|NEC HT1100 DLP Video Projector|
|Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors|
|Written by Michael Levy|
|Tuesday, 01 February 2005|
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Testing Movies and HDTV
I used several movies for reference in my recent review of the NEC 50-inch plasma. Here is a view of how they compared on the NEC HT1100.
In “Star Trek: Insurrection” (Paramount DVD), the opening chapter on the planet, which shows the villagers and children working and playing, jumps out vividly. The image dynamics enhance depth and make the backgrounds even more majestic. Intimate details are there, as are a multitude of hues, accurately and smoothly portrayed. The trees, the grass, the sky and mountains give you that feeling of being out on a beautiful sunny day.
The one-chip DLP projectors I have tested in the past have all exhibited one problem: scenes where deep black was needed were faded because the lowest level of light output was not black, but rather a very dark gray. That is, until I tested this unit. The black level of the NEC HT1100 is better than any projector anywhere near its price. It is at least equal to the black level of film, and much closer to that of a CRT. Movies are supposed to be viewed in darkness, where the true dynamics of a scene come through. The contrast ration of the NEC HT1100 creates a black level improvement over plasma screens, giving you all of the low-level detail. The scenes inside the caves and in outer space on “Insurrection” were cast in velvet black, allowing the feeling of the vast vacuum of space and the hollowness of the caves to come through.
I have high praise for the quality of reproduction of “The Fifth Element” (Sony Home Entertainment) on the NEC 50-inch plasma. The dynamics of plasma displays make it hard for most projectors to compete. This projector is as eye-popping as any plasma, with a darker black level. While the NEC HT1100 has a slightly lower pixel count than the plasma, the difference in detail level was hardly evident, although it could be seen as some minor jittering of very small details. Still, the unique costumes, settings and camera work come across at least as well as the plasma.
In “The Fifth Element,” the NEC did an excellent job defining the detail of shades of blond and red in Milla Jovovich’s hair, and in Chapter 9, where you can see the cracks in the glass just before Jovovich’s character Leeloo breaks it. Chapter 10 can give you acrophobia with its depth of field as she looks down just before jumping off the ledge. The projector surpassed the image quality of the plasma on a much larger screen.
“Seven Years in Tibet” (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) chilled me to the bone in the snowbound scenes. Here, the difference between a 50-inch screen and a 100-inch screen became more palpable. The difference in size gave power to the feeling of cold. The monastery scenes where the priests made their colored sand artworks still jumped out dynamically with color, but due to the size differential, a digital artifact could be seen occasionally when they were in motion.
“Raging Bull” (MGM/UA) is my favorite black-and-white test. The linearity of gray scale and color temperature are much more evident in black and white. The NEC exhibited no color temperature drift or gray scale flaws. It looked smooth and filmlike.
I viewed several movies and a few sporting events in high definition. While they were not quite as smooth as the CRT, and very small images broke down to their component pixels, the images were dazzling at the appropriate viewing distance. Individual floorboards were visible on the Madison Square Garden floor and you could recognize players’ faces in long shots. In “The Last Samurai” (Warner Home Video), individual hairs were clearly seen in Tom Cruise’s beard. Viewed from a distance, most of the digital artifacts were too small to be seen, and the overall effect was one of viewing film.
Unlike most units I have tested, the gray scale was properly displayed, with all levels of gray visible at the factory settings. Also, the color temperature was quite close to 6,500K at that setting. The unit calibrated easily, but I must again point out that the fine adjustments for color temperature are available to the consumer. They should be on a serviceman’s menu and available only with a code. Allowing the user to adjust them only opens the door to discoloring the image.
My light output measurement was done at the reference color temperature of 6500K. Light output has become like horsepower for cars. Most people think the more the better. Because light output has become such a selling tool, manufacturers publish numbers that can only be achieved at the wrong color temperature. I did my tests at 6500K after calibration and in the linear operating range of the projector. Since this is how it should be used, it is the only relevant specification. Under these conditions, the unit measured 530 foot-lamberts in the high bulb mode, and 410 foot-lamberts in the low bulb mode. The truth is, you should match a projector’s light output to the screen’s size and reflectivity. That means that with a screen gain of 1.3, the NEC HT1100 can achieve the reference 10 ft-l on a 10-foot wide screen. I used the projector in the low bulb setting, with the iris slightly closed to match my screen for proper light output.