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.


    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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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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