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NEC PE401H Review

Oct 11, 2013 3:35 PM, Reviewer: Christopher Maione

A feature rich digital projector with a competitive price point.


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Advanced video processing, a rich color palette, 3D, an array of inputs, and intelligent powering and input detection are just a few of the qualities that you might come to expect from a high-priced, fixed-install behemoth of a projector; the kind intended for executive suites or large venues. However, NEC PE401H (although referred to as an “entry level projector”) delivers all of these high-end features in a projector that exudes quality, versatility, and efficiency with a very competitive price point (less than $2,000).

Out of the Box

Designed for the essentials, the PE401H at first glance is a sleeper. The projector’s white and gray housing is not overly impressive. Sleek and compact, the projector occupies a minimal footprint, having dimensions of just 13.8”x4.1”x11.1”. It appears somewhat utilitarian—a to-be-expected, entry-level specimen for the average class or conference room. But being critical of its simplistic styling becomes an act of futility when you start to consider the depth of functional and technical character apparent in the design.

The projector offers the standard set of media and control input options that are conveniently color coded.

Inputs include:

· Two HDMI inputs with HDCP

· RGB

· S-Video

· RCA video and audio

A stereo mini is provided for all analog inputs.

Outputs and other ports include:

· RGB monitor out

· Audio out - stereo mini.

· USB-type “service port”

· RS-232 control port

· 10/100 BASE-T RJ-45 LAN connection

The entire rear connection panel can be hidden by affixing the included cable cover. In addition, all I/O connections are nicely labeled on the case of the projector and at each connector, making it very easy to see which inputs are connected.

Other notable items:

· There are two discretely placed 8W stereo speakers reside in the rear left corner

· The projector is equipped with a Kensington Lock Port

· The projector has been designed “filter-free,” which eliminates the issue of cleaning or changing filters.

Capability

You can use the power button to start up the projector, but it also will power on automatically when AC power is supplied. Powering down can be executed on demand or as configured by the user, regardless of whether or not an active signal is detected. The forever irritating “cool-down time” is nonexistent with the PE401H due to a “quick power off” feature.

The PE401H leverages the newest DLP chipset with Brilliant Color for greater color realism and darker blacks. The projectors resolution is native 1080p (1920x1080) but it supports up to 1600x1200 maximum screen resolution. The maximum recommended projection image size is 200in., however if you prefer brighter images versus larger images, I would think 120in. would be the max to keep adequate brightness on the screen. Presets are available for tone correction when displaying on non-white surfaces. Although not a requirement in most corporate applications, fans of 3D can enjoy the feature through use of DLP link-compatible shutter glasses.

Regarding the user interface, both the remote control and panel buttons offer intuitive methods of navigating through the onscreen menus, and leveraging some of the PE401H’s most distinguishing eco-friendly features. The projector can be partially controlled via LAN on either a Mac or PC using a tool found through NEC’s website, with functions including power on/off, signal toggling, picture and audio muting, picture freezing, error message notification, and event scheduling.

Setup and Controls

It took all of about two minutes to get the projector out of the box and fired up. Plug it in, power it up, and point it at the screen. Point and shoot literally. There are manual feet and tilt for using the projector in a desktop configuration. The lens has two very smooth (manual) adjustments—zoom (image size) and focus.

There is a button panel on the case of the projector but all electronic controls can be accessed by the handheld remote through a series of simple, well-organized menus and commands. I stress “simple and well-organized” because I have found other projector menus and controls a nightmare to navigate.

The remote control is not complicated or confusing and provides all the needed functionality. The projector has two line-of-sight IR sensors, one in the front and one at the rear, providing controls from in front of or behind the projector.

The buttons on the remote control were easy to use with all the expected functionality. Key buttons such as “aspect” made it easy to switch the aspect ratio of the projected image without having to hunt through menus. The “digital zoom” button made it quick and easy to zoom in on a portion of an image.

For more elaborate or “remote” controlling of the video projector, there are two downloadable applications called the Virtual Remote Tool and the PC Control Utility Pro 4. These applications provide projector control via the VGA port or the LAN, and put the full control of the project on your desktop.

Earth and Wallet Friendly

Some of the most impressive capabilities of the PE series are its energy savings and environmentally conscious aspects. The most basic power-saving feature is the ability to set a power-saving standby mode. In this mode, the projector consumes a meager .5W, compared with the normal 12W. Lamp life can be extended significantly more in “eco mode.” When this setting is enabled, the lamp life is extended from an estimated 2,500 hours to 3,300 hours, reducing replacements during the life of the projector, and reducing the need for processing hazardous materials in the lamp recycling process. Furthermore, from an IT spend perspective, this makes the projector an attractive option when considering the total cost of ownership.

On top of the impressive features and capabilities of the PE401H is the price. At $1,999, the projector is very affordable for corporate use in small/medium conference rooms, training rooms, the house of worship industry, and certainly well-suited for the school environment.

Conclusion

The NEC PE401H is a projector built with function, simplicity, and scalability in mind. The projector promises much in the way of essential capabilities relevant to today’s applications and tomorrow’s stringent ecological standards, without commanding a premium price tag. I liked the simplicity of operation combined with the performance of this projector.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Pros: great features, great contrast, simple to use, lightweight and affordable

Cons: Would be nice if it had a HDBaseT connector

Applications: Small and medium-size conference rooms and classrooms, or for portable applications.

Price: $1,995

SPECIFICATIONS

Brightness: 4000 ANSI lumens

Contrast: 2000:1 full on/off

Native resolution: S1080p 1920x1080

Display technology: .65” DLP by Texas Instruments with BrilliantColor

Light source: 330W AC

Lamp life: 2500 hours / 3300 hours in ECO Mode

Lens: F=2.41 to 2.55, f=21.93 to 24mm; manual focus, manual zoom (1.1:1)

Projection distance: 3.9 to 43.3 ft.

Screen size: 40-200 diagonal inches

Keystone: ±40° vertical

Speakers 8Watt stereo

Dimensions (H×W×D): 4.1”x13.8”x11”

Weight: 9.9lbs.

Warranty: 3 years parts and labor, 1 year or 500 hours for the lamp

Christopher Maione, CTS-D, is president of Christopher Maione Associates, a firm specializing in all aspects of AV business, technologies, emerging trends, and marketing strategy. An industry guru and resource, Maione strongly supports the strengthening of the AV industry by continually setting benchmarks for improving the quality of the products and services AV manufacturers and professionals deliver. With his global experience in AV/IT and architecture, he is an often sought after speaker for industry events and a frequent contributor to various industry trade publications. Serving as an InfoComm Adjunct Faculty member, as well as on several standards committees, he continues to promote the betterment of the AV industry through his extensive involvement. Reach him at: cmaione@chrismaione.com



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