The 5100MP's is Dell's current top of the range business projector, and like many business projectors -- and a startling amount of home projectors -- having a particularly appealing physical layout wasn't high on the designer's mind during development. It's a medium-sized projector at 330x261x115mm with a single front angling leg, and two drop-down feet at the back. Dell do sell an optional carry case for the 5100MP, but at 3.72kg, we wouldn't advise anyone to shift this projector around for too long.
One very neat feature of the 5100MP is the integrated LCD screen on the top of the projector, which gives you an idea of the current status of the unit, as well as acting as a backup menu option. It's undoubtedly easier to use the 5100MP's OSD menu, but it's a good backup to have in an emergency.
The 5100MP's remote is a nifty bit of design, with a typical Dell blue backlighting effect on the buttons. The only real drawback here -- and it's one we've seen before in other Dell products -- is that blue backlighting isn't the easiest to read in a darkened room -- like, say, one with a projector in it.
If you are struggling to read the remote, though, there's an easy solution -- stick it in front of the projector bulb. With a claimed ANSI Lumens rating of 3,300 its a very bright projector indeed. Just be careful not to melt your skin off while you're looking for the input source button. The 5100MP has a a contrast ratio of 2500:1 and a maximum display resolution of 1400x1050, making it theoretically suitable for High Definition video playback, as well as slightly less exciting business presentations.
From a connectivity viewpoint, it's impossible to fault the 5100MP. Starting with Composite video, it supports every format we could think of to throw through it, from component, RGB, S-Video, BNC and even HDMI for home cinemaphiles. It's also network-ready, which betrays the fact that Dell's primarily pushing the 5100MP to the corporate world, rather than home users -- you can't even look at the 5100MP from Dell's local Web site if you follow the links for Home/Home Office users.
Setup of the 5100MP is pleasantly simple -- just adjust the feet, chuck in your input source du jour and hit the power button. You've then got to be prepared to wait, though, as the 5100MP's startup and warmup routine is pretty slow. In our tests, we never got the unit to display an image in less than a minute. So if you are pondering it for business use, you'd be well served to pop into the boardroom and fire it up while your clients are enjoying the lobby, just to be on the safe side. Cooldown is a similarly slow process, although that's less of an operational problem for most users.
Using the 5100MP within business parameters -- for spreadsheets and the like -- amply shows off the strengths of the 5100MP, as its super-bright bulb, high resolution display and easy remote make it a clear winner within the office world, especially given the asking price. Use it for a more leisure-oriented activity, however, and you're likely to come over a touch more disappointed, primarily because the 5100MP's colour resolution just isn't what it should be. We experienced a quite surprising amount of murky washed out colour, especially in anything with lots of swiftly shifting colours or fast panning action. It's a long way from unwatchable, but realistically you can do better for a cinema projector in this price bracket. Testing in CNET's US labs showed some problems with accurate greyscale colours, as well as a tendency for greenish images.
Dell rates the bulb in the 5100MP as being good for around 1700 hours regular use -- up to 2200 in economy modes -- and a replacement bulb currently sells on Dell's Web site for AU$357.50, giving it an average running cost of around 21c/hour. That's pretty comparable to most other projectors, although the lowish running time means you'll be swapping out bulbs a touch more frequently than with other units.
As a business projector, there's not a lot that can compete with the 5100MP in terms of network ability and resolution at this price point. As a home projector it's a poor fit, as the network functionality will go to waste, and better cinema-quality images can be had for a comparable price.
Dell 5100MP Projector