Projectors Considered: Larger Venue Projectors 2

This is our 2nd batch of larger venue projectors in this report.

On this page find NEC’s NP-P502WL WXGA Projector, and Sony’s FHZ65 WUXGA Laser projector overviews.

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report.


NEC P502WL

The NEC P502WL is a most interesting single chip DLP projector, especially for a larger venue model. Its claims a healthy 5000 lumens, but nothing unusual there.  What makes it “special” is the combination of it’s relatively reasonable price (MSRP of $3499) and the fact that it uses a laser light engine, claiming up to 20,000 hours of life. Of the large venue projectors presented this year, the P502WL is the only WXGA model, the others are all higher resolution (WUXGA).  BTW NEC does offer the P502H – a 1080p version also with 5000 lumens – and also, of course, with a higher price tag.

Placement flexibility is very good, thanks to a standard 1.7:1 manual zoom lens and a healthy amount of lens shift (also not motorized). Missing, compared to the other, more expensive “larger venue” projectors in this year’s report are interchangeable lenses.  That explains the impressively reasonable price point, as projectors offering interchangeable lenses start out a good bit more expensive than those without.

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Ron presented the P502WL with our Special Interest Award, rather than the wider, more encompassing Hot Product award, and that may have you wondering.  The lack of interchangeable lenses is one of a few things NEC left out, in exchange for the great price point for a high power laser projector.

Also, unlike most of the more expensive “larger venue” competition, the P502WL does not support edge blending, and multi-projector geometric correction, which isn’t surprising, considering the lack of interchangeable lenses (multi-projector setups often offer interesting mounting/positioning challenges), but more significant is that NEC did not provide the full color adjustment capabilities (CMS) found on almost all larger venue projectors and even many sub $1000 projectors.

That said, the NEC serves up some good looking color modes, but if the ability to tune or match color is needed, that’s where this NEC becomes “entry level.”  Fortunately, color is good enough that this shouldn’t be much of a factor to most educational institutions, although it probably takes the P502WL out of the running for doing museum type (considered part of the education market) public displays, for which larger venue projectors are the norm.

Sony FHZ65 Laser Projector

The FHZ65, like the NEC above, is another laser projector.  Considering the $15,000 MSRP on the Sony, and that it claims 6000 lumens – only 1000 more than the $3499 NEC above, the first question you are asking, is “what gives?”

First, Sony uses very high list prices. This FHZ65 sells for under $10,000, but that still leaves a lot of price difference.  There are plenty of other differences, the most important ones being that the FHZ65 is true WUXGA (1920×1200) vs only WXGA.   As I had mentioned above, projectors offering interchangeable lenses inherently cost more, should you need placement beyond what a standard zoom lens offers.

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The Sony offers full color and image controls, with a complete CMS (color management system) for accurate calibration.  It also supports all those things the NEC doesn’t, such as edge blending, and other multi-projector features such as color matching, geometric correction and constant brightness.

On the more mundane side, the Sony lenses are motorized, which can be a major plus when the projector (as is common with projectors offering multiple lenses), gets placed somewhere hard to access (for refocusing, lens memory type functions, etc.)

And it must be pointed out that one of those optional lenses is an ultra short throw which opens up whole world’s of additional placement flexibility, including mounting this high power projector right over a large screen (say in a university classroom with 100-400 seats), or for rear screen projection, which might also work in classrooms, but also in a variety of public display environments (museums, etc.)

The combination of the laser engine, with some of these other features make it one of the most versatile projectors around, and one that once placed, can be left there, not needing maintenance, for years, perhaps even a decade or more.  (Even the filter will last as long as the laser engine!) The savings in support costs can be huge.

So, if the initial sticker shock didn’t scare you away, consider this Sony a highly viable, high performance laser projector, that will be great in large classrooms, but perhaps even better in special venue type of setups. The ability to have consistent color and brightness without needing physical support sets it apart from all but a short handful of other (laser) projectors.

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