REVIEW MAY 30 , 2001
NEC's displays, historically, have proved top-notch, and their professional presentation products have carried this tradition to yet another level. I've previously reviewed two NEC portable projectors, and both, the VT540 and the MT1050, were just gorgeous in terms of anything that matters about a projectorcolor saturation, picture quality, brightness, etc.
But for the last several weeks I've had in my possession my first NEC ultraportable-class digital projector, the LT155. It's not the smallest projector on the market, but it is tiny, about the size of two subnotebooks stacked on top of one another (11.1" x 8.2" x 2.8"), and it weighs a scant 4.9 lbs. (not counting cables, etc.). Most important, it stands up well in comparison with its more expensive and bulkier siblings in NEC's product line.
One of the things that stood out immediately about the LT155 was its absolute lack of light spill. I know that a lot of projectors today hold their light spill down to a minimum. But with this unit, I mean the edges were perfectly sharp, not a single pixel of spill. Even the edges on a keystoned image were difficult to detect with just a little bit of ambient light to drown it out.
I was also impressed with the amount of control this ultraportable offers over image appearance. Even when watching video in composite mode, you get standard brightness/contrast controls, along with brightness and contrast on each separate color channel. It has four levels of noise reduction (including None) and three of gamma correction, and you can adjust hue, color and sharpness separately. It also accepts aspect ratios ranging from 4:3 to 16:9.
While I did try out these controls to see how they worked, I didn't need them. Regardless of source, the picture appeared optimum at the factory defaults. (This is actually unusual because signals from consumer DVD players, for example, often require significant fine tuning.)
Now, I mentioned that this projector stands up well against NEC's portables. This doesn't mean it's better in every respect. For example, it has only one RGB connector, and it lacks the ability to handle horizontal keystoning.
It also takes a strange, but not necessarily bad, approach to dealing with IR. On the previous two NEC's I reviewed, the IR ports were mounted all along the actual housing of the units to provide remote access from just about any angle. On the LT155, this IR array is replaced by a USB IR hub, attached with a cable, that can be positioned on the conference room table to accept remote input from any desired angle. Once the IR unit is positioned, it can accept input from about a 270 degrees horizontal and around 60 or so degrees vertical. The unit adds a bit to the table clutter and adds a step to the setup, but it works, as long as you have the room for it.
The remote itself is a full-sized jobber with a built-in laser pointer, not at all like the remotes that come with the VT-series portable models. Also unlike the remotes in the VT series, this one can't be stowed inside the projector's housing. It has a trigger-style clicker button on the bottom and a scrolling wheel on top for navigating menus and directing the cursor. It also has several buttons for direct access to numerous features, including keystone, volume, magnification, source select and a few CompactFlash functions.
Oh, did I mention this ultraportable also has a CompactFlash slot? Nice little touch for such a dinky projector. You can place all of your presentation files directly onto a CompactFlash card and run them without the use of a computer, cutting down further on travel weight.
The NEC LT155 is an excellent piece of equipment. Its relatively low cost and ultraportability, not to mention 2,000 hour lamp life (in Eco Mode), brings this well into the range of affordability for presenters and home theater enthusiasts alike. For me, picture is everything when it comes to projectors, and the LT155 delivers quality comparable with or even superior to more expensive models. I give this projector a strong buy recommendation.
The LT155 ships with an RGB cable, a USB IR receiver, an S-video cable, lens cap, power cord and a sharp soft carrying case. It lists for $5,995, but it's actually available for considerably less, somewhere in the mid-$4,000s. (Keep in mind that retailers who offer projectors for a lot less than list do not offer the kind of support you will find from vendors who geared specifically for the presentation market.) For more information on the NEC LT155, visit NEC's professional products site at http://www.nectech.com.
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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.