Dell M900HD review £750
14th Nov 2013 | 10:01
Tiny Wi-Fi business beamer for any laptop, tablet or smartphone
The LED revolution has spawned a number of portable projectors that better cope with the rigours of travel - and the M900HD is the best examples yet.
Not just because it weighs just over 1.3kg and measures a svelte, 232x164x43mm, but because it allows a such a wide variety of wired, wireless and hard media connections.
Put simply, wherever your presentation, photos or videos are stored, the M900HD can find them. The M900HD is made for travel, with a nicely made, mottled fabric padded case carries the device plus cables and remote control, though there's also a black velvet-look drawstring bag.
The latter will almost certainly be immediately ditched, but it's a nice thought.
Equipped with an LED light source (rated for 30,000 hours) instead of a traditional lamp, the M900HD manages around 900 ANSI lumens, which puts it in the 'gloomy room' category. The 1280x800 pixel resolution - a WXGA, 16:10 shape - underlines the M900HD's ambitions as a data projector, though it can passthrough and downscale a Full HD 1080p signal from a Blu-ray player or games console just as easily.
On the back is a magnetically (and at one end, physically) attached plate that reveals an HDMI output, USB 2.0 slot, SDHC card slot (for max 32GB cards) and a 3.5mm audio output jack, then snugly snaps back to hide them. So, no D-sub 15-pin VGA... how thoroughly modern.
That audio jack could be useful for routing audio to a portable speaker with a bit more welly (many of these Bluetooth speakers have audio inputs), but the M900HD's built-in speaker is actually pretty good despite managing just 3W.
That roster of ins and outs might seem a little restrictive, but that's not the half of the M900HD's connection options. As well as having 2GB of flash storage itself, the M900HD facilitates use with a number of wireless connections; WiDi for PC laptops, Miracast for Android phones and a Wi-Fi Direct connection that allows screen mirroring for MacBooks (find the M900HD via a browser, download the software, and launch). There's even an app, Wi-Fi-Doc for iOS and Android that brings an iPad into the game, too.
With presentations - in PDF, Excel, Word or PowerPoint formats - just as easily read from a SD card or USB stick, the M900HD really doesn't need a laptop.
Set-up is all about the automatic keystone correction, which is a dream to use. We settled on a 70-inch projection from about two metres away (the throw ratio is 1.4), lowering the adjustable prop stand on the M900HD's undercarriage.
Considering its size, we were actually quite happy with the brightness it managed on full pelt, but reach for the blinds/curtains if possible; the image improves dramatically - especially in terms of contrast - the less ambient light there is. Still, a blast of an Xbox 360 impressed in terms of dynamism and fluid motion. Anyone owning the M900HD would be foolish not to experiment with video sources, and though colours aren't nuanced enough for ultimate HD quality movies, sports and TV are very watchable.
WiDi and Miracast worked well in out test, so too fuss-free screen mirroring from a Macbook Air, though the options for connecting-up to the M900HD are almost endless.
With a USB drive attached to its rear, the M900HD does fabulously well. With media player software that puts most so-called smart TVs to shame, it presents a list of files on one side of a black screen, and displays a large thumbnail on the other. Simple, yet classy - and file support is surprisingly wide.
AVI, MKV, MPEG-2, MP4, MOV and WMV files all played as well as OGG, WAV, WMA and MP3 music and JPEG, PNG and GIF photos (with several slideshow settings, too). Integral to this same media player software is the trouble-free Office Viewer, which supports and displays PDF, Excel, Word or PowerPoint file formats. Bingo.
If Dell really wanted to push the boat out, some Bluetooth connectivity might be an idea for routing to a wireless speaker, but that's Moon-on-a-stick stuff; the M900HD is already on another planet to most 'serious' business projectors.
With so many ways of transferring presentations, photos, video and even music, the great-value M900HD is hard not to love. Kudos goes to its easy to use interface and to its media player software, which treats all sources exactly the same.
We were also surprised by the comprehensive support of all the key file formats - and more - from diverse sources. The likes of WiDi, Miracast and apps for hook-up to mobile devices is excellent, though the biggest surprise was how easily we managed to mirror a Macbook Air. You can even load a presentation on to the M900HD itself for the ultimate in portability.
The remote control is a little fiddly, but contrast is the main issue - there's not a lot to go round - though colours are aimed at presentations rather than video. The M900HD runs at an average of 50 decibels, peaking at 62 decibels in our test. It's a low impact, consistent hum, and isn't at all problematic, but it's not exactly a silent runner.
As well as having a video player built-in, the M900HD adds an amplifier, too, though the audio emanating is rather weak and bass-less. Still, for presentations or some basic video gaming, that speaker offers audio as good as most 20-inch LCD TVs.
Comprehensive in terms of source and control it might be, but the M900HD somehow remains a devilishly simple device. Deftly designed for a life of travel, the M900HD impresses not only on sheer versatility but on core picture quality, too.
All bases are covered for presentations, with the chance to project content from a USB stick, SD card, any laptop and almost any smartphone or tablet. And with a 2GB flash drive built-in, you don't need a separate source.
It's not the brightest projector on the block and nor is it totally adept with video. However, if you're looking for a convenient and portable all-rounder for life on the road - or around an office block - Dell's M900HD is hard to beat.