4K Projectors are Great, Pixel Shifting 1080p Is An Affordable Alternative

We all know the prices of 4K projectors are still through the roof, but new intermediate solutions using pixel shifting can provide affordable alternatives.

Consider:  Sony commands $50,000-type prices for bright 4K projectors with less than 10,000 lumens, while equivalent 1080p or WUXGA projectors tend to cost closer to $3,000-$10,000. Now that’s a huge difference. You have to really need 4K to justify paying 5 to 10 times the price of 1080p. True, 4K resolution makes for glorious large images, but at what cost? (For now.)


A vivid, sharp, 4K photo projected (very large) at Infocomm using a WUXGA (2K) laser projector – Epson L2500 – with its pixel shifting engaged. (note the silhouette of the projector in the lower right)

Time to discuss two alternatives I suspect may find some serious market until the cost of true 4K projectors down to a more “practical” level (at least for most applications):  Pixel shifting 1080p/WUXGA projectors (already shipping), and 4 megapixel, pixel shifting projectors (late 2016).

This article focuses on the 4K issue and solutions for projectors, in general.  It is not specifically about 4K for business/education/commercial, nor 4K for home theater. When I’m talking about content, 4K content for the biz/edu/commercial is going to generally be custom content, or traditional content displayed at 4K (for example, that could be a corporate video, or simply viewing spreadsheets and documents from a computer.  On the home side, we’re talking 4K streaming services, 4K Blu-ray UHD discs and soon, some 4K on cable or satellite that isn’t really streamed.

Two “technologies” offer an alternative to 4K with a sharper, more detailed image than standard 1080p/WUXGA (but not up to true 4K) and at a price point closer to standard 1080p.

4 Megapixel Projectors

One of those features was talked about, but barely seen at InfoComm 2016:  That is TI’s new “hybrid” chip. 1080p and WUXGA chips are basically 2 megapixel chips, while true 4K is 8 megapixels.  TI’s new chip, however, is a 4 megapixel chip, so although less than 3,000 pixels across (instead of 3840, the true 4K standard)  the result are pixels that are relatively much smaller than standard WUXGA. Each pixel is only 44% the size of WUXGA. By comparison  WUXGA+ – true 4K – pixels are 25% the size of WUXGA!

Not only does the TI chip “split the difference,” but it also offers pixel shifting (basically shifting and refiring each pixel with different data, diagonally 1/2 pixel away).  Now for best results, it takes some really good processing. We’ve already seen that there can be significant differences in how well pixel shifting works.  On the home theater side, Epson’s pixel shifting 1080p projectors definitely seem sharper/more detailed than JVC’s.  (They also appear “harder” looking, but when you consider the commercial side, the greater perceived detail would seem to be the more important aspect).

So, what we have here are several new DLP projectors coming out with the new TI 4 megapixel chips, and pixel shifting. Could be really impressive!

Pixel shifting  on 1080p and WUXGA Projectors

I’m counting on that, because I’m already pretty dazzled with what Epson has done with their pixel shifting on their new laser and new G-series projectors when dealing with 4K content.  (Remember, without the 4K content, there won’t be dramatic differences between basic 1080p and true 4K, never mind these other options “in the middle.”)

Then there are the dozen+ new Epson projectors, seven of them laser projectors in the L series and the rest are new G series models. These are WUXGA (1920×1200) projectors but with pixel shifting and 4K inputs.

I am pretty amazed at what Epson has accomplished with the pixel shifting on 4K content.  In addition to Epson, JVC incorporates pixel shifting into all their home theater models (JVC was the first).

4K Projectors and Alternatives – Conclusion

The Bottom Line:  2K or 1080p with pixel shifting, even “4 Megapixel” with pixel shifting obviously can’t rival projectors equally well designed, that are true 4K, when fed true 4K content  But with 4K coming both on the home side and commercial demands, these pixel shifting technologies, combined with working with 4K content, offer at the moment, an incredibly affordable alternative to true 4K while delivering superior performance to standard 1080p and WUXGA projectors.  Enough said!

2016 may be The Year of the Laser Projector, but it’s also the year when 4K content finally finds more than a handful of projectors that can appreciate it.  On the commercial side 4K content is being created where it is beneficial, and on the home side, the march to 4K content has just begun, but it will be, of course, unstoppable.

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REVIEW BenQ W1500 Home Projector

BenQ W1500 Highlights

  • 2200 lumens claimed – suitable for family/living/bonus rooms – or a home theater
  • 3D Capable
  • Good contrast for black level performance
  • Vertical lens shift (the amount is limited, but better than none)
  • 2 x 10 watts of Audio, audio output
  • Wireless HDMI (WHDI) using included dongle
  • Full color management controls, ISF certified
  • Minimal lag times for great gaming
  • Remote control
  • Smart-Eco for energy efficiency (see more below)
  • Very long lamp life (for low cost of operation)
  • New lighter 3D glasses from BenQ (not included)
  • Good warranty
  • All around, well thought out projector


The BenQ W1500 is the third projector in the BenQ lineup that offer essentially the same picture performance.  The W1500 home entertainment projector is by far the most expensive, and most feature laden of the three.  We’ve previously reviewed the W1500 projector’s siblings, the basic, and extremely popular W1070 just one year ago, and the W1080ST (similar but with a very short throw lens).

The BenQ W1500 simply ups the capabilities, without really affecting what is already impressive picture quality.  The major feature additions that make the W1500 BenQ’s flagship home entertainment projector, are the zoom lens – which offers more range – 1.6:1, that’s twice the flexibility of the W1070 and even more compared to the short throw W1080ST.

But the highlight “extra” feature has to be the Wireless HDMI solution. There are few projectors that offer such capability (and convenience), so far.  Epson, for example offers up their competing Home Cinema 3020e with wireless HDMI, and they also offer it on their $900 more expensive Home Cinema 5030UBe, but that one is a step up projector, not only in price, but performance.

Other than that, there are several 3rd party wireless hdmi solutions out there, in fact I’m reviewing the latest version of the DVDO Air, at the same time as reviewing this BenQ projector.  (I’ll even let you know later how the BenQ’s WHDI wireless solution performs compared to the outboard competition.

CMS – Color Management System

BenQ provides a full Color Management System on the W1500 projector.  You have separate Gain and Bias controls for grayscale balancing of Red, Green, and Blue, and full Hue, Saturation and Gain controls for calibrating the individual primary and secondary colors.  (Subscribers, we have published the CMS calibration info on the Advanced Calibration page just for you guys!)   The rest of the calibration info is available to everyone, on the regular Calibration page in this review.

The bottom line is that the W1500, like the W1070 and W1080ST, calibrates beautifully, with the result of really good looking, accurate color.

Frame Interpolation

BenQ serves up creative frame interpolation with 3 levels:  Low, Middle, High.  The low and middle settings seem to do relatively little, for sports I tried high, and it seemed a bit jerky.  I was watching a pan across a picket fence, and it looked more real with it turned off.  Sports seemed fine.  I remind you I’m not a big fan of CFI.  I use it in moderation for sports, and little else.   I think it’s a nice extra feature to have, but not one that many would consider essential, or even very important.

I did try watching a movie with the High setting, just to see if it showed the same jerkiness I spotted on sports, and sure enough, it was visible on a typical movie (1080i) off of HDTV.

Stick to the lower settings.

W1500 Brilliant Color

The last projector I reviewed had 10 different Brilliant Color settings.  That was the Optoma HD131Xe.  BenQ takes a simpler approach.  Their customization of Brilliant Color gives you a choice of Off, or On.  Brilliant Color adds some pop to the image.  The W1500 also measures about 30% brighter with Brilliant Color engaged.  Generally you have a more natural image without using Brilliant Color, but it does add a dynamic edge to the picture, one that’s very handy when there’s ambient light present.   With both pair of images shown here, the first one has Brilliant Color off, the second one has it turned on.

W1500 menus

BenQ’s menu design hasn’t changed much in the last decade, in fact if anything, other than the addition of new features, they have barely changed at all, going way back to the old 720p BenQ PE-8700, which I owned about 10 years ago.

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Acer H5370BD 3D Home Video Projector

The Acer H5370BD is a new 720p projector for home theater and living room use, it is attracting no small amount of attention.

This low-priced home video projector doesn’t pack a lot of features, but it does produce a solid, enjoyable image at a bargain-basement price. It is quite possibly the ideal first projector for someone new to the big screen experience, as its price is lower than even many televisions. While its 720p resolution means it is not a true full-HD experience, it has great picture quality for the money, and from a pure bang-for-the-buck perspective it’s difficult to pass up.

The Viewing Experience

The H5370BD is small, portable, and very bright, with a modest onboard speaker and no appreciable upward throw angle. That combination of features makes it a good candidate for table placement. It would also fit well in a ceiling mount, especially paired with a small extension tube, but ceiling mounts add expense to what is otherwise a very affordable projector.

Firing up the H5370BD for the first time, the projector produces an intensely bright image in the default Standard mode. However, the other preprogrammed image modes give the H5370BD a lot of flexibility when it comes to light output, and decreasing lumens for home theater use is easy. While Standard mode is a good choice for a living room’s ambient light, the projector’s Movie mode is particularly well suited to dark theater use — doubly so if BrilliantColor is turned off. That’s not a small accomplishment for a projector that costs half as much as some other inexpensive home theater projectors.

The H5370BD is a 3D projector, capable of displaying 3D content from HDMI 1.4 compatible sources such as Blu-ray discs and satellite/cable set-top boxes. It is not “full HD 3D” because the projector itself has a native chip resolution of 1280×720 rather than 1920×1080. That said, it is the least expensive way to get HDMI 1.4 3D projection into the home so far. The H5370BD uses DLP Link, so 3D glasses are inexpensive and widely available. And while the H5370BD doesn’t produce cutting-edge 3D, it does make an expensive technology much more affordable.

Key Features

Great 2D picture. A projector as inexpensive as the H5370BD has no right to look as good as it does. The 2D picture from this tiny projector is bright and sharp, with good shadow detail, solid black level, and well-saturated color. With BrilliantColor disabled, the picture has excellent balance and realism for home theater, while the brighter modes use BrilliantColor to boost light output for projection in ambient light situations. All in all, it’s a great picture, especially for the price.

3D capable. The H5370BD breaks another price barrier for 3D, and may be the least expensive 3D projector available at this time. HDMI 1.4 3D signals from Blu-ray players, cable boxes, or satellite receivers are decoded and displayed using DLP Link technology, which requires no infrared emitter and uses widely-available, inexpensive DLP Link glasses.

Long lamp life. Long-life lamps are becoming more common these days, and the old 2,000-hour standard lamp life is on its way out. The H5370BD promises 5,000 hours of operation at full power or 6,000 hours of operation in Eco-mode, which is a very long time indeed. If you watch one two-hour movie per day every day with the lamp at full power, it would be six years before you’d have to buy a new lamp.

Onboard sound. A two-watt speaker provides onboard sound for the H5370BD. This makes the projector functional as a portable product for home entertainment. While the speaker is relatively small and low-powered, having any sound is better than no sound at all. The onboard speaker has a tinny character common in small speakers, but does not suffer significant degradation unless volume is pushed beyond 75% of maximum.

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Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector

  • PROS

    Suitably bright for a small to midsize room. Native WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution. 1.6X zoom. Near-excellent quality for data images. Better-than-typical video for a data projector.

  • CONS

    No 3D support.


    The Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector delivers high quality for data images, with enough brightness for a small to midsize conference room or classroom.

The Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector delivers all the right features to make it worth a close look. Key points on the checklist include a 3,200-lumen brightness rating, a 1.6X zoom lens, and a long lamp life to help keep running costs down. Finally, it had near-excellent quality for data images in our tests and better video quality than most data projectors. That’s easily enough to make it our Editors’ Choice WXGA (1,280-by-800) projector for a small to midsize conference room or classroom.

At first glance, the 955WH seems almost identical to the Epson PowerLite 955W WXGA 3LCD Projector that it’s replacing in Epson’s line. However, it offers a number of small improvements, including a minor boost in brightness, newly added Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) support, and a longer claimed lamp life at up to 10,000 hours in Eco mode.

The two models are similar enough that both are head-to-head competitors with the NEC NP-M311W. But where the Epson 955W and the NEC NP-M311W are so closely matched that we named both as Editors’ Choices for the category, the 955WH’s features add just enough to give it an edge over the other two and make it our single preferred pick.


Like the Epson 955W and the NEC NP-M311W, the 955WH is built around a three-chip WXGA LCD engine. That gives it the advantage of being guaranteed not to show the rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue) that are always a concern with DLP-based projectors. It also ensures that it delivers the same color brightness as white brightness, which isn’t true for most DLP projectors, and which can affect both color quality and the brightness of color images.

The key disadvantage that grows from having an LCD engine is that, as with most LCD data projectors, the 955WH doesn’t offer the 3D support that you’ll find most DLP models, including, for example, the Acer S1385WHne, our top choice for a moderately priced short-throw WXGA projector for a small to midsize room. However, this won’t matter unless you need to show 3D material, which simply isn’t necessary for most data-projector use.

Setup and Brightness

The 955WH measures 3.5 by 11.6 by 10.6 inches (HWD) and weighs 6 pounds 6 ounces, which makes it light enough to carry with you. However, most projectors in this size and weight class wind up permanently installed or on a cart.

Setup is typical, with manual controls for the focus and 1.6X zoom. Image inputs on the back panel include two HDMI ports for computers or video sources, two VGA ports for computers or component video, and both composite video and S-Video ports. In addition, there’s a USB Type B port for direct USB display, a LAN port for sending images and audio, as well as for controlling the projector over a network, and a USB Type A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key or for connecting an optional ($99) Wi-Fi dongle. One of the HDMI ports also supports MHL.

According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, the 955WH’s rating makes it easily bright enough for a small to midsize room. Assuming a 1.0-gain screen, 3,200 lumens would be suitable for a 215- to 292-inch (diagonal) image in theater-dark lighting. With moderate ambient light, it would be bright enough for a 140-inch image. If it is too bright for the ambient light level at the image size you need, you can use one of the projectors’ lower-brightness preset modes, its Eco mode, or both.

Image Quality, Lamp Life, and Audio

Image quality for the 955WH is near-excellent for data images. The only issue worth mention that I saw with our standard suite of DisplayMate tests was a minor problem with color balance. In most of the predefined modes, the brightest gray levels show a slight tint relative to darker levels. This is only obvious with gray-scale images, however, and there are also modes that offer suitably neutral grays all the way from black to white. Colors in all modes are vibrant, eye-catching, and well saturated.

More important for most data images is that the 955WH maintains crisp detail across the entire screen. In my tests, for example, white text on black was crisp and readable at sizes as small as 9 points, and black text on white was highly readable even at 6 points.

Video quality is limited by the native 1,280-by-800 resolution, which translates to a maximum video resolution of 720p HD without scaling the image. Within that context, however, the quality is much better than is typical for a data projector. Contrast is a little low, which means you won’t mistake the image for something you’d expect from a home-theater projector, but the video is good enough to be watchable even for long sessions.

The 16-watt speaker offers good sound quality and enough volume to fill a midsize room. There’s also a stereo audio output you can use for an external sound system.
One important extra is a promised low running cost, with both a longer-than-usual lamp life, rated at 5,000 hours in Normal mode or 10,000 hours in Eco mode, and a far-lower-than-usual replacement cost, at $79. Another plus is a split-screen feature, which lets you see images from any two sources at once. You can toggle to and from split-screen mode with a single button press on the remote. You can also change sources on either side as needed, as well as choose between making the two images of equal size, or making either one larger than the other.


If you need 3D support, be sure to look at the Acer S1385WHne. If you don’t need 3D, however, the Epson 955W, the NEC M311W, and the Epson PowerLite 955WH WXGA 3LCD Projector are all worth considering, with similar levels of brightness, data image quality, and video quality. However, the 955WH is the only one of the three that offers MHL support, its audio quality is a bit better than the NEC model delivers, and it also offers the lowest running cost of the three. That trifecta puts it a step out in front, and makes it our Editors’ Choice.
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Review Projector BenQ MX631ST Short Throw

The BenQ MX631ST is a short throw projector intended for use in classrooms or conference rooms.  It is a single chip DLP XGA projector that in its brightest mode is specified to produce 3200 lumens and its lamp is rated to have an unsually long life of up to 10,000 hours, in SmartEco mode.  Even when operated in the full power (i.e, “normal”) mode, the lamp is rated at a fairly long 4,500 hours life.

This is a XGA resolution projector (i.e., 1024 x 768) with a 4 x 3 aspect ratio as is typical for many entry-level business and classroom projectors.  However, since many classrooms and conference rooms are already equipped with 4 x 3 aspect ratio projection screens, the MX631ST is certainly a viable choice when replacing an existing XGA projector.

BenQ describes the MX631ST as follows:

“Designed to deliver crisp, bright, larger-than-life images from a short projection distance, the BenQ MX631ST is ideal for use in places where space is at a premium such as small conference rooms, training rooms and classrooms. With a powerful 3200 ANSI lumens bright image and an impressive 13000:1 contrast ratio, razor sharp image and rich, accurate colors, the MX631ST will help you present your best.

With brightness of 3200 lumens, Projector BenQ MX631ST directly competes against 3LCD and other single chip DLP projectors from a variety of other companies.  In fact, this is one of the most crowded segments of the projector marketplace, and represents what is essentially entry-level for a a relatively bright business or classroom projector.


  • Long lamp life – up to 10,000 hours
  • Short throw design supports placement fairly close to the screen (e.g., 1 screen width)
  • Two HDMI inputs, one support MHL 2.0
  • XGA resolution (1024 x 768) and 4 x 3 Aspect Ratio
  • Built-in 10 watt speaker
  • 3D support compatible with Blu-ray 3D sources
  • Produces relatively high image contrast, for this class of projector


BenQ MX631ST Short Throw Projector – Special Features:  Short Throw, MHL Support, Extensive Eco Support, Long Lamp Life, 3D Support, Compatible with Chromecast and Roku Stick.

Short Throw

Business and classroom projectors in this class typically have zoom lenses with a limited zoom range and the Projector BenQ MX631ST is no exception.  Its 1.2:1 zoom ratio is typical, but this model has a relatively short throw ratio of 0.9 to 1.08 meaning when projecting, for example, an 80 inch wide image the projector can be located as close as 72 inches and as far as 86.4 inches from the screen.  Ideally the projector should be placed a little below the bottom of the screen, when table mounted, or a little above the top of the screen, when ceiling mounted.  Using a short throw projector, such as the MX631ST, can be useful in keeping the light from the projector away from the presenter’s or teacher’s eyes when they are standing toward the front of the room, although not to the extent possible with ultra throw projectors.   The bottom line is a short throw model can be the right choice for may conference room or classroom situations.

MHL Support

MHL is essentially mobile HDMI. The MX631ST supports MHL on its HDMI #2 input.  This allows you to plug in MHL compatible devices such as a Roku stick or a MHL enabled smart phone (however, not tested for this review).   MHL is relatively recent, so it may see a lot more capabilities down the road.  To be effective, since MHL supports video, audio, and command and control, a projector really should have its own sound system and the MX631ST does appear to have these capabilities. MHL allows many people to “cut the cord”.   BenQ specifically says the MHL capabilities of the MX631ST allows you to display pictures, movies and games from MHL enabled Android devices to the big screen

Extensive Eco Support

Projector BenQ MX631ST supports what BenQ calls SmartEco(TM) technlology.  They describe this as:

“…the MX631ST not only offers greater energy savings, but continues to deliver amazing picture quality through this innovative technology. SmartEco mode is designed to use only the exact amount of lamp power a projector needs to deliver the best contrast and brightness performance. This feature enables the MX631ST to deliver uncompromised projection quality with the added benefit of reduced the total cost of ownership by extending the lamp life and lowering power consumption.”

One of energy saving features is when there is no input signal present, the lamp power is reduced to only 30% of full power, thus reducing both energy consumption and extending the lamp life.

Long Lamp Life

BenQ literature says “Within the SmartEco Lamp Saving Technology umbrella, Lamp Care mode takes your dollars further – much further by offering an astonishing lamp life of up to 10,000 hours!”  Now of course you cannot expect that sort of lamp life if you always run the projector in normal power mode, but it does appear the MX631ST should be among the best in terms of lamp life and only seriously outdone by LED and laser based projectors.  BenQ provide a 1 year warranty (or 2000 hours of use) on the original installed lamp while replacement lamps only carry the standard 90 day warranty.

3D Support

Many low cost DLP projectors lack support for the 3D signal format used by Blu-ray Discs, but this is not the case for the MX631ST.  It is spec’ed to support the most popular 3D signal formats, including the frame packing technique used for Blu-ray.  BenQ did not provide 3D glasses with the review unit and I did not evaluate the 3D capabilities of the projector.



  • Sharp display with good focus uniformity, limited only by the projector’s native 1024 x 768 resolution.
  • Short throw may make some installations easier than with projector’s having a mid-throw
  • Relatively quick and easy setup with factory default setup settings appropriate for most users using this as portable projector.
  • Unusually long lamp life, especially when operated in SmartEco mode
  • Supports MHL via HDMI input for connection of MHL capable smart phones and tablets
  • Superior contrast as compared to 3LCD business/education projectors in this same price range
  • Built-in speaker produces adequate volume for most moderate size conference rooms or classrooms


  • Many picture adjustments are greyed out (i.e., not available to the user) when using HDMI inputs, which limits the ability of the user to improve picture accuracy
  • While the manufacturer’s lumen rating was verified, these White Lumens values can be misleading when comparing to other projectors that offer similar white lumens but much higher Color Lumens
  • No microphone input may be a limitation for some business or classroom applications
  • No network based management tools offered which could be an issue for applications where multiple projectors are to be installed (i.e., not simply used as a portable or standalone installation)
  • Remote control has no backlight make is difficult to operate in dim room lighting
  • Brightness uniformity of the projected image was not very good will a brightness fall-off toward the right side, when the projector was table mounted.

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