BenQ MX522 review

The BenQ MX522 business projector offers a 3,000-lumen rating, XGA resolution, and a claimed 10,000-hour lamp life.
Photo of BenQ MX522

If you’re looking for an inexpensive XGA (1,024 by 768) projector, add the BenQ MX522 to your list of possibilities. It weighs just 5 pounds 2 ounces, making it easy to carry if you need to; it’s bright enough, with a 3,000-lumen rating, for a small to mid-size conference room or classroom; and it delivers high-quality data images along with watchable, if not high-quality, video. It also offers 3D with sources like Blu-ray players. And, as a bonus, its 10,000-hour lamp life can help keep running costs down. That all adds up to making the MX522 a potentially attractive choice.

Like the directly competitive ViewSonic PJD6235, the MX522 is built around a DLP engine. It also shares the same advantages the PJD6235 has over the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite 93+ of being more than two pounds lighter and offering a higher brightness rating. As with the ViewSonic model, however, the brightness comparison to the Epson 93+ isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

Differences between white brightness and color brightness are often significant for DLP projectors, but not for three-chip LCD projectors like the Epson 93+.Those differences can affect both the brightness of color images and color quality. So just because the MX522 and Viewsonic PJD6235 both offer a higher white brightness rating than the Epson model doesn’t mean they’ll be brighter for all images. (For more on color brightness, see Color Brightness: What It Is, Why it matters.) As a point of reference, I found the MX522 bright enough in my tests to stand up to moderate ambient light with a 98-inch diagonal image at its 4:3 native aspect ratio.

The Basics
Projectors in the MX522′s size and weight class often wind up permanently installed or on a cart. Even so, the projector is both light enough and small enough, at 4.4 by 11.9 by 8.7 inches (HWD), to carry with you if you want to. It comes without a carrying case, however, so you might want to add in the cost of one if you’re comparing prices with another model that comes with a case. (BenQ’s optional case is $40 street.)

Setup is standard, with manual zoom and focus controls. The 1.1 zoom isn’t much, but it’s typical for a low-cost projector, and it gives you at least a little flexibility in how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image. Connectors for image sources include the usual HDMI port for a computer or video source, VGA ports for computers or component video, plus S-Video and composite video ports.

Image Quality and Audio
The MX522 did a good job on data image quality, sailing through our standard suite of DisplayMate tests without any significant issues. Color balance was good to excellent in all modes, with suitably neutral grays at all levels from black to white. Colors in most modes were fully saturated and suitably eye catching. The only important exception was the brightest mode, with some colors a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness color model. The projector also did a good job with fine detail, with both black text on white and white text on black crisp and highly readable at sizes as small as 6.8 points.

Video quality is best described as watchable, as long as you’re not too demanding. It’s obviously limited by the native resolution, with the projector needing to scale HD video to fit in the available pixels on the chip, and it suffers from both visible noise and a low contrast ratio that leaves colors a little dull. However, I didn’t see any posterization (colors changing suddenly where they should change gradually) and the projector did a good job with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas) even with test clips that most data projectors have problems with.

Also very much on the plus side is that I saw so few rainbow artifacts, for both data and video images,that it’s unlikely anyone in your audience would find them bothersome.

The 3D image quality deserves special mention. The projector offers an HDMI 1.4a port, which means it will let you connect directly to a Blu-ray player or other video source for 3D. As you would expect, the 3D video quality suffers from the same limitations as 2D video, but I didn’t see any crosstalk in my tests and saw only a hint of 3D-related motion artifacts. If you want to use 3D, however, you’ll have to buy 144Hz DLP-Link glasses separately.

Other Issues
As I’ve already mentioned, the MX522 claims an extraordinarily long lamp life of up to 10,000 hours, compared with 2,000 to 5,000 hours for most projectors. It gets the long life largely though what BenQ calls SmartEco technology, which adjusts the lamp power based on the image content, a trick that both lengthens lamp life and lowers electricity costs. The 10,000 hour claim is based on what BenQ considers typical use.

The one shortcoming for the projector is its audio system. The two-watt speaker arguably delivers enough volume to fill a small conference room but not much more. If you need audio, you should plan on using an external sound system.

The BenQ MX522 doesn’t quite rise to the level of Editors’ Choice, but it offers a highly attractive mix of features. It’s portable, bright, and delivers high-quality data images and watchable video. It doesn’t hurt either that it’s nearly as rainbow-free as an LCD projector, or that its SmartEco technology helps save on running costs, or that, even if you don’t plan to use 3D now, the 3D support helps future-proof your investment. All this makes the BenQ MX522 well worth considering, and should earn it a place on your short list.


 

Specifications
Native Resolution 1024 x 768
Video Inputs Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video
Computer Interfaces Analog VGA, HDMI
Wireless Connectivity No
Weight 5.1 lb
Rated Contrast Ratio 13000
Engine Type DLP
Type Business
Aspect Ratio 4
Rated Brightness 3000 ANSI lumens

Verdict
The BenQ MX522 business projector is light enough to carry easily, at 5.1 pounds and offers a bright, high-quality data image at a native XGA (1024 by 768) resolution, plus watchable video and 3D.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc