like the Samsung Galaxy Young).

You will be far better served by a newer Android-based TV box like the Sunvell T95P; it is an external model but at least it runs a more contemporary and far more secure OS (Android 6.0.1).

Physically, the PRW330 is an imposing piece of kit, about the size of a couple of reams of A3 paper stacked on top of one another. The projector itself has two HDMI ports, RCA, VGA, S-Video and two USB ports for peripherals. It connects wirelessly over Wi-Fi (802.11n) and Bluetooth (v4.0); as expected it’s Miracast-compatible which means that you can connect any recent smartphone to it.

The lens is covered by a protective cap, and there is a filter that keeps the dust and lint from clogging the innards of the machine. The focusing is done manually, and there’s also rudimentary vertical keystone correction via a knob (-/+ 15 degrees) at the back, plus you get an adjustable leg.

With a native 1280 x 768-pixel resolution, this projector surpasses – on paper – similarly priced SVGA models, and the contrast ratio (600:1) and brightness (2800 lumens) are equally impressive. But quoted spec numbers don’t tell the whole story as we shall see later on.

Powering on the device produced an unexpected issue – since this uses an older LED technology, the PRW330 requires a powerful fan to cool down the lamp (the unit itself consumes about 210W).

Gearbest quotes 32dB for the decibel level in standard mode which is a bit noisier than a quiet rural area (remember the level of loudness doubles every 10dB). The noise we experienced was subjectively closer to 40dB, competing with a human conversation.

Sadly, it will prove to be a major distraction during presentations and film viewing, and we haven’t been able to reduce the fan noise via settings (either using an ‘eco’ setting or by reducing brightness).

The overall quality of the picture depends on the immediate environment and the screen onto which the device is projecting. 

Bearing in mind that this is a budget projector costing not much more than £100, the quality of the picture was surprisingly good. It’s also worth noting that you can mount the projector on the ceiling, and the two built-in speakers provide a reasonable audio experience.

The marketing literature suggests that the projector supports 4K content courtesy of an MSTAR hardware TV chip; we didn’t test this particular feature.

The PRW330 comes with Google Play and WPS Office installed, as well as a few other utilities (including a built-in Movie Player). You can change the picture mode, the colour temperature and the image noise (although we couldn’t spot any meaningful differences when fiddling with the latter).

We tested the projector at a distance of 81-inches and it delivered a 60-inch diagonal picture. Overall, we found that the PRW330 works best when used in a dark room – as is the case with most projectors. We used a wireless keyboard with an attached touchpad (Tecknet X500) which worked perfectly out of the box.

When it comes to image quality, the lack of colour vibrancy is obvious, as is the uneven focus in the corners, and the general poor performance with video footage that involves fast action.

Early verdict

The PRW330 from Gearbest comes with some major flaws but these can be overlooked given the price. Just get yourself an external video source (your computer, a set-top box, a TV box, anything) and sit as far away as possible from the projector, or jack up the volume to drown out the sound of the fan.

There is hardly any other competition at this price point, in all honesty, and unless you want to go for a second-hand projector and potentially face the costly expense of changing a bulb, the PRW330, despite all its downsides, remains a solid choice when you understand the caveats.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.