Conference Room Shootout:
Epson Pro Z8455
But it's not just a one-trick pony. The PX750U's brightest setting puts out more light than any other projector in our WUXGA Conference Room Projector Shootout, and the capability for four-unit stacking can create images of up to 30,000 lumens for large venue installations. Color and contrast are impeccable, and the projector's video performance is spot-on. While a decidedly substandard remote and difficult menu system make the user interface less than friendly, the projector's features and image quality can make the trouble worthwhile.
Video Image quality. Due to the customizable nature of the projector, the PX750U responded well to all the content in the Shootout. High contrast, great shadow detail, accurate color, HQV processing, and a low occurrence of rainbows make the PX750U a highly capable video projector, especially once the lights come down.
Data Image Quality. On the other hand, razor-sharp detail and high light output give the PX750U a strong data image. Even the PX750U's brightest settings have acceptable color, making the projector a powerful performer for graphics-heavy presentations where both brightness and color are important. The PX750U has the best data image quality in the group due to its combination of high contrast, high brightness, and well-saturated, accurate color. None of the other three models can quite match this combination.
Light output. The PX750U is rated at 7500 lumens, but our test sample measured 6770 lumens in Hi-Bright mode using the brightness-optimized color wheel. That's more than any other projector in the Shootout in a usable mode. When you have a large screen and a bright room, that extra power does nothing but help. And of course there's the PX750U's stacking capability, allowing you to link up to four projectors for extremely large images. Hi-Bright mode is not much for color accuracy, though saturation is still strong, which is a rare thing in such a bright projector. For better color performance, the projector's Presentation mode, at 4719 lumens, has much more accurate color than Hi-Bright.
Color brightness. As a result of the way some DLP color wheels operate, many data and presentation projectors using the technology have extremely bright white light output while color appears more subdued and undersaturated. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common one is a color wheel devoting a significant portion of its surface area to either a white segment or secondary colors. As a result, the traditional ANSI lumen output numbers measured on white screens sometimes do not reflect the actual brightness of a projector when it is displaying content with lots of color and detail, such as graphics, photography, video, or even colorful PowerPoint slides. But of the three DLP projectors in the group, the NEC PX750U had the best color saturation. In fact, we could not see a significant different in color brightness between the PX750U and the lone LCD competitor in the group, the Epson Pro Z8455. While the PX750U's Hi-Bright mode doesn't have very good color accuracy, saturation is not a problem.
Interchangeable color wheels. The PX750U ships with two different color wheels. The installed wheel (RGBCYW) emphasizes brightness over color accuracy, and is better for data and graphics where color saturation is less important than having a supremely bright image. The second wheel (RGBCMY) emphasizes color accuracy and saturation, but lowers light output as a result. For example, the projector's Movie mode measured 2,647 lumens using the brightness-optimized wheel and 2036 lumens with the color-optimized wheel.
Networking. All four of the projectors in our test group have networking capabilities, but the PX750U allows the use of Windows Remote Desktop to control your office computer directly from the projector using a USB mouse and keyboard. There's also a Network Viewer function which lets you view multimedia files from a Windows computer's shared folders over the network. This is far from comprehensive, but it is a nice touch.
Light output. The PX750U is the brightest projector in the shootout in its brightest mode. Hi-Bright mode cranks out 6770 lumens using the brightness-optimized color wheel. Hi-Bright mode emphasizes green, but less so than some other projectors' brightest modes. The next mode down, Presentation, produces 4719 lumens without any of the green tinge found in Hi-Bright. Color temperature is consistent and measures in the 7400K range, making it useful in ambient light (which tends to be yellow). Movie mode measures 2647 lumens using the brightness-optimized wheel and 2036 using the color-optimized wheel. Both can be calibrated to 6500K, though the color-optimized wheel appears more natural and higher in saturation.
Eco mode reduces light output by 24%, bringing Hi-Bright mode to 5125 lumens. For the more economy-minded out there, using single-lamp mode will of course reduce light output by 50% -- assuming two fresh lamps.
Contrast. The PX750U has a good gamma calibration straight from the factory, especially in the Presentation and Theater modes. As a result, shadow detail is excellent, with no crushing in the low end. The result is an image that pops right off the screen, whether you're watching film or video or looking at photographs or spreadsheets.
Color. As Hi-Bright is the projector's "light cannon" mode, we left it alone and instead focused our efforts on Presentation and Movie. Presentation mode starts out measuring around 7400K across the grayscale, which is a touch cool. However, if you do plan to use the projector in ambient light, it is a good idea to leave the blue tint where it is -- it will help cancel out the yellow light that many incandescent lights emit and balance against ambient wash-out. On the other hand, if you do want to calibrate to 6500K, it is not difficult.
Movie mode, on the other hand, averaged around 7600K. This mode is meant for dark-room use, and as such it benefits from a calibration down to 6500K. On our test unit, that looked like this:
From a subjective standpoint, the PX750U has superb saturation. Color never seems weak or anemic, which is a common failing of DLP projectors built for business presentation use. Then again, the PX750U is clearly built to handle anything thrown at it, so its capability in this regard is less surprising.
Sharpness and clarity. In addition to the PX750U's natural sharpness, it has a Detail Enhancement feature that can boost the appearance of fine detail and is especially helpful in film and video. The slider runs from 0-100 and artifacts become apparent if it is raised over 20. Still, the projector is very sharp without any help, so we saw little need to raise sharpness any higher.
Ease of Use. The PX750U is a delight to watch, but it is a headache to set up. The projector's menu system is convoluted and dense -- Byzantine is a good word for it -- making it very difficult to find the option you want. Compounding this problem is a remote control with a large number of very small buttons and poor tactile feedback. What's more, the IR receiver on the projector is not very sensitive, and only "sees" the remote when it is pointed at a very narrow angle. This makes it nearly impossible to set up the projector from the remote without at least a few frustrating moments. For our own calibrations, we ended up using the hardwired control panel more than the remote.
Ease of maintenance. The PX750U's maintenance hatches are all accessed via Philips screws, which are captive. The lamp covers themselves are tethered and contain the lamp cooling fans. However, the user-switchable color wheel is accessed through a small hatch in the top of the projector, and that cover is not tethered -- making it very easy to drop said cover if you're not careful. On the upside, the projector's air filter cover has no screws at all, instead using plastic clips to hold in place.
Audible noise. The PX750U is the loudest projector among the four we tested. The Epson Z8455WU NL is larger, but it has a liquid cooling system while the PX750U relies solely on conventional fans. As a result, it produces the most noise as the fans race to cool the projector's dual 400W lamps. This becomes more of a concern if you plan to install the PX750U in a small or moderate sized conference room rather than a larger one. Since the projector is significantly louder than its competitors, folks seated near it may be distracted by the noise.
Expensive lamp replacements. While the PX750U itself is less expensive than some of its competitors, thanks in part to an included lens, the replacement lamps cost a small fortune. These lamps, rated at 2,000 hours in full-power and 2,500 hours in Eco mode, cost $825 each direct from NEC. That's over $300 more than some of the competition's replacement lamps. In applications with a heavy duty cycle, lamps can become a regular maintenance expense that is worth estimating ahead of time before you make a purchase decision.
The NEC PX750U is built like a battle tank. Like a tank, it is built for function rather than form, and though its square case includes a whole slew of features and capabilities, the main attraction here is the image it puts on screen. The PX750U's video image is excellent and its data image is second to none. However, installing and using the projector are not the easiest tasks, due to a complicated menu system and poor remote control. Loud fans and expensive lamp replacements will place limits on the projector's use and installation, especially in smaller rooms. But if what you're after is a beautiful image, the NEC PX750U delivers.
Special Note: We wish to extend our thanks to ELITE SCREENS for donating the screens we used for the side-by-side comparison evaluations in this shootout, and for the assistance in setting them up. Their contribution to this project was much appreciated.