Single-chip DLP technology has fallen dramatically in price of late and experienced data projector manufacturers like NEC have picked up the technology and run with it - straight into your living room.
At less than £900 for a genuine widescreen projector with 1,000 Lumens brightness and a contrast ratio of 1200:1, the HT410 is already something of a home cinema bargain on paper alone.
The HT410's main DLP chip is not exactly awe-inspiring at 852 x 480 resolution, but the pixels are true squares rather than stretched when viewing widescreen material. This pays big dividends as there is little or no horizontal image compression and, if you have a 16:9 screen, the image fits perfectly without borders or light overspill. The built-in scaler downsizes virtually all TV signals to fit its native 480-line resolution including, rather ironically, 1080i high definition.
This domestic bias runs through to the fetching pearl white case which looks just as good on a tabletop or hanging from the ceiling. Better still there is a features count that would get a professional cinema projectionist rubbing their hands with glee.
The lens-shift feature allows the image height to be adjusted without having to angle the projector, which in turn reduces the amount of picture degrading keystone adjustment required to straighten up the image. The range of lens-shift adjustment is one of the best on the market and, combined with a zoom lens that goes from wide-angle to long-range zoom, there shouldn't be any problems finding a convenient site to place the HT410.
If you're on a tight budget and don't want to use a proper projection screen there is even a feature that corrects the picture's balance depending on the colour of your wall. Wall colours catered for include light rose, pink, light yellow, light green, light blue or sky blue.
The connection count gives away the price point as there is just single component, S-Video and composite connections and not even a hint of Scart, DVI or HDMI connection. You do however get a carry case, a cable pack to cover every available option, and a dumpy little remote control with a handy backlight.
Despite a manual that makes War and Peace look concise, the HT410 is a dream to set up and use and, unusually, its out-of-the-box settings are very close to perfect. There are plenty of tweaky bits to trim the image to your preference, including hue, tint, gamma, and white peaking level, and several fan-speed/ lamp power modes. The low-speed/low-power Eco mode is very quiet at 26dB but the rather dim image means the slightly noisier 'Normal' setting is the one to go for. The High setting gives a stunningly bright picture but the fan sounds like a jet engine.
The picture quality is astounding considering the outlay. The HT410 produces a wonderfully bright image with colours that are superbly lifelike - a performance that only a few years ago would have easily cost you the wrong side of £4,000.
There is no visible pixilation unless you're sitting so close your nose is touching the screen, and the overall picture balance is crisp. Iris control is missing, which is used to increase contrast if you are viewing films in a completely dark room. However, black levels are good with plenty of detail in the darker areas. There is a fine uniformity of brightness across the screen and only marginal softening of focus from top to bottom if using the lens-shift feature.
The low-ish 480-line resolution does play its part in reducing the detail and overall clarity but the picture remains fairly sharp until you get down to the small details. Garfield's fur in Garfield: The Movie has great texture but if you look at the whiskers they are more stepped and jagged than with the best displays.
NEC has tried to counter this by introducing quite fierce artificial sharpness but this can make the computer animated Garfield look a little grainy if you don't knock the sharpness setting back a notch. Focus at maximum zoom could also be better but if you have the space you can always move the projector further away from the screen and reduce the zoom.
The HT410 is not perfect - but hang on. Its natural colour is up there with some of the best, it's plenty bright, black levels are fine, it's near silent and will give you a very nice 80-inch image on the wall for £900 with enough change for a DVD and a bag of popcorn. A home cinema bargain.