GCN LAB REVIEW
NEC projector moves to the head of the class
The NP-M260X is a good multipurpose LCD that happens to be perfect for displaying video
- By John Breeden II
- Mar 31, 2011
There is not a piece of technology quite so helpful in an educational setting as a projector. In one form or another, they have been in classrooms for years. In the early days, the king of the classroom was the overhead projector, basically a giant light bulb and lens capable of displaying information from transparencies on top of a glass shield. Once we even tested an electronic transparency sheet designed to add interactivity to that medium.
These days, projectors are a lot more advanced, able to display colored images and movies delivered to them via a variety of inputs, from simple analog video cables to the advanced HDMI.
The NEC NP-M260X is a high-quality LCD projector with an emphasis on value and economy. Getting a good — or any — LCD projector for a government price of $734 would have been unheard of just a few years ago. Yet the NP-M260X performed well in most of our lab tests and could easily drop into any classroom setting.
NEC NP M260X projector
PROS: Perfect for video presentations; very accurate colors; good value.
CONS: No auto-focus; light colors tend to get washed out some.
Ease of use: B+
Government Price: $734
Acer LCD monitor is built for office work
In terms of inputs, the NP-M260X can accept HDMI, S-video and VGA from two different sources and has a USB port so that presentations can be made without attaching it to any computer at all. There is also a separate USB port with a square head, like those used to connect printers, where you can run presentations from a PC via that cable into the NP-M260X.
It has a native display resolution of 1024 by 768 but can scale higher than that if needed. Both the bulb and filter are rated for 6,000 hours of operation, so you could get almost a year of constant operation out of them. Looking at the filter, it looks more like the air filter in a car than the normally flimsy strips inside most projectors. You should not need to clean the filter or change it until the bulb itself needs replacing. And NEC sells the bulbs and filters together. We burned our test unit in for 10 hours before doing any testing.
For raw power, the NP-M260X is rated at 2,600 lumens. In real-world terms, it was able to put 550 lumens of power into the center of a screen 10 feet from the projector. Only 45 lumens were lost from the center to the corners of the screen, which means that the NP-M260X can produce a very uniform image, especially given that it takes about 100 lumens for the naked eye to notice any difference. For this test, brightness and contrast were set to about 80 percent, which is a bit brighter than you probably want to run the NP-M260X in most circumstances. At 550 lumens, you would want to be able to at least dim the lights to get the most out of your screen images, though some ambient light should still be OK.
The NP-M260X was surprisingly accurate when it came to both very fine detail display and color accuracy. For fine details, even single pixels were displayed correctly across a grid in all corners and the middle of a test image. Colors were also highly accurate and displayed very close to their actual appearance. Normally LCDs, and especially ones in the value category, will skew toward one spectrum or another, so you might get accurate blues but poor greens, for instance. But the NP-M260X didn’t do that at all. Every primary color was displayed correctly, and secondary ones were off by less than 5 percent, the normal loss when projecting colors through almost any projector.
Text, which of course is important in an educational setting, looked good down to 12-point type. We’ve seen projectors that can display smaller text more accurately, but really, even 12-point size is a little small for most presentations. And it was readable here in a variety of fonts, though you would not want to go any smaller.
One area where the NP-M260X surprised us was in video display. In the color registration testing, where blinking colored lines are layered over one another to help measure video suitability, the NP-M260X produced no errors at all with either the red/green, blue/green or red/blue tests. We’ve never found zero errors on this test in any projector not specifically designed for video display. And given that the NP-M260X does not skew colors into the blue spectrum, that isn’t the case here. The NP-M260X is just a good multipurpose LCD that happens to be perfect for displaying video.
The one area that the NP-M260X was a little weak was properly displaying very light colors on bright backgrounds. Every projector we test goes through over 25 calibration routines to set it up for optimal viewing before any tests are conducted. When in an optimal display setting, the NP-M260X tends to wash out light images. If a presenter knew he or she was specifically going to need to display these types of images, the projector could be set accordingly by reducing the brightness and contrast settings. However, if it was just being used normally, then the NP-M260X would wash out anything below about a 10 percent gradient over a bright field. It’s just something to keep in mind.
A feature that would have been nice to have on the NP-M260X is an automatic focus. Especially in an educational setting, projectors are moved around or can get bumped out of place, and the addition of an automatic focus could keep images from getting blurry as well as decrease setup times. Perhaps that is too much to expect in a value projector, but it would have been a nice addition.
One extra that the NP-M260X does have is an eco mode, which reduces the brightness automatically by about 20 percent. There is even a carbon footprint counter to show users how much energy was saved by running in eco mode each time the NP-M260X is powered down. All of our testing was conducted with eco mode disabled, but energy-conscious agencies may want to leave it active and claim the savings in their overall conservation plans.
Along those lines, the lens cover, which is a thick plastic model attached to the projector, can actually be used to save energy. When you slide the cover closed, the brightness of NP-M260X is reduced to about 25 percent and audio is disabled. That way, the projector has not totally shut off but is using less energy while it waits for the presentation to resume.
The NP-M260X is a nearly perfect projector for an educational setting. It’s inexpensive, can complete almost all display tasks adequately, and is absolutely perfect for showing movies or other moving pictures. It will advance to the head of your favorite class.
NEC Display Solutions, www.necdisplay.com