Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The concept of a "business projector" can cover a lot of ground. Some models are great for displaying text documents, but not as effective for graphics and complex imagery. Some have excellent color and are well suited to photography, but might lack the sharpness for optimum display of detailed material.
The NEC LT380 is one of those rare projectors that performs equally well with text documents, Powerpoint-type slideshows, photography, and graphics. And while it was not designed for primary use as a video projector, the LT380 performs exceptionally well with video as well, particularly standard definition television, 4:3 DVD movies, and video games. Though intended for commercial use, the LT380 can serve double duty as an exciting 4:3 format home entertainment projector.
Specifications. 3000 ANSI lumens, 600:1 contrast, native 4:3 format, 3x 1024x768 resolution LCD panels.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i. Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.20:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 9.8 feet to 11.9 feet.
Lamp Life. 2,000 hours, 3,000 hours in eco-mode.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, one component video, two 15-pin VGA inputs, one VGA output, one DVI-D (HDCP) port, one RCA audio-in, one 1/8" audio in, one 1/8" audio out, one RJ45 LAN port, one USB port, one PC card slot, one RS-232 port.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. Three years.
The LT380's connection panel takes up most of the projector's rear side. Included are connectors for nearly every conceivable input source, ranging from composite video and component video to DVI. With this many options available for connecting sources to the projector, it becomes simple to connect multiple sources rather than switching out connections in mid-presentation.
In addition to the standard methods of connection, the LT380 also comes complete with both wired and wireless networking options. With standard wired RJ45 networking, the projector can not only be remotely controlled, but it can use a networked computer as a source with the use of included software. When using wireless networking, you must connect an optional 802.11g wireless card to the projector's PC card slot. Then, if you have a wireless network (or even just a wireless-enabled computer), the projector can accomplish all of the same tasks as it can when connected to a wired network, without any of the hassle.
With several preset picture modes, the LT380 is easy to adjust, since the preset modes give you a good starting point from which to further improve the projected image. High Brightness and Presentation modes are excellent for the display of text and data. High Brightness features higher lumen output, while Presentation mode delivers better color accuracy. Video and Movie mode are great for video signals, with Movie geared more towards actual film. In sRGB mode, color accuracy is at its best, but white balance still needs a bit of adjustment to reach 6500K. In any case, the various precalibrated profiles will suit a wide variety of video and data presentation needs.
Keystone correction is available on both horizontal and vertical axes. On any projector, keystone adjustment will usually cause a loss of detail. However, on the LT380 the loss is minor. Text documents show the occasional doubled pixels, which gives text a slightly bolded effect. However, with graphics and photography, it is hard to see any change in resolution or clarity. The keystone adjustment range is an impressive =/- 40 degrees on either axis, although you cannot set both horizontal and vertical to their maximum range at the same time. Adjusting one will limit the range of the other. And as always, it is best to simply mount the projector in such a way as to eliminate the need for keystone adjustment altogether. There is also an option to enable auto-keystone, which detects the degree to which the projector is tilted and compensates automatically.
The menu system of the LT380 is laid out in such a way as to minimize screen clutter. Rather than displaying in the center of the screen, the main menu is laid out in a strip along the bottom edge of the screen. Selecting any of the main categories causes the menu to expand, which takes up more screen space - however, pressing "enter" on any adjustment causes it to reappear in a small window on the bottom of the screen. This allows you to change settings and view the results of your adjustments in real-time.
The remote control is vaguely reminiscent of a Star Trek phaser - ergonomically pleasing, with a slight bend in the middle. The laser pointer built-in to the remote complements this comparison, and proves to be a useful tool for highlighting information in presentations. Buttons are laid out in a logical fashion and are easy to find after the first few uses.
The LT380 has power to spare when it comes to lighting up a screen. In presentation mode with the lamp on high brightness, it pumps out 1980 ANSI lumens. With the lamp in eco mode, light output drops to 1460 ANSI lumens, about a 25% decrease. Even when optimized for video use, which entails more emphasis on color balance and less on lumens, the LT380 still produces 1003 ANSI lumens. Furthermore, brightness uniformity was measured at 91%, which is excellent. This makes the LT380 particularly well suited to very large 4:3 display, at diagonal sizes reaching 120" and above.
On the LT380, color is excellent. In sRGB mode, a little adjustment was all it took to get the LT380 to reach near-perfect 6500K. While this is not terribly important for textual data or simple graphics, it is necessary for the accurate display of photography and video. Grayscale tracking is impressive, at a level usually seen only on videophile projectors. We measured from 0 IRE up to 100 IRE all within 300 degrees Kelvin of 6500K, with 20-80 IRE within ten degrees of 6500K and some larger deviations in the 0, 10, 90, and 100 IRE sections. This is top shelf performance for any projector.
As a commercial presentation projector, the LT380 excels in the display of text documents, Powerpoint slideshows, digital photography, and other common presentation items. However, the LT380 is a good candidate as a multipurpose video and home theater projector as well.
600:1 contrast is not much on paper, but in comparisons with a comparable XGA DLP projector, rated at 2500:1, the difference in contrast performance was not as extreme as specifications would imply. Black level is not as deep as it typically is on dedicated home theater models, but it is still sufficient to support a pleasing video image. Shadow detail stands out clearly and cleanly, with no grayscale crushing to be seen.
The LT380's performance with progressive-scan signals is impeccable. Deinterlacing quality is not up to the level of comparably priced home theater units, so if you do plan on using the LT380 with video a progressive-scan DVD player will most likely give you the better picture.
Scaling is also good. When video signals were scaled from 640x480 (standard definition TV) to 1024x768 (the projector's native resolution), fine detail was still clearly visible. High-definition signals, when compressed, retain much of their detail, and 720p in particular looks stellar on the LT380.
The LT380 displays a smooth, film-like image that is well suited for home entertainment. The excellent color performance, smooth image, sharpness and clarity of detail, and good connectivity including DVI combine to make the LT380 particularly suitable for a variety of home entertainment uses. If you want to maintain some ambient light in the room, and if you prefer 4:3 format home theater to optimize the display of classic films, television shows on DVD, many video games, and so on, the LT380 may be just the right solution for you.
All in all, the LT380 proves itself to be a truly multipurpose projector. Not only does it perform admirably with data signals, but it also displays video with nary a hitch. Top-notch color performance makes it a good choice for digital photography display, complex graphics, or video. If you need a projector for both home and the office, the NEC LT380 is flexible enough to fill both roles without compromising on either front. We are happy to give it high ratings in all categories, because it is an excellent example of a projector that excels at everything it was designed to do.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our NEC LT380 projector page.