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Video Review: NEC NP3151W

Excellent image quality, color makes 3LCD widescreen projector a good value. 6/01/2008 8:00 AM Eastern

Video Review: NEC NP3151W

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Excellent image quality, color makes 3LCD widescreen projector a good value.




VidRev NECNP3131W

The trend toward native widescreen projectors is now in full swing in the consumer home-theater market. Additionally, several high-end, high-brightness staging and rental models have led the shift toward native widescreen in the business market, along with a smattering of smaller, portable models. NEC's new NP3151W finds a similarly wide, if less well-represented space that fits right in between: the professional business AV installation market — targeting lecture halls, training centers, large boardrooms, and mid-sized auditoriums.

NEC's existing NP line of installation projectors (as opposed to the smaller, portable NPs with two or three digits in the model name) include eight models ranging in brightness from 3500 ANSI lumens to 5200 ANSI lumens. However, the new NP3151W and NP4001 are the only two so far with a native wide-aspect ratio. The DLP-based NP4001 is slightly brighter, at 4500 lumens compared to 4000 lumens, while the 3LCD-based NP3151W is $1,000 less expensive. However, the new NP3151 weighs in at a little more than 16lbs., compared to the 34lb. chassis of the somewhat older NP4001.

Still, both NEC models join the clear trend toward widescreen viewing that is evident not only in other wide projectors, but also in our culture, as widescreen flatpanels and rear-projection TVs continue to grow and as native wide-HDTV content becomes commonplace. And while, admittedly, much of that trend stems from the consumer market and entertainment content, the trend exists too in the business world, where 16:9 notebooks are becoming more popular. Ironically, the transition to wide is actually an easier one for business because arbitrarily stretching presentation slides bears far less consequence than stretching video images of faces and bodies.

UNDER THE HOOD

The NP3151W's 1280×800 isn't a native HDTV aspect ratio, and it's an indication that this is clearly a business projector. It has three RGB inputs — a 15-pin (in and out), a 5-BNC RGBHV set, and a DVI-D with HDCP — that should fit comfortably into any existing cable structure. There are also inputs for motion video, including analog component. The NP3151W supports HD up to 1080i.

But those basic connections are only part of the story. A built-in RJ-45 Ethernet port offers remote administration and diagnostics of the projector, and a Windows Vista's remote-desktop function displays the image on a connected computer via Ethernet. A wireless option affords the same Windows remote-desktop feature, although NEC also uses its own proprietary image compression software to work with non-Vista computers.

NEC has given the NP3151W several helpful installation features that will afford placement in a variety of non-standard settings. Vertical and horizontal lens shift and 40-percent vertical and 35 percent horizontal keystone correction and bayonet lens options are expected installation features, and NEC offers these with the NP3151W. 3D reform is less typical and it allows for digital image correction in the case of off-axis installation. 3D reform is not a new technology from NEC, but it is one of NEC's differentiating features. Admittedly, it takes a little work going back and forth between the horizontal and vertical sliders to realign an off-axis image, but it sure is easier than moving a wall.


Video Review: NEC NP3151W

Jun 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

Excellent image quality, color makes 3LCD widescreen projector a good value.




Interestingly, NEC has also bestowed the NP3151W with a Silicon Optix HQV video-processing chipset. It's more common to think of HQV as a home-theater, image-quality enhancement, but it also does an excellent job scaling and resizing data images and text. And that's critical to a business-oriented widescreen projector, because while the trend toward native widescreen is clear, the reality is that the large majority of computers in the business world are still 4:3. Therefore, much of the content display on a business installation projector will come from such a source. Text and numbers are likely to be stretched and scaled, and if it's not done well, more than just a pretty picture can get lost.

On the other hand, the NP3151W does a fine job with motion video too, both with color and image sharpness, and that's not surprising given HQV's reputation. Admittedly, as a business-install projector, the NP3151W is likely to be display more data information than video, but the ability to do both well makes it an extremely versatile model.

In my tests, the NP3151W did a very good job scaling images and test patterns generated in a variety of native 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios. Text patterns were crisp and legible from just about any input resolution, including video and HDTV resolutions. 1x1 pixel test patterns push image processing to the limit, and here I saw moiré patterns develop, but you'll often see that from mismatched resolutions on very high-end projectors as well. However, even on these merciless test patterns, the NP3151W's image never broke down into overt high-frequency noise — that's a testament to good scaling.

I was also very impressed with the NP3151W's color reproduction, with the mild exception of red leaning straight toward green. Even still, secondary colors cyan, magenta, and yellow were spot on in my tests, and blues and greens quite solid. Grayscale tracking was also very smooth throughout, with color temperature remaining near-rock solid throughout the curve from 7.5 IRE to 100 IRE.

NEC lists the contrast ratio as 500:1, and that's a more than honest assessment. Depending on the preset, I measure everything from 385:1 (sRGB mode) to 636:1 (high-bright mode), with presentation mode at 531:1. On the other hand, I did not really come anywhere close to NEC's boast of 4000 ANSI lumens. I was lucky to get above 3200 ANSI lumens, even in high-brightness mode, with presentation mode falling under 3000 lumens. Switching to Eco mode lowers brightness by roughly 16 percent to 20 percent, regardless of mode, while saving lamp life and power. I measured brightness uniformity at a very solid 87 percent.

The NP3151W has a list price of less than $5,000 and, at press time, it is still too new to have established a solid street price. However, expect to find one for less than $4,000 and perhaps much less. That's an extremely good value given the image quality, including color and sharpness. I'm a little surprised by my test unit's brightness, but the installation features — including remote desktop via either wired or wireless Ethernet — more than make up for it as long as your room isn't too large or too brightly lit.

Going wide is the trend in displays, and it's not just for Hollywood movies. From flatpanels at airports and sports arenas to notebook computers and wide desktop monitors, the extra horizontal space is becoming the norm. The NP3151W may be only NEC's second installation widescreen projector, but it's an indication of things to come — both in the market and probably in a boardroom, training room, or lecture hall near you.


PRODUCT SUMMARY

  • Company: NEC
  • Product: NP3151W
  • Pros: Native widescreen, excellent color reproduction, very good scaling on text, good contrast for 3LCD.
  • Cons: Brightness is well below specification.
  • Applications: Professional business AV installation market.
  • Price: $4,999

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Brightness: 4000 (3200 Eco mode) ANSI lumens
  • ontrast: 500:1 full on/off
  • Native resolution: 1280x800 (max 1600x1200) 16:10 aspect
  • Configuration: 3”x 0.74” LCD with micro-lens array
  • Light source: 330W AC lamp (2,000 hours; 3,000 hours Eco mode)
  • Lens ratio: Manual focus, F=1.7-2.2, f=24.4mm-32.5mm
  • Zoom: Manual 1.33:1 optical zoom
  • Projection distance: 2.5ft. to 68.5ft.
  • Screen size: 25in. to 500in. diagonal
  • Keystone: +/- 40% vertical+/- 35% horizontal
  • Loudspeakers: 5W stereo
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 15.7”x5.9”x14.1”
  • Weight: 16.1lbs.
  • Warranty: Two years parts and labor (One year or 500 hours lamp)


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