NEC NP3250W Review

With a small, stackable form factor and high brightness, this projector can go anywhere. 2/18/2010 7:00 AM Eastern

NEC NP3250W Review

Feb 18, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

With a small, stackable form factor and high brightness, this projector can go anywhere.


Front projector makers have made enormous strides with lumen output over the last several years. Relatively small installation-oriented form factors, like NEC's new NP3250W, can now pack a very bright punch. Yet there are still plenty of spaces that require still more brightness. In the past, that's tended to mean going up to a much larger form factor, and at a much higher cost.

Yet with its latest line in the NP series, NEC is stealing a page from the rental and staging world and bringing higher brightness possibilities down to a 16lb. form factor that usually fits only small-to-medium sized spaces. With a new, user-friendly Stacking Correction Tool (included free), NEC allows you to link up to four projectors to produce a very bright image at a cost that's still less than many larger single units.

NEC's NP installation projector line includes more than a dozen models ranging in brightness from 3700 ANSI lumens to 6200 ANSI lumens, including both DLP and LCD-based models. There are 11 models—including the 4000-lumen NP3250W and its 4:3, 5000-lumen sibling, the NP3250—that all have a 3LCD lighting engine and use the same 16lb. chassis with optional bayonet lenses. The new NP3250W is just one of two that features a native 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio—although a native 1280x800 resolution makes it a clear business-oriented model rather than an HDTV-centric movie projector.

The NP3250W has several helpful installation features, beginning with vertical and horizontal lens shift and 40 percent vertical and 30 percent horizontal keystone correction, as well as NEC's 3D reform that allows you to adjust for off-axis projection when necessary. NEC also uses HQV image processing to enhance scaling and resizing, making text crisp and clear regardless of resolution. Of course, NP3250W's native widescreen resolution makes that critical since it will inevitably display stretched 4:3 content on occasion. Naturally, the HQV chip also makes the NP3250W flexible enough to display fine-looking motion video.

The chassis includes three RGB inputs: a 15-pin (in and out), a 5-BNC RGBHV set, and a DVI-D with HDCP. While video is secondary, it does include inputs for motion video including 3-RCA analog component and supports HD inputs up to 1080p. There are audio inputs for each video input and built-in 5W+5W stereo loudspeakers. RS-232, USB, and RJ-45 ports offer remote control, remote administration and diagnostics, and even Windows Vista's remote desktop function. An optional wireless LAN unit supports the same remote desktop feature for both Vista and non-Vista computers. All of these features have appeared in previous NEC models.

Double Vision

Stacking two or more projectors is common in the rental and staging sector, but NEC is clearly breaking new ground bringing the feature down to this class of projector and to this price point. Two effectively doubles brightness, although set up can sometimes be tricky. NEC's new Stacking Correction Tool takes a lot of the hassle out of the process by automating the geometric correction of the additional projectors.

By analyzing images from a connected digital camera or webcam, the Stacking Correction Tool software application allows a computer connected via Ethernet to communicate with and automatically adjust additional projectors to match the image of the master projector. The software uses a series of specific images including solid black and white screens, as well as dots and grids to adjust the geometric correction function built in the NEC projectors. The resulting data is then stored in the projectors so that the process doesn't need to be repeated each time the projector powers on.

Admittedly, there are a couple of caveats. First, uneven ambient light or an overly bright projector center bright spot can cause the camera, and thus the software, difficulty. Secondly, "stacking" here is a bit of a misnomer. The current NP3250W uses an older NEC chassis that is not itself stackable due to a dome top. That is likely to change in future models given the "stacking" breakthrough, but NEC argues it's no matter even now. The geometric adjust works well enough to allow two or more projectors to be placed in a much more user-friendly side-by-side manner. Of course, NEC is also partnering with a projector-mount company to offer multiple projector racks and ceiling mounts.

NEC NP3250W Review

Feb 18, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

With a small, stackable form factor and high brightness, this projector can go anywhere.



Testing One, Two

In order to test the Stacking Correction feature, I tested a pair of NP3250Ws, and the two were refreshingly similar in basic output characteristics. Neither hit the 4000-lumen mark on NEC's spec sheet, but both were within about 8 percent (3686 ANSI lumens and 3711 ANSI lumens) in High Bright mode. Brightness dropped about 13 percent in Presentation mode, about 35 percent in sRGB mode, and about 46 percent in Video mode, with other preset mode brightness falling somewhere in the middle of those. I measured brightness uniformity at an excellent 94 percent for both units. Switching to Eco mode lowers brightness by roughly 20 percent in each preset mode, with the benefit of saving lamp life and power.

NEC's 600:1 contrast ratio estimate is solid, particularly in High Bright mode. I measured 625:1. Contrast did, of course, drop in other preset modes—down to less than 400:1 in sRGB mode. The NP3250W's colors lean toward green—particularly red—to a small degree, which isn't surprising in a business-oriented projector designed for higher brightness, and one can adjust colors settings to minimize the effect. Blue as well as the secondary colors were all good. Grayscales tracked on a very smooth curve from 7.5 IRE all the way to 100 IRE.

I used a variety of test patterns in both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios to test scaling and found that the NP3250W did a good job keeping text crisp and legible. 1x1 pixel test patterns cause minor moiré patterns in non-native resolutions, but the HQV chipset kept it to a minimum. And that's critical for NEC's stacking feature, although it's clearly best when stacking to help the projector as much as possible and stay with a native resolution.

The NP3250W has a MAP of about $3,500, but you can probably find it for less. The MAP may still seem a little pricey on a per-lumen basis, but NEC has built in an enormous amount of flexibility and features. Many aren't new, but the new stacking feature may strike a chord with organizations with larger facilities and multiple units. The ability to add a second projector to a room when needed and not have to hire outside rental-and-staging assistance could become quite attractive. On the other hand, rental-and-staging professionals might love the small form factor for smaller venues.

Product Summary
Company: NEC
Product: NP3250W
Pros: Stacking Correction Tool, native widescreen, excellent color reproduction, and good scaling on text.
Cons: Brightness is a little low, and geometric correction on the primary unit can be tricky.
Applications: Small-to-medium sized facilities and rental and staging.
Price: $3,499.99

Brightness: 4000 ANSI lumens (3200 Eco mode)
Contrast: 600:1 full on/off
Native resolution: 1280x800 (max)
Configuration: 3x0.74in. LCD with Micro lens array
Light source: 330W AC lamp (2000 hours, 3000 hours Eco mode)
Standard lens: Manual focus, f/1.7-2.2, f=24.4-32.5mm
Lens options: Five ranging from 0.8:1 wide fixed to 4.7-7.2:1 zoom
Zoom (standard lens): Manual 1.33:1 optical zoom
Projection distance (standard lens): 2.95ft. to 71.9ft.
Screen size: 30in. to 500in. diagonal
Keystone: +/- 40% vertical, +/- 30% horizontal
Loudspeakers: 10W stereo
Dimensions (WxHxD): 15.7"x 5.9"x 14.1"
Weight: 16.1lbs.
Warranty:Two year parts and labor (One year or 500 hours lamp)

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