You wait ages for a palm-sized LED projector to come along then two turn up [almost] together, with the Dell M115HD bearing a more than passing resemblance to the Optoma ML550 we reviewed recently. Along with the similarities, however, there are a number of differences in the specification and performance of the Dell projector which could have a bearing if you’re in the market for this kind of portable LED device.
Put the two projectors side by side and you’d be hard pushed to tell them apart, not least because they’re the same size, give or take a couple of millimetres here and there. They’re also about the same weight (360 grams) and equally as easy to carry about using the padded case provided together with an almost identical large AC adapter and a lead to hook the projector up to a VGA port and external audio.
Dell’s carry case also has a compartment for the tiny remote control although, for some reason, this is an optional extra, adding £19 to the base price of £305 (ex. VAT). You can get by without one but it makes life so much easier we wouldn’t want to.
Indeed, we would consider it an essential, effectively pushing the price up to £324 (ex. VAT). Just as on the Optoma projector, however, the IR receiver for the remote is at the rear of the body on the M115HD, which means you can’t stand by the presentation screen and operate it remotely.
Designed to sit on a desk or table the M115HD has a screw-down foot at the front and a fitting to allow it to be securely mounted on a tripod, with a tripod another Dell option at £21.60 (ex. VAT).
There’s a manual focusing lever at the front of the projector with all the control buttons just behind, arranged in a circle with embedded LED indicators for operation in the dark. Power plugs in at the back and here too you’ll find the various interfaces with, as well as a connector for the VGA adapter, an HDMI port plus USB and MicroSD ports to allow for standalone presentations without the need to connect to a PC.
The USB port can also be used to take an optional Wi-Fi dongle (£40 ex. VAT) for wireless connectivity to a host computer, tablet or smartphone.
Finally a small 1 Watt speaker is located at the back and is worth having if a little quiet even at maximum volume. We thought it fine for ad-hoc presentations to a handful of people, but would recommend external speakers for anything more. Especially as the projector also has a couple of built-in fans which emit a continuous hum and got quite loud when we cranked up the brightness.
A Lamp By Any Name
Talking of brightness, Dell’s projector owes its lack of inches to an LED rather than conventional incandescent lamp. However, this is rated at just 450 lumens so it’s not quite as bright as the 500-lumen ML550 and a lot dimmer than its big brother, the 700-lumen Optoma ML750. On the plus side Dell reckons its LED will last for 30,000 hours – 50% longer than the two Optoma projectors.
Despite the lower rating we found the projector more than bright enough for small presentations even without the blinds or curtains drawn. Maximum throw is 2.58 metres, giving a maximum 80-inch diagonal display at that distance which, again, is OK for small groups but sets a strict limit on how big the audience can be. We reckon up to 10 would be that limit – any more and they would have to be fairly close friends.
All In The Presentation
Imaging is handled by the same DLP chip as the Optoma ML550 resulting in the a standard WXGA (1280×800) resolution for 16:10 displays. Four preset video modes are available – Presentation, Bright, Movie and sRGB – with a fifth, custom mode for those wanting to tinker. We found Presentation mode to be the most usable. You can also choose the aspect ratio although for the most part you can leave this and other settings alone and let the Dell projector work out what to apply.
Connecting up a laptop is very easy with a choice of either VGA or HDMI connectors enabling us to be up and running within minutes of taking the protector out of its case. Add the Wi-Fi dongle and it’s also possible to give presentations using free MobiShow and WiFi Doc apps on Android and iOS devices. Plus, just as with the Optoma projectors you can get by without a computer or, indeed, any other device at all.
To do that you simply load your content onto a USB memory stick or microSD card, or just copy it onto the 1GB of internal memory, then choose any of these as your presentation source. An on-screen browser makes light work of finding what you want to display with the necessary viewers built in to handle common formats including both PDF and Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.
These displayed well in our tests although there were a few pauses especially when loading large documents. We also noticed a slight sound synchronisation issue when playing video but then, if its a movie projector you’re after, you’re looking at the wrong type of product.
A Good Buy?
Not quite as bright or well specified as the impressive Optoma ML550/750 duo, nevertheless the Dell M115HD is a capable and very portable projector that manages to pack a lot of useful functionality into a tiny format. It’s also easy to use with great PC-free capabilities, plus it’s available direct from Dell with a one-year warranty, which carries a lot weight with business buyers. In the end the decision is yours, but you certainly won’t get sacked for buying one – just remember to include the optional remote in the order.