Samsung SP-P410M Ultraportable Projector
At a Glance
The stylish Samsung SP-P410M LED projector can play PC-less slide shows and videos, but its low brightness is best suited for small groups.
The compact, 2.1-pound Samsung SP-P410M ($749 as of 8/7/09) is the largest of the three LED projectors we tested for our recent ultraportable projectors review. Its traveling weight is 4.2 pounds, which is much more than the BenQ Joybee GP1 and Dell M109S LED models, but its accessory bundle (remote, cables, power adapter, and carrying case) is also larger. This projector has the same stylish design as its predecessor, the Samsung P400M--including its curvy, round edges and glossy black finish--and it offers an 800 by 600 (SVGA) resolution and a 30,000-hour lifetime for its LED light source.
The P410M's features include a media player (via its integrated USB reader slot) for running slide shows, photos, videos, and music from a USB flash drive or other portable storage device, a remote control that sports media player buttons, and a brightness rating of 170 lumens (up from the previous model's 150 lumens). It also has a pair of twin 1.0-watt mono speakers that sounded better than most of the other projector speakers in the group.
In image-quality tests, the P410M earned a rating of Good for its overall performance. Among the seven ultraportable projectors we tested (four lamp-based and three LED-based), it landed in third place on text, fourth on graphics, and fifth on motion and video tests. Although it displayed legible lettering in most tests, its moderately low brightness made reading small, light-colored text on dark backgrounds more difficult. In a PowerPoint slide, for example, a white footnote wasn't as easy to read here as it was when we used brighter projectors. In graphics tests, the SP-P410M turned in mixed performance: In some images it displayed oversaturated colors, such as skin tones that looked redder and grass that seemed greener than in the originals, while in others it rendered gorgeous colors, including bright autumn leaves, golden yellow sunflowers, and lush turquoise-blue water.
In DVD-playback tests, the SP-P410M's knack for rich, vivid colors also delivered mixed results: It excelled in capturing the vivid colors prominently used in Speed Racer, but it was less successful in rendering the gritty earth tones and muted colors in Quantum of Solace. Even when we switched to different preset display modes, the SP-P410M continued to show more color saturation than was usually present in the original image.
The SP-P410M's most impressive feature is its built-in USB reader port, which gives it the ability to act as a stand-alone projector without a PC attached. In testing this feature, we found the SP-P410M impressive in its ability to play media from a USB flash drive. It did well at displaying PowerPoint slides, although it can show slides only as still images, with no animation or special effects (such as flying text bullets). On top of that, it was able to play a larger selection of video and music file formats than the BenQ GP1, which also has a USB media player for PC-free shows.
The SP-P410M has a single tilt-adjustment screw for lifting the projector's light beam to reach the screen, plus a tripod mount for more-flexible positioning. Inputs include VGA, composite video, and audio, but you get no S-Video or HDMI port. The unit's fixed-focal-length lens (no zoom) is easy to focus, but its touch-sensitive control panel is small and slightly awkward to use. Fortunately, the remote is a breeze to use, so you can bypass touching the control panel altogether. The on-screen display isn't as extensive as those on larger models, but it includes six preset display modes and has all of the basic options you need to adjust the image and use the media player.
The Samsung SP- P410M is best suited for small-group presentations, in rooms where you can control the lighting to ensure that the screen is as viewable as possible. And even though it isn't cheap, its stand-alone ability to play PC-free presentations makes it most appealing to businesspeople who want to travel as light as possible.