While SXGA+ projectors have existed for some time, they have rarely been small or affordable. With Dell's 5100MP SXGA+ projector, you now have a solution for very high resolution projection in either portable or fixed-installation applications. Features include 1400x1050 native resolution, high lumen output, and good contrast and color performance. All of these features are packed into a small 8.2 lb projector and offered at street prices of less than $3000. Dell leads the way in bringing bright SXGA+ projection below the $3000 mark, a feat that has not previously been accomplished.
Specifications. 3300 ANSI lumens, 2500:1 Contrast, 1400x1050 4:3 1.0" DLP chip with a 2x, 4-segment color wheel
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, and computer resolutions up to 1600x1200. Full NTSC / PAL / SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.20:1 manual zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 13.3' to 16', depending on zoom.
Lamp Life. 1,700 hours in normal mode, 2,200 hours in eco-mode.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, one VGA port, one set of BNC/RGBHV inputs, one set of RCA component inputs, one HDMI input, one M1-DA port, one RJ-45 network port, one RS-232 port for an external control, one VGA monitor pass-through, and one each 1/8" audio in and out.
Warranty. Two years.
At a rated 3300 ANSI lumens maximum, the 5100MP is one of the brightest SXGA+ resolution projectors under 10 lbs. at the time of this review. Our test unit measured 2650 ANSI lumens in high lamp mode when optimized for data usage, and nearly 2400 ANSI lumens in low lamp mode, which is a small change and not readily visible to the naked eye. So this is a bright projector intended for use with a large screen and large audience in a darkened room, or a moderate screen size with full room light. In Movie Mode, the lumen output was 970 ANSI lumens with the lamp on high, and 800 ANSI lumens in eco mode. This mode is used for optimizing contrast during video clips when the lights have been brought down.
On the 5100MP, black level is deep, and shadow detail is clearly defined. However, the 5100MP was released in August of 2005, and as such it is beginning to show its age. Contrast is no longer terribly impressive compared to similarly-priced competitors, and highlights have a habit of blowing out and losing detail in PC mode. Movie mode solves the problem of blown out highlights, but at the expense of lumen output.
While precise color balance is not of great concern to most presenters using text-intensive material, it is important to anyone showing digital photography or graphics. The 5100MP's "medium" color temperature setting tracked very close to 6500K straight out of the box. Changing the setting to "high" raises color temperature to nearly 10,000K, an option better suited to data presentations. Saturation is also good, with colors showing vibrancy and definition, and subtle gradations of color are not lost.
With the 5100MP's very high resolution, pixelation is undetectable at normal viewing distances. This makes photography appear smooth, and increases the legibility of detailed spreadsheets.
To take full advantage of the 5100MP's 1400x1050 resolution, you need a source that will output its signal at 1400x1050. Some computers are capable of this - in fact, most modern desktop or tower computers with decent video cards will output 1400x1050 or higher without incident. Others will not; specifically, most laptop computers are much more restrictive in terms of output resolution. So there may be some circumstances where your equipment does not allow you to output the projector's native resolution. These days the most common computer output resolution is XGA, or 1024x768. With an XGA signal, text remained legible down to about 9 point type. Graphics and photos did not suffer much from upscaling, maintaining good detail and resolution. As is common on data projectors, the additional scaling associated with keystone correction slightly blurs text material, giving it a bolded look, while photographic material is mostly unaffected. Nevertheless, to take full advantage of this projector, a computer that can output 1400x1050 resolution is a must.
When given a native resolution (1400x1050) text data signal, the 5100MP was able to really strut its stuff. Edges are clear, text is easily legible from typical seating distances, and lines or horizontal rules are solid. Performance with non-native data signals was also good; the 5100MP scaled SVGA and XGA signals up to SXGA+ without introducing excessive noise or fuzziness.
With native resolution photography, the 5100MP presented a bright, high contrast image, with good color accuracy and saturation. Highlights seemed to be "blown out" and lose detail unless contrast was brought down several notches. While we were able to compensate for the most part by lowering contrast, the 5100MP's white level can still be uncomfortably high. The best solution for this problem, it seems, is switching the projector to "movie" mode and lowering room lighting
Video performance was a different story. There are several attributes that combine to make the 5100MP a less-than-ideal projector for dedicated video use, not the least of which is its 2x rotation speed color wheel. That said, with a few exceptions, the 5100MP turned in a respectable performance doing a job it was not designed to do.
When using interlaced video sources, the Dell 5100MP showed some deinterlacing artifacts and a fair amount of image noise , but these deinterlacing artifacts did not manifest when displaying interlaced film content (film is 24 frames per second, while video is 30 frames per second). On the contrary, 480i film material was displayed very cleanly, with few visible artifacts. Also, 480p content did not display any of the aforementioned deinterlacing artifacts, nor was there as much image noise. In this case, if you have a quality DVD player that is capable of progressive scan, let it make the conversion from 480i to 480p so the 5100MP doesn't have to.
480-line content as a whole was somewhat lacking in sharpness and clarity, and appeared rather soft. Since the 5100MP is capable of displaying very fine detail when receiving a native signal, it would be wise to upscale any 480-line material to 1400x1050 before it reaches the projector if you have the means to do so. Otherwise, use of HDMI instead of component video produces a slightly cleaner picture. However, this can on occasion lead to frame tearing problems.
Tearing is a phenomenon when the top and bottom halves of a given frame appear to be out of sync. We found this to happen often when the projector was given a few specific signals. One was 1400x1050 data via VGA, with motion content on screen rather than stills. Specifically, this would effect anyone who wanted to watch PC video or play computer games on the 5100MP. In our tests, playing Half-Life at native 1400x1050 caused tearing artifacts once every few minutes, especially during fast horizontal panning. The same artifact occurred with 480p DVD letterbox 16:9 content over HDMI, and it happens often enough to be considered a serious distraction. Note that this artifact does not seem to occur when using any inputs other than VGA for data or HDMI for video.
There was a significant amount of image noise when the 5100MP was displaying 1920x1080i content from HD-DVD. This is an odd find, since the original source material is close to noise-free (the four movies that we have received thus far are excellent transfers, and we are eagerly awaiting more of the same). While we cannot speculate as to where exactly the image noise is being created within the 5100MP, we can say that under normal circumstances, it would not be overly distracting - it is simply another factor worthy of note when choosing between similar products.
The 5100MP has several preset picture modes, which are auto-selected depending on which signal type the projector receives. "PC Mode" is optimized for brightness, and delivers the highest lumen output. This mode should be used for general data and graphics projection. "Movie Mode" reduces color temperature down to around 6500K. In Movie Mode, the lumen output was 970 ANSI lumens with the lamp on high, and 800 ANSI lumens in eco mode. This mode is used for optimizing contrast during video clips when the lights have been brought down. "Game Mode" again boosts lumen output, but gives the image more contrast and color saturation by striking a balance with lumen output. Finally, "User Mode" is a customizable setting which can be saved to memory after you get the projector adjusted to your liking.
The 5100MP's auto-keystone feature (which is disabled by default) calculates the tilt of the projector and automatically adjusts vertical keystone accordingly. Provided that the surface the projector is placed on and the screen are perpendicular to each other, this works perfectly.
A very handy additional feature is the remote control with its removable USB transmitter that can be plugged into your computer, transforming the remote into a wireless mouse. Coupled with the laser pointer also built-in to the remote, this lets you stand at the front of the room during your presentation without worrying about being close to your computer.
The image adjustment options on the 5100MP more closely resemble those of a home theater projector than a business-class machine. Independent adjustments are available for red, green, and blue, as well as options for adjusting the gamma curve - however, we found the precalibrated grayscale satisfactory without any adjustment.
Due to the RJ-45 networking port, the Dell 5100MP can be wired into your existing network and controlled remotely. Thus it can be connected to many computers simultaneously, making data display possible from any computer in your business environment. This can also be used to monitor the projector's status from a central location.
For more direct monitoring, the 5100MP has a small LCD display that shows either the projector's status, or the active source. Compared to the blinking red lights on most other projectors, this is much less cryptic.
The 5100MP is designed for either fixed or portable presentation use. For portable use, Dell offers a rolling carrying case as an accessory for an additional $149.
The modest 1.2x zoom range of the lens will allow small adjustments to fit the image to a screen without locating the unit at a precise throw distance. A 150" diagonal 4:3 image is obtained from a distance of 20 to 24 feet. The projector can be table mounted or ceiling mounted for permanent use in a conference room, boardroom, or university classroom.
There is an upward throw angle present on the 5100MP; the bottom edge of the image appears about 24% of the image height above the centerline of the lens. Thus if you place it on a conference table you may want to tilt the projector upward. This will produce a trapezoid shaped image that can be squared up via keystone correction if you wish. As noted above, keystone correction may cause a loss in resolution of your subject matter due to rescaling. If you want to retain the maximum resolution potential of the projector, the only real solution is to avoid tilting the projector, and instead planning out your mounting situation beforehand.
Due to the plethora of connection options, just about any device can be connected to the 5100MP without the aid of an adapter cable, with the notable exception of DVI, which can be connected via a DVI to HDMI adapter.
The 5100MP's menu system is clean and easy to use, with sections for image adjustments, audio adjustments (for the 5100MP's onboard speaker), and "management" options. The latter covers such items as lamp mode, menu position, projection mode, and other miscellaneous options. There are also picture-in-picture settings, network adjustments, and a specific menu for adjusting a computer source image.
The remote control includes an auto-source button which cycles the 5100MP's sources to find an active input, as well as an auto-adjust button. The remote's two most distinctive features are the mouse controls for use with the USB wireless mouse capability, and the laser pointer, which combined provide you with lots of room to move when giving a presentation.
The Dell 5100MP is a versatile high performance, high resolution projector that is equally at home in either portable or fixed installation applications. It is perfect for those on a budget who nevertheless require a bright, high-resolution display either in the office or on the road. It is not as sharp as other SXGA+ projectors available, and ill-suited for home theater use, but for those who need the unique combination of high resolution and high lumen output in a small package it is an outstanding value in today's market.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Dell 5100MP projector page.