Researching this purchase, we quickly found that LCD projector prices rise steeply in direct relation to the brightness of the bulb. Since most of the projectors that were bright enough to serve our needs were out of our price range by $300-$700, this purchase was a quest to find the most brightness for the buck.
Recommend this product?
We found Hitachi has some attractive units we could almost afford, and these NECs are available online at steep discounts too. Don't be shy, the NEC NP610 works very well. We bought ours used from a reputable dealer, B & H Photo, who installed a fresh bulb before offering it for sale. We paid around $720 after shipping. It arrived so clean I wouldn't have known it was used if the box hadn't had a "USED" sticker on it.
Video inputs include "VGA in" and "VGA out" ports, as well as a newer DVI port. The projector also has S video and standard analog, via phono jack. It does not have HDMI.
Although we'll never use it, the projector has functionality for permanent installations and institutional use that's pretty impressive. Using the video cable, the projector can be controlled from the computer it's connected to. The projector also has a computer network socket (RJ-45), through which the projector can report critical information to a facilities manager, such as remaining bulb life.
For our use, the control menus are logical and easy to navigate. We were able to set up the projector, adjust the color settings, keystone settings and reverse the image for rear projection in a few minutes without reaching for the manual.
Native resolution for the unit is XGA, which is 1024 x 768, and that's pretty standard, as is contrast of 500:1. For some extra money, you could do better with a Hitachi model CP-X3011N, which has contrast specs of 2000:1. In practice, the NEC projector cannot fully black out the dark areas of the screen, the black areas are still dimly illuminated, but your eye gets used to this pretty quickly and it's well within our expectations.
Rated at 3500 lumens, this is a very bright projector. In a conference room, you would have no trouble using this with the lights on. For us, showing outdoor movies with the unit set up for rear-projection, we'll be able to project images 10 feet across with ease.
In a home theater setting where the image is projected onto the front of the screen, and screen is not that big to begin with, 2000-2500 lumens may be plenty. If you can get by with fewer lumens, you may be smart to go that way. With a 235 watt bulb, the NEC NP610 runs extremely hot, and it will warm up a room in short order.
Size wise, this unit is a little too large to travel gracefully, but for non-road warriors, it's a very practical size. It's not rugged, but it's also not fragile. Handled with reasonable care, it should last you many years.
The projector comes with case, manual, remote, remote batteries, power cable and VGA cable.
Purchase Price (if leased, monthly payment): 720