The P451W scored well in both the usability and image quality departments. In our tests, it started up and detected the video source quickly, and was able to ramp up to set brightness in less than a minute. This can be brought down to mere seconds if the normal standby mode is used. By default, this is set to power-saving standby mode to further lower energy consumption by disabling certain functions, such as monitor and audio-out, Virtual Remote Tool, and USB Display. Looking at the numbers, you can see why NEC uses this as the default: under normal standby mode, the power draw is 10W; under power-saving standby mode, it’s only 0.43W. If you can afford that minute or two, we suggest keeping the default.
Also, by default, the P451W tries to detect the last used input. You can change this to a specific source input in the setup menu. Pressing the Source button on the projector cabinet will prompt the projector to search for an available signal and display it; an easier method is to just use the remote control, which has dedicated input source buttons.
In addition, the P451W supports a Direct Power Off feature, which means you can just unplug it from the AC power to turn it off. If you were to turn it off via the remote or control panel, there’s also no need for a cool down period before you can put the projector away. Arguably, these features are more useful on a portable projector than a fixed installation projector - but hey, we aren’t complaining.
Now, the P451W’s 4,500-lumen brightness is only achievable in High-Bright mode; which means, light output dips when you use other presets or the Eco modes. There are actually several Eco modes you can choose from. Under Normal Eco mode, brightness drops about 20%; under Eco mode (or should we say Eco Eco mode?), it drops a further 40%. If you’ve control over the ambient lighting, the resulting 2,300 lumens is still very good, especially for movies. There’s also an Auto Eco mode that alternates between Eco Off and Normal Eco modes automatically. Of course, the purpose of engaging Eco mode is to lower power consumption, which in turn prolongs the lamp life. NEC quotes a 6,000-hour lamp life under the most power-saving Eco mode, 4,000 hours under Normal Eco, and 3,500 hours under Auto Eco or if Eco mode is turned off completely.
All that said, the P451W turned in a very good image performance in our tests. Images were very bright, even at the extreme wide-angle end. This is one projector that should handle a 200-inch projection without breaking a sweat, and bigger if you could rein in the ambient light. At the telephoto end, brightness did dip about 20%, which is consistent with some of NEC’s projectors equipped with a 1.7x zoom lens we’ve come across in the past. While this may sound like a lot, it's in fact one of the better performers. Brightness uniformity was noted to be very good, though not stellar. Moreover, if you’re doing a 200-inch projection, it’s highly unlikely that you’d notice any uneven areas. And while the projector has a native 1,280 x 800 resolution, it accepts up to 1,920 x 1,200 analog RGB and HDMI signals.
Without a doubt, data performance was aided by the high brightness. We noted razor-sharp details on a 100-inch projection, as well as good color saturation, which means graphics-heavy PowerPoint slides looked very nice too. As the throw distance gets longer and the screen bigger, it would take a bit of fiddling to lock down that sharpest focus, especially if you’re doing the fine-tuning alone (remember, focusing has to be done manually, so you’ve to be physically near the projector). Yes, color accuracy took a hit under High-Bright mode; if that’s important to you, we recommend the Presentation mode, which renders colors better, and yet is bright enough to counter the ambient light.
The P451W also put up a good show when we hooked it up to a Blu-ray player using an HDMI cable. Gamma performance out of the box seemed to be good for our test unit. Contrast was kept fairly high, and shadow details were not crushed for the most part. For film or video content, the obvious presets to use is either Video or Movie mode (the latter is closer to 6,500K, by the way). To reiterate, light output was noticeably lower under these modes, so performance got better when we dimmed the room lights. For tweakers, there are gamma correction, color temperature (six options going from 5,000 to 10,500K), and white balance settings (among others) to play with. And before we forget, the projector has a DICOM simulation mode, which is meant for users who need to show accurate medical diagnostic images.
In more ways than one, this new P series of projectors is the brighter version of NEC’s current M series of portable business projectors, which currently tops out at 4,200 ANSI lumens in the M420X. There are also other patterns that the P series follows, such as the similar cabinet styling (albeit bigger and heavier), the same remote control and wireless dongle, and similar core specs, like the 0.6-inch 3LCD tech, manual 1.7x zoom lens, and connectivity options.
Of course, for larger spaces like conference rooms or even auditoriums, the P451W’s 4,500 lumens or the P501X’s 5,000 lumens can only do more good. But don’t be mistaken that higher light output is the only thing going for the P series. These projectors also come with vertical lens shift (that is, the lens can be physically shifted up and down within the housing), which allows for greater leeway during placement. This is a key feature that the M series doesn’t have.
Aided by the high brightness and contrast (4,000:1 on the P series vs. no more than 3,000:1 on the M series), the P451W turned in excellent data projection quality and better than par video quality. The continued lack of 3D support is disappointing, but totally expected as it’s usually reserved for the DLP models. The built-in 16W monaural speaker was also noticeably louder than the best 10W speakers we’ve heard in other projectors. That being said, the volume is more conference room-filling than auditorium-filling. The plethora of inputs/outputs should also be lauded, especially the inclusion of two HDMI ports, and the twin USB ports for the USB Display and file viewing functions.
All in all, if you’re looking for a business-oriented projector for use in large conference rooms, which a 2,500 to 3,500-lumen projector can’t cope with, the P451W (and the other models in the P series) is more than worth your consideration. At S$2,499, it’s also one of the more reasonably priced 4,500-lumen projectors out there. If your needs go beyond that (for example, both horizontal and vertical lens shift, the ability to change lenses, a projected image size of 500 inches, brightness higher than 5,000 lumens), then you’ll have to turn your attention to more advanced (and more costly) installation projectors, such as NEC’s PA series or Epson’s EB-4000/G6000 series.