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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...