NEC MultiSync P461 - The PC Bit

John Archer

By John Archer



Our Score:


You can improve things by really knocking down the backlight setting, but actually, doing this out of the context of a full, picture-wide calibration results in a picture that looks unbalanced and which is almost completely devoid of shadow detailing.

So we left the black level and brightness settings at the point where they worked best for the picture as a whole, even though this meant that the grey misting remained.

There’s a little inconsistency in the levels of this greyness too, if we were being really picky. But not as much as seen with some rival screens recently.

The picture’s other main problem is with motion handling. Not blur, mind you; that's actually handled extremely well. Rather the issue is with judder, which is particularly apparent with Blu-rays regardless of whether you have the provided Auto-Film setting on or off.

It won’t have escaped your notice, of course, that we haven’t even mentioned the all-important built-in PC capabilities yet. But actually, this is a good thing! For the simple fact of the matter is that the P461’s Intel Atom module really does give you a fully functioning 1.6GHz PC with 1G RAM and 230GB of HDD space tucked neatly within your main living room screen. It’s as simple as that. The only thing missing is a disc drive.

But then the module even gives you three USB ports (one of which will have to be used for attaching a mouse) for adding pretty much what you like, as well as an ExpressCard slot you could use for adding a DVB-T tuner by the back door.

There can be no doubt whatsoever, then, that in functionality terms the P461’s interactive offering is enough to leave Smart TVs looking like the total waste of space many people seem to believe they are. And yet...

Somehow, it didn’t really work for us. As Gordon pointed out in his Idiocy of Smart TVs opinion piece, the reality of having a full PC built into a TV was fun for a few hours, but then pretty soon made us realise just how little we want a full PC built into a TV. While the full PC TV concept may work for some very tech-minded people - like, no doubt, MrHorizontal - we feel confident that the worlds of the full PC and TV are just too far apart in terms of both their interfaces and, more importantly, their 'social spaces' to fit together for a mainstream TV audience.


Reviewing the P461 has been an unexpectedly interesting experience, in that it’s actually taught us a couple of things. First, we now know that the Public Display screen market is not nearly as far away from satisfying the needs of the domestic market as it used to be. Second, it’s taught us - or perhaps I should fairer say, me - some (possibly unpopular!) things about my feelings regarding Smart TVs that I intend to cover in detail at some point in the next few days.

Focusing on the screen itself for now, though, while the P461 has definitely performed better than we’d expected and certainly can’t be knocked for its unprecedented multimedia/PC possibilities, only the most PC-centric of people could deny that there are aspects of its overall performance, its design and its price that don’t ultimately feel at home in the living room.

This is hardly NEC’s fault, of course; in response to MrHorizontal’s astute suggestion, we’ve really been testing the P461 in a role it wasn’t designed to fulfil. As a public display screen, we’d actually consider the P461 to be rather good, certainly for its money. Plus, of course, we’re already bracing ourselves for that 'PC-centric' community mentioned above and probably reading this site to start defending the P461 in their droves...

Hamish Campbell

January 25, 2011, 1:24 pm

Anyone know what these are used for?

If it's just displaying things then a PC built in is extreme overkill, and I would have thought if you had some requirement for more than one display then you'd want the supply of images/video to be centrally located and controlled.


January 25, 2011, 2:48 pm

The review is interesting, but only in an academic way. The NEC units are clearly not built with the home user in mind. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Gordon was arguing for a fully functional PC built into a TV screen. Rather he was arguing for NO computer built into the screen.

If this NEC display was a viable alternative to consumer TV's, then I'm sure we'd see it the other way around too, with commercial displays made up of barrages of cheaper consumer TVs!


January 25, 2011, 4:24 pm

Thanks for this review, a very interesting read. I'm actually surprised that the display quality even came close to that of a proper TV. Some of the business displays I've worked with have been woefully poor when displaying video.

@haim: In call centres they're used to display statistics like average caller on hold times and the number of operators on station. In retail spaces like shopping centres and motorway services they're used to display advertising or television. In offices they're used for teleconferencing and presentation purposes, among other things.

Having a PC mounted inside the display allows the whole device to be mounted in odd places (like 10 feet in the air) and have it operate completely independently. You could even use wireless networking to configure what it's displaying.

@Bluepork: I dunno, you could install XMBC on that PC, but I suspect you would have an inferior HTPC to any device that's been designed to fulfil that purpose.

I don't think anyone expected this to be a viable alternative to a consumer TV, but it's interesting to see how close it comes.


January 25, 2011, 11:04 pm

I've always wanted a large screen monitor. I have an AV receiver and everything runs through that, only a single HDMI cable goes from the receiver to the TV.

The idea of a home cinema screen without the added bulk and costs associated with all of the extra connectivity, speakers, tuners etc. always appealed.

evan fotis

February 5, 2011, 4:23 pm

It was mentioned that this display does not have good black levels.

Does it use an IPS panel? I ask because NEC usually puts PVA panels in its public displays (and IPS in PC monitors).

Also how where viewing angles?

As for the ratings, though this is a subjective matter, I feel that giving Design a 6/10 is not fair.

For one this display has a 15mm bezel when most TVs are around 5cm.

It also has a discrete matte finish, rather than the popular cheap looking glossy black.

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