My slight aversion to projectors, based on the often washed-out images they often produce, along with noisy fans and difficult set-ups, was cured when DLP (Digital Light Processing), a Texas Instruments-developed technology, came onto the market.
I had high expectations of the Dell 5100MP. The 3.8kg projector comes with a magnesium case and offers SXGA+ resolutions to a maximum of 1,400 by 1,050 pixels natively. On top of that, the projector can display HDT 1080i, 720p, 576p+i and 480p images, as well as 1,600 by 1,200 resolution computer video. PAL, NTSC and SECAM TV signalling standards are supported, too.
The lens provides a 1.2:1 scale zoom, which is manual, as is the focusing. Depending on the zoom level, you get a 2.5 metre image, as measured diagonally, with the projector four to five metres away. The maximum distance for projection is 12 metres and you can have screen sizes up to 7.5 metres, measured diagonally.
A 300-watt bulb burns for 1,700 hours (2,200 in econo-mode) at a very high 3,300 ANSI lumens. The contrast ratio is an equally high 2,500:1. The user can easily replace the bulb without help, and a new one costs $390.38, including GST and delivery — that’s not so expensive compared with the competition.
What I really liked about the Dell 5100MP are the large number of connectors it comes with: composite and component video; S-Video; VGA; BNC/RGB-HV jacks; HDMI and M1-DA. It also comes with an Ethernet and an RS-232 serial port for remote control and setup. There’s also a VGA pass-through for monitors (nice for presentations) and audio in/out jacks. Better yet, Dell provides cables for all of these with the 5100MP. If I was to be picky, I’d want a memory card-reader, but this is not strictly necessary for the purposes for which this projector was built. A remote control is included too, plus a decent carry bag.
Setting up the 5100MP is a no-brainer, thanks to good documentation and an easily navigable menu-based interface. The sensible defaults result in a good picture out of the box, but finer control over picture quality is also possible.
The 4:3 ratio DLP chip has a 2x colour wheel with four segments, which produces nice sharp images with good colour balance. Thanks to the high contrast ratio, blacks are solid; if anything, the contrast has to be turned down, as highlights can look blown-out and lacking in detail at times.
Testing with S-VGA, component video and computer signals, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the projector performed when viewing DVDs, and it could almost be used for gaming as well. Some colour-wheel induced artifacts show up when you move your head around, however, but after a while the brain seems to filter these out.
With a 300-watt bulb plus electronics on-board the 5100MP produces a good deal of heat and needs a fan to cool off. The fan doesn’t disturb when the projector is being used for its intended purpose, namely presentations, but for watching movies it was a little too noisy.
In conclusion, the Dell 5100MP scores high on projector performance. There are cheaper DLP projectors available, but few, if any, offer the combination of high brightness, contrast ratio and resolution that the 5100MP offers.
Dell 5100MP DLP projector
Pros: High brightness and contrast ratio; lots of connections with cables included; easy set-up
Cons: Slightly noisy fan, price could be lower