A few months ago, when we reviewed the amazingly inexpensiveNEC NP100projector (now just $420 online), we recommended that people might want to pass up this tremendous bargain and go for this model's higher-resolution sibling, the NP200. In looks, design specs, and performance, these two projectors are almost identical. The only difference is in their resolution, brightness, and price--the NP200 being slightly greater in all three regards. For those keeping score, that is: XGA resolution plus an advertised 2100 ANSI lumens of brightness for a list price of just $599. Add it all up and you have one of the best bang-for-your-buck projectors of the year.
In outward appearance, the NP200 has a fairly simple rectangular box shape with a clean white plastic exterior. NEC pegs its weight at 5.3 pounds--pretty good for a budget model--but on our scale it was even lighter (5.1 pounds). Even in its travel configuration, with a remote and a collection of cables, it was still less than 6 pounds.
What might look like a control panel is actually a small remote, snugly ensconced in a special indentation, that pops out for wireless use. Just don't lose it, or you will have no way to access the projector's on-screen menu. You will always, however, be able to turn the projector on and off. The NEC designers wisely placed a prominent power button near the control panel/remote.
Inside the NP200 is one of the most impressive lamps we have seen. Not only does it have a long life of 3,500 hours in regular mode and 4,000 hours in the low-power Eco mode, it also represents one of the best bargains in projector lamps, costing just $170. That works out to a consumable cost of just 5 cents an hour, less than half that of most other projectors.
We were disappointed by the lack of a laser pointer and mouse-emulation buttons on the remote control, but that's a common shortcoming among low-price models. Also, the connectors on the rear panel were poorly labeled; quite a few harried presenters will attach their laptops to the VGA-out port instead of the VGA-input connector and wonder why nothing is happening.
On our lab tests, the NP200 did fairly well. Our brightness readings came in at 1970 ANSI lumens, which was actually dimmer than the NP100's by about 100 lumens, but still within 6 percent of the NP200's advertised value and more than adequate for typical business environments. With its DLP micromirror imaging engine, the NP200 was able to garner a respectable 553:1 contrast ratio on our checkerboard test. The projected image size was somewhat small: 39 inches diagonal at a 60-inch distance. Uniformity of brightness from corner to center was less than average, at 69 percent.
Subjectively speaking, the images were very sharp and fairly steady, although we did note some flicker in the darker colors. As per usual for DLP models, the yellows were rather dull, but blues and reds looked good. The cooling fan seemed to have an average noise level, but when we dropped it down to Eco mode, the noise was barely audible and the image just 19 percent dimmer.
Our biggest pet peeve about the NP200 is its rather slow cooldown time, which required a bit over 2 minutes. This is in stark contrast to such "instant cool" projectors as the Epson EX30; that model requires only 3 seconds.
All in all, the NEC NP200 does a great job with typical presentations at a very attractive price. And thanks to its XGA resolution, it also deftly handles HDTV images. When you factor in its amazingly low consumable cost and its two-year warranty, you have the best projector bargain on the market.