Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Mobile presenters dream of light, bright, inexpensive, high resolution projectors. Dell's new M410HD is the thing dreams are made of. At 2.6 pounds and 2,000 lumens, it is almost in a class by itself, but when you add its 1280 x 800 native resolution and its $849 list price, it stands alone among mobile projectors. If you happen to be a movie buff, you will appreciate that 720p video needs no scaling to fit the M410HD's 16 x 10 display. Like any projector, it has a few limitations, but overall, this is an excellent choice for the road warrior looking for a compact powerhouse of a projector.
Brightness and Uniformity: It is a treat to find a projector that exceeds its brightness specification, and the M410HD did it with ease. In Bright mode, it put 2,190 ANSI lumens on the screen . . . nearly 10% higher than its specification. Other presets produced the following: Presentation and sRGB - 1,995 lumens and Movie - 1,075 lumens. Eco mode reduced brightness by 24% and lowered fan noise as well. Uniformity was a less than stellar 60% with the lower right portions of the image brighter than the rest.
Connections: The back panel of the M410HD sports an extensive array of connections. Computers connect via a D-sub VGA connector, and video sources connect through RCA (composite), HDMI (digital), or VGA connectors (component). Audio input and output use mini jacks, and there is a USB connector for firmware updates and page up/down controls via the remote.
Compatibility: The M410HD accommodates a wide range of computer inputs from 640 x 480 to 1,920 x 1080. Video inputs can range from 480p to 1080p. Of course, compression occurs above the M410HD's WXGA native resolution, but scaling artifacts are minimal.
Image Size and Position: The centerline of the lens is 3.5" below the bottom of the image for a 100" image. This offset is fine for cart height, but for tabletop and ceiling mounting, you may need to re-position the image by raising the front of the projector, using a drop tube on the ceiling mount, and/or tilting the projector in its mount. An elevator foot will raise the front of the projector, and horizontal leveling can be accomplished by unscrewing either/both of the rear feet. Vertical keystone correction of +40°/-35° is provided.
Preset modes: Each of the four preset modes (Presentation, Bright, Movie, and sRGB) have slight differences in color, brightness, and contrast for their particular applications. If those presets do not fit your circumstances, there is also a Custom mode where you can store your preferred settings.
Warranty Provisions: Dell provides a two-year limited warranty on the M410HD and offers extended warranties of up to five years for an additional charge. The 165-watt lamp is warranted for 90 days.
Maintenance: The good news is that like most DLP projectors, no real maintenance is needed except for an occasional vacuuming of the air intakes. If the unit were ceiling mounted, lamp changes might require a dismount since access to the lamp is through the bottom of the projector. However, since ceiling mounting is unlikely for a mobile projector and lamp life is 3000 to 5000 hours, this isn't a serious limitation.
Security: While you will probably take the M410HD with you when you finish a presentation, if you have to leave it in place, there is a Kensington lock to help keep it where you leave it.
Portability: When I searched our database for 1280 x 800 projectors weighing less than three pounds and selling for under $1,000, only two projectors popped up . . . and the other one is more expensive than the M410HD. It is easy to set up, and you will not tire from hauling it to and fro. Included with the projector is a padded carrying case with plenty of room for cables and media.
Image Quality: Data images looked very good with one exception . . . saturation is too high for computer photos, and there is no way to effectively reduce saturation in VGA mode. For graphics, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations, images were colorful and crisp with excellent definition even in small-font type.
Once minor adjustments were made to brightness and contrast settings, video images were excellent. Skin tones were natural and highlights and black levels were solid. In general, raising brightness and lowering contrast from factory default settings produced the best images.
Quick Shutdown: If you need to rush to your next presentation, you can shorten the usual two-minute cool down phase when powering down. An extended key press on the power button will accelerate the process by running the fan at a higher than normal speed for about 15 seconds to cool the lamp.
Auto Source Search: You have to search for sources manually on many inexpensive projectors, but the M410HD can look for sources automatically. On power up, it searches through the VGA, composite video, S-video, and HDMI inputs and selects the first active connection it finds. When the Source key is pushed on the remote, it begins searching and selects the next connection it detects. If you prefer to select sources manually, you can disable Auto Search in the Input Select menu.
On-Screen Menus: It is easy to move through the M410HD's on-screen menus. Layering is minimal, and menu names are easy to understand. The menu can be positioned at the top or the bottom of the image, and transparency can be set from clear to opaque.
Lamp Life: The M410HD's 3,000-hour lamp life in Normal mode is comparable to other 2,000-lumen projectors, but things improve in Eco mode where lamp life stretches to 5,000 hours. A replacement lamp may be purchased for $220.
3-D Ready: As you may know, when a projector claims 3-D capability, you have to start asking questions about compatibility. The M410HD is 3-D ready with a computer outputting low-resolution frame-sequential format, but not with Blu-ray or HD broadcast sources. If 3-D is important to you, check with your dealer to find out which formats are accommodated.
Remote Control: While the mid-size remote fits nicely in the hand, its button markings leave a lot to be desired. The remote is black and the markings are in gray, so even in a lit room, finding the right key can be a test. In a darkened room, it is nearly impossible. An added hurdle is the long reach to the directional keys for menu navigation. All in all, a re-design of this remote would be a welcome change.
Fan noise: Fan noise is moderately high at 39dB in normal mode, and even Eco mode still registers 31dB. The good news is that the noise isn't high pitched, but it's still a little distracting in an intimate setting.
Audio Quality: A small group in a quiet room may find the 1-watt audio output adequate, but it will not suffice for a large audience or a noisy room. At full volume, the sound is tinny, and you may wish Dell had beefed up the speaker output.
Placement Flexibility: If you are trying to fit an image to a screen, you may find that the M410HD's low zoom ratio of 1.1:1 makes projector placement difficult. For example, the projector is about 11 feet from the screen when projecting a 100" diagonal image, and it can only be moved about ±6" and maintain that image diagonal.
Color Wheel: The M410HD uses a 2x color wheel, and if you've read much about DLP projectors, you know that lower speed color wheels can cause "rainbow" effects. Rainbows typically occur only with material in motion, like video or PowerPoint transitions. In high contrast scenes with rapid panning, some viewers are likely to see momentary RGB stripes intermittently. You should try-before-you-buy to see if this effect bothers you. For typical business presentation applications, this is usually a non-issue.
Disabled Inputs: Input sources can be individually disabled which can speed up source searching but may lock out a desired source. If you connect a source and it does not display, check the Input Source Advanced menu to make sure that source has not been disabled. The on-screen menu can also be locked out, so if it does not display when you hit the Menu button, check the menu disable setting in the Others menu.
If you make presentations in multiple locations where ambient light varies and audiences are generally small, or if you just want to kick back and enjoy a high definition movie between business presentations, Dell's M410HD makes a great companion. It is small, bright, and offers WXGA resolution for less than $850 . . . a potent combination. It travels well, and despite a limited audio capability, it handles on-the-road requirements better than most projectors in its class. It garners our highest value award, and it should be right on the top of your list when you are shopping for a mobile business projector.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Dell M410HD projector page.