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NEC Multeos M40-AV

Aug 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jeff Sauer

New multifunction LCD panel serves a broad range of uses and users.


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More often than not, flatpanel display manufacturers (as well as projector and camcorder makers, for that matter) release multiple versions of virtually the same product in an attempt to target specific markets. For example, pro AV flatpanels often tend to have different inputs and different external design than consumer TVs. Yet, those can often be false distinctions that serve the company's internal professional and consumer divisions, and their respective distribution channels, more than real qualitative product differences.

The trouble is that the panel going into a conference room may actually need good quality video and the ability to connect to standard video playback devices such as DVD players, rather than just data inputs. Or a pro AV installer may want a TV tuner on a panel that's destined for a hotel lobby or lounge, without the look of a living room set. That can make choosing the right panel, if not acquiring it through familiar channels, more onerous than it should be. NEC, a company not encumbered by internal consumer and pro divisions, has introduced the new Multeos line of multifunction LCD panels that is designed to bridge that gap and serve a broad range of uses and users. And that makes the Multeos a nice fit for the professional installer community, whether serving residential, commercial, or both.

NEC still appreciates the different potential needs of pro AV integrators, but it uses a modular design to allow for each of those features as needed at the best price. The first Multeos in the line are 40in. and 46in. LCD panels that are each available in three configurations: AV, AVT, and IT. All three configurations use the same panel and bezel design, with the same native 1920×1080 native resolution, but each has slightly different connectivity options.

The M40-AV ($3,299) that I tested and the M46-AV ($4,499) feature a full array of inputs, including 15-pin VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, 5xRGB input and loop-through, 3xRCA component video, S-Video, and composite, as well as an audio amplifier. The AVT options of both panels ($3,599 and $4,799) add an ATSC HDTV tuner, for watching anything from soap operas at home to cable business news in a conference room or public display location. The IT versions ($2,999 and $4,299) eliminate all connection ports except 15-pin VGA, 5xBNC RGB, and DVI-D, thereby saving multipanel commercial installations several hundreds of dollars.

More intriguingly, NEC has also endowed each Multeos panel with an empty expansion slot. That might sound like a bit of nothing, but it does offer the AV integrator some hypothetically interesting options. For example, NEC is already working with a partner to develop an internal computer module for this expansion slot that could become a built-in digital signage, presentation, or kiosk player, or enable TCP/IP connectivity and control. NEC is working with a partner on an HD-SDI expansion option for the broadcast industry. Pioneer Electronics has had a similar expansion slot on its line of pro AV plasma screens for several years, and it has resulted in similar options, as well as several other connectivity additions, including wireless. Ultimately, the expansion slot affords a potential element of customization and future-proofing.

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE

While the expansion-slot possibilities are thought provoking, there are already some smart features built into the Multeos that should make it appealing to installers as it is. For example, NEC has included (from earlier plasma models) native support for a multipanel matrix of up to 5×5 panels. Simple onscreen menus allow you to assign each panel a matrix ID and configure each to display a specific section of the complete image. Smartly, the handheld remote can control up to 26 panels, both simultaneously (as would be the case with any remote pointed at more than one of the same panels) and individually by assigning each panel a separate Remote Control ID code. And, the Multeos all have built-in individual color phase shift to adjust (manually or automatically) for long cable run signal errors.

The Multeos also has an internal scheduling feature that allows you to configure power up and power down times for every day of the week — a potential boon for a shopping mall, for example, with a few dozen panels hung through the facility.

There are also nice practical features, such as two sturdy handles on the rear for physically moving and hanging the panel. The unit I tested came with an unassumingly elegant bezel that was silver on the top and bottom, and black on the sides, but the Multeos also come with all black bezels. And, there are no button controls visible from the front of the panel. Instead, the obligatory manual power and menu access buttons are tucked way under the bottom bezel with little more than barely visible symbols on that bottom bezel alluding to their existence. That begets uninterrupted and smooth design lines and also removes a potential tampering incentive for public space passersby. Naturally, the Multeos supports a picture-in-picture mode.

WHAT DOES MEET THE EYE?

All of the Multeos configuration options are certainly appealing, but it's the picture quality that really makes them impressive, particularly for an LCD panel. Sure, the 1920×1080 native resolution is terrific for data inputs with text and graphics, but I was very impressed by the image quality of video. Image quality was very good from high-definition sources, where you might expect sharp, artifact-free images, but also from standard-definition video and even from lesser-quality video inputs (S-Video and composite). NEC has done a very good job of eliminating the blotchiness and the color shortcomings that are typical of more modest LCD panels.

By the numbers, NEC pegs the brightness of the Multeos at 450cd/m2, and I was actually able to measure that and a little bit more (459cd/m2 ), but only with brightness cranked all the way up. When properly configured against a pluge for a better image, I measured brightness down around 388cd/m2, with a brightness uniformity in the average range of 81 percent to 84 percent, depending on specific brightness and contrast settings. My contrast numbers didn't come anywhere close to NEC's 1000:1, but rather at a more ordinary 432:1. On the other hand, the grayscale curve was nice and smooth, with very little crunching toward black or white (there is a specific gamma adjustment if you need more artificial contrast). I did notice some minor scaling artifacts, although more with data inputs than video, and only with 1×1 pixel patterns.

NEC colors are very good, particularly red and blue, which are spot on the RGB reference triangle in my tests. Green is a bit outside and toward blue, which pushes cyan and magenta in that direction as well. Color temperature is very solid above about 30 IRE, but it swings well toward blue below 30 IRE.

Yet, overall, the picture quality is remarkably good and free of typical LCD artifacts, with color that's visually appealing for either entertainment or public display needs. That, combined with a number of helpful installation features and an external design that will yield great placement flexibility, should make the new Multeos a compromise-free multifunctional panel.


PRODUCT SUMMARY

Company: NEC
www.nec.com

Product: Multeos M40-AV

Pro: Excellent image quality, particularly for LCD, elegantly unassuming design, multifunction support.

Con: Modest contrast.

Price: $3,299


SPECIFICATIONS

Display type: Active Matrix LCD

Diagonal screen size: 40in.

Native resolution: 1920×1080

Aspect ratio: 16:9

Brightness: 450cd/m2

Contrast ratio: 1000:1

Pixel pitch: 0.461mm

Inputs: DVI, 15-pin RGB, 5xBNC RGB, 3xRCA component, S-Video, composite

Viewing angle: 178 degrees side-to-side and up-down

Speakers: External jack 15W+15W

Dimensions (H×W×D): 22.9"×37.9"×5.6"

Weight: 71.9lbs.

Warranty: 3 years, parts and labor



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