Winner: Best in Class - Performance (Entry Level under $1000): BenQ HC1200

Posted on August 29, 2015 by Art Feierman
The BenQ HC1200 is the only projector in this report that was originally reviewed as a business and education projector, but ended up winning an award in this report.  Let's say that it's obviously very versatile.

The BenQ HC1200 is technically a business cross-over, but has perhaps the best color we've seen from an entry level DLP projector.

As of the publication time for this report, the HC1200 projector is at the top of this Class'es price range, with a street price not far below it's $999 list price.

As a single chip DLP projector it doesn't sport as many color lumens as it claims in terms of white lumens, but it comes a lot closer than most competing DLPs, with (per an independent lab) 1740 Color Lumens.  BenQ advertises 2800 white lumens, so it comes in with about 2/3 as many color ones.  Many DLP projectors come in down 50% to 70%.  The bottom line there, is that it can produce a lot of lumens with excellent color.  (But there are a number of brighter projectors in the price range.

If you do have an excellent room (home theater or cave) I particularly like this projector for the price.   In a family or "other" room environment, where you probably have to deal with some ambient light (even at night), you might want to with a brighter projector.  Still, for the home theater environment, I have to consider it my top choice at its price or less, thus this award.

Click Image to Enlarge

The BenQ HC1200: What makes it a low cost Performance projector

BenQ has been touting the color performance of the HC1200 since they first announced it.  We even created a slideshow of photos I took at the Infocomm show this past summer.  Of course all these images were selected by BenQ for their eye-popping nature, rather than subtlty.  In our reviews we normally don't go for the most eye-popping images, favoring "more typical."  Thus, we don't shoot parrots, and bright flower gardens.

BenQ Colorific Projectors at Infocomm 2015

When this projector came in, we treated it as a 1080p resolution business and education projector - which is primarily how BenQ positioned it.  After it was reviewed, I got a shot at it, and used it for maybe a dozen hours, watching movies and sports.  Let's say it's definitely a true cross-over projector, one that can live in the commercial and home worlds.

Warranty is excellent - as in 3 years parts and labor.  That is one of my major "likes" of the HC1200.  While 1 year P/L is typical at this price range, there are a number of competitors with two year warranties, and only a few others with 3 (Viewsonic).  Personally, with equipment this expensive (as in not $139), I think manufacturers should provide at least 2 years.

The hardware is well thought out, with a respectable 1.5:1 manual zoom lens, so placement flexibility must be considered very good, also thanks to a small amount of lens shift.  The competition, the Value winning Epson, by comparison lacks lens shift so has to rely on keystone correction.  That modest lens shift is one of the things that strengthens the "Performance" argument.

Now I've already shouted the HC1200's praise, for color.  Like it's fellow "Entry Level" winner, the Epson HC2040, color is a major strength.  When it comes to that holy grail of image performance in a fully darkened room; black level peformance, the BenQ is merely typical of a decent DLP projector in the price range. OK, that doesn't sound complementary, (and it isn't).  But, that's what you get for under $1000.  It's still good enough black levels to best the Epson 2040, which is perhaps the main reason why this is my Performance choice.

The image directly above is a CIE chart showing the color accuracy.  In a perfect world the circles and the squares are on top of each other.  Consider this to be very good for a not-calibrated projector.

I apologize, Mike did the review and he's used to sticking to business / education projectors, so took only one image shot from a movie.  That's cool, but I did have the projector for a while afterwords, and should have thought to take a few more - and some sports shots.

Remember, every projector in the under $1000 is really pretty entry level.  The differences between the best of these projectors at this price point is minimal compared to the best projectors under, say, $2000, and way below the better $2000 - $3500 projectors.


BenQ HC1200 CIE chart of sRGB mode. Well done.

One missing feature that the competing Epson offers, is one rare under $1000, and that's CFI - smooth motion (Creative Frame Interpolation).  That smooths out fast action, and is most popular for sports viewing.  Funny, it's the lower end projectors - more mixed use ones - movies, sports, Mr. Robot, Game of Thrones, HGTV, where having CFI is most appreciated, but it tends mostly to show up in over $2000 models.

The six segment color wheel helps minimize the RBE - the rainbow effect that a small portion of us can see.  If you are RBE sensitive like me, that may well affect your purchase decision, but if not sensitive, you only have to worry about family and friends seeing RBE, and they are less critical than you. It can however really bother a very tiny slice of the population.  Hey, if you buy one and you prove to be sufficiently rainbow sensitive, you'll know immediately.  In that case, you can switch to a non-DLP projector as some do.

In other words, all considered, there are a few trade-offs, as would be expected in the entry level price range, but that doesn't mean you can't find great happiness with the HC1200.

I count the BenQ as more of a one person's projector while the "Value" projector - the Epson, is more of a built for "the whole family to enjoy."

[prsku sku="hc1200"]

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