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Dell 1200MP DLP projector review: Dell 1200MP DLP projector

Packed with intense brightness, an abundant feature set, and a minuscule price tag, the Dell 1200MP is ideal for business presentations on a tight budget, but it could face competition from higher-resolution XGA projectors.

Rich Malloy

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4 min read

Well, maybe pixels. Like other budget models, the 1200MP is saddled with low SVGA (800x600) resolution, which doesn't quite match up well to the XGA (1,024x768) and higher resolutions on today's laptops.

8.2

Dell 1200MP DLP projector

The Good

Low price; bright; high contrast; sharp and steady images; lightweight; semi-rigid case; includes component video cable.

The Bad

Only SVGA resolution; small image size; long start-up time; noisy fan; jumpy video; short warranty.

The Bottom Line

Packed with intense brightness, an abundant feature set, and a minuscule price tag, the Dell 1200MP is ideal for business presentations on a tight budget, but it could face competition from higher-resolution XGA projectors.
Get the record books ready. Depending on the discounts that the Dell Web site might be offering on any given day, the exceptionally bright, bargain-price 1200MP projector will probably be listed as the first model ever to break the 3-lumens-per-dollar mark. Even at its full list price of $699, this model is still the best value on the market, whether you're looking at brightness, features, or whichever yardstick you choose. It's a great pick for business presentations and should be particularly attractive for nonprofit and educational institutions (read: organizations with tight IT budgets). What more could you ask for?

At 4.9 pounds, the Dell 1200MP is one of the lightest budget projectors on the market--a full pound lighter than the Sharp PG-B10S or the BenQ PB6110. And although it has a relatively high profile (4.0 inches), its rounded edges will allow it to slip easily into any carrying case. We predict, however, that most users will tote it around in the superb, well-cushioned, durable case that Dell includes. For extra protection, the projector's lens is safely recessed more than an inch behind the front panel, yet still offers convenient access to its focus and zoom control rings.

The top panel does not offer many controls, but the ones it has are well arranged and are all backlit with blue LEDs for easy identification in the dark. The all-important power button is easily recognizable. The remote control is relatively small and fits nicely in you hand. It lacks a laser pointer or mouse-movement buttons but does include well-placed buttons for going forward or backward in a PowerPoint slide show.

Despite its low price tag, the 1200MP features a rich assortment of cables. There are, in fact, no less than eight of them, including two audio cables and the increasingly important component video cable for use with DVD players and HDTV converters. All but two of the cables (AC and composite video) are equipped with Velcro straps for neat stowage.

The projector starts up somewhat slowly, taking 48 seconds for the image to appear. Perhaps that's time well spent, as the projector recognizes the signal source (computer or video) and optimizes the image, but it's more than twice the time the pricier Epson PowerLite 765c takes to start up. There is an automatic keystone-correction feature that senses the projector's elevation angle and ensures a rectangular image shape. Also, this projector has the handiest tilt adjustments we have ever seen: just press a button on each side, and the rear legs drop down to the desired length.

CNET Labs' tests provided airtight evidence that Dell has violated the low-price/low-brightness law. The 1200MP delivered an amazing 1,940 lumens, just shy of the 2,000-lumen specification, but significantly brighter than other budget projectors we have tested, such as the Hitachi CP-RS55 and the model it replaces, the Dell 1100MP. Its brightness rivals that of the more expensive, XGA Toshiba TDP T95U. The Dell 1200MP is certainly bright enough for all but the largest conference rooms. This model was similarly impressive in our checkerboard contrast tests, where it scored an enviable contrast ratio of 648:1--ideal for entertainment applications. It came up short in image size, however, with only a 36-inch projected image at a 5-foot distance. With regard to color, reds and blues were accurately detailed, but greens were shifted to a yellowish shade.

In our highly critical subjective tests, the projector produced impressively sharp and steady images. Unfortunately, grayscale resolution was a bit low at the white and black extremes (we could resolve only 244 of 255 shades). Also, in our entertainment tests, the projector showed some jumpy motion during fast-moving video, its low resolution had trouble with HDTV, and its fan was a bit too noisy. Home-theater buffs will want to look for a projector with a higher resolution, such as the $999 Dell 2400MP, which offers XGA resolution and an even brighter image but a similarly loud fan.

To get the price below $700, Dell includes only a one-year warranty but still manages to throw in its Advanced Exchange rapid-replacement service. Other warranty options abound, ranging from three years (add $129) to a five-year warranty with Dell's CompleteCare insurance coverage--tack on an extra $528 for that, which nearly doubles the price. Dell's support features are commendable. The 65-page user manual is one of the nicest we have seen in quite a while, and the projector comes with a handy full-color information card that is small enough to stay in the carrying case for quick reference. Online, you can download the user manual, check product-support FAQs, and seek more specific help either via a community message board or an e-mail sent to a technician. Support is also available by a toll-free 24/7 phone line, although its menu system confused us.

The standard warranty covers the lamp for only 90 days; replacement lamps for the Dell 1200MP cost $299 and are said to last for 2,500 hours. This yields a consumables cost of 12 cents per hour, which is about average for a budget projector. We measured the power consumption of the projector at 247 watts. In a typical stationary usage profile, the 1200MP will cost $32 annually in electricity. (We measured power consumption both on and off and assumed a typical usage of 1000 hours per year.)

8.2

Dell 1200MP DLP projector

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 8Support 7