Projector Reviews

NEC P502WL Projector Review – Picture & Sound Quality

NEC P520WL Projector – Picture & Sound Quality:  Picture Modes, Video Quality, Text Readability, Sound Quality

Picture Mode

The above screen shots are intended to give only a rough idea of the color accuracy for each picture mode.  However, when viewed in person the color accuracy will generally look somewhat better than shown in these photos.  The following observations were generally made with the projector using its factory default picture settings.

High-Bright Picture Mode:  This is the brightest but least accurate picture mode.  When displaying the shades of grey the color temp is fairly uniform and with an overall moderate green tint.  However, this mode had “pumped-up” whites and light shades, but more saturated colors appear far too dark by comparison.   As for the accuracy of the colors, both magenta and cyan appeared substantially too blue.  This mode would be most appropriate for displaying presentation materials where color accuracy was not of great concern.  This mode could prove useful if the room has a lot of ambient light to deal with, but in a room with reasonable light control there are other picture modes with more accurate colors.

Presentation Picture Mode:  This is the second brightest mode and while it still suffers from some of the same picture issues as the High-Bright mode, it does offer good white balance across the grey scale with very near to the ideal 6500K color temperature.  It still suffers from “pumped-up” whites, just not quite to the extreme as does the High-Bright mode and magentas and cyans within a color image appear too blue.   Overall, Presentation mode is somewhat more accurate than High-Bright mode, but less accurate than most the less bright picture modes described below.

Video Picture Mode:  The Video picture mode had a somewhat higher than ideal color temperature producing a moderately cool image.   Compared to the above picture modes the whites didn’t have the extreme pumped up appearance.  However, the saturated reds, blues and magenta shades appearing too dark in comparison.  However, in this case the saturated greens, yellows and cyans appear reasonably accurate in terms of being bright enough compared to the whites.  However, the magentas and cyans appeared too blue, as they also did in the above picture modes.

Movie Picture Mode:  The Movie picture mode has just a little lower than ideal color temperature giving the image a slightly warm appearance.  Similar to the Video mode, the saturated greens, yellows and cyans appear reasonably accurate, in terms of being bright enough compared to the whites, but the reds, magentas and blues were too dark.  In this mode the magentas were too blue while the other colors were reasonably accurate.

Graphic Picture Mode:  This picture mode had a somewhat high color temperature giving the picture a cool appearance with a mild blue/cyan tint.  Similar to the Video and Movie modes, the saturated greens, yellows and cyans appear reasonably accurate, in terms of being bright enough compared to the whites, but the reds , magentas and blues were too dark.  In this mode the magentas were too blue while the other colors were reasonably accurate.

sRGB Picture Mode:  This picture mode proved to be the least bright, but also had more accurate colors with the factory out-of-the-box settings.   sRGB mode had a color temperature that was just a little higher than ideal while the colors were fairly accurate.  While magenta, and in some modes cyan, were off in the above picture modes, all of the colors were fairly accurate in sRGB mode.  In terms of the brightness of the colors, as compared to white, only cyan showed a significant error where in this case it was too bright.  Overall, this picture mode offered the most accurate picture when using the factory default picture settings.

Natural Picture Mode:  This picture mode had just under the ideal 6500K color temperature and excellent grey  scale tracking.   The saturated reds, blues and magenta shades appeared too dark in comparison to the whites.  However, as with certain of the above picture modes, the saturated greens, yellows and cyans appear reasonably accurate in terms of being bright enough compared to the whites.  However, the magentas and cyans appeared too blue.

DICOM Picture Mode:  This picture mode is intended for displaying black & white medical images with a unique gamma curve, so there is no point in talking about color image accuracy.  Grey scale uniformity was good with the color temperature remaining nearly constant from dark greys to full white.

Video Quality

The P502WL offers several picture modes and I found the best quality, in terms of color accuracy, to be the sRGB mode.  This is also the least bright mode as it does not appears to significantly pump-up the white brightness that the other picture modes do to varying degrees.  For the above screen shots the factory default settings were used for sRGB mode except the Sharpness was reduced to “0”, and Color Enhance was set to “Low”.   Since the P502WL does not include user adjustments for calibrating either the grey scale or the colors, a full calibration to produce a more accurate picture would not be possible.

The first 6 gallery photos above are screen shots from the movie “Lucy”, the next 6 photos are from the movie “Casino Royale” and the final 6 photo are from the movie “The Fifth Element”.

Overall the picture quality for displaying video is very good for this class of projector.  While not perfect, the overall color accuracy as very good, with natural looking skin tones, and the image contrast was reasonably good (better than with 3LCD based business or education class projectors and typical for a DLP based model).  The P502WL has a dynamic contrast feature than can be turned on or off.  However, when turned on it operated much too slow to be of any real benefit for viewing video.

Text Readability

The NEC P502WL image resolution and text clarity is only limited by it native 1280 x 800 resolution.  Even 8-point text was very easy to read in both black text on a white background and with white text on a black background.   When my attached laptop PC was set to the projector’s native 1280 x 800 resolution you couldn’t really ask for any better readability of the projected text.  The 1st photo above shows the full text readability test image while the 2nd and 3rd images show close-ups of just the upper portion and just the lower portion of the test image respectively.  There was no visible color fringing on the text indicating the projector’s lens does not exhibit any significant chromatic aberration.  I was able to get sharp focus over the entire image.  Credit goes to NEC for projecting very high quality images that are very well suited for displaying presentations with lots of small text and fine details in the graphics.

I also checked the projector’s capability to downscale a higher resolution image to the projector native resolution.  I had my PC output the text test image at 1920 x 1080 resolution.  The following close-up screen shot shows that the projector’s scaling performance with the readability of the 8-point text remaining  good.


NEC P502WL_Text-4-scaled 1920x1080
Scaled from 1920 x 1080 Source


Audio Quality

The P502WL has a single 20 watt speaker that is capable of playing fairly loud.  Although the sound lacks any bass, the volume level should be sufficient for use in most classrooms and moderately large conference rooms.  If higher quality audio is needed, the projector has line level audio outputs that can be used to connect to a powered external speaker system.  The P502WL lacks a microphone input meaning a presenter will not be able add live narration via the projector’s speaker.