BenQ W1080ST Home Theater Projector Review

A Hot Product Award for the BenQ W1080ST projector. Considering the W1080ST is an almost identical, short throw version of the W1070, which already won that award, how could we say no? The W1080ST is just as deserving.

BenQ W1080ST Projector - The Bottom Line

I found the BenQ W1080ST home entertainment projector to be just like its slightly less expensive sibling the W1070.  Let’s get this straight – they are essentially the same projector.  That said:  The color tables have been updated since we reviewed the the older BenQ, or at least that’s our assumption based on measuring the same color modes.  Other than that, we can find only two feature differences of note:

The BenQ W1080ST is a short throw projector.  It can fill any sized screen from about half the distance the 1070 can. The W1080′s lens is obviously different, and has less zoom range – only 1.2:1 compared to 1.3:1.  That’s ok though, I would expect a short throw projector to need less working range than a more typical design such as the W ten-seventy has.

The second difference is adjustable vertical lens shift.  The W1070 has it, the W1080ST lacks it.  I’d say it’s less important in a short throw projector, but it is missed.  I could have used lens shift to make my setup here “easier.”

The third and final difference is the official price.  The BenQ W1080ST officially sells for $100 more, with a MAP (minimum advertised price) of $1099, compared to $999.

So, which of these projectors is right for you?  If you like the short throw benefits, and can rationalize the extra $100, then definitely go for the BenQ W1080ST projector.  If not, stick with the more typical ’70.  It seems exactly that simple. Because the differences really are so slight, I wouldn’t be surprised if the W1080ST projector suffers a bit more price erosion, cutting the selling price difference to less than $100.

For those who are placing on a table, the advantages should easily favor the W1080ST projector.  If you are mounting your projector, then it comes down to which one works better in your room. (Possibly either one, but for some folk, there might be mounting location issues.  Height might come into play, as the W1070 does have one feature the W1080 lacks, and that is a bit of vertical lens shift.  Do your homework, a final decision between the two should be pretty easy.

This BenQ W1080ST projector is a “home entertainment” projector, rather than home theater. Every projector appreciates a great room, but this projector was built to perform well under less than ideal room conditions, thanks to almost 2000 measured lumens, and almost 1500 lumens calibrated with Brilliant Color engaged.

While post calibration, we weren’t quite as enamored with the results of the W1080ST as the W1070, we believe that is a unit by unit difference, likely caused by the usual slight variation in lamp (bulb) color output.  Or, a slightly different calibration might make the W1080ST even better than the W1070. Calibration is not a hard science.   The important thing is that the two should be just about identical, and I’m quibbling when I mention that skin tones are just a touch better on the W1070.

For your just over $1000 1080p projector to do 3D, you will simply have to add glasses.  Most importantly, it does support HDMI 1.4 which allows for support of Blu-ray 3D.  With ESPN dropping 3D, they never made a real effort to “sell” it, movies on Blu-ray is now definitely the primary use for 3D in the home.  3D worked out just dandy.  BenQ sent me one pair of 3D glasses so I couldn’t get feedback from friends, but I saw more than enough.  Hugo looked great, my only complaint about Tron was blacks could be blacker, and I watched Oz on it for the first time. Watching Oz reminded me that while well done 3D should immerse the viewer, while remaining unobtrusive (forgotten), it can’t make a mediocre movie great.

If your room lighting allows, the W1080ST projector can tackle seriously large screens.  Even in 3D, the W1080ST easily filled my 124″ 1.3 gain Stewart Studiotek 130.  At that same size I was running most 2D content in Eco mode just to knock down the brightness a bit.

The W1080ST projector is definitely a “light cannon”.  Not the brightest, but 2000 lumens is what in the business space, used to be called “auditorium capable.”  (lights off!). By auditorium capable, we were referring to a 25 foot diagonal screen back then!   If you can properly darken your room, a 150″ diagonal screen is definitely very doable, calibrated!

Can you drop the W1080ST in a dedicated home theater?  Generally I would recommend taking full advantage of a dedicated room, which would require a more expensive projector with much improved black levels.  That said, it calibrates very well, so that its color handling is certainly comparable to a number of more expensive “home theater projectors”, selling for 2 or 3 times the price.  Family room projectors tend to be a little noisy, in terms of fan noise, which is true in this case.  The W1080ST is hardly a quiet projector, but rated 33db, puts it in the same range, and I’d say it’s at least as quiet at full power, as Epson’s Home Cinema 5020UB, one of the best under $3000 home theater projectors around.

While the W1080ST’s brightness is wonderful, and its color accuracy excellent post calibration, this projector isn’t great at everything.  That would be asking too much.

Dark shadow detail is really good, not uncommon for projectors with less than stellar blacks.  And while black levels are pretty good compared to the competition right around or under $1000, they are no match for any “ultra-high contrast” projector, such as an Epson HC5020UB, or Panasonic PT-AE8000.  Projectors with much better blacks start only about $500 higher, although the one that comes to mind – an Acer, is very “rough around the edges”. Better, more friendly projectors tend to start around $2000!

I’ve gotten used to the remote control.  At least it’s white, but no backlight.  That’s working out all right though.  At this late stage, I know where the power button and all the menu navigation is by touch. Instead of using direct access buttons, (which I haven’t memorized), I can get to all the features I need through the menus.

The W1080ST is a very good value at $1099 even if it comes without 3D glasses.  That’s fair enough.  But I will mention that they could be a good bit lighter.  Many of the competition are 20 to almost 40% lighter, and that’s significant.  In fairness, 3D is not likely to be a really large part of your viewing (or will it?)  Comfort isn’t bad, but compared to those very lightweight Epson and Panasonic glasses, these are clunkers.  And I’d prefer to see RF, not IR on the glasses, and have them rechargeable.  But with luck, as you decide you need more glasses next year, perhaps there will be lighter ones, and there are plenty of low cost 3rd party DLP-link glasses to be had.

The real solution to not having a backlit remote, is to drop a few bucks on a decent universal remote control, and that will let you control multiple devices as a benefit.

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