Highly automated 8.6-pound XGA projector with 1,000 ANSI lumens
Target Users: Presentation professionals
Platforms: Windows 95/98/NT; Macintosh
You probably know
the KISS principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well, just as you cant
have too large a hard drive, you cant manufacture electronic products
that are too easy to use. While I dont usually think of projectors
as complicated, people who have never used one may find the controls and
options intimidating. Creating a projector as easy-to-use as a telephone,
without making it less powerful or feature-rich, is a worthy goal. Thats
the challenge NEC undertook with its new 8.6-pound MultiSync VT540 projector
($6,495), and, on the whole, the company succeeded.
The VT540 has two Auto Adjust features. The first, AutoSense, sets up
the projector and analyzes the image source. In just three seconds, it
reads the incoming signal, locks onto it, optimizes it, and displays the
image. The second, AccuBlend, adjusts the image size and blends the pixels
to more accurately display non-native resolutions. Beginners aside, both
automatic features work well enough that professionals would benefit from
their use. Nevertheless, NEC has added a convenient single setting that
optionally disengages all the automatic features. This allows manual setting
of the horizontal position, vertical position, clock, phase, and resolution.
Despite its relatively low weight, the VT540 has respectable credentials.
It has a native XGA (1,028 x 768) resolution and a brightness rating of
1,000 ANSI lumens. It uses a single 0.9 polySilicon TFT LCD panel for
a contrast ratio of 300:1 and provides a color palette of 16.7 million
colors. NEC is positioning the VT series projectors between its 5.5- to
5.7-pound Go series with 700 to 800 ANSI lumens and its 13- to 16-pound
MT series with 1,300 to 2,000 ANSI lumens. A similar model, the MultiSync
VT440 ($4,495), has a native S-VGA (800 x 600) resolution and a brightness
rating of 1,100 ANSI lumens. Since the company previously associated the
Go series with road use and the MT series with the conference room, its
billing the VT series as suitable for both travel and fixed installations.
Despite the all-things-to-all-people hype, in the end, NEC really does
have it rightthe VT540 is a good all-purpose projector. Its
light enough to be transported fairly easily, and powerful enough to brightly
light up the screen in most venues. The units sturdy construction,
box-like shape (9.57-inches wide, 4.0-inches high, and 11.2-inches deep)
and recessed handle make it suitable for frequent trips. Nice touches
include a built-in slot for the credit-card-sized remote control (press
a button, and it pops out), and a tether for the lens cap. A Kensington
security slot lets you secure the projector to a table or podium.
While it doesnt offer a remote-controlled zoom or focus (probably
a cost-cutting measure), the manual zoom (35.8 mm to 43 mm) and focus
rings are easy to locate and adjust. Almost every other function can be
accessed through the remotes 14 buttons, including the 4X digital
zoom, onscreen pointer, mute (for both picture and sound), and auto adjust.
The on-screen menu system also has many powerful options. You can set
the gamma for: a normally lit room; better flesh tones in a darkened room;
or true reproduction of middle tones in a darkened room. Four different
aspect ratios (normal, zoom, wide zoom, and cinema) are available for
both 4:3 and 16:9, allowing you to stretch the image in two or four directions,
thus accommodating a wide range of video materials. A slide-bar control
lets you adjust the color temperature from a bluish tint to a reddish
tint. Lastly, an eco-mode lowers the lamps power consumption from
160 watts to 130 watts, extending its life to 3,000 hours, from the standard
the hype, NEC really does have it rightthe VT540 is a good
all-purpose projector. Its powerful enough to light up screens
in most venues and light enough to be transported easily.
Compared with other
projectors of this size and price, the VT540 has an unusual number of
manual and automatic settings. There are three levels of video noise reduction,
three color matrix settings suited for different types of component video
signals, a six-band white balance control, and four projector orientations
(front floor, rear ceiling, rear floor, and front ceiling projection).
You can even set the projector to automatically power itself on whenever
its plugged into an active power outlet, and power itself off if
theres no RGB input for five minutes.
The number of AV inputs and outputs is much less generous. Two VGA connectors
are included: an RGB input for a computer signal, and an RGB output for
an external monitor. A single RCA connector is provided for the audio
input, which routes through the 1-watt monophonic amplifier and speaker.
A single RCA connector handles the only audio output. A composite video
input, S-Video input, and PC control port round out the remaining connectors.
A pin adapter is supplied for connecting older Macintosh computers to
the RGB input, and an optional 15-pin-to-RCA-x-3 cable can connect devices
with component video outputs, such as a DVD player. When the component
video cable is used, the projector supports the 1,080I, 720P and 480P
When Do You Need It?
NECs warranty for the VT540 is especially strong. The two-year warranty
includes a 24-hour replacement and delivery service to and from the customer
in both the United States and Canada, or a 72-hour repair and return service.
When time is critical, you can request a next available flight
replacement option. NEC also allows warranty service when youre
traveling internationally, regardless of where the projector was purchased.
I found the projected images on the MultiSync VT540 to be consistently
bright and sharp with realistic colors. This model compares favorably
with many older fixed-installation projectors. The combination of automatic
features for novices and extensive control settings for experienced presenters
makes it a good projector for corporate departments with employees of
varying skill levels. Its not a perfect projectorwe would
like to see a powered zoom and focus that can be controlled from the remote,
a stereo audio amplifier, and additional inputs and outputs. Overall,
though, the VT540 is an extremely versatile projector thats appropriate
for just about anyone.
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