Posted on March 13, 2018 By Art Feierman
Dell S718QL 4K UHD Laser Projector Review – Picture and Sound Quality: Overview, Color Modes, Video Image Quality, Text and Presentation Quality, Audio Quality
Overall, the Picture Quality is pretty good. But, as Eric, our calibrator points out on the calibration page, there are some noteworthy limitations if you need to calibrate to get extremely accurate color.
Fortunately picture quality is more than good enough for typical business or education use, and most digital signage applications, not to mention houses of worship, and entertainment venues. There are, however, certainly uses – such as dealing with accurate reproduction of photography or movies. Even some digital signage applications might call for really accurate color.
The preset picture modes vary a good deal. The brightest mode, as usual, leaves a lot to be desired. All the others are different, but are pretty good. None, however, would make for really good home theater use, out of the box with no adjustments – the modes are just not accurate enough. Calibrated though… it can be a bright, 4K UHD home entertainment projector, although still not as good as most dedicated home theater projectors.
Technically, the S718QL is a commercial projector (business, education, other non-home uses, including Digital Signage). However, this is a 4K UHD projector with a laser light engine and is very bright, so it has drawn a lot of interest from the home theater crowd. As such, we will be later publishing a an addendum of this projector’s review that is more geared toward home enthusiasts.
Here’s my take on the different Picture modes:
The brightest mode: As is common, it is noticeably too strong on greens/yellows, not pretty, but Eric (our calibrator) recommends (due to some issues with the color controls), that when using this mode, set the “wall color” to dark green. You can find his explanations on the calibration pages.
(Note, we post our calibration settings – we don’t calibrate all modes of course (no point) there are two pages, the first is free, the second, the “Advanced Calibration” page, however is available to our paid subscribers (currently an $3.99 a year). This particular projector does not have an Advanced Calibration page, as its ability to be calibrated is more limited.
Use only when maximum brightness is needed. It’s not as terrible as some “brightest” modes, but still typical. Set Wall color to Dark Green, to significantly improve this mode without losing too much brightness (weird, but it works)!
Bright mode - overly blue, also strong greens/yellow caste
Presentation mode - not as bright, but definitely improved color
Warmer color temp, but picks up a slight purplish caste. Overall looks good on most content.
sRGB mode - the best mode available, but also the least bright. Still, even this mode came up just a tiny bit short of 3000 lumens!
Custom gives the maximum control, but starts out with very poor color, and Eric reports that one can't cleanly bring over the settings from other modes.
While we can't report that even calibrated color is accurate/excellent, the S718QL is capable of some impressive color when properly calibrated.
sRGB mode (“best mode”): Color is reasonably good, but not really great, even after we calibrated it. Still, it is suitable for virtually all non-home theater, and commercial.
Movie mode: We didn’t calibrate this mode. It’s brighter than sRGB, and a good mode if you need that extra brightness, and still has reasonably good color.
Presentation mode: Most similar to Bright mode, but not any brighter than Movie mode. It’s still got too much yellow green. The paleness on skin tones on this mode can be improved by setting the Wall color, to Dark Green. It then makes a really good mode for spreadsheets, other documents.
Contrast is visibly better than some of the entry level lamp based 4K UHD projectors but not substantially so. It is overall a bit better than most business and education projectors produce, but not resulting in any dramatic difference.
Overall, very good, but not great picture, but very sharp, of course. The color settings need some tweaking to rival the “out of the box” picture quality of some other good business/education projectors. The color should be more than good enough for most digital signage applications.
Video performance was fine for viewing video clips from websites. No issues encountered (and none were expected).
Video from DirecTv performed as expected on a variety of content - including the Olympics. Also worked will with 1080p and 4K Blu-ray movies. HDR is supported.
Video quality in terms of motion artifacts seems to be fairly typical of today’s business projectors. Background noise seems lower than on lamp based DLPs but I’m not sure why.
Certain rates of slow panning which can freak out even some extremely expensive projectors. I use a 24fps scene from the movie Red on Blu-ray disc, that has such a slow pan. Every projector running at 24fps, has some trouble with this, but some (even a $25K Sony home theater projector), have far worse judder. The Dell fits into the group that has the least trouble – the least judder (but it’s still not pretty).
I found no specific video handling issues watching 4K content on the S718QL, other than what relates to dynamic range (HDR) and color. I did not try streaming 4K to the Dell, and if I did, the Dell doesn’t support HLG (hybrid log gamma) a High Dynamic Range standard designed for streaming – as few projectors due, not even most 4K home theater projector.
Closer look at small to large type (fed from 13.3" Mac - 2540x1600 res) Even the smallest type 8 points is easily readable. Everything is very sharp.
Typical online document - table. The next slide is a close up.
Small type is very readable!
"Back end" of a presentation - laptop view - sRGB mode
Same as previous image but showing the full screen presentation. This shot is in Presentation mode - which is about 75% brighter than sRGB.
Typical of how web content looks on this Dell
Another website (FYI the interface for our ad serving company). No problem at all, using this Dell to present content like this to audiences of up to 100+.
For almost any application, a 4K UHD projector produces an image – and text – more than sharp enough. The need for 4K content handling is more likely to be for special applications – some digital signage, and a lot of scientific rendering, engineering drawings, photography and the like.
If you are doing more traditional presentations (viewing the internet, or Microsoft Office or Google Docs type content, even in a typical conference room or K-12 classroom, people toward the back won’t be able to tell the difference between 4K and lower resolution content, which is why 4K for business or education is probably best in huddle type spaces, where everyone is close to the screen, that way the advantages of 4K become visible.
Unless you have a need for some high quality sound – with some real bass, the pair of 6 watt speakers, facing the audience should do a nice job in K-12 classrooms and the typical conference room or boardroom.
The Dell S718QL also offers support for a wireless external Bluetooth speaker system. It was easy to set up the pairing, which I did with an inexpensive Bluetooth speaker.
Dell offers a 360 degree Bluetooth speaker to use with this projector, but, sadly Dell did not provide one for me to evaluate along with the projector. I expect, though, it can provide good audio support for rooms a several times the size of what the internal speakers can handle.
I would have really liked to see it have a mic amp built in. Few projectors offer one, but when they do, paired with a wireless mic, can be of real benefit to the presenter.
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