DLP projectors now range from £1,000 entry level types to ultra high-end £25,000 pro-quality models. At the luxury end the price goes towards three-chip versions for an image quality to rival or even beat cinema projectors. Single-chip DLPs are more affordable but there's still room for fully featured mid-range options, which is where NEC positions its HT1100.
The HT1100's inputs are generous, including a port for PC connection or RGB video with the supplied Scart-to-VGA adaptor. There are also component video phonos for progressive scan and, best of all, a DVI-D direct-digital video input for top-spec PCs and compatible DVD players, enabling you to get the clearest picture from digital video.
The projector has a single DLP chip plus a six-segment colour wheel, which reduces - but doesn't totally eliminate - rainbow artefacts (the multicoloured halo that can appear around bright objects when your eyes dart around the screen). It's not a native 16:9 panel, so widescreen sources occupy the bottom part of a 4:3 image. The throw angle is also high, so unless you are using a low coffee table, it might be better to ceiling mount. There are no manual lens shift tricks but focus and zoom have manual controls. The range and throw distance are quite limited, so it's hard to cast a huge picture if your room is small.
The HT1100's main claim to fame is its high contrast ratio of up to 3,500:1. DLP tends to have a better contrast performance than LCD but this projector also uses an iris lever system to stop down the aperture, along with NEC's SweetVision technology, which gives the illusion of a more contrast-filled image through processing tricks. However, for home cinema use, you should also use the Eco mode to reduce fan noise (and extend lamp life). The trade-off here is that brightness lowers to 880 ANSI Lumens instead of the maximum 1100. With the iris open fully you will get more brightness but less contrast, so for best results all round, you'll need decent blackout blinds for your room.
The projector is fully compatible with PAL or NTSC progressive scan and can even accept resolutions up to 1080p (via DVI). This is beyond the output of current video systems but HDTV receivers and some DVD players will run to 1080-interlaced. The projector can also deinterlace and convert to progressive scan, including - it seems - from 1080i. Although it's not ideal to use built-in deinterlacing compared with a ready-made progressive output, you can effectively get 1080p at a fairly low-flicker 60Hz refresh rate.
Even at 576p or 720p resolutions, the DVI link delivers a strong, smooth and realistic image, with no discernible digital blocking. Using a high-calibre source, sharpness is excellent and the greyscale is wide, with very deep blacks for a projector but a bright enough picture to remain visible if there's ambient room light. Whether it's the comicbook riot of Blade II or the CGI aquatics of Finding Nemo, this is an impressive machine.
It's not perfect, though. For starters, the colour wheel is too slow to remove the aforementioned rainbow artefacts from bright highlights. There is also a liney quality that creeps in with low contrast, soft-hued backgrounds, especially in subtly lit fare like Big Fish. The projector's component video input quality is no substitute for the direct digital option, though players with DVI or HDMI digital facilities are still rare. If you can use a digital connection, you may find it reveals flaws in poorly transferred DVDs, such as Girl With A Pearl Earring, whose softness and graininess only get worse.
If DLP's rainbow artefacts bother you, then pricier DLP projectors can minimise this effect. Alternatively, consider a good LCD model the same price or less than this NEC. Overall, the HT1100 is compact, reasonably quiet and high in contrast. It has some excellent features and a generally impressive picture but it relies on good quality DVDs and a DVI connection to get the best results.