April 17, 2015
Short-throw Projector Shootout
So you're in the market for a projector but you don't have the space to put your projector 15 feet away from your screen? The answer is a short throw projector and the great news is that you can get one for less than $1000. Budget projectors have seen tremendous success over the past few years. BenQ and Optoma have been at the forefront and capitalized on this success by offering some great inexpensive options for consumers with limited space. Not only are these projectors sharp, but they are also very bright and have features that you would expect to see on a $1800 projector.
After I determined that I needed a short throw in my basement because of a beam in my ceiling, I did a ton of research online on short throw projectors. I ended up purchasing the BenQ HT1085ST. I wanted a 140" screen but I only had 10 feet of space. Instead of buying a $400+ screen I decided to save some money and build my own. I followed a bunch of different guides on Youtube and it actually worked out! It consists of a 1x3" wood frame, L-braces, Carl's Flexiwhite screen material, Carl's felt tape, and a TON of staples.
After I installed the BenQ HT1085ST on my ceiling I noticed that there was an issue with the keystone. Whenever I adjusted the keystone and powered off the unit, it would forget the keystone settings. This was a known issue with this projector and BenQ has released a firmware update for it. However, only they can apply the firmware update. There is no simple way for a consumer to update it without a high possibility of "bricking" the projector. Before I packed up the BenQ to ship for service I decided to order an Optoma GT1080 to compare it to the BenQ. Here are the results of my testing:
|Optoma GT1080||BenQ HT1085ST|
|Display System||Single Chip DLP||Single Chip DLP|
|Brightness||2800 ANSI Lumens||2200 ANSI Lumens|
|Image Size||45.3" to 303.2"||38" to 300"|
|Dyn. Contrast Ratio||25000:1||10000:1|
|Color Range||1.1 Billion||1.07 Billion|
|DLP Link 3D||Yes||Yes|
|Lens||F=2.8, F=7.2mm||F2.6-2.78 (F=10-12.2mm)|
|Throw Ratio||0.5:1||0.69 - 0.31:1|
|Optical Zoom||No||1 - 1.2x|
|Keystone Correction||Vertical: +40||Vert: +20, Horiz: +20|
|Fan Noise||Eco: 26dB||Eco: 28dB; Normal: 31dB|
The first thing to note is that the Optoma has a much shorter throw than the BenQ. In my testing, the Optoma was able to achieve a 140" 16x9 screen while placed only 5 feet away from the screen. The BenQ was placed approximately 9 feet way to achieve the same 140" screen.
Even though the Optoma claims a brightness of 2800 ANSI Lumens vs 2200 from the BenQ, the BenQ seems to be just as bright as the Optoma. I couldn't tell a difference in brightness between the two. With a 140" screen, neither of these projectors will handle ambient light too well with a white screen. I would recommend a gray screen at this size to help with ambient light.
The BenQ seems to outperform the Optoma as far as color accuracy out of the box. The Optoma seems to have some hotspots on its brightest setting out of the box with no adjustments. The hotspots are more noticeable when seated farther away from the screen. The flesh tones also appear to be a little washed out. The colors look more natural from the BenQ without making any adjustments. I'm sure with some tweaking, the Optoma would look just as good as the BenQ, if not better but to those who are not familiar with calibrating a projector, the BenQ will look better without adjustments on the "standard" setting.
Offset / Lens Shift
Lens offset measures the distance from the lens to the bottom of the image. In other words, if you have a projector sitting on a coffee table aimed at a wall at a 90 degree angle, the lens offset would determine how high the image would be on the wall compared to the position of the projector. BenQ has a fairly acceptable lens offset. In my testing, the BenQ had about a 2" offset for a 140" screen. However, the lens offset for the Optoma GT1080 as more like 10 inches. This means that the bottom of the image would be 10 inches higher than the projector if it is sitting on a coffee table. If it is mounted to a ceiling then the image could potentially start over a foot from the ceiling, which is not ideal if you have a large screen with low ceilings. The only way to fix this issue is by heavily adjusting the keystone, which is not ideal.
The BenQ HT1085ST does have a good amount of light leakage from the front of the projector. It is especially noticeable when mounted on a ceiling as a small light arch can be seen on the ceiling about 6 inches away from the projector. It's noticeable but it's not a major issue. I did not notice this issue on the Optoma GT1080.
The BenQ HT1085ST is a fairly loud projector. It probably won't bother you too much if you're sitting far enough from it, but it is considerably noisier than the Optoma. I could hardly hear the Optoma at all over the BenQ. It wasn't completely silent but it was noticeably more quiet.
Both of these projectors have internal speakers. I would not recommend that anyone use these speakers for movie or TV watching as they don't have the best sound quality. The sound is very tiny and is not loud. The average TV has far better sound quality and loudness than these projectors.
I like both of these projectors and i think they serve two different purposes. If you're in a small apartment or have a small room but wish to have a massive screen, the Optoma is the clear winner here. Also, if you need a quiet projector, the Optoma wins. However, the BenQ seems to do a little better with color reproduction, at least without a ton of tuning. They are nearly equal in brightness. Perhaps a smaller screen will show a greater difference in brightness between the two. Overall, these are both great budget-friendly projectors.
- Chris Majestic (Majestechs)