If you look at BenQ’s Web site, or just compare features and specs, you’ll probably wind up thinking that except for its short-throw lens, the BenQ W1080ST is essentially identical to the BenQ W1070. However, the differences go deeper. Most important, the W1080ST offers somewhat more watchable video, which is at least arguably more important than the short throw in making it worth the extra cost.
Of course, the two projectors have a lot in common as well. Both are built around DLP engines with a native 1,920 by 1,080 resolution, both offer full 1080p 3D support, and both are definitively home entertainment projectors, meant for a living room or family room, rather than home theater projectors, like the 2D Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350, which are meant for theater dark lighting.
The brighter environment of a family room or living room demands a brighter projector than you need for a home theater. BenQ rates the W1080ST at 2,000 lumens. Assuming a 1.0 gain screen and theater-dark lighting, that would be bright enough for a screen size of more than 20 -inches diagonally and too bright for comfortable viewing at significantly smaller sizes.
With a moderate level of ambient light in a family room, however, the screen size would need to be only about 130 inches. That’s still unusually large for home use, but switching to the lamp’s Eco mode and dropping to a lower brightness preset brings the brightness down to a level suitable for more appropriate screen sizes.
Basics and Setup
Like the W1070, the W1080ST is small and light for a 1080p 3D projector, at 6.2 pounds and 4.1 by 12.3 by 9.6 inches (HWD). That makes it easy to store away when you’re not using it, if you choose not to permanently install it, and also easy to move from room to room or bring to a friend’s house.
The back panel offers a reasonably full set of connectors, including two HDMI 1.4a ports that support 3D as well 2D for direct connection to Blu-ray players, cable and FIOS boxes, and the like. Other image inputs include a set of three RCA connectors for component video, an S-video port, and the usual VGA and composite video ports.
Setup is typical, with a 1.2x manual zoom offering flexibility in the distance from the screen for a given image size. For my tests, I used a 78-inch wide (90-inch diagonal) image with the projector about 88 inches from the screen.
I encountered one setup issue that you might consider either critical or irrelevant, depending on how you plan to use the projector. Despite working without a problem at its native 1,920 by 1,080 resolution with a Blu-ray player and with a computer over an analog (VGA) connection, the W1080ST wouldn’t work properly in my tests with a computer using a digital (HDMI) connection. Given that BenQ says it should work, the issue may be related to the specific graphics card in the system I used for testing. However, any number of other projectors—including the BenQ W1070—has worked with the same graphics card without problems.
If you don’t plan to connect to a computer, or don’t mind using an analog connection, this won’t matter. If you want to show video from your computer using a digital connection for the best possible image, however, this will obviously be an issue.
Brightness, Image Quality, and Rainbows
The W1080ST was easily bright enough, for the 90-inch diagonal image I used, to stand up to the typical ambient light in a family room. Very much on the plus side is that its measured color brightness is 77 to 79 percent of its white brightness, depending on the color mode. That translates to little difference between the perceived brightness of a color image versus a solid white screen. More important for home entertainment use, the high ratio of color to white brightness also tends to indicate good color quality.
Indeed, the color quality, and image quality in general, was good to excellent in my tests, with the projector handling most of our test clips without notable problems. I saw an exceedingly mild loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas) but only in one scene that tends to cause the problem. I also saw some hard-to-miss noise in solid dark areas in night scenes, with little to no improvement even with the Noise Reduction setting at maximum. However, solid areas like an expanse of sky in bright scenes showed only the minimal noise that’s typical for projectors in this price range.
On the plus side, in addition to delivering excellent color quality, the projector handled skin tones well, and I didn’t see any motion artifacts or posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually).
One potential issue for any single-chip DLP projector is rainbow artifacts, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows. I saw these artifacts more often with the W1080ST than with some projectors, but less often than with the W1070. Anyone who sees these rainbows easily, as I do, is sure to notice them. For my tastes, however, they didn’t show often enough to count as a serious problem.
3D and Other Issues
BenQ doesn’t include any 3D glasses with the W1080ST, and if you’re upgrading from an older 3D projector that uses DLP-Link glasses, it’s important to know that you shouldn’t count on using your old glasses. Although BenQ says the projector should work with any DLP-link glasses that support 144Hz, it won’t work with older DLP-link glasses that support 120Hz only. BenQ’s glasses are $99 (direct) each.
Image quality in 3D was reasonably watchable, with good color quality, an appropriate sense of depth, and no crosstalk. However I saw lots of rainbow artifacts and a moderate level of 3D-related motion artifacts.
Note too that you’ll probably want to connect to an external stereo sound system, since the W1080ST’s 10-watt mono speaker delivers reasonable, but not terrific, quality.
If you consider rainbow artifacts absolutely unacceptable, you’ll be better off with an LCD projector, like the 2D Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 or the more expensive 3D Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e.
That said, if you don’t see rainbow artifacts easily or don’t mind seeing them, the BenQ W1080ST is worth considering, particularly if you don’t plan to connect to a computer with a digital connection or can confirm beforehand that it will work with the computer you plan to connect to. It’s bright enough to stand up to moderate ambient light, its short throw will give you a big image from a short distance, and it offers a reasonably high-quality image for both 2D and 3D. The combination makes it a potentially good fit for a family room or living room, whether instead of, or along with, an HDTV.
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||10000|
|Rated Brightness||2000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc