BenQ MP512-ST Short-Throw Projector

March 29, 2009 | 07:42

Tags: #display #hdmi #lens #performance #projector #review #short #white #wide

Companies: #benq #test

There are compromises though, and the first one is that BenQ has dropped HD support in the MP512 ST – it's native resolution is only SVGA (800x600). However, the MP522 ST supports a resolution of 1,024x768 which has HD height but not width – you’ll still be either cropping a large proportion of the sides or scaling inwards which is not an ideal choice.

If you’re a HD fanboy then this review is over for you, sorry! Even some games on the PS3 and Xbox 360 really require HD output simply because that’s how they were designed – Dead Rising for example has unreadable text on anything less than 720p.

If you’re plugging in a Wii, you’re simply watching TV/Video over the net or you’ve got a bigger DVD collection than HMV, you should still be interested though – while the BenQ might not be an investment into the far future, for these inputs it’s fine.

Around the back there’s a single HDMI, VGA (D-sub), S-Video and composite, but it lacks component inputs, which is a shame. The range of basic inputs is fine for an inexpensive projector, but the BenQ has clearly not designed to be an A/V hub.

BenQ MP512-ST Short-Throw Projector BenQ MP512-ST Short-Throw Projector
Click to enlarge

There are two 5W speakers inside the BenQ, but we’d recommend ignoring them entirely and invest instead in some kind of audio output. TV speakers on the other hand tend to be usuable at worst, making a TV that much easier to use than this projector.

Other features include keystone adjustment and projection angle but that’s it – nice and simple. Thrown in is also a small remote that mirrors the functions on the back should you want to adjust the above feature controls from the comfort of your chair – although things like display height need a bit of manual labour. Sadly there’s no IR sensor in the back of the BenQ, which is a bit weird for a short throw projector that could well sit at the end of a bed.

The BenQ’s physical design is quite nice; it’s well constructed and looks good even if it feels overly plastic. The brushed aluminium finish behind the bulb is also all plastic. The push button in the front allows the elevation of the front leg, thus raising the image. However, the lens cap has two gaping holes in the sides where fingers are meant to press in order to remove it, but it almost doesn’t protect the lens from those same greasy pinkies as it’s gripped for removal.

BenQ MP512-ST Short-Throw Projector BenQ MP512-ST Short-Throw Projector
Click to enlarge

We tested the BenQ with a PS3 and Xbox 360 over HDMI and found that the PS3 instantly set itself to 1080p full-HD, whereas the Xbox needed the extra manual calibration. The MP512-ST then automatically scales down to its own resolution, but unfortunately then adds black bars to make the picture widescreen, losing further pixels.

Generally the quality of image was fantastic from the Texas Instruments DLP tech inside - whether it's over HDMI or VGA (the only two worth using, which limits its use with a Wii) the colours were vibrant and the whites were like fresh snow and didn't have the yeloow hue of some bulbs. Naturally though, like a lot of projectors, the black levels aren't wonderful and even the quoted 2,500:1 contrast ratio seems a little wide of the mark.

Thankfully the fisheye lens didn't cause distortion around the edges of pictures as we had feared. The picture was a perfect square, and everything was in proportion. At 2,200 ANSI lumens the BenQ is certainly bright enough for use during the day; we found that the BenQ was even too bright at night to watch a movie without turning the brightness down quite a bit.

Final Thoughts

The BenQ MP512-ST produces a great image for the price, and the short-throw technology works well and is very appealing for anyone with a small libing room or bedroom. However, why the remote control sensor isn't in the back of the unit, we'll never know, and the lack of component will make older Xbox and Wii users look elsewhere. The biggest killer is the low native resolution of 800x600. While the downscaled image is actually surprisingly impressive, for big screen purists the BenQ is not an option. PS3 and Xbox 360 owners should also be looking more toward HD projectors than this one.

That said, you're not going to find a decent HD-capable projector for under £400. For being able to have a crisp and vivid theatre-size movie image without needing theatre space, the BenQ MP512-ST is tempting.

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