NEC NP216 Color & Picture Quality
Starting with my laptop connected via the analog VGA connection and fed its native resolution (1024 x 768), the NP216 provided a sharp, detailed picture. Overall the picture quality of the NEC NP216 is quite good, without noticeable artifacts sometimes associated with DLP projectors.
In High Bright mode, colors displayed the dark reds and mustardy yellows we’re used to seeing in DLP projectors in this price range. If color purity is important in your presentation, we would recommend using one of the lower output settings. Dropping down into Presentation mode improves the color noticeably over High Bright, happily without losing too many lumens. Unless the extra 300-plus lumens of High Bright are important, Presentation mode will result in greater color depth and more natural skin tones. Even better still is Video or Movie mode, but these both represent more than a 50% drop in output from Presentation mode.
Photo presentations looked quite nice with the NP216 in Presentation mode. The depth of color still falls short of some of the better LCD projectors we’ve reviewed, but it’s still more than sufficient for the NP216’s likely use. As mentioned in the Setup and Menu section of this review, there are a number of adjustments available to improve the picture quality. If you need to increase the contrast of your presentation, the gamma control will allow you to keep blacks from looking gray and vice versa.
NEC NP216 Readability
The NP216 provided a very sharp, clean image with a variety of source material. Bringing up our usual spreadsheet with a range of text sizes and colors, small (8 pt.) text was still readable on a 50” diagonal projected image. This sharp readability continued with white text-on-black and yellow text-on-dark blue backgrounds as well.
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With higher resolutions, the NP216 was still readable with the 8 pt. text, though just barely and we began to see some color fringing, especially with the yellow text/blue background combination. The NP216 also was at home with resolutions higher than its default 1024 x 768. Switching to 1600 x 1200 and then 1600 x 900, to test its ability to scale and resize these resolutions, the NP216 handled the text spreadsheet almost as well as it did at its native resolution. While some projectors have difficulty accurately displaying the different colored text/background combinations in the spreadsheet, the NP216 handled the higher-than-native resolutions quite well. As combining a higher resolution with a different aspect ratio can play havoc with the projector’s compression circuitry, this was very good performance. At either resolution, text sizes of 12 pt. and up were still quite readable. It should be noted that we really only use the 8 pt. text to stretch the projectors scaling ability to the limits. In just about any real presentation, it is unlikely that there would be any text that small and even 12 pt. text would be pushing it. As we’ve noticed in recent reviews, compression and scaling technology has been much better in the lower cost projectors than it was just a few years ago, resulting in acceptable display of non-standard resolutions and aspect ratios.
Overall, with the text sizes that would most likely be used in presentations, the NEC NP216 did quite well maintaining readability at any of the supported resolutions we tested.
NEC NP216 Video Performance
To check out the NP216’s video performance, I used the DVD playback from my laptop computer, connected via VGA. While the NP216’s 2000:1 contrast ratio would be considered low among home theater projectors, it is a very good ratio for a multimedia projector, especially one this bright. Using Movie mode and with gamma set for black detail and Dynamic Contrast on to maximize the contrast ratio, the NP216 displayed decent blacks and shadow detail, particularly for a projector that was still putting out over 1000 lumens. This makes it very usable in less than a totally dark room. Watching a few of my favorite DVDs, skin tones looked quite natural and the overall color balance was good. DLP “rainbow” effect was at a minimum and motion artifacts were minimal.
Overall, the NEC NP216 projector did a solid job with video reproduction. While its black levels and contrast ratio may fall short in comparison with similarly priced home theater projectors, the NP 216 is not designed for that reason. For video viewing in an average lit room, the high brightness of the NP216 in Presentation mode still provides for a highly watchable, colorful image, making it a good choice in the classroom or conference room for most video presentations.
Unlike some of the competition, the NP216’s 7-watt amplified speaker has enough power to create an acceptable volume level for most classrooms and even some conference rooms, making it possible to use it for video presentations with audio, without adding a powered speaker system.