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Easy Does It

NEC’s MultiSync VT540 Projector

David English

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Summary: 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 can’t have too large a hard drive, you can’t manufacture electronic products that are too easy to use. While I don’t 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. That’s 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, it’s billing the VT series as suitable for both travel and fixed installations.

NEC’s MultiSync VT540 ProjectorPeople’s Choice
Despite the all-things-to-all-people hype, in the end, NEC really does have it right—the VT540 is a good all-purpose projector. It’s light enough to be transported fairly easily, and powerful enough to brightly light up the screen in most venues. The unit’s 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 doesn’t 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 remote’s 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 lamp’s power consumption from 160 watts to 130 watts, extending its life to 3,000 hours, from the standard 2,000.

Despite the hype, NEC really does have it right—the VT540 is a good all-purpose projector. It’s 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 it’s plugged into an active power outlet, and power itself off if there’s 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 HDTV standards.

When Do You Need It?
NEC’s 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 you’re 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. It’s not a perfect projector—we 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 that’s appropriate for just about anyone.

For information about NEC Technologies, click on InfoLink and enter the appropriate number.
NEC Technologies
Phone: 630-467-5000
Web site:
Enter InfoLink number 206


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