Review Price free/subscription
NEC VT-800 LCD Projector
There's an old joke in The Simpsons that if Meryl Streep had a perfume, it would be called 'Meryl Streep's Versatility.' The NEC VT-800 isn't quite as flexible as the multiple Oscar winner/Mamma Mia star, but it's not far off. While it doesn't offer cutting-edge resolutions, an ultra-mobile package or a bargain basement price tag, it does pack in a fine selection of features that make it an effective presentation tool and – on the sly – after-hours entertainer. It's flexible enough to work in a range of environments, and it's easy to get up and running. Yep, 'versatile' pretty much sums it up.
Let's start with the business stuff first. It's true that the VT-800 is a little behind the curve with its bog-standard 1,024 x 768 native resolution, and also that it's not the most svelte or glamorous projector in town, but it does have a couple of features that make up for it. First, while you can still relay presentations directly from a PC or laptop via one of the two VGA ports, the VT-800 has a couple of more unusual ways of getting slides to screen. The first is the USB port, with the projector displaying files directly from a USB memory stick. Cleverly, NEC bundles in a utility that converts PowerPoint slides to JPEGs. The second feature is more interesting and potentially more useful. One of the many connections at the back of this fairly bulky white box is an Ethernet port. Hook the VT-800 up to your network then install NEC's Image Express utility on a PC or laptop. Connect that PC up to the same network and you can display the image on your PC screen through the projector without any direct video connection.
It's easy to set up and, more importantly, it works. With the VT-800 plugged in and a laptop hooked up to the network via an 802.11g WiFi connection I experienced slightly less than a second of lag while switching slides or opening and closing windows. Meanwhile, the compression algorithms used to transport the data (and the slow speed of the connection) resulted in some minor artefacts in SD video, not to mention the odd glitch or jerk. All the same, I can see this being a real boon in companies where a single conference room might be shared by several teams or individual employees. You don't need to put your presentation on your laptop and take that down to the projector; you just beam the image through the network from your regular system. Cunningly, an additional piece of software (or just the remote desktop features built into higher-end versions of Vista) allows you to control the presentation on your desktop using a USB mouse plugged into the projector. Very slick.