LCD-based data projectors, with good color brightness and the absence of rainbow artifacts, tend to deliver better video quality than their DLP counterparts, and the NEC Display Solutions NP-ME401W ($949) is no exception. What’s more, its data image quality is also superb. Add to that a robust sound system and a wide range of connection choices at a reasonable price, and it’s our top projector pick for midsize rooms.
A Large, Brilliant Projector
The off-white and gray NP-ME401W has a WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution. It measures 4.3 by 14.5 by 11.5 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.4 pounds. At that size and weight, it is best suited for room-to-room use on a cart or for permanent installation, although it is portable in a pinch. (It doesn’t come with a case, though.) Its generous 1.7x zoom will give you versatility in how far you can place the projector from the screen. At 4,000 lumens, its rated brightness is lower than the 5,000-lumen Epson PowerLite 1975W WXGA Wireless 3LCD Multimedia Projector, but higher than the 3,200-lumen Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector.
Plenty of Ports
The NP-ME401W has a solid set of connectors, including two HDMI ports, one VGA-in port (which doubles as component video) for connecting to a computer, and one VGA-out port for connecting to a monitor. There are RCA jacks for composite video/audio, one audio-in and one audio-out port, and an Ethernet port to let you control the projector over a network as well as send images and audio. A USB Type A port lets you project from a USB thumb drive and also fits an optional ($67) wireless adapter, and a USB Type B port to mirror a computer’s screen (USB display) or for remote mouse support. Both the previously mentioned Epson models have HDMI ports that support MHL, which isn’t the case with the NP-ME401W’s HDMI ports. (MHL allows for easy wired connectivity with compatible mobile devices.)
A Master of Color and Detail
In our testing, using the DisplayMate suite, the NP-ME401W’s data image quality proved to be very good, and should be fine for most any classroom or business presentation. The projector threw a bright image that stood up well to the introduction of ambient light. Both black text on white, and white text on black, were sharp and easily readable at 7.5 points. Colors looked bright, as is usually the case with LCD projectors—their color brightness matches their white brightness, while DLP projectors have lower color brightness than white brightness. The NP-ME401W’s color balance was reasonably good, with only a trace of spurious color (yellow in light grays, and red or green in dark grays) seen in some grayscale images. As an LCD projector, the NP-ME401W’s images are free of rainbow artifacts—little red-green-blue flashes, which are often seen in the images of DLP-based projectors.
Watch Movies With a Data Projector?
Video quality is above average for a data projector, and suitable for showing long clips or even movies. The video is free of rainbow artifacts, as is the case with all LCD projectors. Its color balance is good, and colors looked bright but not oversaturated.
Like other LCD-based projectors, including the NEC NP-P401W and the Epson 955WH, the NP-ME401W is incapable of showing 3D content. For most users, that’s not a deal-breaker, as 3D is seldom needed in data projection scenarios. If you do need a high-brightness data projector that supports 3D, however, you will want to get a DLP model like the BenQ SW921, which shows fewer rainbow artifacts than usual for a DLP projector.
Audio from the 20-watt speaker is loud enough to fill a midsized-to-large room, and of reasonably good quality. If you want still louder or better-quality sound, you could attach a pair of powered external speakers.
High Brightness, Low Price
There is little not to like about the NEC Display Solutions NP-ME401W. Its data image quality is near-impeccable, its video quality is better than average for a data projector, and its sound system is loud but of good quality. At 4,000 lumens, it’s bright enough to hold its own in a midsize or larger room, and it comes in at a good price for its features and performance. If you regularly project in really big venues, you might want to go with a (pricier) 5,000-lumen model such as the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite 1975W or the BenQ SW921, and for midsize or smaller rooms the 3,200-lumen Epson 955WH should suffice. The NEC NP-ME401W has the brightness, loudness, and image quality to make it ideal as a data projector for midsize classrooms or conference rooms, and earns an Editors’ Choice in that capacity.