While Acer may be popular for their notebooks, most people aren’t aware that they have a full blown projector line-up as well, complete with multimedia and business projectors. Today we’ll be taking a look at the S5201M from their latter series. This short-throw projector is targeted for smaller conference rooms in organizations, where one may want to project a 100-inch screen, but does not have the space in the room to do so. Let’s see what else it has to offer.

Design and Build
Let’s start with the design and build. The S5201M does not look dull or boring for a business projector. In fact, it looks stylish and modern. The black glossy finish on the top coupled with the super-sized Acer logo gives it a bold look. There are plenty of ventilation grills on the side and a massive lens protruding out front. The silver dial around the lens is the focus ring.

Produces a large screen from a short distance

Produces a large screen from a short distance

There are two rubber feet at the back and a single one in the middle up front that allows you to adjust the height. LED indicators are placed on the top indicating power, temperature, and lamp life. There are some physical buttons as well, for the menu and for manual keystone correction. The overall build is good and the projector feels sturdy and durable.

The S5201M comes bundled with a carry bag, remote, quick start guide and software disks. There’s also an optional presenter to assist you during your presentations.

Features
This is a DLP projector developed by Texas Instruments with a native resolution of 1024×768. The aspect ratio is 4:3, but you have options for 16:9 as well. The standard brightness level is set to 3000 lumens, which is bright enough even with ambient light in the room. There are plenty of networking features available, which we’ll get to in a bit. It also supports DLP 3D, but you’ll need the proper glasses for that to work.

Plenty of connectivity options

Plenty of connectivity options

There are plenty of connectivity options in the rear, more than you’ll probably ever need. Starting from the left we have a mini-USB, which is used to duplicate your laptop's display, two HDMI-in ports, LAN jack, two USB ports (only supports photos and PTG files), VGA-out port for by-passing to an LCD monitor or TV, two VGA-in ports, S-Video, Composite and audio-in and out ports. It also features Crestron multi-projector setup that allows you to control multiple projectors through a single interface.

Performance
We placed the projector at a distance of 4ft from the screen, which gave us roughly a 100-inch screen. We started off with Display Mate, which the projector connected via HDMI to our notebook. The results weren’t too impressive, sadly. First off, the black levels are quite poor. With the standard color setting and HDMI color profile set to ‘Limited’ (‘Full Range’ made it worse). We weren’t able to get good black levels. Even after tweaking the colors and the contrast, a slight haze was always noticeable. I also encountered some fringing issue around the text and slight banding in the color spectrum. Since the resolution is really low, the image appears very pixilated due to which text is very blocky even when viewed from 10ft away.

The remote is easy to use and built well

The remote is easy to use and built well

Movies don’t look too great, either, the colors are decent but again the black levels take a beating. Even HD movies look just about average. The sound quality isn’t anything to shout about either – it's loud but that’s about it. Under normal operation, the fans inside the projector are quite audible and it tends to get hot rather quickly. In the conference room, this can be distracting.

Once connected to your LAN, you can access the projector through its IP address. You can download the eProjection Management software here that allows you to clone your PC screen over the network. Not only that, you can display up to four screens from four different PCs, simultaneously. The MobileShow utility lets you use your Windows Mobile-based smartphone to connect to the projector, as well. The S5201M also uses Crestron RoomView utility that allows you to control multiple projectors at a time.

Acer's eManagement interface

Acer's eManagement interface

The USB ports only support photos and PTG files. Acer bundles a software that lets you convert a PPT to PTG, which I found unnecessary. They could have simply included support for PPT files through the USB in the first place and save you the headache. The remote control is built well and has all the necessary options to control the projector. It even has a laser pointer to help you give a more professional presentation.

Verdict
For a price tag of Rs.75,000 (plus taxes), the Acer S5201M feels quite expensive. On the plus side, it does have plenty of connectivity options and some nifty networking features that would appeal to a system admin, but this does not make up for the fact that the overall picture quality is just about average. The short throw range is great if you don’t have a lot of space to play around with, but text appears pixilated most of the time due to the low resolution. In the end, I’d choose to give the Acer S5201M a skip.

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