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NEC NP43 Portable Projector Review

Performance
4
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Mobile Presentation
NEC NP43 Projector NEC NP43
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1600:1 Contrast Ratio
2300 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
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NEC NP43 -- Light and Bright
Portable Office Projector

Marc Davidson, August 7, 2012
ProjectorCentral.com

Introduction

Light-weight portable projectors with standard lamps, like the NEC NP43, aren't as impressively light as LED-based sub-three pound projectors, but they offer a lot brighter image. The NP43, for one, lives up to its 2300 lumen rating while weighing only about a pound more than a typical 500-lumen LED model. Beyond that, it offers a high quality data image and some welcome conveniences for portable use.

In most ways, the NP43 sticks to the basics. It's built around a 1024x768 DLP chip and skips some features that are rapidly becoming all but standard. In particular, it lacks an HDMI port, which limits it to analog connections, and it isn't 3D ready. However it goes beyond the basics in other ways, with a 1.2x zoom, auto keystone, and, most notably, auto focus.

What these extras have in common is that they all enhance the NP43's portability by making setup easy. Simply connect the power cord and cables, turn the projector on, and adjust the image size with the zoom control. In my tests, the auto sync worked well enough so I couldn't improve on it with manual adjustments, and the auto keystone and auto focus took care of everything else. For anyone who needs a bright, portable projector as a traveling companion, the NP43's combination of weight, brightness, image quality, and easy setup makes it a strong contender, fully worth the $899 street price.

Strong Points

Excellent data image quality. The NP43 scores well on data image quality. Colors were well saturated in our tests and most were suitably vibrant in all color presets, although yellow was a touch mustard-colored in the two brightest modes and red was a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness model. However, neither color was off by enough to count as a problem for most purposes. Color balance was excellent, with suitably neutral grays at an assortment of gray levels in all color modes.

More important for most data screens is that both black on white and white on black text was crisp and highly readable at sizes as small as 7 points. Also worth mention is that auto sync not only worked well enough in my tests so I couldn't improve on it with manual adjustments, but the image was all but rock solid. I saw some exceedingly minor pixel jitter, but only in images that tend to cause the problem. Most screens won't show any jitter at all, and for those that do, most people shouldn't find it bothersome.

Highly portable. Although the NP43 is bigger and heavier than any number of lower brightness LED-portable projectors, it's small and light for a projector with a traditional lamp. At 2.8" x 9.7" x 7.2" (HWD) and just 3.7 pounds, it's light enough to carry with you on a regular basis, and it comes with a soft carrying case with enough room for the projector and all the cables you need. One trick the projector misses, however, is a USB A port that would let it read files from a USB memory key, and let you give presentations without having to carry a computer.

Easy to set up. As already mentioned, the NP43 makes setup quick and easy. The combination of auto focus, auto keystone, and auto sync, none of which need manual adjustments, leaves little to do beyond connecting a power cord and cable, turning the projector on, and pointing it at whatever you're using for a screen. Even better, the 1.2x zoom lets you adjust image size without moving the projector.

Test Results and Connectivity

As bright as promised. Unlike most projectors, the NEC NP43 delivers the brightness it promises. I measured it in High Bright mode at 2324 lumens, essentially matching the 2300 lumen rating, and easily bright enough for the 98" diagonal image I used in my tests to stand up to typical ambient light in a conference room.

You can also drop the brightness significantly for smaller screen sizes or lower ambient light levels. The five other presents came in at a range of 750 lumens for sRGB mode to 1978 lumens for Presentation mode. In addition, Eco mode dropped the brightness by just under 20% in my tests, to 1889 lumens with High Bright mode.

Good brightness uniformity. The projector also did a good job maintaining uniform brightness across the screen. I measured the uniformity at 82%, which counts as a good score. Just as important, the brightest and dimmest areas were far enough apart, and shaded gradually enough from one to the other, that I couldn't see any difference, even with a solid white screen.

Minimal connectivity. The back panel on the NP43 is as bare as Mother Hubbard's cupboard by today's standards, with just five connectors: a VGA port for a computer or component video, both composite video and S-Video ports, a miniplug for stereo audio input, and a Mini DIN serial port for controlling the projector from an external device (something you're not likely to take advantage of if you use the projector as a portable).

Limitations

Unimpressive video quality. The NP43's 1024x768 resolution puts obvious limits on video quality. The connector you'll likely use with most video sources is the composite video port, which limits you to standard definition 480i. The VGA port will accept resolutions up to 1080i, but you'll have to get an adaptor that is not supplied with the projector. That might be worthwhile if you use a source with component video output regularly, but if you really care about high quality video, you should be looking at projectors with a higher native resolution to begin with.

Other than low resolution, video quality is a mixed bag. The contrast ratio is surprisingly good for a data projector, with relatively dark blacks and well saturated color with most source material in my tests. In some clips, however, color was a little oversaturated, making it a look harsh rather than rich. The projector also did a reasonably good job with shadow detail, handling most scenes well and showing only minor to moderate loss on the most challenging test clips.

The one real issue for video is that the NP43 shows rainbows in video very easily. If you're concerned that someone in your audience may be sensitive to seeing rainbow artifacts, you'll want to limit video to short clips if you use it at all.

Low volume audio. Few light-weight projectors offer an audio system worth having, but the NP43 may set a new low on this score. At full volume, I could hear spoken dialog well enough at two feet from the 0.3-watt speaker, but not from much farther than that. Also note that the fan noise is noticeable enough -- at a rated 37 dB with Eco off and 32 dB with Eco on -- to make the low volume that much more of an issue. If you need audio, plan on using an external sound system. And if you're sensitive to fan noise, you may find it bothersome in any case if you sit within a few of feet of the projector.

Shows rainbow artifacts relatively easily. The NP43 showed rainbow artifacts on data screens a little more easily in my tests than most recent DLP models, but still infrequently enough that even those who see the rainbows easily aren't likely to be annoyed by them. With video, however, the rainbows show far more often.

No 3D. The 3D support in most data projectors is so limited that you may not consider the NP43's lack of 3D significant. Even so, with 3D so widely available on DLP projectors, it's worth noting that the NP43 leaves it out.

Conclusion

The NP43 is a potentially appealing choice for anyone who needs to bring a projector along on a regular basis. The low weight makes it easy to carry, while the auto focus, auto keystone, auto sync, and 1.2x zoom make it easy to set up.

Usability for video is limited, but if you need good quality video, you should be looking at projectors with a higher native resolution than 1024x768 in any case. Arguably more of an issue is the meager choice of connection options, with no HDMI port and no USB A port to let you read files from a USB memory key. Minimalist as the choices are, however, the NP43 has all the connectors you absolutely must have.

Very much on the plus side is the good data image quality and brightness suitable for a reasonably large image with typical office lighting. If you need a regular traveling companion for presentations on the road, the overall balance of data image quality, brightness, low weight, and easy setup makes the NP43 a more than attractive choice for the price.


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(05/19/19 - 04:18 PM PST)
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