It's pretty hard to beat the Dell 3200MP. This DLP projector's lightweight design makes it a breeze to carry between home and work. Good brightness and a capable remote control make it well suited for the conference room, while its high contrast ratio and relatively low noise level qualify it for home-entertainment use. Velcro-wrapped cables and an exceptionally sturdy carrying case further enhance its portability. While the projector's problems with image uniformity and grayscale levels, plus its exceedingly hot exhaust grill, keep it off the very top of our shopping list, it's a better overall deal for the price than . If you can't afford the more highly rated , this is the next-best alternative. Dell cuts few corners with the 3200MP. Even its carrying case impressed us: it's a deluxe, hard-shell, foam-filled piece of luggage that looks like it could survive even the most ham-handed of baggage handlers. Even without the deluxe carrying case, the Dell is pleasant to tote. At just 3.5 pounds, it's one of the lightest models in this roundup; when you add the remote control and cables, the total package still weighs less than 5 pounds.
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|The 3200MP is light and compact.||The X-shaped menu controls are flanked by a power button and warning lights.|
The projector itself is simply designed. The lens sits flush with the front of the device; a protective lens cap would be nice. The remote's receiver is also in front. All connectors feed out the back panel. You adjust the projector's position with a front-elevating foot and a rear-tilting foot.
A typical, X-shaped menu navigation array on the 3200MP's top is flanked by a power button on the left and warning lights for temperature and lamp life on the right. The navigation buttons double as adjusters for keystoning, source detection, and signal synchronization, but the identifying icons are hard to figure out. In addition to its native XGA resolution of 1,024x768 pixels, the 3200MP can accommodate signals ranging from VGA (640x480) to UXGA (1,600x1,200). The projector can also handle a wide range of video formats, including NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, as well as the 720p and 1080i protocols of HDTV.
The projector throws out a large image. We needed a distance of only 6.5 feet to display our standard, one-square-meter screen. If you need to fit the image to a particular screen size, you will appreciate the Dell's 1.2X optical zoom lens and its 12-foot-long AC cable.
In many ways, the Dell 3200MP is similar to the . It has the same array of input connectors, an identical remote control, and an M1-DA-to-VGA cable so that you can use the 3200MP as a desktop monitor. You also get cables for composite video, component video, S-Video, RCA audio, and mini-pin to mini-pin connections. All of the cables have Velcro wraps for tangle-free storage--a nice extra.
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|The M1-DA connector lets you use the 3200MP as a desktop monitor.||The remote has a large rocking button that controls cursor position.|
The remote control has everything you need, from a handy trigger switch that emulates a left-mouse button to a pair of buttons specifically designed for navigating through presentations. A large, rocking button controls cursor position. A small door conceals an array of projector controls, including volume, antikeystoning, and digital zooming.
The 150-watt lamp inside the 3200MP will probably need replacement after 2,000 hours of use. Replacement lamps currently cost about $320 at Dell.com, which works out to a relatively low consumable cost of 16 cents per hour. In CNET Labs' &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Edisplaymate%2Ecom">DisplayMate tests, the Dell 3200MP performed well. The measured brightness of 1,288 ANSI lumens is one of the best scores of the group, and it's commendably close to the projector's advertised brightness of 1,300 lumens. Dell claims that the 3200MP has a contrast ratio of 1,800:1. We've never seen a projector attain anywhere near that lofty value, but our actual test result of 483:1 was the best contrast rating for the group. We also like its rock-steady images. Chromaticity tests showed superior color accuracy. Blues have a slight shift to green, but the greens and reds are quite close to optimum values.
CNET Labs contrast ratio tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Despite these superior scores, the 3200MP was plagued by various problems. Its brightness varied from corner to corner; the resulting image uniformity score of only 63 percent, is one of the lower scores of the group. In our grayscale test, the projector could resolve only 225 out of 255 levels, and some of the gray levels had a greenish tint. The 3200MP also tends to run hot--very hot. And shutdown time was on the long side, at 121 seconds.
CNET Labs brightness tests (Measured in ANSI lumens)
The 3200MP comes with a high-quality, printed user manual that includes 14 pages of international telephone-support numbers. Phone support is available 24/7 for the life of the product. Dell's Web site offers additional support, including a small knowledge base of projector-related issues, a color electronic copy of the user guide, and direct e-mail access to support staff.