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.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    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.


Basics

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.

Conclusion

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

 


Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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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Review Projector Acer S1385WHne

  • PROS

    Light weight. Bright. Short throw. Comes with carrying case. Native 1,280-by-800 resolution. Near-excellent quality for data images.

  • CONS

    Potentially annoying rainbow artifacts with full-motion video.

  • BOTTOM LINE

    The Acer S1385WHne projector is bright, light enough to carry with you, and equipped with a short-throw lens to give you a big image, even in a tight space.

If you need a WXGA (1,280-by-800) projector that’s bright enough to give you a suitably large image for a midsize conference room or classroom, light enough to carry, and equipped with a short-throw lens so you can get a big image from close to the screen, put the Acer S1385WHne at the top of your list. It’s rated at 3,200 lumens, weighs less than 6 pounds, and even comes with a carrying case. Add in its high-quality output for data images, and it’s an obvious pick as our Editors’ Choice moderately priced, short-throw WXGA projector.

The S1385WHne is a head-to­-head competitor with the ViewSonic PJD6683ws, another top pick. Both are built around DLP engines and both offer the same resolution, similar brightness, a short throw, and typical DLP features, like 3D support. However, the Acer model offers a slightly higher brightness rating, a slightly lower weight, and some additional features, including two HDMI connectors with Mobile High-Definition link (MHL) support.

Portability, Connections, and Setup

Measuring 3.4 by 12.1 by 8.3 inches (HWD) and weighing 5 pounds 5 ounces, the S1385WHne is in a size and weight class that’s appropriate for permanent installation, for placement on a cart, or for being stored away when its not in use and taken out only when you need it. It’s also small and light enough to carry with you if you need to, at least occasionally, and the soft carrying case it comes with makes it easy both to carry and to store safely.

Setup is typical for a short-throw projector, with a manual focus and no zoom. For most of my tests, I used a 92-inch image, measured diagonally, with the projector just 39 inches from the screen.

Image inputs on the back panel include an MHL-enabled HDMI port for a computer or video source, two VGA ports for computers or component video, and both S-Video and composite video ports. There’s also a USB Type B mini connector that serves as a service port for firmware upgrades, a LAN port for controlling the projector over a network, and a USB Type A port strictly for providing power for, say, charging a mobile device.

There’s a second HDMI port, also MHL-enabled, inside the projector. You can use it with any appropriate device you want to install permanently, including Acer’s optional WirelessHD dongle ($199, complete with a WirelessHD transmitter for the sending side) or its optional WirelessCast dongle ($69), which supports Miracast and DLNA, as well as Wi-Fi connections to PCs and mobile devices using Acer’s eDisplay app.

To get to the port, you have to remove two screws, and then pop off the top panel— a step that requires enough force that you might hesitate, worrying (unnecessarily) that you might break something. If you’re brave enough to do it, finding the HDMI port and inserting the dongle is easy enough, and it’s a one-time operation. Snapping the top back on is also much easier than prying it off.

Brightness and Image Quality

As with any single-chip, DLP-based projector, pinning down the S1385WHne’s brightness is complicated by the fact that most models have a lower color brightness than white brightness. This means that full-color images may not be as bright as you would expect based strictly on the 3,200 lumen rating for white brightness.

According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, 3,200 lumens would be bright enough at the projector’s native 16:10 aspect ratio for a 215- to 292-inch (diagonal) image in theater-dark lighting with a 1.0 gain screen. Even with moderate ambient light, it will be bright enough for a 140- to 160-inch screen. For smaller screen sizes, you can use Eco mode or one of the lower-brightness predefined modes.

Data-image quality is a strong point, with the projector handling our standard suite of DisplayMate tests without any real problems. Color balance was excellent in our tests, with suitably neutral grays across the entire range from black to white in all preset modes. Red and magenta were a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model in the brightest mode, and yellow was little dark in most modes, but that’s typical of projectors with lower color brightness than white brightness. Colors were well saturated in all modes.

More important for most data images is that the focus is crisp and clean across the entire screen, which is not always the case with short-throw lenses, and the projector holds detail well. White text on black, for example, was easily readable at sizes as small as 9 points on our tests, and black text on white was easily readable at 6.8 points. The image was also as rock solid with an analog VGA connection as with a digital HDMI connection, even with images that tend to cause pixel jitter or dynamic moire with analog connections.

Image quality is not in the same league for full-motion video as for data images, which is common for data projectors. Among other issues, I saw some posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) in test scenes that tend to show that problem and a mild-to-moderate loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas).

The more important problem for video is rainbow artifacts (flashes of red, green, and blue), which are always a potential concern for single-chip DLP projectors. The good news is that with data images, the S1385WHne does an excellent job resisting showing these artifacts. The only time I saw them was with one screen designed to bring them out, and even then, they were decidedly minor. With video, however, they show often enough that anyone who sees them easily is likely to find them annoying.

The projector’s audio system counts as a plus, but just barely. The two 10-watt speakers deliver reasonably good sound quality. However, there’s no noticeable stereo effect, which is typical for audio systems small enough to fit in a projector, and the volume is suitable for only a small room. If you need higher volume or fully realized stereo, you can connect an external sound system to the stereo audio output.

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Epson PowerLite 1985WU Projector Review

The Epson Powerlite 1985WU is one of a new breed of affordable high brightness projectors suitable for medium and larger venues.  100″ screens even in bright rooms handled well.

Powerlite 1985WU Overview

There used to be a time, not very long ago, when if you needed  say 4000 lumens (twice what was typically used in auditoriums a decade or so ago), you spent a small fortune on a projector that was not only bright but loaded with features, including very expensive interchangeable lenses (and lens shift), that many people who needed the brightness did not require.  In fact, typically a long or short throw lens for one of those projectors still costs more than this new Epson projector.

That’s the point of the Powerlite 1985WU, which is the flagship of Epson’s 1900 series, and highest resolution projector at 1920×1200 – WUXGA!  If maximum placement flexibility isn’t a requirement, this projector may be just right.  It still has advanced networking and an impressive list of capabilities, but at under $2000 instead of more like $5000+.


In other words, the Powerlite 1985WU is Epson’s top of the line, highest resolution, high volume, affordable projector.  It should work well in university classrooms, large corporate rooms for training and meetings, board rooms and small auditoriums.

So, what we have here, is a very serious WUXGA projector.  It’s large venue bright at 4800 lumens.  That’s white and color lumens – which matters.  If you have the interest, click for our video on the importance of color lumens).  Overall it has a very impressive feature set.  It costs less  than half of Epson’s G series projector with the same resolution (but slightly brighter).

You obviously get a better return on investment if you don’t need the lenses, and perhaps some other advanced features such as edge blending (which no one had under $10,000 even a few years ago, and even fewer need).  So, why spend for a projector with all the expensive bells and whistles, especially when it can more than double the price?


The Powerlite 1985 is one of the newest in Epson’s 19xx series.  We previously reviewed the lower resolution (and older series) Powerlite 1945W with 4200 lumens (which remains current, street price $1699), and also the 1965 ($1899, XGA, 5000 lumens).   The rest of the product series plays out like this:

  • The least expensive of the lineup is the Powerlite 1940, at $1299 with the lower WXGA resolution, and 4200 lumens.  Also:
  • Powerlite 1955: XGA, 4500 lumens, Street Price 1699
  • Powerlite 1960:  XGA, 5000 lumens, Street Price $1499
  • Powerlite 1980WU:  WUXGA, 4400 lumens, Street Price $1499
  • Powerlite 1975W:  WXGA, 5000 lumens, Street Price $1999

The features sets do vary.  Some have Wifi built in, some have MHL on their HDMIs.  This chart may help you simplify which one best suits your needs:

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 4.46.46 PM

Chart of Current Epson Powerlite 19xx series projectors

We wish to thank Epson America for sponsoring this year’s Best Classroom Projectors report, in which this projector is considered.


Powerlite 1985WU Projector Highlights

OK, enough about all the different models in the series.  Here’s a list of the key major features of the Powerlite 1985WU beyond the usual brightness and resolution already mentioned:

  • Wide range Zoom lens:
  • WiDi, and Miracast (see Special Features section), screen mirroring
  • MHL on HDMI for streaming from MHL compatible devices
  • Split Screen (two sources)
  • Auto Fit let’s the projector resize the image to fit your screen
  • DICOM simulation for observing medical films such as X-rays, CAT scans, etc., meeting training level display requirements
  • Wireless and advanced Wired networking, including remote monitoring, push notifications…
  • Moderator and PC Free – connect with up t0 50 devices, display up to 4 simultaneously for real collaboration
  • 2 year warranty with two years of rapid replacement program

MiraCast and MHL

Epson not only offers MHL on one of its two HDMI inputs, but goes a step further and offers Miracast built in to its wireless capabilities.  Let’s talk Miracast first.

Miracast is first, a certification process for peer to peer wireless.  If a projector (as a display device) has Miracast, it can display what the source screen displays.  It does this wirelessly from devices that also support Miracast.  Note that Miracast supports only certain protocols, so it doesn’t work with all or most peer-to-peer solutions out there.  But, in most cases, two Miracast devices should work together.

There are resolution limits.  Officially Miracast will stream up to 1080p (1920×1080) just a little less than the maximum native resolution of this projector at 1920×1200.  Miracast also supports audio up to 5.1.

Think this way.  We’re used to communicating wirelessly in many cases over a local WiFi network.  MHL is an example of that.  Take an MHL source – such as some of the Android tablets, and they can, using your home wifi, talk to, a display that supports MHL, such as this Epson Powerlite 1985WU projector.


WiFi and Other Networking, Moderator

If it wasn’t obvious from the above, the Powerlite 1985WU, has Wifi built in.  The Wifi capabilities are complemented by the 1985WU also having hard wired networking as well.  Epson offers several software solutions, including the latest version of Easy MP, which has been around for years, supporting networking with lots of control and features.

The 1985 can track a large number of computers on a network, and display up to four selected computers displays at once over the local network.

This allows, for example, four student’s computers screens to be displayed simultaneously on the Epson projector.  The teacher could then replace those with other computer’s displays.


Longer Lamp Life

Historically high power projectors – in this day and age I’d consider a projector with 4800 white and color lumens to “still” be high power – have not had great lamp life.  In other words, they’d work the lamps hard to get maximum brightness out of them in exchange for shorter life.   Traditionally, such projectors are often 2000 hours at full power, and 2500 to 3000 lumens in their Eco modes.

The Powerlite 1985WU has been rated at 3000 hours at full power, and 4000 in Eco.  That should prove to be bargain compared to most competitors, especially since Epson seems to charge less for lamps than most of the competition, and charge minimal amounts for the education market.  I mention that because the Powerlite 1985WU should be an excellent projector for larger classrooms – such as at colleges and universities, with Epson education program lamp prices falling between $79 and $129.  Talk about inexpensive – when a few years ago, $400 – $500 was normal.

In fairness, Epson’s less massively bright small projectors often provide 4000 hours at full power (some 5000), and 5000 to 6000 hours in Eco. Still, the lamp life is very good for a projector in this class.

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BenQ W1080ST Home Theater Projector Review

BenQ W1080ST Projector Highlights

  • 2000 lumens bright – suitable for family/living/bonus rooms
  • 3D Capable including Blu-ray 3D
  • Higher contrast for better blacks, than most low cost projectors
  • 10 watts of Audio, plus an audio output
  • 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)
  • Typical Warranty

BenQ W1080ST Projector Overview

The BenQ W1080ST is almost identical to the last BenQ home projector we reviewed, which would be their W1070.  The BenQ W1080ST is a home theater projector that differentiates itself by sporting a short throw zoom lens.  That makes the W1080ST a more convenient alternative for those who are placing on a table top, in many homes.  It puts the projector in front of the audience, closer to the screen.  It means people can move around without necessarily blocking the image (walking through the bright light).

Ultimately the BenQ W1080ST is a great little home entertainment projector.  It has built in sound, so you can take it outside in the summer for entertainment without much fuss (a waterproof extension power cord, and a garage door to shine a movie on).

The W1080ST is a single chip DLP projector. It is full 1080p resolution, and it is 3D capable.  It has HDMI 1.4 which allows this BenQ W1080ST projector to support Blu-ray 3D, which gives it a competitive edge over several lower cost projectors and crossover projectors.

Physically the W1080ST is a good looking box, as BenQ has attempted to give it some style.  But, it’s still a box shaped projector.  More important is its smallish size, and far more important is its picture quality!

Also of extreme importance to you all is the BenQ W1080ST price. The official MAP price, the lowest an authorized dealer is allowed to advertise on the internet (or anywhere), is $1099. Keep that in mind, if you see it for less, then the dealer is quite possibly not an authorized dealer, which raises a number of potential issues, including post sale support.  Having owned a large online dealership, I believe consumers are better off when they deal with authorized dealers, if for no other reason than they tend to be more knowledgeable.

The projector recently started shipping.  We received this projector for review before shipping started, but with a backlog and a couple of reports and Infocomm to deal with in April/May/June, we’ve finally finished it.  Note that 3D Glasses are optional – as in, extra.  The official price for the glasses is $79.  Even that is a little less than most others.

The BenQ W1080ST, like its longer throw twin has very good contrast and blacks for the price range, but don’t confuse that with dramatically better black levels found on many projectors starting at less than twice the price. Contrast is very good for a family room projector.  Not so much if you have a dedicated home theater with excellent lighting control.

What else does the BenQ W1080ST projector have going for it?  Let’s consider:


ESPN 3D is toast!

Recently announced, ESPN is dropping most if not all 3D programming.  Maybe they would have had success if they would have given us some “big time content”, rather than a few boxing matches, and a few NCAA football games from a second tier conference… Tsk!

We showed these images from a little league championship on ESPN 3D, when we reviewed the W1070.  For those not paying attention, however, in June 2013, ESPN announced they were getting out of the 3D biz – at least for now.  With that in mind it didn’t seem to make sense to shoot another pair of images with the W1080ST projector.

Color I found to be reasonably good in 3D. 3D could be calibrated for improved color but we just don’t do that.  Also the world seems to be waiting on a good calibration disc that supports 3D calibration.  I’ve watched plenty of 3D movies off of Blu-ray with the BenQ W1080ST, and found, overall, that color is definitely acceptable.

Overall, very good 3D, lots of brightness, and an almost total lack of rainbow effect  (for me) make these two BenQ projectors the W1080ST (and the W1070) about as good as lower cost DLP projectors get with 3D in terms of overall experience.

In other words:  A good choice for 3D on a budget.


Gaming with the BenQ W1080ST

Most small DLP projectors are pretty good for gaming.  The speed of the color wheel can come into play for those who are rainbow sensitive as I am, but this BenQ W1080ST projector has a pretty fast color wheel.  The other key factor is the lag time.  One of our gaming projector bloggers – Pete -got to play with the W1070 back at the end of 2012.  To our knowledge, there are no differences between the W1080ST and the W1070 as far as gaming performance is concerned. At that time Pete indicated that depending on the features you have on, lag times vary from 0 to 40ms.  Even 40ms, is considered acceptable for serious gaming that requires maximum speed.  We assume 30 ms is very good, over 50 to be a bit too slow (that’s 1/20 of a second).  In other words, the W1080ST like the W1070 should be a high quality gaming projector.

Pete shows lag time results, gaming, and also, his own general take (review) of this projector.  He’s certainly less wordy than I.

Let it be noted that this pair of BenQs are among the few projectors that are nvidia 3DTV Play certified (for gaming, including 2D to 3D game conversion). There aren’t many, and most are 720p projectors not 1080p like this BenQ!

The first of the two images from Casino Royale was taken using the calibrated W1080ST projector, while the one below it was done with the W1070.  Mike calibrated both.  You can see a touch more pop on the upper one (W1080ST) and perhaps a touch of orange in her skin tones.  These are variations that are not projector specific.  If Mike recalibrated both, just as likely that the W1070 would be the one with more pop and the W1080ST projector the slightly more natural.


W1080ST Lamp Life

Darn impressive!!!  3500 hours at full power isn’t by any means the longest out there, there are now a number of 4000 hours and even a few 5000 hours.  But BenQ also claims 6000 hours in Smart-Eco!  That really is as long as I have seen, short of a solid state (LED/laser) light source, at least in home projectors.


You can buy BenQ W1080ST and other BenQ Projector at https://projectorpro.in.th/projector/benq.html

Projector Lamp Life and Brightness

Let’s start off by saying the most common Lamp life specs out there for both business and home theater projectors are:

At full power: 3000-4000 hours
In low, or “eco” power: 4000-6000 hours

This article about Projector Lamps was originally written in 2009, updated late 2013, and again in 2015

There are exceptions, some projectors trying to pack maximum punch will drive the lamps harder – shorter lives.  There are still a number of 2000 hours at full power projector still on the market at this time.

There are also manufacturers claiming beyond 6000 hours.  I’ve seen 7000, 8000 and even one projector group claiming 10,000 hours, but beware, these days, it’s not always apples to apples.  I will explain below.

We are talking here, about the traditional high pressure mercury lamps used in the vast majority of projectors. There are also very expensive Xenon lamps, used in some high end projectors, and those typically have an even shorter life and far more expensive so used only in special circumstances.   Since they are the rare exception in business or home, we’ll not focus on the Xenon lamps here.

Most manufacturers rate their lamp life, not to failure, but to the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was when new.

With that in mind, remember that your projector will be noticeably, but not drastically dimmer as it approaches the end of its rated life. In our reviews, we try to take that into consideration, when trying to explain what is “bright enough”

How much loss in brightness is 50%? That’s easy, consider any room. Imagine two 100 watt lights each with its own wall switch.

Start with both lights on. Now turn one off. Bingo, there’s your 50% drop. I’ll bet you can imagine that!  What that tells you, also, is that if you have some ambient light, if you can half the ambient light by the time your projector lamp is old, you can maintain the same relative brightness between image and room ambient.

It’s not a bad idea is to buy a projector and screen for your room, that when new, you can enjoy watching (brightness wise), with the projector on the low power setting. On most projectors that is 25-35% less bright than full power.

If you do that, as your lamp gets dimmer, kick the projector into full power and while that won’t offset the full 50% drop near end of life, it will make the loss in brightness rather minimal to the eye.


FULL POWER VS. ECO (OR LOW) POWER MODE

I’m not sure who coined “eco-mode” but it has become popular, or perhaps I should say “trendy” with a many if not most projector manufacturers referring to their low power setting as Eco-mode.

Bottom line, is whether a manufacturer calls it  low lamp, or low power, or eco-mode, pretty much are all the same thing.

For you home theater fans, be aware of this:

There is normally some color shifting between full and eco modes. The same calibration settings won’t deliver really close to identical results.  One might have visibly more red – a lower overall color temperature.  Not drastic differences but real ones if you want highly accurate color.  If you are looking for great color for home theater, you might want calibrations done for both brightness levels.

But who said there are only two.  I’m now seeing some projectors with three, and a rare fourth mode.  What gives?

In some cases there really are 3 different brightness modes, but more often than not, with a projector with three (or four) settings, at least one is simply a smarter mode.


BE SURE YOUR PROJECTOR WILL BE BRIGHT ENOUGH

With business projectors this really isn’t an issue, as most can spend a few dollars more for a projector with more than enough brightness.  3500 lumen projectors start for less than $1000, and that’s bright!

In the Home Theater Projector space, however, purchase decsions are more often made primarily around picture quality, and placement flexibility, and many people will choose a less bright projector, if they feel it does a better picture. As a result, projector brightness is something people grudgingly accept. “I bought projector X because of its great picture, but really wanted a projector 25% – 35% brighter, like projector Y, but Y just doesn’t have the picture quality.”

In terms of lamp life ratings, the amount of brightness drop is not necessarily an indicator of how much the lamp life will increase. Some projectors claim a minimal increase of 25% or less in lamp life when switching to eco mode. So it’s more a dollar saving mode than a lamp life extender.


SOME PROJECTORS GET TREMENDOUS LAMP LIFE IN ECO-MODE WITH SMART MANAGEMENT

Despite the general trend of 4000 / 6000 hours in eco modes, there are some even longer. More projectors are adding hours to their lives by being smart.  Turning off projectors automatically under various circumstances, isn’t new, but what is new these days, is that some projectors  will kick into an idle mode while still on, saving electricity, and not hurting the lamp as much.  Typically those are modes claiming over 6000 hours, and most recently I’ve seen a 10,000 hour claims.

Thank these projectors for extending life by “observing” the type of  usage, and powering to low levels when the projector is essentially idle.  It might even kick in if there’s legitimate content up there, but if the content hasn’t changed for a period of time.

The thing is, to get those maximum hours, they aren’t talking about fully utilizing the projector for that many hours.  It might get you there, because you forgot to turn off the projector for hours at a time.  Most projectors do have some sort of timer or power down option if there is no active source. But powering down doesn’t buy you more hours of life because technically the projector is off.  But dropping down to a really dim image for 6 hours, counts those hours while you are not using the projector.

Let’s just say one needs to appreciate which number mean what…

If operational costs are an issue for you, and you are a heavy users – say 1500 hours a year or more, then lamp life and replacement lamp costs can be a significant issue. Consider – myself, I run my own projector roughly 2000 hours a year, so for my JVC home theater projector, that’s an extra $350+ a year, to keep me in lamps. In reality, though, it’s higher.  For home theater users, some will replace before the half life, because they need all available lumens, and don’t want it ever to drop down a full 50%.

Don’t take that price mention as a fixed price for lamps…


PROJECTOR LAMP COSTS

Except for some entry level projectors, most lamps retail for $199 to $449 range.  It’s the bigger more powerful business projectors on one hand (think 8000 lumens and up), and some of the mid-high end projectors – $4000 and up, where $400 or $500 is not uncommon.   On some high end names, for the home, such as Runco, SIM2, etc., lamp costs can run double. I am not talking about Very Large Venue projectors with 20,000 lumens and up, I don’t get to play with those, and aren’t on top of their lamp life issues.

Prices seem to be significantly moving down on portable and projectors suitable for classrooms.

What’s the lowest cost for a good long life lamp?  Epson, it should be noted, offers lamps for most of their projectors that fit that description, for $79 to $99 for school purchase.  $99 to $199 is becoming the sweet spot for education pricing.

Overall, for projectors whether business or home usage, that sell for under about $3000 most lamps are $300 or less, but rarely under $130 (unless education pricing).

For you home theater people out there, and expensive lamp is never fun to need.  For those companies like JVC and Sony who’s lamps are typically over $300 (some times a lot more), just think you could get a new Blu-ray player and a dozen movies.  While lamp life and cost should not be a top selection criteria, you should know what your investment is over time, it may well influence your projector purchase.


these are the shop sale acer projector, benq projector, epson projector, panasonic projector and other brand at https://projectorpro.in.th