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NEC LT157 Projector NEC LT157
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600:1 Contrast Ratio
1500 Lumens
Street Price: n/a

NEC's Newest and Brightest Ultra-Portable LT157

Evan Powell, March 28, 2002

The new NEC LT157 is a welcome addition to the products in the super lightweight class. It is a standard XGA-resolution LCD projector that weighs just 4.9 lbs. Despite the small package, Micro Lens Array technology boosts brightness on the 130W lamp to produce a rating of 1500 ANSI lumens--that's a lot of light in a little package. However the most impressive aspect of this unit is that NEC has achieved a 600:1 contrast ratio. The LT157 is indeed visibly higher in contrast than the LT155 that precedes it. Though NEC has achieved contrast of 800:1 on some of its DLP products, this is the highest contrast LCD projector yet released by NEC.

This product is best suited to people who need a mobile presentation projector with particularly good video capability. It has an onboard PC card reader that lets mobile presenters go PC-free if they wish, a feature that substantially reduces the "schlep factor" in hauling equipment and material to a presentation. Though relatively few mobile presenters actually use this feature even when they have it, for many it is a very attractive option to have available.

The LT157's strength in data presentation is its color and contrast, both of which are superb. For graphics and highly saturated colors in PowerPoint presentations, the LT157 is a great solution. However, we found that the unit in testing was unable to maintain a razor sharp focus from edge to edge when detailed data was on the screen. This is not a problem at all with PowerPoint slideshows featuring bullet items and pie charts—the LT157 displays these in bright, rich, fully saturated color with ample resolution for material of this type. It only becomes an issue with more detailed data, as with financial spreadsheets or text documents. With this material on the screen, most of the image is sharp but some portions are noticeably softer in focus.

Also, our sample unit manifested a color inconsistency on the white screen, a shift toward the blue/green on the left and a shift toward the yellow on the right. This is not visible except when displaying white-background material such as spreadsheets or Word documents. For this reason as well as the slight focus problem, we would not recommend the LT157 for those who present a lot of detailed financial or textual material.

The LT157 produces an extremely enjoyable video image from progressive scan DVD or HDTV, and owners will definitely want to use it as a home theater machine. This is the highest contrast LCD projector we've seen except for the (much larger and heavier) Sanyo XP21N and its bigger brothers which deliver just slightly better contrast. The LT157 is certainly the highest contrast microportable LCD projector yet released. Its high contrast produces excellent color saturation and shadow detail. Color accuracy is overall very good, with some weakness in defining various shades of red. There is almost no pixel visibility— the screendoor effect is gone.

The video image is slightly soft, but not radically so. It is something that the casual observer would not notice, but which is apparent to someone who evaluates projectors on a daily basis. Fan noise is moderate, somewhat louder than ideal for a dedicated home theater machine (where admittedly the ideal is total silence), but not nearly as intrusive as many other portables. One quickly becomes unconscious of the fan noise once engrossed in the movie itself.

The LT157 will display video material in any aspect ratio desired, but it does not automatically sense the aspect ratio of the incoming signal. It is therefore necessary to go into the menu to select the desired aspect ratio. And for home theater enthusiasts, this control is buried too deep in the menu. Ideally, the aspect ratio control would be accessed via a button on the remote itself. But this is not really a legitimate complaint--NEC did not design this product to be a dedicated home theater unit. So those who want to use it as such must just accept this as one of the compromises required when using this mobile presentation unit for home theater.

Conclusion

The LT157 is a great dual-purpose projector. It is ideally suited to those who give PowerPoint-type sales presentations on the road, and who want to have an exciting home theater experience with it during off-hours. It represents some compromises in both applications, but we have not yet found a projector that is perfect for every conceivable use.