Projector Reviews

NEC NP-L102W LED Projector Review – Performance

NEC NP-L102W LED PROJECTOR – PERFORMANCE:  Brightness including the effect of Eco mode, Sharpness, Audible Noise, Image Noise

NP-L102W Brightness in Different Modes, Eco levels

NEC NP-L102W Brightness in Lumens
Picture Mode Lumens
High Bright 948
Video 696
Presentation 701
Movie 553
sRGB 559
Blackboard 722
Color Extend 555

I am dazzled, impressed, NEC has boldly gone where almost no LED projectors have gone before:  That is, they are actually selling a projector that produces about as many lumens as they claim.  Over the last five years, I’ve found that most solid state light engine based projectors end up measuring down 25 to 50% from their claims.  There have been a few that have done a lot better.  A very expensive Sony Laser projector measured in at only down about 14%, which was great, compared to most.

I am pleased to report that this NEC projector measured just 5% below claim, and that worked out to 948 lumens.

Of course brightest mode on projectors are usually significantly inferior to some less bright modes, so few people use a “Dynamic” or “High-Bright” mode, unless the lighting in the room is impossible.

But the NEC did rather well, in some good looking modes, notably Presentation and Video where it still measured 700 lumens.   In our recent look at 5 LED projectors that were included in our education report, not one managed much over 500 lumens with decent color, despite there being two, I think, projectors claiming 1000 lumens.

Again:  Kudos to NEC for delivering pretty much what they claimed.

700 good looking lumens is a serious amount.  Since the kind of presentations and use that someone would want a particularly small and light projector for, will be conference rooms etc., not auditoriums, 700 lumens can go a long way.

With some control of room lighting (like being able to kill off half of the fluorescents in a conference room, this projector should be capable of a nice job on 60″ and even 80″ diagonal screens.

Just remember – the lamp based competition, is going to be heavier, and bulkier, but will produce 2000-30000 lumens with the quality  of this projector doing 950.

Still, I have always believed that once we got much above 1000 lumens, the road warrior, the person who needs to sometimes carry a projector, would start focusing on reduced size and weight, instead of more lumens.  By that notion, this NEC is right on target.

Eco mode:  As you can see from the chart above, Eco mode drops brightness about 28%.  That’s still going to leave just about 500 good looking lumens, or 700 bright, but not pretty ones.  In exchange for the lower output, you get a quieter projector.

Use eco-mode if you are in a small room.  As far as the dollars go, Eco mode will reduce  the amount of juice needed, but this projector is already sipping watts.  It draws about 110 watts at full power, while most lamp based projectors draw from over 200, to 350 watts.

Sharpness

I’m spoiled.  Other than an occasional LED projector like the NP-L102W, or a review of a low end gaming projector, most of what I review is 1080p, or WUXGA.

So, when I start looking at the NEC, my first reaction, is “the image is soft”.  And that’s a logical first thought – after all, those higher resolution projectors have roughly 2.25 times the pixels, which translates directly to sharpness.

But, let’s keep perspective.  The business world and the education market are dominated by WXGA  projectors which is the resolution we are looking at here, and if they don’t have that res, they are probably slightly lower XGA.

K-12 schools are just now starting to buy WXGA, most have XGA or lower still such as WVGA, from years back.

In the business world, you are hard pressed to even find a 1080p or WUXGA projector under 6 or 7 pounds and several times the bulk.  The first small one that comes to mind is the 4.8 pound LG PF85U that I just reviewed, but it’s targeting the home market, and lacks a business oriented media player, etc.  It too claims 1000 lumens but maxed out at only 686 lumens, and had only 500 good looking lumens compared to the NEC’s 700…

But back to sharpness.  In the player above I not only have our spreadsheet test chart with type sizes (both black on white background and color on black or blue), but also some browser photos of web pages, and a word document.  Above you’ll see those full images, but also a close up of the text of each.

I would say this:  Sure, 1080p / WUXGA would be sharper, but when you are sitting around a conference table, etc., with typical screen sizes, only the folks up front, closest to the screen are going to be able to read 10 and 12 point type, no matter how high a resolution the projector.  If you are 15 feet back from a typical 5 or 6 foot screen, reading 10 points probably requires binoculars.

So, all considered, the NEC is reasonably sharp for a WXGA projector.  The fixed lens optics seem reasonable, but not by any means exceptional.  There’s more softening from center to corner, than one often finds in larger lamp based projectors, but then, consider that the NEC needed a very lightweight and tiny lens.

I think a business person on the road, doing an important presentation to a half dozen or even 20 people,  in a conference room on a typical sized screen,  will not have an issue at all with the sharpness of the L102W.  Nor will the audience!  Most likely they – the audience will be impressed, especially if they’ve been serenaded in their conference room, by others touting less powerful pocket projectors!

NP-L102W Projector - Audible noise

Not bad.  Compact LED projectors tend to be loud, due to fast running fans.  Worse, the fan noise tends to be higher pitched than larger projectors.  This NEC won’t win any awards for quiet, but it isn’t bad at all.  Even in a small conference room, where the fan noise will be rather obvious, you won’t have to shout over it.   And if the room is that small, likely your projected image will be too, so eco mode would work fine.  I mentioned the LG PF85U above.   That projector in its brightest mode screams!  By comparison, this NEC is mild mannered.

NEC does not publish a audible noise rating, but if I had to take a guess, I’d put it in the 37-40 db range.  Noisy home projectors (lamp based) are almost always under 33 db, and many are under 28 in brightest mode.   If my estimate is correct, it’s not very different than the average sub $1000 lamp based projector, except that the fan noise is a lot higher pitched, and that makes it definitely a lot more noticeable.

Overall conclusion about the audible noise, definitely acceptable, especially for a compact LED projector.

Image Noise

No real issues in terms of image noise.  Overall background levels on fixed images are very respectable, and possibly, due to the light source differences, less noticeable than  lamp based DLP projectors.

Video clips were fine both presentation types and even running one of our Projector Reviews TV movies

And there were no issues to report even hooked up to my Sony PS3 and watching part of Hunger Games:  Catching Fire.  The color wasn’t up to Home theater standards, but, then, that wasn’t expected.  It certainly was very watchable, with no noticeable artifacts.  If anything, there was less background image noise than even on most DLP based home entertainment projectors using lamps!