Dell M209X Business Projector Review - General Performance
Dell M209X Projector Menus
The M209X menu layout is the same as some previous Dell's we have reviewed. Pressing the Menu button on the Dell remote control, or the projector's control panel, brings up the main menu, which runs across the bottom of the screen (shown below).
Scrolling (left or right) to the different sub-menus, and then pressing the Enter button results in selecting that sub-menu, which then pops up, above the main menu.
The input menu (not shown), provides the usual manual selection of an input source, or you can select Auto, which lets the M209X automatically locate and select the first live source it sees.
The Auto-Adjust sub-menu, allows the Dell to "do its thing" and lock into the selected source, and do what it takes to get the best possible image.
Next comes the Setup menu. This menu allows manual or automatic adjustment of keystone correction. It also offers manual control of the aspect ratio.
The Picture sub-menu has most of the usual goodies for adjusting the image, including: Brightness, Contrast, Color Temperature, and individual Red, Green, and Blue color adjustments. There are three color temp choices - Low, Mid, and High, as well as a Custom, that you can adjust manually.
Next, moving right, comes the Display sub-menu, shown to the right here. This menu, of particular note, offers a choice of five video modes, including PC, Movie, sRGB, Game and once again, a Custom mode you can setup yourself.
In addition, there is a digital zoom control, and adjustments for White intensity, and Degamma.
Moving over one more on the Main menu, you will find the Lamp sub-menu. As you would expect, the Lamp menu lets you select the full power lamp mode, or lower power Eco-mode. This menu also tracks lamp hours, lets you engage Power Saving which will shut down the projector after a period of time with no active source. There is also a Quick Shutdown mode, for those in a hurry, and, of course, the Lamp Reset, needed when you replace an old lamp.
Next comes the Language menu, allowing you a choice of about a dozen different languages (more than most), and finally, a sub-menu simply labeled Others.
The Others menu offers control of volume (the Dell as a single 1 watt speaker), and it lets you select HDMI or Analog for your audio source. (Remember, an HDMI input carries audio as well as video.)
You can use this menu to save a custom graphic for your startup screen, control the menus themselves, in terms of how long they appear on the screen, how transparent they are, etc.. From this menu, you can also password protect the projector.
Also, of significant importance, is the Factory Reset, which, of course, returns all the settings of the M209X to their original factory defaults.
Dell M209X Projector - Remote Control
A very nice little remote control. The operative terms are: Small, good layout, and styled to match the projector (complete with shiny black buttons that match the projector's control panel, a flat black look for the rest of the remote and additional buttons, and the same gray trim. Cute!
But, the functionality is what people care about. Here goes:
The top section of the remote offers the same functionality as the control panel on the projector itself. It's got the four arrow keys, a center Enter button (indicated with a checkmark symbol), a Menu button and a button to toggle between aspect ratios.
Below all of that, are twelve more buttons, in rows of three.
The first row from left to right, offers up: Volume Up, Mute, and Page Up (for basic presentation control when hooked up to a computer via USB, in addition to the image source).
The second row starts with Volume Down, the middle button engages the laser pointer, and the right one, is the matching Page Down button.
Next comes Source, Keystone Up, and Video mode selection, while the last row offers Auto Adjust, Keystone Down, and Blank screen button.
That pretty much covers it. The buttons feel and work well. Despite the remote's small size, people with large hands should be most pleased, as all the buttons are nice an large. Overall, it feels good in one's hand. Nicely done. Having the buttons all backlit, would have been a nice touch, but, we're seeing less endless backlit remotes as portable projectors get brighter and brighter, and are less used in fully darkened rooms.
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Dell M209X Lens Throw and Lens Shift
As noted in the Overview, the Dell's lens has very little zoom range - only 10% - 1.1:1. This is not uncommon among the smallest projectors, and few small portable projectors including those twice the size, offer more than a 1.2:1 zoom range (20%). Bottom line, the zoom lens feature is more about finding the right spot to fill the screen, and having just enough zoom control to fine tune it.
The Dell does not have Lens shift (don't worry, it's almost unheard of on portable business projectors, but found on many designed for fixed installation).
Dell M209X - SDE and Rainbow Effect
The Dell, being a typical, single chip, DLP business projector, uses the typical 2x speed color wheel. That is just fine for most applications. For video, where the rainbow effect is much more likely to be visible, those of us sensitive to the rainbow effect, will see it. Since the Dell is a DLP projector, the pixel structure is definitely less visible than with 3LCD projectors. This does tend to make it seem a touch softer than an LCD projector, but in reality, that doesn't impact readability. It's the more visible pixel mask of an LCD projector that pretty much makes it seem sharper, without actually being sharper.
Dell M209X Audible Noise Levels
With the Lamp on full power, the projector is rated 39 db. A bit noisy, but not really a problem for business presentations. In Eco-mode, however it drops to 33 db, which is pretty quiet for a business projector, and about the same as a typical home theater projector when in full power.
Dell M209X - Projector Brightness
There's nothing like a nice, very small projector that packs a lot of punch. In this regard the M209X does extremely well.
It claims 2000 lumens and, surprisingly significantly beats that promise. Most projectors usually come up a little short of their claims.
The brightest setup we could find is selecting PC mode, with Color Temp on Mid setting. This yielded an impressive 2612 lumens!. Dropping the projector's lamp into Eco-mode (low power), dropped the brightness almost a perfect 25% to 1956 lumens. The 25% drop should be consistent, for Eco-mode, for any of the settings.
Leaving the projector in PC mode, and lamp on full power, testing Low and High color temperature resulted in measurements of 1813 and 1860 lumens respectively.
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Movie mode (color temp on Mid), which offers the best color accuracy (especially on reds and yellows), automatically drops lamp power into Eco-mode. This measured 861 lumens. You can, however manually select full lamp power, and doing so measures 1146 lumens. To put that in perspective, most home theater projectors, in their best modes produce between 300 and 700 lumens, and most produce less than 1200 lumens in even their brightest mode.
Other modes at full power (color temp on Mid), resulted in:
sRGB: 1612 lumens
Game: 1953 lumens
Any way you slice it, the Dell M209X is very bright for such a small, and light projector, easily holding its own with many entry level XGA portable projectors weight 5-7 pounds, and having two to four times the physical bulk.
Just think, 10 years or so ago, a typical 17 pound projector typically had only 350 to 500 lumens and was easily eight to ten times the bulk!
Dell M209X Lamp Life and Replacement
This is a big win area for the M209X. While most projectors offer 2000 lumens at full power, and 3000 lumens in Eco-mode, the M209X claims 3000 lumens in full power, and 5000 hours in Eco-mode. This makes it one of the most affordable projectors around, in terms of operational costs.
On using the M209X for Home Theater
OK, it certainly isn't a match for dedicated home theater projectors in color accuracy, and those susceptable to the Rainbow Effect, will definitely have a problem with the Dell.
On the other hand, colors in Movie mode are pretty good, and skin tones are respectable. As an added bonus, the Dell is brighter than most home theater projectors, even in its relatively less bright Movie mode.
Fan noise, as noted above, in Eco-mode, is typical of many DLP home theater projectors in full power mode, but then, it is also brighter than most of them in full power mode. With the Dell set to Movie, and Lamp on full power, it definitely is a bit noisy, but then you won't really care if you are watching sports, when you want the most brightness.
All considered, it does a very decent job as a business projector you want to take home to use occasionally, for a little entertainment.