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Last week fellow TrustedReviews writer Gordon took the wind out of many big AV brand sails by passionately railing against the growing 'Smart TV' trend. And his extremely lucid article was then followed by a truly startling show of supportive comments from you, the TrustedReviews readership.
One of these comments in particular caught our eye. MrHorizontal suggested that anyone interested in a really ‘smart’ TV should take a look at one of NEC’s P Series of LCD screens designed for the Public Display market, for it’s possible to integrate into these a fully functioning PC via a simple slot-in optional board.
MrHorizontal’s comment concluded by suggesting that we review one of these NEC monitors as if it were a normal TV. So we thought we’d strike while the iron was hot and do exactly as he suggested!
For people not familiar with NEC, it predominantly operates these days in the business marketplace, selling screens for public display or signage projects. But the screens can be bought easily by anyone over the Internet, so if you wish you can also use them in your home.
In terms of the P461‘s key PC functionality, all we had to do to insert the PC board was remove two screws from a cover down the TV’s rear right side, take off one of the set’s screw-on carry handles, and slide the SBC (single board computer) home. This is something absolutely anyone can do, with no professional help required.
If you raised an eyebrow at the mention of a detachable handle on the P461, then you should know that this is just one physical sign of the P461’s ‘professional’ rather than domestic background. For it also happens to be the fattest darned TV we’ve seen in an age - a full 140mm from front to back. Plus it weighs a hefty 36.1kg weight - around double the normal weight of today’s 46in TVs.
It has to be said, too, that the P461’s ‘business’ focus means it’s not exactly gorgeous. That colossal rear is about as brutishly industrial as you can get, while the bezel is a style-free plain matt black affair. Please note, too, that the screen doesn’t ship with any speakers in its standard state; if you want sound without using an external audio system, you’ll need NEC’s optional P Series stereo speakers (pictured below).
The P461 isn’t a total aesthetic washout, though, for the bezel is, at least, very slim as you look straight at it. Also, there’s no doubting that the P461’s build quality feels almost tank-like - handy if you’ve got a few young kids charging about the place.
The hefty rear isn’t just there because NEC couldn’t be bothered to make it small, either. For as well as providing room to slot in the Atom PC, the P461’s potential for professional use also means it carries temperature-controlled cooling fans.
This was initially worrying, to be honest, given how much racket cooling fans can make. But thankfully we never once heard them running throughout our time testing the screen.
You might have noticed that we keep referring to the P461 as a screen rather than a TV. This is because the P461 doesn’t come with a tuner fitted as standard.
At this point, it’s worth reminding everyone why we’re prepared to put up with so many non-domestic compromises: the built-in PC access. It’s this that makes the screen interesting in the Smart TV age.
Connections on the P461 useful for home cinema use are pretty much limited to only one HDMI, an S-Video port, a component video port, and a D-Sub PC port. Though there is also a second digital option in the form of a Digital Display port 1.1 if that works with your PC.