NEC HT1100 Digital Front Projector Reviewed

Published On: February 15, 2005
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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NEC HT1100 Digital Front Projector Reviewed

Featuring an HD resolution of 1,024x768, the NEC HD1100 is an odd hybrid of high-resolution, but 4x3 aspect ratio. The single-chip DMD from Texas Instruments is the latest of their DLP technology

NEC HT1100 Digital Front Projector Reviewed

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Having recently sold their four millionth DLP chip, Texas Instruments and their Digital Light Processing technology is taking the home theater world by storm. Nowhere is this more evident than in the digital front projector marketplace.

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• Read more video projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore projector screen options in our Projector Screen Review section.

Shopping for a front projector can be a confusing experience for a number of reasons, not the least of which is our continued dependence on 4:3 programming. Unless you watch nothing but HDTV and 16:9 widescreen DVDs, you're probably still watching plenty of 4:3 programming. Unlike most home theater projectors vying for your attention, NEC's HT1100 is a 4:3 native projector. What? Why would you want a 4:3 native projector? What about HDTV? What about DVD? Enter from stage left the HT1100's optional anamorphic lens. With its unique lens option, the HT1100 has your bases covered, regardless of what you watch.

If you're like me, you're tired of switching between 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. Why won't everyone just accept the fact that the future is wide and offer everything in 16:9? If only it were that simple. Old movies, such as Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz were filmed in a 4:3 frame. With the exception of the newest titles, most video games are designed for 4:3 displays. Also, computer applications are still (for the most part) expecting you to have a 4:3 monitor. If you want to project any of these things on your theater screen (and why wouldn't you?), the way a projector handles 4:3 material should be of extreme importance to you. If these 4:3 issues are on your mind, then read on. You'll find out why the HT1100 is a fascinating little projector with versatility to spare.

Unique Features
Far and away, the most distinctive thing about the HT1100 is its optional anamorphic lens. Out of the box, the HT1100 is an XGA-class 4:3 projector. This means it has a native resolution of 1024 x 768. Watching anamorphic widescreen material in this stock configuration forces the unit to use only a portion of its pixels and light output. The top and bottom is wasted with black bars, generated by the HT1100. However, NEC was smart when they designed an optional anamorphic lens that attaches to the front of the HT1100. After selecting "Anamorphic" as your screen type in the system menu, this unique attachment vertically compresses the full resolution 4:3 image into a 16:9 frame. The end result is a 16:9 image using the projector's full XGA resolution and 100% of its light output.

Before installing the anamorphic lens, the unit needs to be focused using the manual focus ring surrounding the lens. Other adjustments on the lens include a 1.2x manual zoom and an adjustable Iris (variable lens aperture). As the user manual states, the Iris lever allows you to "adjust the brightness and contrast ratio optically." The net result of this adjustment is a reduction in light output but a significant improvement in fine shadow detail. I found a position roughly in the middle that offered solid contrast without sacrificing too much punch. In a room with total light control, you can probably afford to bring this all the way down and approach the unit's maximum rated contrast ratio of 3500:1.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
As impressive as the anamorphic lens is, I wish NEC had been able to make its installation a tad easier. As I mentioned earlier, the unit needs to be perfectly focused before adding the anamorphic lens. This is because the housing covers the focus ring once it is installed. Four set-screws and a weight-distribution/support bar are all that's needed to keep the lens in place. As simple as it sounds, getting it attached while maintaining proper focus and keeping it centered is quite the task. If the lens is off-center, you'll quickly notice geometric distortion at the corners. After a few trials and a bit of error, I did finally get a satisfactory alignment. The anamorphic lens can fold down out of the light path when you want to watch 4:3 material.

Read more on Page 2
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Although the anamorphic lens makes for a more aggravating
installation than native 16:9 projectors require, remember the
versatility that is being gained. Also remember that this is not
something you'll be doing often once you get the HT1100 dialed in. My
only real complaint with this setup is that the hinge on the anamorphic
lens is rather loose and does not always keep the lens "up." The lens
stays in the projector's light path by using a series of magnets;
because of my tabletop installation, gravity and the occasional table
jolt caused the lens to come out of position once or twice. It's not as
bad as it sounds though, because in a ceiling-mount installation,
gravity works for you and will help keep the magnets in contact. NEC
has published a white paper on the lens' installation and its benefits
on their website, so be sure to check it out.

Once the anamorphic lens was in place, I decided to check out the
HT1100's on-screen menu system. This thing is a tweaker's dream! The
HT1100 allows you to adjust virtually everything you can think of,
including Gamma Correction, Color Temperature, Contrast Enhancement and
the degree to which NEC's proprietary SweetVision• picture processing
is used. This detail-enhancing technology has the effect of improving
contrast slightly but a negative side effect is that it adds artificial
picture detail. I kept this off for most of my evaluation period. This
was one time I wished my ISF calibrator friend Gregg Loewen (of
LionAV.com) had some time in his schedule to squeeze in a calibration.
I highly recommend an ISF calibration with this projector, because the
degree of color control and picture adjustment available here is truly
impressive.

Final Take
The NEC HT1100 handled DVD material remarkably well from my Onkyo
DV-SP1000 reference player. Watching Spiderman 2 on my 84-inch
(diagonal) 16:9 Carada screen (see sidebar) revealed some of the best
colors I've seen on a DLP projector and close-to-CRT black levels. With
the Iris lever only partially closed, I still obtained excellent shadow
detail in the many dark interior shots of Doc Ock's waterside
laboratory. After Spidey prevents two children from becoming road kill,
the reds in his costume against a green grass background looked superb.

Switching to HDTV, I connected my VOOM box using Wireworld's
seven-meter HDMI to DVI cable. Watching a re-broadcast of NBC's Winter
Olympics, the HT1100 painted a beautiful picture with the same strong
qualities I witnessed with DVD. Although I tend to see rainbows now and
then on most DLP projectors, I did not see any this time. Detail was
not as fine as that of HD2 and HD2+ DLP projectors, but that was to be
expected. I fully expect an updated version of the HT1100 with a newer
chipset and improved resolution.

Aside from its quirky anamorphic lens assembly, there is nothing on
the market offering the unique combination of versatility, image
quality and configurability that the HT1100 delivers. Mated with a 4:3
screen, a masking system for 16:9 viewing and the anamorphic lens
option, the HT1100 makes for one powerful projector solution.

Additional Resources
• Read more video projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Explore projector screen options in our Projector Screen Review section.

NEC HT1100 Projector
Single-chip DLP
XGA Resolution (1024 x 768)
4:3 native (optional 16:9 lens)
Brightness: 1100 Lumens
Contrast: up to 3500:1
(1) DVI-D input (with HDCP)
(1) component video input
VGA, S-Video, composite inputs
Bulb life: 3000 hours in Eco Mode
2-year warranty
10.24" x 12.56" x 4.72"
Weight: 7.1 lbs.
MSRP: $3,995
(including anamorphic lens)

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