Based on your email requests, we thought it was time to do a shoot-out review of two of the best-selling micro-portables on the market today-the Dell 3200MP and the Optoma Ez-Pro 737. The testing has been completed, and the results are in.
The Dell 3200MP and the Optoma Ez-Pro 737 are small, lightweight projectors designed for the mobile presentation marketplace. They have many similarities on the spec sheets. Both are alleged to weigh 3.5 lbs. Both use an XGA (1024x768) resolution DLP chip, and have 150-watt lamps rated at 2000 hours. Both have the same 1.2x zoom lens, Pixelworks deinterlacing, identical throw distances, HDTV compatibility, +/- 16 degree keystone correction, and monitor loop-through. Both have an advertised contrast ratio of 1800:1, and similar brightness ratings-1500 ANSI lumens for the EzPro 737 and 1300 ANSI lumens for the 3200MP.
The EzPro 737 has a couple of "nice to have" features that are missing on the 3200MP. One is Picture-In-Picture that can be driven by either the composite or S-video inputs. The other is an RS-232 port that gives additional mouse control function via the remote, thus freeing the presenter from being glued to the laptop.
Connection panels: These two projectors have almost identical connection panels. They each feature a single M1-DA input port through which all computer signals as well as DVI, component and HDTV video signals must be fed. In addition, there is one S-video port, one composite video jack, one audio input, and a 15-pin VGA output for monitor loop-through. To this configuration the EzPro 737 adds the RS-232 port. Both projectors have IR sensors on the front and back panels and menu control keypads on the top.
Size and weight: The 3200MP is just slightly smaller than the EzPro 737. Both stand shy of 3" in height, but the EzPro 737 is 9.5" wide by 8.25" long. The 3200MP is 9.25" wide by 7.25" long. However, the 3200MP's carrying case is the larger of the two-13.5"x 10.5"x 5" compared to the 737's 12.25"x 10.25"x 4.5". The 3200MP's case is built of stiffer material. Dell's case appears as though it might provide somewhat better protection if you dropped in on the street, but we did no impact testing to see which projector would survive the stiffest blows.
These units are supposed to weigh 3.5 lbs. However the 3200MP's actual weight is 3.62 lbs, and the EzPro 737 is 3.98 lbs. What we see here is a bit of fudge factor that infects almost all projectors specifications from most vendors in the marketplace. Each individual vendor is faced with the problem of quoting accurate specs, and thereby losing business to competitors who exaggerate their numbers, or quoting "equivalent" numbers that make their products appear comparable to competitive units that they are indeed on par with. Most choose the latter.
Thus we routinely find that even specs like weight which should be error-free tend to be understated. And if vendors are tempted to understate specs as straightforward as weight, you can imagine what they must be doing with ANSI lumen and contrast ratings. And you would be right. All manufacturers' specs should be viewed with extreme skepticism. They should be interpreted as a very loose guide to what the product might be capable of. But that's about the limit of it.
Audible noise: The 3200MP is rated at 37dB, and the 737 is rated at 32 dB. From the specs you would assume the EzPro 737 is quieter. It is not. These two projectors generate virtually the same amount of audible noise. The EzPro 737 has a slightly lower pitch, but we would classify the noise level on both of these units as low to moderate within the mobile projector category. They are for all practical purposes unobtrusive in sales presentations, but a bit louder than most (but not all) of the products being targeted at home theater these days.
Brightness: Optoma rates the EzPro 737 at 1500 ANSI lumens. Dell rates the 3200MP at a maximum of 1300, and in fine print says 1200 is typical. From these stats you'd think the EzPro was the brighter machine. We did not find this to be the case.
Side by side with a white field displayed the 3200MP appears to be brighter than the EzPro 737 for two reasons. First, the 3200MP has a particularly visible hotspot in the lower center portion of the screen that concentrates much of its light into that area. That area therefore is brighter than any area on the 737's image. Second, when both units are set on their highest color temperature settings, the 3200MP has the much higher color temperature of the two. The image is therefore colder (bluer) and thus appears brighter, while the 737 appears more neutral.
Since the ANSI lumen measurement technique averages the light readings from nine quadrants on the image, it averages out uneven illumination and gives the total amount of light on the screen as a whole. After calibration for data display, we measured ANSI lumens on the EzPro 737 to be 1056, and the 3200MP to be 1051, or virtually identical. We should add as we always do that the measurement of two particular samples is not necessarily representative of the entire product run since there is always some variation due to manufacturing tolerances.
Brightness uniformity: A perfect projector will illuminate the screen with the same amount of light from edge to edge and top to bottom across the screen. Brightness uniformity is not particularly good on either of these units. Both have visible hotspots. The 3200MP is brightest in the lower center portion of the image. Illumination drops off by almost 50% at the upper right and left corners.
The EzPro 737's hotspot is somewhat less intense. The brightest spot in the image is dead center, which, if you must have a hotspot, is where you want it to be. Illumination falls off by about 40% between center and the upper right corner. In terms of brightness uniformity we would rate the EzPro 737 as fair, and the 3200MP as poor. However, because both of them are pumping out over 1000 real ANSI lumens, the images are plenty bright even in the less intensely illuminated areas of the image to get the presentation job done. So the weaknesses in brightness uniformity do not compromise their ability to function well as mobile presentation projectors.
Contrast: Both units have published ratings in marketing literature and on their website (as of this writing) of 1800:1. However, the 3200MP's user manual quotes its contrast as 1600:1. It is not unusual to find different specifications being quoted by a vendor for a particular product, since marketing and engineering departments are not always in synch. We see this all the time--another reason to take specs with a grain of salt.
Having said that, the contrast performance on these two units is comparable. Due to the higher color temperature that makes the whites cold, the 3200MP has a somewhat higher apparent contrast. But both units are exceptionally good in this regard.
Color performance: Neither of these units is built for home theater, and top home theater performance should not be expected. Color decoding is not particularly strong on either machine. Overall we got better performance on both color graphics and video out of the EzPro 737 due to its lower color temperature range.
Color temperature can be adjusted to a certain degree on both units by the user. The 3200MP gives you the ability to adjust red, green, and blue via one intensity control for each. However the 3200MP has a higher color temperature range across the board, and these controls can only do so much to dial in proper color balance. Even at the optimum trade-offs, the whites remain cold and hard--great for presentation use, but not so ideal for video.
On the other hand the EzPro737 has independent red, green, and blue gain and bias controls in the service menu (to access key "up-up-left-left"). Since the EzPro 737 has a color temperature range that is more suitable for video to begin with, using these controls the user can dial in a more satisfactory color balance.
Both units have the ability to turn down the usage of the white segment of the RGBW color wheel. On the 3200MP the control is called White Intensity, and on the EzPro it is White Segment. Turning this setting down increases color saturation while reducing lumen output. Turning down the white segment is mandatory to avoid crushing of highlights in graphics and video.
Having said all this, we must emphasize that we are speaking in comparative terms. The images between these two machines are not radically different after calibration. If you placed the 3200MP video image on a screen without the EzPro 737 next to it, the image will appear to most viewers to be quite satisfactory. Contrast is more than ample and black level is excellent. Overall the image is plenty good for part time home theater use, especially considering the price of the unit.
It is only when you place the EzPro 737 picture next to the 3200MP that the differences become more apparent. The EzPro 737 ultimately renders more satisfying color--not perfect by any means, but comfortably balanced and easy to watch.
Sharpness: Both units render clean, sharp images from data sources. The 3200MP has a subtle edge over the EzPro here, because while the 3200MP was razor sharp from edge to edge and top to bottom, the EzPro showed a slight softening of focus in the upper left corner when the rest of the image was perfectly sharp. Most viewers would not notice it unless they were looking for it however, so it is not a serious issue.
When it comes to component video input the 3200MP appears to be sharper than the EzPro 737. That is because Dell added some edge enhancement that Optoma did not. This creates the impression that the 3200MP has a sharper picture. But artificial edge enhancement is not part of the original video signal. At times it improves image clarity, and at other times it produces a sensation of image brittleness--edges are so sharp that they are unnatural. Some people like this effect. We do not. We prefer what we'd describe as the more film-like smoothness of the EzPro 737. However, this is entirely a matter of personal taste and we cannot say that one is better than the other.
The Optoma EzPro 737 does a fine job with Word documents, spreadsheets and PowerPoint also. But one cannot get the crisp, cold, very high color temperatures out of the Optoma that you can with the Dell. The Optoma would be the better choice for those who may be concerned with color accuracy in graphics or video. If Picture-in-Picture is needed, or if you want to use your remote with mouse control of your computer via RS-232, the Optoma is the only one of the two that gives you those features.
Due to the hotspots and less than ideal color decoding on both of these units, neither of them can be strongly recommended for dedicated home theater. However, both produce very watchable video images with excellent contrast. For those who aren't video perfectionists, they will serve quite admirably as part time home entertainment machines.
With these caveats stated, we can recommend both the Dell 3200MP and the Optoma EzPro 737 as great overall values for the money in the lightweight mobile presentation category. The Dell comes with a standard two-year warranty. A third year is available for an additional $150. The product is sold by Dell directly, so it is not available through dealers on this site. The Optoma comes with a standard three-year warranty included in the price.