BenQ W1080ST 1080p 3D Home Video Projector

BenQ has released a pair of full 3D 1080p projectors that are just perfect for home video or home theater. The W1070, reviewed earlier this year, has a conventional 1.3:1 lens and some vertical lens shift. The BenQ W1080ST, on the other hand, has a 1.2:1 short throw lens and no shift. Both projectors offer excellent 1080p video performance, high light output, great color, and an affordable price.

The W1080ST is a great projector for home theater or home video on a budget, but its low input lag and short throw lens also make it a good option for video games. If you’re a gamer looking for an affordable way into the big screen experience, the W1080ST might just be for you.

The Viewing Experience

As a short-throw projector, the W1080ST has a slightly different setup procedure than most conventionally-lensed projectors. As such, they require a different kind of setup and fit in a different sort of room.

Here’s an example. The BenQ W1070 would throw a 120″ diagonal image, which is a perfectly reasonable size of image for that projector, from 10′ to 13′ 1″ depending on zoom. The W1080ST will throw the same sized image from 6′ to 7′ 3″. In other words, the W1080ST requires about half the throw distance of its conventionally-lensed sibling, making it ideal for tight spaces and small rooms.

We set up our W1080ST on a coffee table, but quickly discovered that the projector has almost no upward throw angle offset. The bottom edge of the image is more or less level with the centerline of the lens. As a result, a coffee table placement may be too low for some people, largely depending on the height of the table in question. If you own a particularly low table, consider a ceiling mount, which will place the image higher up on your wall and make your audience more comfortable. Ceiling mounts require more work than coffee table placement, but modern ceiling mounts are not especially difficult to install. Just be sure to measure all distances several times before you start drilling holes.

A word about screens. Our testing environment uses a 1.0 gain Stewart Studiotek 100, but with a projector like the W1080ST a 1.3 to 1.5 gain screen would be closer to ideal. A slight amount of positive gain will reflect more light back towards the audience and result in less scatter. When a projector throws its image at such an extreme angle, like the W1080ST, a little bit of screen gain helps to keep the image looking bright and even. That said, don’t go too heavy on the gain or you’ll end up with hot-spotting.

As for the picture, it is very clear clear that the W1080ST isn’t just a repurposed business projector. The picture is bright, high in contrast, and full of well-saturated, accurate color. The projector is razor sharp across the entire image, though this depends heavily on proper setup — if you’re seeing blurriness in the corners, try fiddling with the projector’s position until it goes away. 3D is likewise clean and clear, with no noticeable crosstalk or flicker when watching our test clips.

Key Features

Short throw. Short throw projectors are nothing new, but short throw projectors being used for home theater are relatively recent. These projectors are useful in rooms where a traditionally lensed projector takes up too much room and can be ideal for table placement in temporary setups. This also makes them great candidates for portable use, especially when they include a speaker as the W1080ST does.

For gamers, the W1080ST allows you to sit closer to the screen without getting in the way of the projected image. This is especially helpful when using a motion-sensitive system like the Kinect or Wii, where body motions are part of the game’s input. A short-throw lens makes the W1080ST behave more like a television or computer monitor and removes some of the projector-specific setup concerns that gamers often run into.

2D Image quality. The W1080ST has a lot going for it when it comes to the actual image on screen. The projector’s three main precalibrated image modes are all useful in some way, and those who want further customization will be pleased to hear that the W1080ST supports ISFccc calibration to unlock the projector’s ISF Day and ISF Night image modes. Using the projector’s various image modes, it is not hard to tailor the projector’s image to the viewing environment in order to create a picture that is bright, vibrant, and life-like.

Full HD 3D. The W1080ST’s DLP link 3D system, which runs at a brisk 144Hz, is capable of displaying full 1080p 3D content from broadcast or Blu-ray disc. The DLP Link system uses light pulses between frames of the projected image to synchronize the viewer’s active shutter 3D glasses. The system is low in crosstalk and had no visible flicker during use, but DLP Link is disliked by some videophiles because it is the only 3D sync system to mess around with the actual picture on screen. And while DLP Link glasses are inexpensive compared to other 3D glasses, they also lose synchronization more often due to their reliance on direct line-of-sight communication with the projected image.

Long life. Like the W1070, the W1080ST’s lamp is rated to last 3,500 hours in full power mode and 6,000 hours in Eco or SmartEco mode, far beyond the typical lamp life for this class of projector. This allows you to purchase fewer replacement lamps (assuming, of course, that the manufacturer’s specs are accurate) and spend less money on maintenance.

Onboard speaker. With a 10W speaker built in, the W1080ST carries its own sound along with it. Now, a single 10W speaker is not a replacement for a real sound system, but several other projectors in the W1080ST’s price range either offer dinky 2W speakers or no sound at all. When you’re looking for a quick and dirty option, the W1080ST at least has volume going for it. And even at 80% of max volume, the speaker did not distort or sound particularly tinny.

Color wheel. The W1080ST shares the W1070’s fast 6X speed RGBRGB color wheel. This does two things: one, it almost completely eliminates rainbow effects for most viewers; and two, it keeps the W1080ST’s color light output at 100%. The artificially boosted screaming-bright highlights of many inexpensive DLP projectors are nowhere to be found, and in their place are rich, accurate colors in perfect balance with the rest of the image.

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