KJM K3 projector: Big, beautiful, but needs some work
Note: This review was first published on 22 September 2023.
KJM has announced its first crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign for the KJM K3 projector. Originally an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), the KJM K3 represents the first product that the company is bringing to market itself. It's a 1080p/60fps projectorat a sweetinitial price of US$279 (or S$377) – if you back the IndieGoGo campaign at the Super Early Bird price that is. As of this review, there's still 15 days to go, but KJM indicates that the actual retail price will go up to US$558 (S$762) once the campaign is over.
For the purpose of this review, we'll say that with the IndieGoGo price, the K3 certainly piques our interest and ticksall the boxes for a projector with this set of specs.
One big package
While the campaign is still ongoing, we managed to snag a pre-production unit to test. When the KJM K3 first arrived, the size of the box was surprising. Having tested mainly short-throw projectors over the past two years, the heft of the K3 took some getting used to. The K3 is certainly not small at 28.2 x 28 x 16.9cm and weighing in at over 4kg. Indeed, even the power brick was heavy, reminiscent of gaming notebook power bricks of old.
But for all its size, the box is surprisingly light on components. Besides the projector, power brick and its various plug points, you only get a remote control, lens cover, manual, and a single HDMI cable.
As first appearances go, the KJM K3 projector resembles nothing more than a stylish squat gun-metal greyish-black box that looks and feels nice. The gun-metal grey runs along the four main sides while the front and back have a black canvas-like material on them.
There are no external embellishments apart from a single power button at the top. The lens of the projector sits embedded within its housing and there aren't any rotating rings or controls of any kind ot physically focus the lens. At the base, there is a pop-out stand that can be released by a buttonon the bottom, but I didn't really notice any significant difference in height or angle when the stand was in use.
Connectivity options can be found on the rear of the housing along with a small badge saying Sound by JBL. Going through the campaign specifications, we didn't really gleam any more information regarding this except that KJM claims the K3 features "certified JBL speakers" and "Dolby Sound technology".
For connectivity options, the KJM K3 is covered by two HDMI 2.0 ports, two USB A Gen 2.0, a single USB-C Gen 1 port, a LAN port, a single 3.5mm port, and support for Wi-Fi (2.4GHz and 5GHz).
In terms of features, the KJM K3 projector is powered by an LED lampwith a brightness of1,500 lumens, a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 at 60fps, up to 200-inch screen projection, Linux 4.19 kernel operating system, keystone correction, auto focus, built-in Wi-Fi, dual 15W "JBL" speaker drivers, Netflix and Amazon Prime video pre-installed, and an IPX5 rating meaning that it has protection from dust and is protected against low-pressure water stream from any angle, although we're not sure why you'd put the K3 anywhere it would possibly get wet. This isn't exactly an outdoors, portable projector. Rather surprisingly, there is no appto download for supplementary control of the projector.
Getting it to work
I can’t talk about usage without bringing up the remote. Now I can’t stress this enough, but the remote is very very important. I understand the appeal of having a clutter-free casing and how pleasing it looks aesthetically. But with the unit not having any external controls or apps, every command you enter is done via the remote (unless connected to a laptop). This became a hassle during my initial setup and throughout this review. Every time I moved or repositioned the projector, I had to accesslayers ofmenus via the remote just to adjust focus, keystone, etc. Not to mention having a single point of failure with the remote being the only input option is just bad design.
Now, navigation through the menus itselfis straightforward with little lag between the button being pressed and the command being logged. The lag is mostly unnoticeable, or at least, not long enough to be annoying, especially given the price. I can put up with quite of a bit of annoyance if the price is attractive enough and the performance is satisafactory.
On the main screen and remote, you have access to Netflix, YouTube, and Prime Video. As mentioned earlier, the projector runs on Linux with the company saying that this was chosen as it was an open-source operating system. Of course, this means that you don't have the familiar Android TV support ecosystem of apps and updates, and you're pretty much tied to whatever KJM gives you. For example, you can access a Linux app store on the projector,but I don’t recognise many of the available apps. You do get a browser and screencastoption for the sending of content via mobile devices.
What about the actual projection chops of the K3? KJM recommends a viewing distance of about 4.3m for a screen size of 150-inches. However given the size of most living rooms in Singapore, space is bound to be an issue as I found that any distance shorter than this resulted in a slightly blurred image that the autofocus just couldn’t solve. With the lens not being able to turn, using the manual focus requires a couple of steps on the remote to help resolve the issue. The other option would be to reduce the screen size to 75% which is what I did.
The K3 supports automatic vertical keystone correction. There is also horizontal keystone correction but this needs to be done manually using the four-point keystone correction feature in the settings via the remote control. There are also several preset modes for both the sound and picture. Movie mode is definitely the pick of the bunch here, for both picture and sound, and I certainly recommend using them to add vibrancy and just improve your whole viewing experience altogether. The difference between the “Standard” and “Movie” modes for both is just astounding.
We use various scenes from Netflix’s “The Old Guard”, “Top Gun: Maverick in 4K” from YouTube, and one other 4K underwater scene to test a projector’s audio and visual capabilities.
When listening to the audio when in standard mode, the voices came across as very tinny and the action sequences lacked any bass or depth to the sound. Swapping to movie mode made all the difference. Voices were able to convey mood and tone clearly. Explosions and gunshots were crisp and sharp. Action sequences sounded rich with bass and depth. Top Gun: Maverick had a real oomph to the sound as the jets flew by.
Visually movie mode made a difference as well. When watching in Standard mode images were rather flat and uninspiring. Swap over to Movie mode and the sharpness and clarity really stood out. Colours were more vibrant, rich, and true to life. Brightness and sharpness were spot on.
I also connected my notebook to the KJM K3 via HDMI and viewed a series of videos up to 1080p, under the projector’s Movie mode via screen sharing. Animated movies like Frozen and Minions to action movies like Mortal Kombat were clear without artefacts, or anything else to spoil the viewing experience. It was also bright enough to view documents and spreadsheets for work.
The KJM K3 is almost as large as the previously reviewed BenQ X3000i but is slightly lighter. The BenQ X3000i isn't some run-of-the-mill projector either being a 4K HDR projector that’s targeted at gamers, so it wins in terms of specs and features. But at S$3,499 it is certainly pricey and certainly worthy of being in another category by itself.
The ViewSonic M1 mini Plus is an ultra-short throw projector, that is at a closer price point to the KJM K3 at S$399 from ViewSonic’s online store. It has a built-in battery, also hasJBL speakers, but only 120 lumens and a paltry resolution of 854 x 480.
ViewSonic also has a 1080P projector, the M2e, whichcomes with 1,000 lumens of brightness and two 3W Harman Kardon speakers. But it is also a lot more expensive at S$1,049 on the ViewSonic online store.
The KJM K3 is big, runs on Linux, and needs the remote to enter commands. But once you can figure out the menu and commands, it's pretty easy to get what you need done (as long as you don’t lose the remote). In terms of the picture and sound quality, once you spend some time setting it up properly (the levels of zoom and keystone correction), choose the relevant modes, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that whatever KJM has done to get the certification from JBL has certainly made a difference to its audio quality. Overall, I have to say that watching movies on the KJM K3 is a niceexperience.
So, forUS$279(S$377) on IndieGoGo,the KJM K3 is certainly priced very attractively for its specs. In fact, even at it's full retail price of US$558 (S$762),you're still looking at an attractiveprojector with 1,500 lumens, 1080p/60 resolution and up to a 200-inch screen.Attractive enough for me to overlook the its little foibles.
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