Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The new NEC NP600S, an XGA resolution short throw projector, offers higher brightness than its 2600 lumen rating, and a sharp image over the entire screen. It can throw a 100" diagonal, 4:3 image from a mere 5 feet and with a crisp edge to edge focus suitable for images filled with text or fine detail. It can also handle full motion video well enough to show movies, and it is small and light enough to move from classroom to classroom with or without a cart. All of this adds up to make the NP600S an impressive value at about $1000 street price.
Short Throw. The NP600S throws a big image from a short distance, which means it can fill a large screen in a small room. It sits close enough to the screen to avoid shadows from someone walking between the projector and the screen. It can throw its minimum diagonal size image of 60 inches from just under 3 feet, a 100-inch image from five feet, and its maximum 110-inch image from 5.4 feet.
Bright Image. Most projectors don't live up to their brightness ratings. The NP600S is one of the few that exceeds its claim. We measured the test unit in High Brightness mode at 2743 lumens, 106% of its 2600 lumen rating. That makes it easily bright enough even at the maximum 110" diagonal image size to stand up to any reasonable classroom lighting conditions.
At its brightest setting, the NP600S may be too bright for comfortable viewing in a darkened room. If so, you can reduce light output by changing modes. Switching the lamp to Eco mode dropped the brightness to 1993 lumens, 73% of the High Brightness mode. You also have the choice of several other presets -- Presentation, Video, Movie, Graphic, and sRGB modes. Brightness levels for these modes with the lamp set to Eco range from 1071 for Video to 1483 for Presentation. Levels with the lamp set to Normal range from 1552 for Video to 2140 for Presentation.
Good Brightness Uniformity. Short-throw projectors tend to have problems with brightness uniformity. However, the NP600S does well on this score, at a measured 75%. That counts as a good score for a short throw projector, and it translates to reasonably consistent brightness across the entire screen.
Beyond the brightness uniformity number, it is ideal when shifts in brightness levels are so gradual that there is no visible variation even on a solid white screen. In this the NP600S excels. The only time we saw any visible variation was with a solid black screen, and even that variation was minor.
Good edge to edge sharpness. Maintaining sharp focus across the entire screen is another common problem for short-throw projectors. Here again, however, the NP600S performs swimmingly. Even small text and details in line drawings maintained crisp edges that made them easy to read. For the very smallest fonts, white text on a black background is a touch easier to read than the conventional black text on a white background, but the difference is minimal, and black on white is also highly readable.
Excellent connectivity. The back panel on the NP600S offers a set of connectors that give you significant connection flexibility. Inputs include DVI-I for digital connections to a computer or video source, a VGA port for RGB or component video, as well as composite and S-video. Each of these inputs is paired with a stereo audio input, using 1/8" miniplugs for the DVI-I and VGA connectors. A pair of RCA phono plug jacks is shared by the S-video and composite video inputs. This lets you plug in up to three sources at once, complete with a separate audio connection for each, and switch between them as needed.
In addition to the inputs, there is a VGA passthrough, so a teacher can see the image on a monitor while facing the class. A stereo miniplug audio output lets you connect to an external audio system. Finally, an RS-232 serial port and an RJ-45 networking port allow for remote control of the projector.
Good Quality Video. Projectors built for high quality data images often don't do a good job on video, but the NP600S does well with both. Video quality is not as good as you'd expect from a home theater projector, but it is surprisingly good for a data projector. The NP600S maintains shadow details far better than most data projectors and handles skin tones well, making it a good choice for showing video in the classroom.
The NP600S did an excellent job of automatically synching with a PC over an analog connection. In our tests, images that tend to show pixel jitter or other artifacts with less than perfect synching were nearly as stable as with a digital connection. Even better, we didn't have to make any manual adjustments to improve on the automatic synching.
Room to Room Portability. The NP600S is a bit large to count as truly portable, but it is easy to move from room to room as needed. At 7.4 lbs, it is light enough to carry by hand, although putting it on a cart and taking advantage of its Kensington lock slot makes more sense in terms of security.
Two year warranty. NEC's two year warranty on the projector itself (the lamp warranty is one year or 500 hours) includes one year of NEC's InstaCare service, which gives you the choice of asking for a next-business-day exchange or a three-business-day repair and return. With the first choice, if you run into a problem that tech support can't fix over the phone, NEC will send a replacement unit for next business day delivery without waiting for you to send in the non-working unit.
If you prefer to have your projector repaired, the three-business day option lets you send it in instead. NEC says it will repair and ship it back within three days of receiving it. Whichever InstaCare choice you make, you pay for shipping to NEC, with NEC picking up the cost for shipping to you. You can extend InstaCare coverage to three years for $99, or four years for $139.
Relatively low volume. Although the NP600S offers good quality audio, the 7-watt speaker doesn't deliver high enough volume to fill a medium- or large-size classroom. The volume is adequate for small classrooms, but for larger rooms you'll want an external sound system.
Remote mouse control not included. The NP600S's remote can control a PC's mouse to let you page through a presentation or use the mouse cursor as a pointer, but, as with most NEC projectors, it doesn't come with the wireless adaptor you need to plug into your computer's USB port before you can use the feature. The adaptor is available as a $45 option.
The NP600S's long list of strengths -- its bright image, short throw, edge-to-edge sharp focus, flexible connection choices, and high quality video -- clearly outweigh its few weaknesses. And even the weak points have easy workarounds. All this adds up to making the NP600S a superb classroom projector, and an exceptional value for the price.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our NEC NP600S projector page.