Dell S500wi Widescreen
Interactive Short Throw Projector

Marc Davidson, April 13, 2011

Bright enough to leave the lights on. The S500wi was a bit brighter than its 3200 lumen rating on our tests, at 3390 lumens in its brightest mode. That makes it more than bright enough to stand up to typical office lighting for the 75" diagonal image we used.

Even better, turning on interactive mode doesn't lower the brightness by much, something you can't say for most interactive projectors. With interactive mode, we measured the brightness at 3173 lumens, or essentially the rated brightness. Eco mode drops the brightness by only about 15%, to 2929 lumens in the brightest mode with interactive mode off. Finally, various presets offer a range of levels for lower lighting conditions, with 1695 lumens for the least bright setting by our measurements.

Acceptable Brightness Uniformity. Ultra short throw projectors often have problems maintaining uniform brightness across the screen. The numbers for the S500wi come out to a relatively poor 61%, but the brightest and least bright areas are far enough apart and the brightness changes gradually enough so the difference is only noticeable on a solid white or light colored screen. Break up the image with text or other details, and the difference is almost impossible to see, making the brightness uniformity more than acceptable, despite the numbers.

Good data image quality. Data image quality was easily good enough for any conference room or classroom needs. Colors were a little dull (or dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model), with a slightly mustard-colored yellow, but they were well saturated.

The projector also handled text well, with black text on a white background easily readable even at the smallest size we test with. White text on black was unreadable at the smallest size. However, this isn't a serious problem, since most text is black on white, and the smallest sizes we test with are smaller than you're likely to run into in any case.

With an analog connection we saw some slight pixel jitter that we couldn't get rid of. But again, this isn't much of a problem, since it only shows on screens that tend to bring out jitter, and you can get rid of the jitter entirely by using a digital connection in any case.

Good Connectivity: The S500wi includes all the connectors you're likely to need, starting with an HDMI port for either a computer or video source. In addition, there are two VGA inputs for computers or component video, a pass-through VGA port for a monitor, both composite video and S-Video inputs, and support for a WiFi connection.

For audio, in addition to the HDMI connector, the projector offers a stereo minijack and a set of stereo RCA phono jacks. Menu settings let you choose any audio input to use with the current video or data source, but you can't set the audio ports to switch automatically when you change the video source. In addition, there's a minijack for microphone input and another for stereo output.

Additional connectors include a type A USB port to let you read jpg and ptg files directly from a USB key, a type B USB port to let you send data to the projector, and a mini USB port to connect for the interactive feature as well as for firmware upgrades and controlling the projector from your computer. Finally, there's a LAN connector for both data and control, an RS-232 port for control, and a 12v trigger to let you lower and raise a screen automatically.

Excellent quality audio. The S500wi's stereo audio system, with two 5-watt speakers is excellent for a projector this size, with good sound quality and enough volume to fill a large conference room or classroom. If you need to, you also have the option of connecting the audio output to an external sound system.

Contents: Advantages Additional Advantages Limitations and Conclusion

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