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Dell M110 Portable LED Projector Review

Performance
4
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Mobile Presentation
Dell M110 Projector Dell M110
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10000:1 Contrast Ratio
300 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
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The Dell M110 Portable LED Projector

Jeff Janas, February 8, 2012
ProjectorCentral.com

The Dell M110 portable LED projector has a unique story to tell: it gives you 1280x800 resolution and computer-free presentations in a two-pound package for less than $500. And beyond that, the LED light source ensures that you'll never be plagued with expensive replacement bulb purchases over the projector's life. The M110 displays about 250 lumens of brightness, provides a multitude of input options and can light up a reasonable screen size in a fully lit room. In the right hands, and under the right conditions, this projector is a downright wicked deal.

We tested the projector with a variety of screen sizes, from a 30-40" diagonal secondary computer display in a fully lit room to a large 90" diagonal image in a dark dedicated theater room. The 250 lumen output of the projector allowed for a dynamic image in both extremes. The light output of the projector comes at the expense of color accuracy, but Dell has successfully balanced the trade-offs by providing a bright image with reasonable colors.

Using the projector as a secondary display at a desk, we were able to achieve a 17" image width with about a 2 foot throw distance given its 1.5:1 throw ratio. The M110 was more than bright enough even in Eco mode (under direct, fluorescent lighting) when using a piece of 11x17 paper as an improvised screen surface. In a fully lit room, the maximum acceptable image size was three feet wide or 42" diagonal. In a conference room with a 60" diagonal screen, it was necessary to draw the shades at the front end of the room and turn off the first bank of lights.

Key Features:

Form Factor: This projector truly is "Ultra-Portable." It is nearly pico sized, but since it has no battery, it does require a laptop style power supply. Its case is almost a perfect 4" square and is 1.5 inches thick. The 12.75 ounce projector weight is light enough to make it effortless to move around, but provides enough heft to impart a feel of quality. The essential 11.25 ounce power supply almost doubles the weight of the projector, but the 1.5 pound projector and power supply weight is still very light compared to small notebook computers and is comparable to the weight of an average 10" tablet computer. We must still note that there are several projectors on the market with a much higher lumen output and an onboard power supply that still manage to stay under the three pound mark so a user is not giving up the lumens to save on weight. The sacrifice of lumens must be for the projector's other attributes.

Image quality: The Dell M110 throws an impressive picture that under the right viewing conditions can surpass the quality of much larger and less portable projectors. In a dark room, the contrast ratio provides great image depth.

A distinct negative to the image performance is color saturation. Primary colors are noticeably over saturated, with green being the most distracting. Each picture mode is affected. The sRGB image mode performs the best (but is still not great) and the Bright image mode has the most aggressive colors. NFL football games were an experience in neon green grass and shades of orange that looked nearly red. Unfortunately, the M110 does not include even a simple Color control, so no adjustment is possible.

While this projector is not a great candidate for dedicated home theater use, the rationale behind Dell's decision to go with an aggressive color palette reveals itself in the office environment. We used temporary DIY screens in two different situations - the 11x17 piece of paper at my desk and a large 36 inch piece of plotter paper. In both situations, under full room lighting and displaying spreadsheets and PowerPoint graphics, the aggressive color balance was not distracting or even very noticeable. The M110's extreme portability and business focus will likely be the impetus for many presentations in non-dedicated environments; I think the overall image quality is impressive for this projector's intended use.

Traditional Video Inputs: The M110 includes a full sized HDMI input, has VGA computer connectivity through the provided breakout cable and a Composite video input via a 3.5 mm adapter cable. Most of our viewing was done via HDMI and we found no issues with the performance. We used a direct HDMI connection from a laptop, a DVI to HDMI cable from a desktop computer, and the HDMI output from an Android cell phone, all with favorable results.

USB Inputs: The projector features a full sized USB type-A input that supports USB Display functionality, access to the internal memory or playback of video, audio or photos via a flash drive. The USB port also supports the optional wireless adapter.Connecting the projector to a computer via USB brings up a menu that allows a choice between Mass Storage Mode for access to the 1GB of internal memory or activation of the USB display mode. The USB connection functioned well for office work, but we noted jitter and lip-sync issues when playing video.

Brightness: Peak brightness of 250 lumens was found with the Bright image preset and Normal lamp mode. Dell specs this projector at 300 lumens. Switching to Eco lamp mode reduces brightness by 15% to 207 lumens. The more color balanced sRGB mode produced 207 lumens. Brightness uniformity was a somewhat low 72%, but was visually consistent across the entire screen.

Keystone: The Dell M110 includes a manual keystone adjustment feature that supports up to a 40 degree incline or decline. Keystone performance was excellent even at extreme levels.

Rainbows: We did not experience any rainbow effect with the Dell M110 via normal viewing or direct testing

Limitations

Fan Noise: Fan noise is noticeable in both Normal and ECO lamp modes. Dell specs Normal mode as 36 dB(A) and ECO as 32 dB(A). We found the noise distracting in Normal mode while sitting within close proximity to the projector. In a conference room scenario when the projector is placed on a table and only an arm's distance away from some of the attendees, this might be a consideration. While the fan noise was still audible in ECO mode, it was much less obvious.

Lens Quality: Although the M110 is capable of acceptable focus and sharpness, the overall performance was wanting. We were not able to achieve a pinpoint focus across the entire projected image. If the image center was used to dial in focus, corner edges (primarily on the top corners) were soft. This would be a consideration for a business user projecting detailed text or financial data.

With graphical presentation type material, image sharpness was satisfactory. However photos or videos were missing the sharp, crisp image often associated with DLP projectors.

Wi-Fi Adapter: The performance of the optional Wi-Fi adapter was disappointing. After plugging in the adapter to the USB port on the projector, a menu launches that provides connection instructions. The software installation was straightforward, but it took several attempts to get display mirroring to start even with a solid Wi-Fi connection to the projector.

The Wi-Fi enabled projector functions as a direct access point. Consequently, no other wireless connection is possible. The laptop remained connected to the internet via a hard wired connection, but it would have been preferable for the projector to connect to an existing wireless network versus having to rely on a second physical connection to maintain network access. The Wi-Fi connection is open without any security options. Once connected, the pure static image quality via display mirroring was perfect, like any digital connection should be. Unfortunately, the connection suffered enough lag to make it essentially unusable.

Initially, mouse movement occurred in near real time between the computer and projector. However, after less than a minute of connection time, the lag grew to a consistent and repeatable 15-20 seconds. The only remedy was to stop and restart the display mirroring application. A few seconds of lag may be acceptable for most business presentations, but this amount of lag was excessive and would eliminate the Wi-Fi connection as a viable input option in a business presentation scenario.

Conclusion:

The Dell M110 projector story is that for the right user it offers a great price and thousands of hours of use without ever having to change a lamp. If ambient light and a bit of fan noise are not issues, you'll get an economical projector with a wide array of inputs. The 250 lumens of brightness allows it to become a very large desktop monitor in a fully lit room, create a theater sized screen in a dark room or play the part of the average conference room projector as long room lighting can be adjusted.

If you dim the lights, expect to be treated to impressive dynamics from an above average contrast ratio. It does not quite exemplify projector perfection, but the trade-offs are acceptable. For a street price of $500, Dell has produced a quality projector with no lamp replacement costs. The size, performance and features of the Dell M110 make it a great fit for many mobile business users.

(05/26/19 - 10:20 AM PST)
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