Home theater projectors are becoming a lot more common. Finding the right one that meets your budget and displays a picture that you would be proud of is difficult. Home theater projectors need to have the right connectors for your system, they need to be setup for multiple mounting options and they need a picture that looks as good or better than your TV. The Dell 5100MP not only offers a great pictur,e but it also has all the connectors that you could ever want.
- Bright 3,300 ANSI Lumens (Max)
- Superior high contrast ratio of 2500:1 (Full on/Full off)
- DLP DDR technology from Texas Instruments
- Native SXGA+ (1400 x 1050), with autosync up to UXGA (1600 x 1200)
- Supports full range of television and video standards, including NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL (B/D/G/H/I/M/N), SECAM (B/D/G/K/K1/L) and HDTV (480i/P; 576i/P, 720P; 1080i) Built-in 1 watt amplifier and speaker
- Separate HDMI and Component video input
Every projector needs a way to get video into the device. The Dell 5100MP projector actually provides 7 built-in video connections. You can choose from a M1-DA terminal, S-Video, HDMI, Component, BNC, VGA and composite video terminal. Since this is a Home theater projector I would highly recommend that you use the higher quality Component, HDMI, VGA or BNC connectors. Composite is such a bad connector that I am surprised Dell even included it in a projector of this caliber. Composite is something that you would expect to see in a sub $1000 projector. S-Video is good, but compared to the other high quality inputs, it is not the best.
HDMI is a new type of connection. It provides digital audio and video signals in the same cable. With this format you are able to use a single cable to connect you stereo and TV or projector. Components that use HDMI have the ability to interact in ways that were never possible. Unfortunately the technology is still very new and expensive. A single 8ft HDMI cable from Dell costs $120.
The Dell 5100MP projector also includes a VGA video out connector. This can be used to hook together more than one projector, or a monitor to the projector. Keep in mind that this is a pass-through connector so it will only display video that comes in via the VGA or M1-DA connector.
There is also an audio in and an audio out plug on the back of the Dell 5100MP projector. This allows you to use the internal speaker or send the audio to another device. The speakers are small and only have a 2 watts of output. This means that you are not going to get any real good performance out of them. They are better then your average laptop speakers, but no where near the quality of even the cheapest stereo speakers. I am very surprised that Dell would even include speakers in the projector. I would hope that if you are going to spend $3500 on a projector that you will have an equally impressive stereo. By removing the speakers they may have been able to reduce the price slightly.
The Dell 5100MP projector also has a manual focus and zoom. This gives you more flexibility when you are placing the projector. You can make the picture up to 1.2 times larger. Focusing is done by turning the lens and zooming is done by moving the lever on top of the lens. Incorporating an automatic focus would have been a nice time saver. Dell was nice enough to include a Focus screen. This screen is all black with some white text and color bars. Using this screen to adjust the focus is much easier than focusing on a movie or picture.
There are 4 ways that you can interact with the Dell 5100MP projector for manging the settings. The first way is manually with the buttons that are on the projector. The second way is with the remote. The third way is with an RJ232 cable. The fourth way is with an RJ-45 cable. RJ232 is a really old format for connecting to devices, so if you don’t already know how to use it then you probably don’t need to worry about it. Using RJ-45 you can actually connect the 5100MP to your home network and adjust the setting via a web browser. In the settings you can specify an IP address for the projector or just turn on DHCP. This is very nice for homes that already have a network and the projector is in a place that is not easily accessible.
Network management is great. Especially if you have lots of projectors to manage and they are not located closely together. This would be good if you were using them in a theater like environment or something similar. From the network you can manage many of the options like contrast, brightness, network settings, passwords and much more. You can even setup the projector to email you or someone else when there is an alert like a lamp warning, low lamp life and a temperature warning.
Because this is not a projector that is intended for traveling it is not small or light. In fact it is quite cumbersome to move around and carry. Weighing in at 8.20 lbs and with dimensions of 13″ x 10.3″ x 4.5″ this is best mounted and left alone.
The Dell 5100MP projector does not come with a nice carrying case like the 3400MP does. Instead the 5100MP only comes in a fabric bag. This is very understandable, why provide a case if all you are going to do is mount it and leave it alone. If you are going to transport it often then you will want to purchase the optional carrying case for $149.
Even though you should mount the 5100MP on your ceiling, the projector has adjustable feet in case you want to put it on a shelf. There are 3 feet, one in the front and two in the back, and they are all spring loaded for quick extension. The front foot is extended by pressing a button on the front. The rear feet are extended by a button on each side. The rear feet also allow for fine adjustments by twisting them.
The remote is also designed very well. It has buttons to perform just about any function that you could do with the buttons on the device itself. You can open the menus and change any value. When you are hooked up to a computer with USB you can even control the mouse cursor. This means that if you are showing a movie from your computer you can start and stop it with the remote by moving and clicking mouse. You can connect to a computer two different ways. The first way is like the 3400MP, this is done by plugging the M1-DA to D-sub/USB cable into the projector and computer. The second way is to use a small USB key that is housed inside the remote. When you push on it it will come out. If you plug this into one of your computers USB slots it will allow you to use the remote to control the mouse. There are also IR ports on the front and back of the projector. This means you can be in front or behind the projector when you are controlling it. Located on the remote is also a built-in laser pointer.
The menus are very well laid out. I had no trouble finding the different settings and quickly setting the different options to meet my needs. There are tons of settings and more then you will probably need, but be sure to go through them all and make sure they are correct for your situation. The menus will also enable and disable themselves based on what kind of video connection you have. This is nice because you don’t always have to search through tons of menus to find the options that are currently valid. I have included some pictures of the menus below which demonstrate some of the different things you can change.
Some of the more notable menu options include: reversing the image for rear projection, brightness, contrast, aspect ratio and video mode. Video mode will adjust the settings of the projector based on which kind of image you are projecting. If you are hooked up via S-Video it automatically selects Movie mode. These are also user selectable, so if you are connected with a computer and it selects PC mode but you want to watch a movie on your computer, you can change it to Movie mode.
It is inevitable that you will have to replace the lamp. Even though each lamp is suppose to last about 2200 hours in eco-mode. If you watch 4 hours of movies a day that is only 1.5 years. To make this process easier Dell provided a lamp door on the bottom. It is really easy to unscrew and open. Once you have it open you then need to unscrew the actual lamp enclosure. There is a small metal handle on the enclosure that helps you to remove it. The whole process is easy and can be done in about 5 minutes. The only down side is that replacement lamps cost about $399. Replace the lamp a couple times and you have paid for the projector all over again.
When you talk about the performance of a projector you talk about the ability of the projector to display a picture with accurate colors and contrast. This projector does a really good job.
While I am keenly aware that you cannot judge a projector by lumens alone, having 3,300 lumens sure makes the Dell 5100MP projector nice. Add to that a big contrast ration of 2500:1 and you are going to get a fairly good separation of colors and black and white. DLP projectors are very different from LCD projectors in the way they handle the light. With an LCD projector you don’t want to exceed about 1000 lumens otherwise the picture gets washed out. With DLP projectors you can go much higher. With 3,300 lumens this projector is slightly too bright. I found that I needed to decrease the brightness slightly in order to dim the picture so that the colors were not washed out. This is more noticeable when white is right next to other colors. This can also be exaggerated by using the projector in a small room. With the high brightness you really need to use this projector in a big room.
The Dell 5100MP projector also supports picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture. This is great for working with two different video sources. Because this is a home theater projector most people will probably not use this feature. If you do connect a computer then it will be useful so that you can work on stuff and watch a movie at the same time. This is also nice if you need to manage multiple computers. With a little work I was able to get the same DVD signal to go out two different cables, so I could see how the PIP and PBP worked and compared the images. I did notice that the second picture is not as high quality as the first; there was a bit of distortion going through the second picture. Also you are not able to adjust things like brightness and contrast for the second image, at least I couldn’t figure it out.
Sound levels from the fan are not usually a problem. The normal noise from a home stereo should easily drown out the noise produced by the cooling fan. If you want to reduce the fan noise then you can always switch to eco-mode. This not only slows down the fan, but extends the life of the bulb. With eco-mode turned on you will notice a slight decrease in the brightness of the video. In fact because of the brightness problem that I mentioned above, turning on the eco mode actually improves the picture because it dims the bulb. You will also want to watch out for the heat that this projector puts out. If you happen to be sitting right next to it you may find yourself getting uncomfortable. Make sure you give the projector plenty of breathing room so it can circulate the air.
The sound that comes from the speakers is obviously weak. It was not designed for surround, bass or anything else you want when you watch movies. You will definitely want something more powerful when watching movies.
One of the notable downsides of the Dell 5100MP projector is the perceptible rainbow effect that plagues edges of objects. You really only notice this when you move your eyes back and forth really fast or you look away from the picture and back again. If you are going to use this as a home theater projector, then I recommend that you make the picture small enough and sit back far enough so that you can see the whole picture in one shot and you don’t have to move your eyes back and forth. This is something that affects all DLP projectors so keep this in mind when you are choosing between DLP and LCD. Also some people that I had look at this projector could not see the Rainbow effect so you will want to demo one at a store before you make your final decision. The Rainbow effect is not as bad as the 3400MP, but if you look for it you will find it.
Another of the downsides would be the extreme brightness. I tested the Dell 5100MP projector against two other projectors, the HP vp6320a and the Panasonic PT-AE700U. I was disappointed in the performance of this projector with bright scenes in movies in small rooms, this can be fixed one of two ways. The first is by lowering the brightness. The problem with this option is you then have to raise the brightness back up with movies that are dark. The second way to help with the brightness is to have a big room. The further away you can get this projector from the screen, the better picture you will get. I would recommend nothing smaller than a 100″ diagonal. That would require you to have the projector at least 17′ away from the screen, so this is certainly not for small rooms. The manual recommends that you do not go beyond a maximum distance from the screen of 39′ which will produce a picture of about 295″. That is a huge picture. I did find solace in the fact that none of the three projectors had one setting that worked best for all movies. If you want the best picture every time you watch a movie, you may need to make small adjustments each time you put in a different movie. The thing I was happiest about was that this projector was much sharper than the other two. You could see details with this projector that were fuzzy and not clearly visible with the other two.
For those who are interested, here are a couple of images that show the difference in picture between the 5100MP and 3400MP
I can easily recommend the Dell 5100MP projector for a home theater. With right size room and some slight adjustments you can really make this projector put out a breathtaking picture. This is not for people with a small room or a tight budget, at $3,499 it requires a bit of cash to buy. If Dell would remove a couple of unnecessary features like speakers, composite video, PIP and PBP then they might be able to reduce the price and make it more affordable. The bulb life is also a slight disappointment, but like I said this is not for people on a tight budget. Hopefully in the future the prices for bulbs will go down. If you are trying to put together a home theater and you have the right room and a high budget then I highly recommend this projector.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|