Dell M209X Review Editor's Choice

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$999
Editors' rating:
The Pros

Low price; Full-featured remote control; Carrying case included; 3,000-hour lamp

The Cons

Hard to read labels on remote control; Lacks USB cable

Verdict

Dell's new projector has a fresh look and even fresher specs.

With its recently announced M209X, Dell is introducing a new style for its projectors. Where older models were more streamlined with rounded corners and edges, this device features a black, boxy, angular design highlighted with stylish glossy panels. This cigar-box-size model weighs just 2.6 pounds, and at just $999, it not only fits squarely in the ultraportable camp but can also claim membership in the budget category.

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A Brighter and More Portable Projector

Intended as an upgrade to Dell's venerable 3400MP ultraportable, the new M209X outshines it by 500 lumens, with a claimed brightness of 2000 ANSI lumens. It has an HDMI input port and is less expensive at introduction. Dell also claims to have fortified the normally deficient color-handling capabilities of DLP imaging engines with multicolor processing and their new BrilliantColor technology.

Continuing a Dell tradition, the M209X is bundled with a high-quality carrying case and a set of cables equipped with Velcro straps for easy storage. But whereas earlier Dell models included every cable you could ever use, this new model lacks cables for its component video and USB ports.

The M209X' remote control is fully featured, including the all-important laser pointer and a pair of Page Up/Down buttons. But again, you will need to supply your own USB cable to get those latter buttons to work. This new remote design is very stylish, but that style gets in the way of usability: The button labels are amazingly tiny and printed in an almost unreadable blue color on a black background. Fortunately, the laser button is equipped with a pair of bumps to make it easy to find.

Dell M209X Performance

On our lab tests, the M209X did quite well. Its brightness score of 2125 lumens was refreshingly above its advertised value of 2000. Thanks to its DLP technology, the contrast ratio was equally impressive, at 640:1--although well below the 1800:1 claim. Unfortunately, Dell's new color-handling technology wasn't very effective: Yellow shades were still dull and mustard-like, similar to other DLP projectors such as the InFocus IN15.

One nice feature (though we couldn't test it) was the lamp life. Dell claims that the lamp will last 3,000 hours in standard lamp mode and a startling 5,000 hours in low-power mode. The lamps in most other projectors are rated at 2,000 hours in standard mode, or 3,000 hours in low power. We should also mention the sprightly cooldown time. In default mode, it took a leisurely 1 minute and 32 seconds, but when you switch the projector into Quick Shutdown mode, the cooling fan cuts out in just 11 seconds, and is relatively quiet to boot.

Verdict

Light, bright, and fairly low priced--what's not to like? Oh, right, the remote control. But you can use the money you'll save buying the $999 Dell M209X to pick up a nice pointing device and any cords you need. Those looking for a new projector will have a hard time choosing between the Dell M209X and the Optoma TX7155. Both have a similar price tag and features. But, at just 2.6 pounds, the Dell is a bit more portable, shows better contrast, and has a shorter cooldown time (in Quick Shutdown mode). Its long-life lamp and well-cushioned carrying case will have your wallet--and your back--thanking you.

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Projector Resolution 1024 x 768
Contrast Ratio More than 1000:1
Brightness 2000 to 2999 Lumens
Video Inputs Composite
Supported Formats NTSC
Supported Formats 1080i
Supported Formats 720p
Supported Formats N-PAL
Supported Formats 576p
Supported Formats M-PAL
Supported Formats 576i
Supported Formats I-PAL
Supported Formats 480p
Supported Formats G-PAL
Supported Formats SECAM
Supported Formats 480i
Supported Formats D-PAL
Supported Formats NTSC 4.43
Supported Formats 1080p
Supported Formats B-PAL
Image Engine 0.55-inch DLP DMD Type X DarkChip2
Remote Control Features Laser pointer, Page Up/Down buttons
Cool Down Time 11 seconds (Quick Shutdown mode)
Speakers One 1-watt
Zoom Focus Manual optical zoom and focus, 1:1.1 zoom ratio
Input Terminals Audio-In
Input Terminals VGA-In
Input Terminals S-Video
Input Terminals HDMI
Input Terminals Composite Video
Output Terminals Audio
Projector Technology DLP
Size 8.1 x 6.1 x 2.9 inches
Weight 2.6 (projector alone) /4.2 pounds (travel weight)
Company Website http://www.dell.com