Brightness and Presentation Picture Quality: Our M250 test unit produced 2,337 ANSI lumens in its brightest configuration, with was a combination of Bright lamp, the Dynamic color preset, and the 'Warm2' color temperature setting. This light output is just shy (93%) of the 2,500 lumen spec. Switching to ECO mode drops light output to 2,033 ANSI-lumens, which is only a 13% drop from the full power mode, and not much to sacrifice to get the expected 5000 hour lamp life.
The M250 produces enough light to accommodate a variety of different rooms and screen sizes. On a 150-inch diagonal, unity gain, 4:3 screen, the M250 can produce image brightness above 30-foot lamberts, which is bright enough for situations with moderate amounts of ambient light.
From an overall image quality standpoint, the M250's primary strength is the display of static presentation material. The color reproduction in the Dynamic image preset has a visible blue tint, yet I did not find it distracting when viewing text or simple graphics-based presentation material. For display material that requires a more balanced color palette (such as viewing photographs), I preferred the Standard image preset. Light output drops to 1,126 ANSI lumens in this mode, but that is still enough to maintain a 30 ft-lambert brightness level on a 100-inch diagonal 4:3 screen.
With an offset of approximately 14% of screen height, the bottom edge of a 100" diagonal image will be about 8.5" above the centerline of the lens when used in a tabletop configuration. This placement is convenience for most tabletop uses, and should in most cases avoid the need to tilt the projector or use keystone corrections. The M250 features a 1.2 zoom lens and a throw ratio between 1.5 to 1.8. It can throw a 100-inch diagonal image between 9.9 and 11.9 feet from the screen. Lens performance is good, pixel edges are clearly discernable when examined close up, and the image is sharp across the entire width of the screen. No chromatic aberration was noticed.
Form Factor: While the M250 is not the smallest projector on the market, it is easily portable with a case size of only 11 inches in length, 9 inches in width, and slightly over 3 inches in height. It weighs 5.3 pounds. The projector is quick to setup thanks to quick release front adjustment feet and an auto-keystone function that adjusts the geometry of the projected image to account for a non-level mounting position.
Audio Quality: The M250 features a 7-watt mono speaker with better than average audio quality for projectors in this class. The speaker produces sound that is clear and intelligible and does not suffer from any audible breakdown at maximum volume levels. Voice reproduction is particularly good, making the M250 capable of directly reproducing sound from videos in the small to medium sized meeting room. The projector has digital audio input over the HDMI port, and analog audio input via RCA stereo jacks. The remote features dedicated buttons for quick control of the volume. The connection panel includes a 3.5 mm audio output jack if you require more volume than the projector is capable of producing.
Fan Noise: The M250 is a quiet projector both in Bright and Eco lamp modes. Switching to Eco lamp mode nearly eliminates all fan noise output. While the fan is more noticeable in Bright mode, it is still quiet and only produces a soft, white noise sound with no high-pitched squeaking or squealing. There is nothing more annoying than a loud projector sitting in the middle of a conference table, and this one eliminates the problem.
Cost of Ownership: The M250 represents a good value for the dollar with a street price below $700 at trustworthy Internet retailers. The value proposition is boosted by a 5,000-hour lamp life in Eco mode or 3,000 hours in Bright mode. At this writing, replacement lamps for this new model could not be located on-line, but it appears that lamp cost should be less than $300 based on similar Samsung projectors.
Limited Features: The Samsung SP-M250 has a very basic feature set. It is common for projectors in this class to include a multiple presentation-based features such as color presets for use on a non-white display surface, count down timers and even the ability to use the remote to control presentations. The Samsung website states that this projector's "blackboard mode enables projection on a black or green screen." However, I cannot find that feature on our test sample.
While the M250 does not include any of the above features, it has auto-keystone capability and buttons on the remote control for freezing or blanking the projected image.
Input options are also basic; the connection panel has one HDMI port, one VGA port that can double for both data and component video, one composite video jack, and one RS-232c port. It has analog audio inputs, but does not include an S-video input or a monitor pass-through.
Black Level: The M250 is not able to reproduce a very dark black. The color of projected black is closer to the dark grey and is noticeable when source material other than a 4:3 aspect ratio is displayed (as letter box 'black bars' are projected). While I found the black level to be distracting when displaying 16:9 aspect ratio material, it should be not a major concern if the projector is being used for presentation-based material that fills the entire screen.
Video Performance: I tested the M250 with a variety of different video materials from the web and with broadcast HDTV. The video quality in the Dynamic mode with default settings was not very impressive as is to be expected. I noticed a blue-skewed color balance, an elevated black level and a noticeable amount of video noise even when using a digital connection. The M250 defaults to a Sharpness setting of 50% - reducing this to zero helped to minimize video noise and did not reduce any real image detail.
For the best video display results, I preferred the Standard image preset with Sharpness at zero. While video display is not a strength of the M250, the projector is capable of producing an acceptable image that is bright enough for non-critical viewing in a room with normal lighting.
If you are a traveling presenter in need of a bright data projector with low fan noise, the Samsung SP-M250 might be just the ticket. It produces a bright, sharp image and can be easily moved between locations and setup quickly. It excels at standard presentation material and can accommodate relatively large screen sizes thanks to a real world light output of 2000+ lumens even in eco-mode. And the 5,000-hour lamp life means that most users will end up upgrading the projector before they ever have to replace the lamp. While the M250 does not have as many features as some other projectors, the combination of solid performance and low cost make it a good value. If you want a low cost, portable projector for presentations on the road, the M250 is worth a close evaluation.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Samsung SP-M250 projector page.