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Dell 4350 Projector : Full Review

The Dell Projector 4350 isn’t cheap, but if you need a bright, high-resolution projector, it’s definitely a reasonable pick.

The Dell 4350 is a single-chip DLP projector designed predominantly for data applications. However, it was also pitched as having genuine movie-watching credentials. Key features of the £1,099 unit include a super-high claimed brightness of 4,000 lumens, a Full HD resolution, two HDMI ports, support for a wireless video dongle, and powered USB ports. These connections support the MHL mobile device protocol, as well as popular streaming dongles such as Chromecast and Amazon Fire.

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Design

At first glance the Dell 4350 is definitely the business-oriented of projectors. However, there are a handful of key features which make the Dell 4350 projector worth a look for the home cinema setup.

A major selling point of this Dell projector is its full 1080P HD capabilities. It can cope with the existing Blue-ray standards to provide an immersive viewing experience. And, where a lot of business-only projectors stick with the height of a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Dell 4350 offers the cinema standard of 16:9.

The 4350’s DLP engine has a peak luminance of 4,000 lumens, potentially making the 4350 a good option for displaying films and TV shows up on the wall without you having to effect a complete blackout of your living room.

Something I was only made aware of when I’d sent the projector back to Dell was that it also comes with a very neat concealed HDMI compartment, enabling you to permanently plug in your Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV Stick without it protruding too far out of the rear connections.

And those rear connections are pretty plentiful.

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As well as the two HDMI 1.4a connections (one in the internal compartment and one on the back panel) there’s VGA in and out, composite video, audio in and out, ethernet and two powered USB connections, again split between internal and back panel.

The variety of connections is one of the Dell 4350’s biggest strengths. and one of the reasons why this staid business beamer can actually work out pretty well in the home too.

And sometimes you want your projector’s remote control to have a laser pointer built into it, so that you can distract the cats while you’re trying to watch a movie, don’t you? It ain’t all business…

Image Quality

As noted earlier, the 4350 is pitched as a projector that’s capable of handling movies from time to time alongside the business presentations that are its main focus. And there are a number of features that support this cross-over notion. In reality, however, while the 4350 is decent – if a touch expensive – as a data projector, its video ambitions don’t really stack up.

Let’s start in the 4350’s comfort zone, with its handling of PC data sources. Our typical selection of test presentations and tables appear on the 4350 with impressive detail and sharpness. Text stands out against bright backdrops with excellent clarity and no significant ringing artifacts. Even the finest lines on our tables and graphs reappear with none of the ghosting, gapping or noise you may expect to see on projectors with a lower native resolution.

Colours are bold and clearly delineated with the relatively limited array of tones you tend to get in a typical business presentation. In addition, that huge 4,000 lumens of claimed maximum light output ensures your PowerPoint masterpieces look more than eye-catching to stop viewers from nodding off during your 50th slide of predicted market conditions in Kazakhstan.

Surprisingly, there also enough contrast in the image to let bright graphics within your presentations really pop. This could, say, allow you to include some quite interesting “spotlighting” tricks with presentations to make them feel more lively than they might on a less bright projector.

Presentations continue to look vibrant in ambient light and/or in a reasonably large meeting room too. Indeed, it’s this latter ability that probably goes further than anything else in justifying the 4350’s £1,099 price.

One final tick in the 4350’s presentations column is that there’s little sign of single-chip DLP’s common rainbow effect problem, where stripes of red, green and blue can flit over particularly bright portions of the image.

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Unfortunately, the rainbow effect becomes readily apparent when you switch to video viewing, cropping up regularly and appearing with a high level of intensity.

This is just the start of the projector’s issues with video playback. Also problematic is its colour handling. The 4350’s colours have clearly been tuned primarily for data use, and there isn’t enough flexibility in the projector’s colour settings to enable you to achieve an even half-natural-looking video palette. Tones in movies consistently look “peaky” and unbalanced. This is especially noticeable with skin tones, which tend to look either jaundiced or too ruddy.

Next, the 4350 struggles with dark scenes. To be fair, it’s capable of producing a deeper black colour than I’d have expected given its 4,000 lumens of brightness – and, more surprisingly, it achieves this while retaining some surprising punchy brightness peaks when displaying content such as torchlight against a night sky.

However, the black tones aren’t as neutral as I’d like, taking on a distinctly greenish tone. Worse, subtle details and greyscaling is routinely crushed out of the darkest picture areas, so much so that there are times during extremely dark shots where you really can’t make out what’s going on at all.

At the other end of the spectrum there’s noticeable clipping in super-bright areas. As a result, such areas “flare out” to a point where they look like holes ripped through the image rather than natural, detailed parts of it. You can reduce the extent to which this “flaring” effect stands out by reducing the projector’s white intensity setting, but it’s a problem that I never fully managed to eliminate.

The combination of bleached whites and hollow black areas highlight the lack of any shadow detailing on the 4350 to bridge the gap between an image’s darkest and brightest parts.

Thankfully, the 4350 does display a couple of strengths when it comes to video performance. First is its credible handling of motion, with only slight judder and none of the fizzing noise over skin tones that single-chip DLP projectors can still exhibit. Second, its pictures look sharp and detailed in those bright areas where detail isn’t being crushed out of the image.

Sound

Here, the 4350 is a mixed bag. On the downside, its built-in speakers don’t produce any bass, which can leave action sequences sounding harsh and unnatural. The maximum volume doesn’t feel appropriate for the scale of the images you’ll likely be watching either, and combines with a lack of speaker sensitivity to mean that some subtle details in a good movie mix will be lost.On the other hand, the 4350 does a surprisingly decent job of projecting sound away from its bodywork, so that it actually appears to be coming from somewhere in the vicinity of the pictures. The speakers also never succumb to distracting distortions or cabinet rattles, and dialogue is always clear and passably “human” in tone.

When it comes to running noise, while the 4350 is by no means the quietest projector out there, it’s still quiet enough not to prove a distraction during a movie session when using the Eco and even Dynamic lamp modes. Even with the lamp running on Normal for a presentation, you’re unlikely to have to raise your voice to make yourself heard above the relatively minor increase in fan noise.

Should I get one?

If you’re after a projector for presentations that’s bright enough to combat ambient light and able to reproduce small text and graphical details better than many others in this category, then the 4350 is worth considering.

However, it’s a touch expensive, and if you’re looking for a crossover projector for both movie and business duties then it doesn’t really make the grade.

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Overall

The Dell 4350 makes its mark in a crowded data projector marketplace with its distinctive design and extreme brightness, as well as its ability to show small text and graphical details with unusual clarity. However, whether this amounts to quite enough to justify the £1,099 price is debatable -– especially since it’s found wanting as a movie machine.

Charlie James Tennant

Editor-in-chief

Developer, videographer, photographer and a stickler for English grammar.

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