NEC's mega LCD a video virtuoso from wall to wall

The NEC X551S is a huge 55-inch LCD display that offers brains and beauty for a decent price. It has an incredibly thin bezel of less than an inch, so it can even be stacked with others of its kind without much of an edge to distract viewers between panels.

Setup was relatively easy due to the 55.1 pound display having handles in the back to allow for an easy grip. The metal handles don’t impede wall mounting of the unit and don’t add to the tiny 1.7-inch depth of the panel. We easily guided it into a little footprint stand that must be purchased separately. It’s still a two-person job because of the size of the screen, 49.4 inches by 28.6 inches, but you don’t really need anyone else to get it up and running.

The X551S is a bit more complex than a standard monitor, even when compared to others of its impressive size, with a lot of intelligence built into it. First off,  it has several cooling fans that vent heat from the top of the unit. It also has internal temperature sensors that help drive the cooling system. Because it’s constantly monitoring itself, the X551S can be run 24 hours a day without decreasing the life of the panel, which is constructed with strong, heat-dissipating components.

GCN Lab Reviewers Choice Award 2011 NEC X551S LCD Display

Pros: Perfect in color testing; can display detailed images perfectly; text looks great on screen.
Cons: Unit does not auto-scan for new inputs when powered.
Performance: A+
Ease of Use: A
Features: A
Value: A
Price: $3,799

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A pioneer in plug and play graphics

Another unique feature about the X551S is that while it works great as a stand-alone monitor, it also can be stitched into a 10-unit-by-10-unit video wall with each unit knowing its place in the grid and displaying part of an image. Sadly, we were not able to test this feature as we only had one unit, but the thin bezel is less than an inch on all sides, so we could see where a video wall would look very impressive with not much of a grid to obstruct viewing.

The one odd thing we found was that the X551S did not auto-scan for new inputs when it first turned on. This is not too big a deal, but when we connected the HDMI cable for our testing it just kind of sat there even though no other input was attached. We had to turn the X551S on and quickly hit the input button before it went back off for lack of a signal. It has several connection options, including DisplayPort and VGA. There is even an open pluggable specification slot which is useful for digital signage applications.

Finally, the monitor has a real-time clock that can be tied to rudimentary programming, allowing it to power up at certain times and then turn off at others. You can even tell it when you plan to use it each day, and have it come on and warm up thirty minutes before that so colors are as realistic as they can get.

We let the X551S warm up for an hour before performing the Passmark performance video benchmarks from Passmark Systems. It performed extremely well. In fact, it performed as well as any monitor we’ve ever tested, and that’s surprising given its size. Normally smaller monitors, such as those down around 24 inches or so, do great with video obstacle courses. But larger ones tend to have some flaws. It’s just not easy to have a perfect display at larger sizes, or so we thought before we tested the X551S.

It was able to display true reds, blues and greens. It was also able to accurately render all colors along a 256-step grid, with even 1 percent differences in shades and hues being shown properly with no blending. And it could display single pixels on a large grid with no stretching or other deformities.

Image 'persistence'

The X551S even tested perfectly for both a video monitor that could show movies and a presentation monitor that mostly worked with text. For the movie side, besides accurate colors, the LCD was able to accurately render blocks moving across the screen at 800 pixels per second without any hint of motion or pixels staying on for a bit after the image had passed over. Most displays suffer from this phenomenon, called persistence, to some degree, but amazingly the X551S didn’t have any problems. Given its size, that is very impressive.

Because it did so well at single pixel display, it was probably a foregone conclusion that text would look good on it, not always the case with some displays. However, here every font we tried looked great on the X551S all the way down to six-point Arial over any color background. If your job has a lot of fine print, it will be readable here.

Images are also homogeneous in terms of light levels, which shows that the LED backlight technology works a lot better than the old florescent tubes most LCDs used not that long ago. We recorded 465 lumens in the middle of the display and 395 lumens in the darkest corner, which was the lower right. Given that it takes 100 lumens for the naked eye to have a chance at telling the difference in light level between two images and that at most there was a 70-lumen difference recorded on the X551S, it’s safe to say that pictures and video are going to be displayed at their proper light levels.

For a huge monitor like the X551S, we were willing to accept less-than-great performance, but thankfully, we didn’t have to here. Seeing the X551S perform so well is like watching a heavyweight fighter win a gold medal in sprinting. We’re still a little surprised at the quality. Given the size and accuracy of the display, it more than justifies the $3,799 price tag. If you’re looking for a brilliant display that’s a perfect mix of brains and brawn, you would be hard-pressed to find something better than the X551S. For that, the NEC X551S earns a Reviewer’s Choice designation.

NEC Display Solutions,


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