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Dell 4100MP ProjectorRaising price/performance bar once again
Since Dell, one of the largest computer builders in the world, got into the projector business, I've been wondering, what does Dell know about projectors? It's an entirely different market, isn't it? Well, after we put Dell's best projector, the 4100MP ($1899), through its paces here, I've come to the conclusion that Dell knows a lot about projectors. A whole lot. There are features in this unit I haven't seen anywhere else. Let's take a look.
The 6.5 lb. 4100MP DLP projector comes with all the now-standard features commonly seen in midrange projectors, including native XGA (1024 x 768) resolution with auto synchronization to UXGA, lots of inputs (DVI, RGB, SVideo, Composite, Component, RS232), a full-featured remote and keystone adjustment. What caught my attention is that all this and more comes to you at a price that isn't in the midrange of projectors. How low can you go? Just before we published this review, Dell announced a $200 rebate on the 4100MP that brings the price down to $1899, and that lowers the price bar for the entire industry. There goes Dell again, just as it's done in the PC space, cutting prices so all the others will have to play catch-up. Like the Wal-Mart of the tech industry, Dell parlays economies of scale into rock-bottom prices that redefine markets. Sure, it's cheap, but does its performance match up to the quoted specs?
Well, it looks good on paper. Amazingly, the real world is quite similar to the on-paper looks of this unit. Bringing out the light meter and firing up the 4100MP, sure enough, the quoted 2200 maximum lumens were correct, and that was even quite conservative according to the precision metering equipment here at the Midwest Test Facility. With the image size set at our standard 60-inch diagonal for projector tests, I measured the brightness of the screen at a maximum brightness of 2720 lumens. But not all the screen was as bright as that. When the screen is divided into a grid with 9 equal sections, the top left was the dimmest, at 1260 lumens, and the bottom middle segment was brightest at 2720 lumens, with an average of 1770 lumens across the screen. As you can imagine, this gives you a picture that's brighter on bottom than on top, but that's not readily apparent to the untrained eye. And the contrast ratio is also higher than Dell claims, where I calculated the ratio from the brightest to the darkest output of this 4100MP as 2520:1, impressively higher than the modest 2000:1 quoted by Dell.
Enough numbers -- how does it look? In a word: Great. My subjective judgment of the picture quality is that this projector delivers some high-contrast, extremely sharp output. When I tested it with computer video, where the projector picks its brightest output automatically, the picture looks plenty sharp, although not quite as crisp as those projectors we've tested here that cost twice as much as this, such as various models from InFocus and NEC. I also connected component inputs for a look at some HD delivered by our local cable company. It looked as sharp, bright and vivid as any 1024x768 projector we've seen here.
DVDs look positively as good as they can possibly look on a projector. The 4100MP was able to hold its own against the big boys when it comes to DVD, where more expensive projectors hold little advantage except for maybe slightly blacker blacks. In fact, looking at the projected image on a Da-Lite "Wide Power" screen with a gain factor of 2.2, the blacks were more of a dark gray, but looking at a wall painted with "Screen Goo," a light-gray paint (which we'll be reviewing soon here on Digital Media Net) formulated especially for an extremely bright mid-range type of projector, the blacks were just slightly lighter than deep black. Very nice. And, if you want to tweak the blacks and whites, you can fiddle to your heart's content, or pick one of the pre-set modes for watching movies, playing games, or using a computer.
Another trait that seems to run through all Dell's products is the extreme quiet of this projector's cooling fan, making it the best citizen we've seen yet for home theater or presentation use. The thing was as quiet as a church mouse, and when we found ourselves engrossed in a movie, we didn't even notice it quietly whirring away even in the quiet parts. It's quoted at 35 dBA, but I think it's not even that loud, perhaps only reaching that volume when its temperature-sensing fan senses just the hottest of temperatures.
Related Keywords:Dell 4100MP projector, presentation, home theater, keystone adjustment, XGA, lumens,