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Dell M209X Portable DLP Projector Reviewed - Image Quality

Posted on March 27, 2008 by Art Feierman

Dell M209X Portable Projector - Color Accuracy

As with many DLP projectors (I should say "most"), the M209X sacrifices good color accuracy, in exchange for extra lumens. This is nothing new. I first wrote an article about this 4 years ago, and little has changed.

Due to this, that, and the other, many/most business DLP projectors have this in common: Bright yellows typically come out dingy, dirty, yellow green. Bright reds, end up looking more like dark red wines. Blues and greens typically are much closer to what they should be, and are generally acceptable, unless you have a need for exactly the right shade (such as accurately reproducing a logo).

Without getting into the technical reasons for this, it is the rule, rather than the exception with DLP business projectors, although less likely on very expensive commercial models.

That doesn't mean the M209X can't produce really good colors. It most certainly can. However, to do so, you have to leave the brighter modes, such as PC, and switch to Movie mode. True, you will give up a significant amount of brightness, but the far more accurate colors are there.

Those folks that need maximum brightness and accurate colors at the same time, are generally better served by LCD projectors than DLP projectors.

On the other hand, go try to find a 2.6 pound LCD projector, and even if you can find one (I can think of just one), it is physically going to be much larger than the M209X.

Here are two photos of the same pie chart. The first is in PC mode, while the second, is in the less bright Movie mode. You have to admit, the difference is huge. The red background is supposed to be bright red, the yell slice is supposed to be pure yellow.

For final comparision, here's a third shot. The same pie chart, on my Mac laptop. The colors from the projector should, ideally, be virtually identical to the laptop's screen.

The good news is, that for such a small projector, this one is very bright, and that means that most users will still have a nice bright image, even when using Movie mode for better color.

Forgetting the issue of accurate color for business presentations for a moment, it needs to be pointed out that the Movie mode itself, without adjustment, is very well color balanced for movie watching. It is just a little warm (slightly redish), than the ideal 6500K for movies, but that's pretty close, and the projector has the color controls to further improve on that. Very respectable, overall, considering it's not a home theater projector.

Also, one of the key things people look for in picture quality for movie watching, is black level performance. The 1800:1 contrast of the Dell indicates black level performance not quite as good as entry level home theater projectors, but far, far better than any of the business LCD projectors on the market, and comparable to other DLP projectors.

Dell M209X Sharpness and Compatibility - Native XGA, and Higher Resolutions

I really can't think of any business projector that can't do a great job when working at its native resolution. In that regard, the Dell M209X is a typical XGA projector. It produces a good, clean, easily readable small type down to 9 points. (9 point type is definitely too small to use for presentations, as most people in a meeting would sit too far away to read type that small, even if perfectly sharp).

The thing is, the vast majority of business projector models are XGA resolution, and more and more higher resolution laptops and desktops are in use each year. In addition, many people now own widescreen laptops, (almost all of which are higher resolution than XGA).

In the 1st image, demonstrates the M209X's ability to project at its native XGA resolution.

The 2nd image, is probably a worst case scenario. This image was taken of the screen when feeding the projector a widescreen HDTV resolution source - at 1920x1080. Note: The Dell had no problem locking on to, and projecting the image, which is more than I can say for most projectors.

To put this in perspective, on the image above; 1080p, the cropped area you see above, represents less than 1/3 the width of the whole screen. The really small type, is truly tiny. Think of it this way - the type labeled 24 point with the projector set at 1920x1080 would appear about the same size as 12 point type when projected at standard XGA (1024x768).

Bottom Line: The M209X projector, overall, produces a reasonably sharp image. It handles higher resolutions with the usual compression technology, and does a good job, even able to deal with sources outputting up to 1920x1080.

Color in brightest modes suffers from the common tendency of portable DLP projectors to not do well with yellows and reds, but it does a pretty good job on color if you give up significant lumens and use Movie mode.

I should note, that the M209X looks pretty good in Movie mode, handling HDTV and movies. It won't match a good home theater projector, but then, even in Movie mode, it's brighter than many home theater projectors. That makes a very reasonable choice for a portable business projector that users might just want to take home for an occasional movie, and traditional TV content, including sports.

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