No space and no room for cables? This projector is for you then...
What is the BenQ W1080ST+?This is almost exactly the same projector that Steve Withers reviewed back in March 2014. It is a short throw (hence the suffix of ST) unit from BenQ that offers big screen 1080p images and 3D support as well as handy calibration features and an improvement in brightness from the bulb. The chassis is identical to the W1080ST model with exactly the same inputs and remote control.
The differences with the ‘plus’ model start with slightly more brightness from the 240W lamp claimed at 2,200 lumens and an ANSI contrast of 500:1 (full on/off claimed at 10,000:1). As we have already covered the W1080ST in detail in Steve's review we will concentrate here on the new features and the overall performance of W1080ST+
W1080ST+ FeaturesThe first major difference between this W1080ST+ and the normal W1080ST is the optional HDMI wireless kit for an extra £200, which works with the 1080ST+ to provide wire free HD video signals via HDMI to a receiver unit and into the projector. BenQ boast that using the wireless HDMI kit is a set up once and forget affair which makes installation easy for everyone.
The receiver box can be mounted to the right side of the W1080ST+ and charged by the projector instead of taking up another power socket. Wireless coverage can be up to 30 meters (100 feet) in distance at best, under line of sight, and there are four built-in antennas to ensure the best streaming quality through cabinet doors and from one room to the next. This allows the BenQ to be used for big occasion gaming, TV events or movies without laying cables every time and makes occasional set up easy. Having the ability to hide the projector away in a cupboard and bring it out for certain occasions, placing it down without needing any wiring (except the power cable) and away you go with big screen images, is appealing. It certainly makes the W1080ST+ a more flexible alternative for the living room environment.
Add to this the short throw lens with its 1.2:1 zoom factor and from as little as 4 feet you can have approximately 100” or bigger image - or even cover an entire wall in an HD picture. You don’t even need to have a good quality screen or sound system for causal gaming use as there is a 10W built-in speaker which won’t set the world on fire with its quality, but is acceptable enough to allow off the cuff use when required.
As this is a single chip (Darkchip3) DLP projector it does use a colour wheel, which can cause some viewers issues with rainbow effect flashes and so on. Although we didn’t notice anything obvious with the six-segment colour wheel (RGBRGB), it would be best if you are considering a purchase to either demo the unit or make sure the retailer will allow you to return the item if it affects you.
One other feature that as video purists we wouldn’t normally agree with is 4 axis keystone image shifting to allow for awkward projector positioning. If it is for the occasional viewing where you have little choice in projector placement, then it works as a possible solution. But if you intend to permanently set up the BenQ on a ceiling bracket or shelf, we would advise against any keystone correction of the image, instead making sure the projector is installed so there is no need to use any ‘correction’.
Obviously with a budget projector like this there is probably no need to undergo full professional video calibration, but it is good to know that there are ISFccc controls available to get the very best out of the projectors image here on the W1080ST+.
ConnectionsIf you decide against the optional cost to add wireless HDMI, you have two slots to the rear of the W1080ST+ one with MHL. You also have component and composite video, VGA, an RS232 control port and a 12v trigger.
The remote control is a large plastic bodied affair with direct access buttons for all the main actions you will use time and again, as well as specific picture settings for gamma and the colour management system, which are used far less than probably requires a button on the remote. Kudos to BenQ for also including a backlight at this price point so you can use it in the dark.
Test ResultsWe found the best out of the box settings to start our picture assessment were the User 1 picture mode and cinema preset with the normal white balance and Gamma at 2.4 and all the usual picture ‘enhancements’ switched off.
The greyscale was low in red energy and the gamma curve was very low, washing the image out, even though we had selected the 2.4 preset. Actual onscreen viewing hadn’t looked too bad with no obvious image tint or excessive blue in the whites. For an out of the box setting the only real disappointment was the blown out gamma. If you were stuck at this point with no calibration planned, you could improve matters by choosing the 2.8 gamma setting which added an S-curve to the gamma with lighter black level and darker mid to high giving the image more pop than the standard 2.4 setting.
The BenQ also has a restricted colour gamut which is common on lower priced DLP units due to the colour wheel used. What this means is that it cannot resolve the Rec.709 standard for HD video with green towards yellow and cyan washed out towards blue.
Magenta is also bluer than we would like with red fairing OK. The main issue here however is a lack of luminance (brightness) in most of the primary and secondary colours. We can’t correct the gamut restriction, as you cannot add back what doesn’t already exist, but we can correct the luminance levels of the colours and at least make sure they are the right brightness.
By using the white balance controls provided by the BenQ and its ISFccc certification we were able to get good a correction and decent tracking on the greyscale which removes visible errors and we also managed to tame the gamma bringing some much needed pop and depth back to the image. We would have liked the controls to be a little more sensitive but at this price point we are just thankful we have the options we do.
Colour gamut wise all we really could do with the full CMS available was to correct the luminance of the colours as much as we could and any slight hue and colour errors as best we could so tracking (50/75/100) was better than out of the box. Green was just too far towards yellow to do anything meaningful with, but most importantly on screen action didn’t overly suffer from any obvious green issues.
Given the price point and the restricted gamut where you cannot add back what isn’t there to start with, we managed to get reasonable results for both greyscale and colour.
BenQ W1080ST+ Picture QualityAs with most single chip DLP projectors the highlights of the BenQ W1080ST+ are certainly the excellent motion resolution capabilities, bright images for use in rooms where you can’t control all the ambient light, and its excellent 3D images. The obvious downside that will be noticed straight away are the grey looking blacks and a lack of shadow detail in the darker areas of the image.
But let’s get one thing clear here, this is an £800 DLP projector and those types of blacks go with the territory. This lack of deep blacks is offset by a nice, bright, sharp and colourful image that will stand up well in rooms where you cannot control the light. Rooms with white ceilings, white walls and no black out blinds are where this little light box will look its best – and machines six times the price would fail to produce a watchable image. This is a projector that the whole family can use to play games, watch fast moving sports and 3D films – and love every minute of it without picking apart the image. Once you know the market positioning then the BenQ does impress.
So, blacks are not great, but skin tones always look realistic and natural. Colours are strong if not completely accurate and greens never really look strong enough, but also never really distract during normal viewing. Whites look good without looking blue or blooming with the brightness that can be dialed in on some of the modes. Stay sensible and use the best settings out of the box (in the test area of the review) and you will be rewarded with very good image detail, colour and contrast.
With 3D material the BenQ really does excel for the money with good image brightness, fairly accurate colours and very smooth and sharp motion. Just be aware that like the HDMI pack, the 3D glasses are not included and cost extra.
If you expect to get deep blacks, copious amounts of shadow detail mixed with a cinematic look then you will be bitterly disappointed with the BenQ, but again that is to miss the point. This is an all-rounder that does a nice job with a number of home entertainment roles and a decent image.
- Good brightness even with 3D images
- Works well in rooms with limited light control
- Good sharp images with decent motion handling
- Good video processing
- Good 3D performance
- Good value for money for those with a small space to work in
- Mediocre black levels
- No shadow detail in lower reaches of the image
- No lens shift
- Noisy even in low lamp settings
BenQ W1080ST+ DLP Projector ReviewIf you have a normal room with the length to use a regular projector - then stick with that route, the W1080ST+ is not for you.
However, if you are lacking the space and ability to get a normal projector far enough back for a large image, this is one product you should seek out for a demo. It really does get around some of the issues of short throw environments with the ability to project 100-inches and more from just 4ft back. There are some obvious pitfalls to try and avoid and careful positioning is required to get the absolute best from the image without introducing geometry issues to the picture. We would always recommend taking the time and effort to set it up correctly so you don’t need to fall back on keystone correction. If you want occasional use from the W1080ST+ then it is also an ideal candidate to stick away in a box or cupboard, and bring out for big sporting or gaming events projecting onto a white wall or screen. Given the party piece of optional wireless HDMI, the BenQ is certainly a cost effective way to add big screen entertainment to your home.
It will struggle to be a critical viewing device for the devoted home cinema fan, who wants deep blacks and a cinematic image in a room with excellent light control. That is not the market the BenQ is aimed at. The W1080ST+ does give a very good account of itself for the price point. It is a versatile machine that will produce good images in bright rooms and in areas where you have some light control; it will produce very watchable images with a good degree of contrast and bright enough colours. It is faithful to skin tones and has very smooth motion which helps with fast moving sports action. It is also a very capable machine when it comes to big screen gaming and 3D viewing is also excellent, with very few instances of cross talk or ghosting and a bright enough image. So the perfect all-rounder for budget big screen thrills.
This is not a dedicated home cinema projector for the bat cave enthusiast looking for the best in image quality, and at £800 you are never going to get that level of performance. But what you do get is certainly value for money and a very good all-rounder that the family can all use for TV, games, 3D and films.
You can buy the BenQ W1080ST+ here
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels6
2D Picture Quality7
3D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box6
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use7
Value For Money8
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