Traditional PC brand turned home cinema gatecrasher NEC scored a major home run not long ago with its well received HT1100. So hopes are high for the more affordable HT510...
Thanks to its unusual 'stretched' shape and ultra-glossy finish, the HT510 is as distinctive as it is pretty - and is certain to enhance the look of your average coffee table.
Sadly my hopes came crashing down as I could see no digital video inputs on the HT510 - cheerio Sky high definition and digital DVD player outputs. This omission may be acceptable on an ultrabudget model, but not for £1,500.
If you can manage with analogue connections, the HT510 provides HD and progressive scan ready component jacks, a standard PC jack, and those for S-video and composite video .
As well as offering more setup flexibility than most (including an unusually wideranging optical zoom), the HT510's features include noise reduction, colour management presets including one for films, gamma correction, white peaking controls and a low lamp mode.
Things are less rosy on the specifications front with the lowly quoted 1200:1 contrast ratio raising concern. The 1024 x 576 native resolution of the 16:9 TI Matterhorn chipset employed means that HD sources will have to be downscaled too.
The HT510 is a breeze to set up even in the trickiest of rooms. The onscreen menus are bland in the extreme - but no less easy to use for that.
Heading up a gratifyingly long list of picture pluses on the HT510 is a good fine detail response that makes the picture look sharp and textured as well as building a real sense of three dimensionality and image depth. What's more, the detail levels are achieved without the grain or dot crawl that often blights other strong detail performers.
Another sound filmic touch comes from the HT510's handling of motion, with even the most unstable camera or fast-running star appearing with exceptional fluidity.
Colours, meanwhile, continue the pleasing theme seen in this group test - combining vivid, intense saturations with overtly natural tones. The greenness around the gills once regularly seen on actors' faces with DLP technology is becoming a thing of the past.
Also earning praise is its deftness of touch with colour gradations - a talent that tries its damnedest to ensure that dark areas don't fall flat. The problem is they still fall slightly flat anyway. This is because of the HT510's only key picture weakness: its lack of black level response. In other words, really dark picture areas grey over rather more readily than on most of its rivals.
Even with its black level issues, the HT510 remains a nice performer. But you know what? I actually find this rather depressing. Why? Simply because it makes the lack of next-gen HD compatibility even harder to live with - especially at £1,500.