Dell M900HD review

The Dell M900HD is a small, featherweight projector that's brighter than most of the LED-based mini-projectors we've seen in recent years.
Photo of Dell M900HD

The Dell M900HD is slightly larger—and notably brighter—than most of the LED-based mini projectors we’ve seen in recent years. It provides solid image quality, and the ability to run presentations via WiFi, from a USB thumb drive, or an SD card.

The M900HD is an LED-based DLP projector with a claimed WXGA (1,280 by 800) native resolution and a rated brightness of 900 lumens. This makes it brighter than LED mini and palmtop projectors, which generally run from 100 to 500 lumens. The Dell M110 and the Editors’ Choice 3M Mobile projector MP410 are both rated at 300 lumens.

This 3.5-pound projector measures a compact 1.7 by 9.1 by 6.5 inches. It is larger and heavier than the aforementioned two models, yet considerably smaller and lighter than typical portable data projectors. Its LED light source has a whopping 30,000 hour expected lifetime, so the bulb should last the lifetime of the projector.

The M900HD has a good selection of connectivity choices for a small projector. It ditches the analog VGA connection, offering HDMI; USB type A (for running data, audio, video, or photos computer-free from a USB thumb drive, as well as direct USB display from a computer); a full-sized SD card slot; and an audio-out jack. It also offers WiFi connectivity, including WiDi as well as wireless connectivity to run presentations from a PC or mobile device.

Testing
The Dell M900HD filled our test screen with an image about 65 inches diagonal from 7 feet away. It did well in a room with modest ambient light, and was usable (with some image degradation) with substantial ambient light. I ran our tests over both USB and HDMI connections, with similar results.

In data image testing using the DisplayMate suite, the M900HD provided image quality suitable for typical business presentations. Colors looked reasonably good, though there was some mild tinting in white areas, and some gray areas had a slight greenish tinge.

As has been the case with many recent lower-brightness LED-based DLP projectors with a claimed 1,280 by 800 resolution (including the Dell M110), I saw scaling artifacts in some images—unwanted extra patterns added to patterned fills at the claimed native resolution, some of them resembling moire patterns. Scaling artifacts in an LCD or DLP display generally show up when the display has to add or drop pixels in an image to make it match the number of pixels in the display. A projector shouldn’t have to scale an image that’s already at its native resolution, but these artifacts were visible nonetheless.

For most types of images common in presentations, these artifacts won’t be visible. They’re most likely to have an effect on text quality. With the Dell M900HD, text was blurry at the smallest black-on-white size and the two smallest white-on-black sizes, not bad but not top-notch, either.

All single-chip DLP projectors are potentially subject to the rainbow effect, in which light areas appear broken down into their component colors to form rainbow flashes, generally in light areas against dark backgrounds. The effect was fairly modest in data images, and shouldn’t be a distraction even to people sensitive to it.

Video and Audio
With video, the M900HD’s rainbow effect was enough of an issue that people who are fairly sensitive to it would likely find it distracting. Because of this, its video is best used for shorter clips as part of a presentation. I also noticed that some scenes looked overly red; it was particularly notable in skin tones.

Audio from its 3-watt speaker is of low volume, suitable for use in a small room.

The Dell M900HD is a small, featherweight projector that’s brighter than the typical LED-based DLP mini-projector, and offers a variety of connection choices. Like many similar WXGA-based LED projectors, it showed scaling artifacts in our testing that may have slightly degraded text quality, though its image quality is fine for typical presentations.

Other mini-projectors like the Editors’ Choice 3M Mobile Projector MP410 and the InFocus IN1144 also showed scaling artifacts, but they didn’t impact these projectors’ text quality. These two models have similar connection choices to the M900HD, but unlike the Dell, they lack WiFi connectivity.

A brighter alternative in an ultralight—albeit somewhat larger—projector is the Epson PowerLite 1761W Multimedia Projector an LCD-based model rated at 2,600 lumens. This 3.7-pound projector provided very good data and video image quality in our testing.

If you need a bit more brightness than a palmtop or similar mini-projector can offer, the Dell M900HD provides it–albeit at a considerably higher price–while remaining fairly small and lightweight. Its image quality is suitable for typical presentations, though its video suffers somewhat from the rainbow effect. It provides a good range of connection options, including WiFi, which is rare in a mini-projector. It’s a good choice for a presenter who works in relatively small rooms in need of a highly portable yet capable data projector.

Specifications
Native Resolution 1280 x 800
Video Inputs HDMI
Computer Interfaces USB
Wireless Connectivity Yes
Weight 3.5 lb
Rated Contrast Ratio 10,000
Engine Type DLP
Type Business
Aspect Ratio 16
Rated Brightness 900 ANSI lumens

Verdict
The Dell M900HD is a small, featherweight projector that's brighter than most of the LED-based mini-projectors we've seen in recent years.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc