It's undoubtedly true that the current trend in tech hardware is towards miniaturisation. In other words, small is beautiful when it comes to: cameras, printers, notebooks, speakers and projectors, etc. What is pushing the trend is the need for the businessperson on the go to have as much portable gadgetry available as possible - without having to seriously compromise on quality or price.
In the projector world that has meant the rise of the pico or palmtop models, which comfortably fit in your hand - and while some smart phones are already offering projection capability - there's still a powerful need for a small, but an efficient standalone unit. The Dell M110 Ultra-Mobile Projector attempts to provide everything the business traveller might need, at a very affordable price (Dell has just dropped their RRP considerably from £400 to £331.50).
Light and compact
Unless your hands are the same size as Tinker bell's, the Dell M110 will settle comfortably in your palm, having about the same dimensions as a double deck of playing cards (104mm x 105.3mm x 36.5mm) and weighing a feather light 360g. The case is constructed of toughened plastic, with smooth rounded edges, and styled throughout in glossy piano black. If you worry about finger marks on your precious equipment, then you will be forever wiping the casing down. Other than that, the M110 looks compact, classy and chic.
There are vents on all four sides, to help keep the unit cool and although in practice the M110 still generates a fair bit of heat, the design clearly does a satisfactorily efficient job. There's a front-tilt adjustment wheel, which can provide an angle of 6 degrees. You can also splash out on an optional height-adjustable tripod stand, for an extra £21.60. There's no zoom facility, but the F/2.0 LED lens provides up to 20,000 hours of normal usage - which should cover the required life-span of this projector.
A glance round the back of the M110 reveals a broad spectrum of connectivity options. These include a 24-pin Universal I/O connector for analogue RGB input, a MicroSD card slot for multimedia playback or Media & Image Processors firmware updates, HDMI input for DVD and Blu-ray, etc., plus A/V in. In addition, you're provided with a USB port that has multiple functions: for multimedia playback of video, music and photos; as a way of accessing the on-board 1GB internal memory. Presentation material can be stored here, thus cutting out the need for external hard drives and memory sticks. The ports also offer a means of updating projector firmware via the PC. Dell can also supply dongle, for the optional wireless functionality. Naturally, you have to pay extra, again, for the Wi-Fi dongle (at the current Dell RRP of £48) but it could work out to be of considerable value, in the long term.
Although you are supplied with a snug carrying case that has enough space for all your leads and dongles, you will also need it to transport your power lead as well. Disappointingly, there's no alternative battery power supply. Incidentally, if you were hoping for a full set of leads in the box, you will come away relatively empty-handed. Just the Universal 24-pin to VGA cable is offered but (surprise, surprise) a spare cable kit (comprising VGA, Composite, S-video, HDMI, Audio and USB) can be supplemented for a further £38.40.
The control system is neatly stored in the bottom left section of the projector's top, apart from the sturdy focus ring, which is directly above the lens. Aside from the tastefully backlit power button, there's a separate menu button that links up to the main circular control centre. This uses the arrow keys to scroll through the menu options, as well as make keystone adjustments and synchronise the projector to the input source. Remarkably, Dell did not see fit to include a remote with the packaging, so once more you will have to shell out another £19.20 of your hard-earned dosh, just to own this essential accessory.
So, assuming you've now got yourself totally tooled up with all the required hardware, how does the Dell M110 perform and just how useful is it going to be, for that executive on the move? Well the good news is that the native resolution of the LED lens is WXGA (i.e. 1,280 x 800), it has a contrast ration of 10,000:1 and most significantly has 300 ANSI Lumens brightness - at least 100 Lumens stronger than its rivals.
So as long as you're projecting into a fairly dimly lit room (or ideally with all the curtains drawn), the images you receive are well defined, with plenty of detail, good contrast and black levels with surprisingly vivid and authentic colours. Even when looking at DVD movies, flesh tones weren't overly red and there's full support for 720p HD resolution. Photos managed decent degrees of saturation, with Mediterranean seaside shots correctly representing the blue and turquoise variations in the ocean, where garden foliage shots weren't unnecessarily washed out .
The M110 supports the basic JPG and BMP image files as well as MOV, MP4, AVI and WMV video files. The projection distance ranges from 0.97m to 2.58m, with a maximum diagonal screen size of 2.03m - which should be more than sufficient for most 'modest boardroom' style presentations. It's worth mentioning that if you purchase the Wi-Fi dongle then you can make use of Dell's app for iPhones and Android phones to project JPG images. However, the downside is that any PDF and PowerPoint presentations (the staple diet of most business people's roadshow) will have to be converted to JPGs, with the supplied software, before projection as neither of those formats are supported.
While it also allows for music files to be played in MP1, MP2, MP3 and WMA formats, the tiny 1W built-in speaker will barely register in a crowded conference room. Obviously if you want to experience anything like a decent volume level, you'll need to call on some external source such as a laptop, DVD player or music centre as there's no audio out jack.
In many respects the Dell M110 is the perfect roadshow companion for the business person on the go, with its compact size, light weight, multiple connections, high brightness levels and rich colours - although it's let down by the lack of supplied accessories and no battery.
Pros: Superior brightness, good colour quality, range of connections.
Cons: No battery and over £100 for necessary accessories.