Dell M109S On-the-Go Projector review

£378
Price when reviewed

Pico projectors have been the talk of the town, ever since the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas at the beginning of the year, and we’re now beginning to see products emerge from the fog of marketing.

Dell’s M109S isn’t the first we’ve seen – the Aiptek PocketCinema V10 holds that record – but it is the first that could be considered a serious projector rather than a mere toy.

The reason for this is that it can take the VGA output of a laptop rather than the basic composite video or SD image input of the Aiptek, which makes it far more of a realistic work tool.

It also boasts far more impressive specifications. It’s brightness rating is five times the V10’s at 50 lumens, the resolution is better at 858 x 600 compared to 640 x 480, and the maximum projected image is 60in from corner to corner, ten inches bigger than the Aiptek’s.

And the Dell challenges on size, too.

Though not quite as slim, its diminutive 93 x 105 x 37mm dimensions and 360g weight are hardly what you’d call porky. The Dell also comes with a soft case and all the cables you need to connect VGA or composite video sources. The power supply and cables, ironically, are more of a pain to carry around than the projector itself.

It’s certainly a mighty impressive feat of miniaturisation, but there are problems here. The LED module that produces the projector’s light simply isn’t bright enough to project in even moderately-lit meeting rooms, despite the fact it uses a light-efficient DLP chip to create the image. We found that, unless we dimmed the lights, at a distance of 1.5m the projected 50in screen was very hard to see clearly.

To be fair we’d expected as much given the low brightness rating, but it’s not just the brightness that’s an issue. Performance elsewhere leaves a lot to be desired too. It’s hard enough to focus the image properly with the M109MS, but even when we had adjusted it as best we could there were still three horizontal bands of blurry distortion running across the middle and bottom quarter of the screen. The image suffers serious vignetting in the top right corner of the image, and contrast though quoted at 800:1 is woeful.

If all that wasn’t bad enough, the controls are fiddly and awkward to use: the focus ring is poorly engineered making it extremely difficult to gain a sharp image, and the touch sensitive buttons on the projector’s glossy black top are simply not sensitive enough.

We ended up prodding them so hard that we moved the projector halfway across the desk it was perched on.

It all goes to prove that the pico projector is a product type still very much in its infancy. And though the M109S is an interesting technological talking point, we certainly wouldn’t recommend anyone shell out the (rather steep) £329 asking price.

Details

Image quality 3

Basic specifications

Projector technology DLP
Resolution 858 x 600
Lumens brightness 50 lumens
Contrast ratio 800:1
Keystone correction? yes

Dimensions

Dimensions 93 x 105 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight 360g

Optics

Max diagonal image size 1.5m

Lamp & running costs

Lamp life, standard mode 10,000hrs

Power & environment

Typical power consumption 34W
Peak noise level 35.0dB(A)
Idle/eco noise level 32.0dB(A)

Video inputs/outputs

VGA inputs 1
DVI inputs 0
S-Video inputs 0
Composite video inputs 1
HDMI inputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0

Data ports and connectors

Front panel memory card reader no
Other memory media support N/A

Audio inputs/outputs

RCA (phono) inputs 0

Miscellaneous

Carry case yes

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