NEC's VT470 harks back to a time when the only way you could get a truly affordable projector was to get a multimedia model designed more with the boardroom in mind than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. NEC's own blurb on the VT470 describes it as 'great in seminars, top of the classroom'. But does this mean it's pants at movies?

Surprisingly the VT470's opulently glossy white and matt grey two-tone finish, together with a jaunty little curve where the lens protrudes, helps it to cut a stylish dash on the coffee table.

The VT470 boasts neither a digital video input, nor any phono component video inputs. Thankfully, however, two D-Sub PC inputs can take progressive scan and high-definition sources, and there are the common composite and S-video alternatives.

The most interesting aspects of the VT470 are things that don't bode well for its performance. A claimed 2,100 ANSI Lumens of brightness is clearly significantly higher than any of its rivals in this group - but such brightness levels don't sit well with video playback when the rated contrast is a measly 400:1.

Also troubling is the VT470's 4:3 ratio LCD chipset - which also underwhelms with an 800 x 600 native resolution. At least a widescreen mode is provided for anamorphic fodder.

More pleasing features include a clever picture adjustment to compensate for a variety of different wall colourings should you not be using a screen; various picture presets (which include video and movie modes); a low-power lamp mode; and some security functions reflecting its business or classroom aspirations.

Operating system

Remarkably, we had the VT470 unboxed and working within three - yes three - minutes. During this time we couldn't help but be impressed by the short-throw lens, which delivered a 100in standard picture from just 2.4m. The projector's onscreen menus are basic but functional, while the diddy remote would have benefited from a backlight.

The VT470 produces a poor picture quality compared to its rivals. It shoots itself in the foot with an overt chicken wire effect. This places an almost physical barrier between you and what you're watching.

Another bullet hole comes courtesy of the projector's dismal contrast. Anything in a picture that's supposed to be black is obscured by greyness, which leaves the picture flat and short of vibrancy.

To be fair to the VT470 it does get a few things right. Colours can be quite naturalistic and there's a surprising amount of subtlety in graduations and shadows; fine detail levels are better than I would have expected from an 800 x 600 panel; and there's precious little noise to report. But this isn't enough to revive the picture performance corpse.

If you're a businessman looking for a projector to double up as a presentations unit by day and entertainment centre for young kids by night, the VT470 might just be worth considering. But for anyone else, and especially for the dedicated cinephiles, it's a non-starter.