If space is an issue, the BenQ W1080ST might be the answer
What is the BenQ W1080ST?
Generally you need a decent sized room to enjoy the benefits of big screen projection but what do you do if space is at a premium?The simple answer is that you buy a projector with a short throw lens. That means you can project a decent sized image whilst positioning the projector a couple of metres from the screen. The problem is that there aren't that many short throw projectors on the market, especially if you're on a budget. There are manufacturers that offer a choice of lenses with different throw ratios but these tend to be at the higher end of the price spectrum. Well now BenQ have come to the rescue with their new W1080ST projector. The 'ST' suffix stands for 'short throw', in case you hadn't guessed.Aside from using a short throw lens, the W1080 includes many of the benefits found on BenQ's other projectors. So you get Full HD 1080p resolution and 3D support, as well as some handy features and even calibration controls. Since this is a BenQ projector it's obviously a single-chip DLP model, which means a colour wheel. So if you're susceptible to rainbow artefacts it might not be for you. However, if that isn't an issue but space is, then the BenQ W1080ST might just be the model for you. Let's move our projector stand considerably closer to the screen and find out.
Design and ConnectionsBenQ use two basic chassis designs and in the case of the W1080ST, it's the rectangular two-tone gloss white and dark silver version. The lens is offset to the right and a large intake vent is positioned on the front left. There's an exhaust port on the right hand side of the chassis and a built-in, and somewhat pointless, speaker on the left hand side. The build quality is decent enough, with the chassis made of hardened plastic and in terms of dimensions and weight, it measures 353 x 104 x 244mm and clocks in at 2.85kgs.
The short throw nature of the W1080ST was obvious from the degree of curvature on the lens itself and there are manual lens controls directly above the light path assembly. There are the usual controls for zoom and focus but no lens shift, so careful positioning is important. There is a foot at the front that can be used to angle the projector upwards and there are two adjustable feet at the rear that can be used angle it down slightly or level the image.
The short throw nature of the W1080ST was obvious from the degree of curvature of the lens itself.
All the connections are at the rear and it's a fairly standard selection for a modern projector - there are two HDMI inputs, a VGA connector, a component video input and a composite video input. Since there is a built-in speaker you also get 3.5mm analogue audio in and out jacks, along with an analogue L/R stereo input. Finally there is a mini-USB port and an RS232 connector for system control, a 12V trigger and a three-pin power connector.
The provided remote control is annoying tiny and fiddly to use, whilst the absence of any backlight makes finding the correct button a real challenge in the dark. Thankfully there aren't that many buttons, so we got used to it quite quickly but if you have large hands get ready for some frustration. The W1080ST doesn't include any 3D glasses, so you'll need to buy them separately. BenQ's active shutter glasses use RF to sync, are reasonably light and comfortable to wear, with large lenses that can fit over prescription specs.
MenusThe W1080ST uses a simple but reasonably informative menu system that is composed of six basic pages - Picture, Audio Setup, Display, System Setup: Basic, System Setup: Advanced and Information. In the Picture menu there are a number of predefined Picture Modes - Dynamic, Standard, Cinema and User 1 & 2. There is also what BenQ call the Reference Mode, which can use any of the Picture Modes as a starting point and can then be fine-tuned in the User Picture Modes. There are also all the standard picture controls such as Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint and Sharpness.
In terms of more advanced calibration controls, you can select the Colour Temperature with a choice of Normal, Cool, Lamp Native and Warm. There is also the option to fine tune the colour temperature using a two-point White Balance control and a Gamma Selection, ranging from 1.6 to 2.8. There are features such as the Clarity Control that adjusts noise reduction and Brilliant Colour that increases the colour luminance. Finally there is a Colour Management System (CMS) with control over the Hue (tint), Saturation (colour) and Gain (luminance or brightness) of all three primary colours and all three secondary colours.
The out-of-the-box performance of the W1080ST was good for a budget projector.
After measuring all the different setup permutations we chose the User 1 picture mode with the Cinema preset as a reference point because this gave us the most accurate out-of-the-box measurements. We used a colour temperature of Warm, which came closest to the industry standard of D65 and we selected a gamma of 2.4. We also turned off the Clarity Control and Brilliant Colour features, whilst a Sharpness setting of 8 appeared to neither sharpen nor soften the image. We nudged the Brightness up a notch, the Contrast down a few and left the other controls at their default settings.
As the graph above left shows, there was too much green energy in the greyscale and not enough blue; the errors weren't huge but they did give images a slight yellow tinge. However choosing any of the other presets resulted in an image with far too much blue in it, so Warm gets closest to D65. Meanwhile, the gamma was tracking at around 2.35 for most of the curve which is excellent. The graph above right shows the colour performance which was quite good, with luminance measuring accurately and the overall errors were mostly around the threshold of three. The only errors worth noting were in the hue of red and green, both of which were skewed towards yellow, although this is consistent with other BenQ projectors we've reviewed.
The two-point white balance control proved to be very effective and we quickly had the greyscale tracking at our target of 100 with equal amounts of red, green and blue. As a result the errors were now all below one, which means that they are imperceptible to the human eye, whilst the gamma was still tracking at around 2.35 target. The colour management system (CMS) wasn't quite as effective and we were unable to fully correct the hue error in green or the saturation error in blue. As the graph below shows there was a better story at lower saturations, with most colours close to their targets apart from some under-saturation in red. Although the saturation of green was reasonably accurate, the skewed hue measurements are very apparent, resulting in a yellow push to green in particular.Video Processing
The video processing in the W1080ST was reasonably good and it accurately scaled the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. It also correctly detected both 3:2 (NTSC - US and Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence and it had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, which was always clearly readable without any shredding. The BenQ was also good in the tests using high definition content and with the player set to 1080i it correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed good scaling and filtering performance, as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the W1080ST had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
The blacks were weak but this was offset by big, bright images that had a pleasingly natural appearance.
BenQ W1080ST Picture Quality 2DThe obvious advantage of the W1080ST, and the main reason for buying it, is the short throw lens and in this respect it certainly delivers. You can project a 100" image from just 1.75m away and whilst that wouldn't be ideal in our home cinema, if you have limited space it could be for you. The BenQ is also bright, so you can get big images with plenty of impact, even in the smallest of box rooms. The excellent greyscale and gamma also help, as does the wonderful motion handling and excellent levels of detail. The colour accuracy was also quite good and with actual material, as opposed to test patterns, the W1080ST delivered pictures that looked pleasingly natural. The lens itself isn't as sharp as more expensive models but thanks the the nature of single-chip DLP there are no convergence issues, so the images are still very precise. The use of a short throw lens and the lack of any lens shift, means that careful placement is important but overall the W1080ST was very easy to setup.
Since this is a DLP projector, it shouldn't come as a surprise to discover that the blacks were, in fact, more of a dark grey. This is a well-known weakness of DLP projectors but the impact on the dynamic range was mitigated by the W1080ST's inherent brightness. Another weakness of DLP projectors is the level of shadow detail and, again, this was apparent on the BenQ where details were often lost in areas just above black. We found that with brighter scenes such as the daylight sequences in Fast and Furious 6 or Captain Phillips, the W1080ST could deliver a very pleasing picture. However, once the action in those movies switched to nighttime or into a darkened cargo hold, then the BenQ struggled to maintain decent blacks or shadow detail. It's also worth remembering that as a single-chip DLP projector, the W1080ST uses a colour wheel and thus you should make sure you aren't susceptible to rainbow artefacts. However if you're looking for a projector that can deliver big bright images in limited space, the W1080ST could be for you.
BenQ W1080ST Video Review
BenQ W1080ST Picture Quality 3DWe have always found that DLP as a technology lends itself well to active shutter 3D and so it proved with the W1080ST. Once we put on the glasses that BenQ provided for the review, the weak blacks became far less apparent, whilst the projector's brightness and colour accuracy was a real benefit. The motion handling was another strong point and the result was an entertaining and immersive 3D experience with no distracting artefacts or crosstalk. A recent flurry of 3D purchases allowed us to really put the W1080ST through its paces and the BenQ didn't pit a foot wrong. Whether it was the fast-paced animation of Rise of the Guardians or the lurid pleasures of Dario Argento's Dracula, the images had depth, accuracy and detail. As we've often noticed, when watching 3D content there are almost no instances of rainbows, which is a pleasant added benefit. Certainly if you're looking for a projector to watch 3D movies on, the W1080ST won't disappoint.
Unsurprisingly for a DLP projector, the W1080ST delivered a knock-out 3D performance.
- Excellent greyscale performance
- Impressive motion handling
- Decent video processing
- Great 3D performance
- Useful if space is limited
- Bright images
- Mediocre Blacks
- Limited shadow detail
- Rainbow artefacts
- Fans and colour wheel are noisy
- No lens shift
BenQ W1080ST 3D DLP Projector ReviewIf you've often dreamed of big screen action but thought your room was too small to accommodate such pleasures, the BenQ W1080ST could well be the answer to your prayers. This small and attractively priced projector can deliver big images from only a few feet away and, as long as you're careful, it's easy to setup. The remote control is annoyingly small but at least the menu system is simple to navigate and there's a decent set of connections at the rear. Whilst the W1080ST supports active shutter 3D, it doesn't come with any glasses, although the ones sold separately by BenQ are quite effective.
The out-of-the-box measurements were reasonably good and the available calibration controls result in an excellent greyscale and gamma performance, whilst the colours were also quite accurate. The W1080ST could certainly deliver big and bright pictures that retained a pleasingly natural appearance. The motion handling was excellent and the video processing generally very good; whilst the single-chip design resulted in sharp and detailed images. The black levels and shadow detail could have been better and the fan and colour wheel were quite noisy but the rainbow artefacts, whilst in evidence, could have been worse.
The performance with high definition content and Blu-rays was generally very good and the W1080ST would certainly be a great choice for anyone wanting a projector for gaming. Since the BenQ is a DLP projector, the 3D performance was excellent and many of the issues in 2D were no longer apparent once you put on the 3D glasses. Overall the BenQ W1080ST is a very competent all-round projector and if you're into gaming and 3D it could fit the bill, although there are better options for a similar price. However if space is at a premium then the W1080ST has an obvious unique selling point that certainly makes it worth considering.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels6
2D Picture Quality7
3D Picture Quality10
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.