The tiny Dell M109S is a palm-size LED projector with a low brightness rating of only 50 lumens, which makes it best suited for very small groups in dark or dimly lit conference rooms.

Even with its cables, AC adaptor, and carry case, the Dell M109S has a traveling weight of under 1kg, making it a snap to take on the road.

The down side is that Dell had to sacrifice some features to achieve the Dell M109S's ultralight design. Its low native resolution of 858 by 600 means you need to use a computer running at SVGA resolution to get the best image sharpness and clarity when making presentations.

The Dell M109S has a small, fixed lens (no optical zoom) with a limited range of focus, it provides only two input options - VGA and composite video, but no audio or USB port - and it lacks a remote control and a built-in speaker. It also has no adjustable feet or tripod mount to help in positioning.

On the other hand, the Dell M109S consumes less power, runs cooler, and is quieter than a traditional lamp-based projector, and the 10,000-hour lifetime for its LED light source is much longer than the 3,000-hour lifetime for many conventional projector lamps.

In image-quality tests the Dell M109S earned a comparatively low rating of Fair for its overall performance. Among the seven ultraportable projectors we tried, it wound up in last place on all of our tests.

Its lack of brightness and its low contrast made discerning the content in some screens (such as white type over a dark background or the different shades of colour in shadowy areas) difficult, and its rendering of small type wasn't as sharp as that of the other, brighter LED projectors.

The Dell M109S's motion tests were also lacklustre. Some colours, such as yellow, looked washed out in an animated PowerPoint presentation, and we saw a lack of details in dark areas when viewing scenes from DVD movies, such as a tunnel car chase in Quantum of Solace and a nighttime speedway race in Speed Racer.

The method of accessing the Dell M109S's on-screen display (to make image adjustments) was also disappointing. The lack of a remote means that the only way to adjust the image is to poke at the touch-sensitive control buttons on top of the projector.

See also: BenQ GP1 review

Unfortunately, the buttons are so small that pressing the wrong one is too easy, which makes navigating the on-screen display a hit-and-miss affair. The menu options are fairly extensive and include five preset picture modes ("PC," "Movie," and such) for optimising the image, but the tiny buttons make them hard to navigate.

It's also daunting to use the Dell M109S's focus ring to obtain the sharpest image from its fixed-focal-length lens; since the thumbwheel moves very little in either direction, finding the best setting is hard.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

PCWorld.com

Dell M109S: Specs

  • 50 ANSI Lumens (max)
  • R/G/B LED module light source (no lamp)
  • DLP technology and BrilliantColor technology
  • Native SVGA (858x600) Resolution
  • Contrast Ratio 800:1 (Full On/Full Off)
  • 360g
  • 92x105x37mm
  • 50 ANSI Lumens (max)
  • R/G/B LED module light source (no lamp)
  • DLP technology and BrilliantColor technology
  • Native SVGA (858x600) Resolution
  • Contrast Ratio 800:1 (Full On/Full Off)
  • 360g
  • 92x105x37mm

OUR VERDICT

All in all, it's difficult to recommend the Dell M109S for mobile presentations when for just a few pounds more you can have a slightly larger LED projector - the BenQ Joybee GP1 - that's twice as bright, provides better image quality, and has more features (including a remote and a built-in speaker). However, Dell frequently offers this product at a reduced price when you purchase it online, and that could make the M109S a much better deal for economy-minded mobile users who do small-group meetings or one-on-one presentations.

Find the best price