IBM M400 review: IBM M400

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MSRP: $1,749.00

The Good Lightweight; small size; full-function remote control; great image quality.

The Bad Relatively low contrast; noisy fan.

The Bottom Line This is a highly portable projector with plenty of features for business users and for occasionally running entertainment applications.

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7.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

IBM M400 projector

The IBM M400 may just be a dream projector: it's light, bright, and low priced. It has a small, almost-square design, inside of which is a DLP multimirror imaging chip. Like most current sub-three-pound projectors, the M400 uses native XGA resolution, which matches that of many current notebook computers.

The top of the projector features a simple array of five buttons. One is for power, and the other four are for navigating the onscreen menu. These buttons also handle input-source selection and automatic configuration. To adjust the volume and such, you'll need to use the remote control, which is an impressive combination of compact design and functionality. The remote includes standard buttons, such as menu, volume, and antikeystoning controls, as well as two features vital for business presenters: a laser pointer and two mouse buttons. Unfortunately, the mouse buttons are positioned inconveniently toward the back of the remote (where the user's palm would rest), and you must remember to point the remote at the screen rather than at the projector itself.

Tiny projectors do not afford a lot of space for connectors, but the M400 employs some innovative cable designs to cover many options. A DVI connector handles input from computers or--with an optional cable--from a component-video device. A mini USB (or 5P USB) jack links with a computer for mouse-control emulation. There is also an ordinary mini audio connector. The most innovative connector is a unique 3.5mm mini video jack that, with the appropriate cable, handles both composite video and S-Video.

When you plug in the M400, a fan starts up--and it never stops. While the fan is noisier than some, it's not too distracting. The start-up screen tells users to click the Fn+F7 key combination on their ThinkPads, which switches on the external display. Users of Toshiba, Dell, and HP notebooks, however, will have to figure out the correct key combination on their own.

We measured the M400's brightness to be 1,032 lumens, surprisingly close to the advertised value of 1,100. As usual with projectors, our measured contrast ratio of 243:1 was way below the claimed value (1,800:1). Unfortunately, it was also below our readings on most of the other sub-three-pound projectors that we've tested. The M400 garnered a superb score in corner/center brightness uniformity, one of the best scores we've ever seen. Our out-of-box color temperature reading was an almost perfect 6,700K. All told, the M400's relatively low contrast may be a detriment for entertainment applications, but its uniform brightness should be good for business presentations.

In our subjective image-quality tests, the M400 did quite well. Individual pixels were quite sharp, with no noticeable halos. Flicker and noise were minimal. The projector performs surprisingly well at both ends of the brightness spectrum, making it easy to distinguish dark blacks and light whites. Even though its contrast is less than we'd like, the M400 performed admirably in our DVD-movie test. We didn't see any artifacts during the high-speed action scenes. With movies, you should bypass the M400's single tiny speaker in favor of a home-theater audio system connected directly to your computer.

In general, compact size comes at a premium. But IBM has seen fit to price the M400 competitively, in addition to supporting it with a generous three-year limited warranty that includes rapid-replacement service.