Projecting Without Wires
The time has come to chuck the cables that dominate the front of just about every classroom because Dell’s M900HD projector can connect to a variety of computers wirelessly. This not only allows for a cleaner classroom but more freedom of movement to interact with students while working the screen.
At 3.5-pounds and about the size of a small textbook, the M900HD is small, light and can easily be carried between classes. The projector comes with both a soft felt bag and a padded case for taking the projector from room to room as well as a small remote control. Because it uses LEDs to create its beam of light rather than a traditional quartz bulb, the projector doesn’t use a lot of electricity, can start-up and shut-down quickly and never needs a new bulb.
Underneath is a single large attachment point for ceiling mounting as well as a three smaller mounting points so it can work with most universal mounting kits. As an alternative, the projector’s front leg can be adjusted for use on a tabletop.
The system can communicate via WiDi, Miracast and can connect directly via WiFi, giving it a tremendous amount of flexibility when it comes to what ends up on the screen. About the only wireless standard that it lacks is Chromecast, but you can always plug an adapter into the M900H’s HDMI port.
Once set up, I was able to use the remote to easily go between a Lenovo Android slate connected via an HDMI cable, an Acer notebook with a WiDi link and a Dell Venue 8 Pro that was connected via WiFi using Dell’s Projector Connection Manager app. The wireless systems were able to maintain contact with the M900HD as far as 30-feet away, but Dell’s Connection Manager software crashed several times on the Venue 8 Pro.
It’s not restricted to wireless operations only. Along its back, the projector has a minimalist connection panel with ports for an HDMI source as well as USB and audio. The projector, unfortunately, does without a VGA port for older systems. It has an SD card slot that can work with up to 32GB cards as well as up to 32GB memory keys. It also has 2GB of storage space on board, allowing a teacher to store many of her lessons on the projector itself. The projector can display Acrobat, Word, Excel and PowerPoint files as well as play audio, videos and images.
Instead of a traditional bulb, the projector uses banks of red, blue and green LED illumination and has two internal test patterns that can help aim and optimize the image. You can choose among four projection modes – including Bright, Presentation, Movie and sRGB – plus one that you can customize the settings.
In Bright mode, the projector does the best job of putting a lot of light onto the screen and the M900HD can run with the lights on. While yellows look sharp and clear, the projector’s blues have a purple tint to them and whites have a blue cast to them. In Movie mode, the colors look much more realistic with whiter whites and sharper colors all around.
With a 1,280 by 800 DLP imaging target, the M900HD works with everything from VGA to full HD source material. Its lens, though, doesn’t come with a protective cap and lacks an optical zoom; it does have a digital zoom.
It’s a quick starter, able to put an image on-screen in 12 seconds and shut itself off in 7 seconds. Contrary to traditional projectors, it gets to full brightness almost immediately, making the M900HD great for grab-n-go maneuvers like going from classroom to classroom every period. On the downside, the projector’s fan is annoyingly loud and registers 44.0 dBA at 36-inches, despite having a peak exhaust temperature of 100-degrees Fahrenheit.
Rated at 900 lumens, the M900HD was able to put 882 lumens on a screen in Bright mode, just short of its spec. In Presentation and Movie modes, which deliver a more realistic color balance, the brightness drops to 714- and 564-lumens, respectively, which might not be enough for anything but smaller classrooms.
The projector can fill anything from a 30-inch to a 6.5-foot screen, although at more than 5-feet, the images start to wash out. I was able to get a super-sharp 36-inch diagonal image from just 44-inches. The projector may not be bright enough for a large classroom, but is perfect for smaller groups, particularly if the teacher needs to move between several rooms during the day.
The big payoff is in the M900HD’s economy. While the projector lists for $899, it can be had for $749 on Dell’s site. This is expensive compared to other projectors in its class, but it has a secret inside. The LEDs are rated to last at least 30,000 hours, or roughly 25 years of typical school use, so you’ll never have a blow out or need to do an expensive lamp change.
It’s also a power miser, using only 112 watts of electricity, about half the power use of the typical classroom projector and no power when it’s turned off. If it’s used for six hours every school day, the projector should have estimated costs of about $16 per year, an annual savings of about $100 versus a traditional projector.
Together, those two items can cut the cost of operating the projector, allowing it to pay for itself in a few years and potentially saving thousands of dollars over its life time. Being a cheap-skate, the part I like best about the M900HD is that the more you use it, the more you save.
+ Small and Light
+ Never needs a new lamp
+ Wireless connections
+ 2GB of storage
+ Quick set-up and shut-down
+ Inexpensive to use
- No optical zoom
- Doesn’t come with a lens cap
- Loud fan