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.


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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.


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