Best Home Video Projectors under $1000
BenQ W1070 vs.
Budget Video Projectors for Home Entertainment
The TV industry may be pushing massive LED TVs, but as expressed in our article 'Projectors vs. Massive LED TVs', there is no better way to enjoy the biggest picture for your money than to invest in a video projector solution.
It is true that a front projection setup requires a darkened room, but if you have control over room lighting, then even a 'budget' class 1080p home theater video projector will give you not only a better, bigger picture than the latest giant LED TVs for less, but also, a more cinema-like experience. And you know what...
Budget 1080p video projectors like the BenQ Q1070 and the ACER H6510BD covered in this review are available at under $1,000! These compact 3D projectors really stand out in what they do for the price; both are capable of big bright image projections, with excellent color and good black levels.
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The Budget Home Video Projector
Does this represent a real big screen option for home entertainment?
Up to a few years ago, you could not have expected much out of a cheap video projector solution. This is no longer the case.
Today's 'budget' video projectors are much better and brighter than ever, and extremely versatile in use - whether that being in a dedicated home theater room, in the living room under partial ambient light, as a big screen gamers option, or even as a backyard home cinema solution.
Suffice to note that both video projectors featured in this review come with at least 2000 ANSI Lumens of brightness output. We say at least because the Acer supports up to 3000 ANSI Lumens. Yet, even 2000 lumens is more than adequate for a home theater video projector at the sub-$1000 price bracket - as long as you make use of such projectors in a dimly lit room. It is true that if you want something that works under full room lighting conditions, you have to look elsewhere and spend more; but as we always say... if you want to enjoy the best picture quality with the best black levels and contrast out of any video projection setup, nothing beats the darkened environment.
Do not expect the very best in picture quality out of a $1,000 home video projector. At the same time, we cannot but remark that home video projectors under review are both capable of a solid picture with relatively accurate color and deep blacks for the price. And while there is some corner cutting with both models, we do not think you will find better video projector options at this price bracket. Suffice to note that what is often being just a 'fill' feature on most mid-range HDTVs, 3D support, is well implemented on both; you will surely enjoy great 3D projections at a size that makes for a more realistic 3D viewing experience!
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Both the BenQ and the Acer video projectors reviewed in this article fall within the so-called 'home video protectors' category. This means that though they may be used in dark-room movie watching applications like in the home theater, their blacks are not what one would expect to have in the dark room environment.
Mind you, the blacks on the BenQ and the Acer home video projectors are in line with what the competition has to offer at this price level; rather, the overall picture quality on offer by both is one you generally have to pay more to enjoy. However, these video projectors are best suited for use where black levels are less of an issue, such as in living rooms and general home entertainment applications where there is always some ambient light in the room.
Worth taking note that: Home video projectors feature higher light output than home theater projectors, include onboard speakers, and often support modest contrast than home theater projectors. As explained in our contrast ratio guide, black level becomes much less of a concern when there is the presence of even low-level ambient light. Instead, home theater projectors are optimized for use in a darkened room; hence the need for the latter to support much higher contrast.
Available from amazon.com
The BenQ W1070 is a compact yet powerful home video projector measuring just 12.28-inch in width by 9.61-inch in depth and 4-inch overall height.
At just $980, it is one of the cheapest home video projector options that support native 1080p resolution. It has a rated maximum light output of 2000 ANSI Lumens; that is more than enough to enjoy big bright images even in the presence of some ambient light.
The W1070 makes use of TI 1080p DarkChip3 DMD DLP technology. This represents a real improvement over DarkChip2, in particular with respect to supported contrast. The BenQ W1070 features a rated contrast ratio of 10,000:1. This is very good considering this is the static full ON/OFF contrast ratio rating rather than some inflated dynamic rating that would not bring any improvement in picture quality. Despite its high light output, the BenQ is capable of a very good black level and great shadow detail even in the presence of ambient light.
Equally impressive on the W1070 home video projector is the extensive set of color controls which gives the more experienced user plenty of control over the final picture. At the same time, we have to say that its out-of-the-box picture settings are relatively accurate, making the BenQ a real plug and play projector solution!
- DLP projection technology using DarkChip 3 DMD chip
- Full 1080p resolution,
- Active Full HD 3D,
- 2000 ANSI-Lumens light output,
- 10,000:1 full On/Off contrast ratio rating,
- DLP®Link 3D Ready & nVidia 3DTV Play
- 1.3 Manual zoom and vertical lens shift mechanism
- Lamp Life: 3500hrs in full power; 6000hrs in eco or SmartEco mode
- On board 10W speaker
- Extensive connectivity complemented by dual HDMI input
The BenQ W1070 features seven picture modes, three 2D modes (Dynamic/Standard/Cinema) which are almost spot on, one 3D mode, and three user modes for customization. In addition, there are two locked ISF modes that become available after professional calibration. All these different modes make it possible for the BenQ to cope with almost every situation in the home.
The W1070 use a six-segment RGBRGB color wheel; this is the preferred color wheel configuration due to its ability to generate natural color. The color wheel configuration and rotational speed as used on the BenQ yields an effective refresh rate of six times per frame; this should eliminate rainbow artifacts for all but the most sensitive of viewers.
As indicated earlier on, despite the low price tag, the BenQ comes as a 3D-ready video projector. It does not include any 3D glasses, but compatible third-party DLP Link 3D glasses are readily available at under $30.
The W1070 supports all common 3D formats; in addition, the W1070 is also NVIDIA 3DTV compatible. The use of DLP Link technology makes for a superb 3D image that is practically crosstalk free; yet these systems are also more prone to lose synchronization than infrared-sync or radio-sync 3D glasses when the viewer gets up or moves around the room.
Like most home video projectors, the BenQ includes an onboard speaker delivering 10W of audio power. Do not expect too much in terms of audio but overall sound does not suffer from the typical distortion associated with most flat panel HDTVs.
The BenQ W1070 comes with a 1.3:1 manual zoom, which means you can easily enjoy a typical 100-inch projection from less than 10 feet away; this is typical for most home video projectors. However, the BenQ also features a vertical lens shift mechanism which gives you the possibility to adjust the projected image up or down by about 10% of the image height; this is a rather uncommon feature at this price bracket. The presence of a vertical lens shift leads to added projector placement flexibility, even though the lens arrangement on the BenQ limits the W1070 to either table and ceiling mounting options.
One last feature worth mentioning and that is important in budget video projectors is the W1070 lamp long life, which makes it an attractive big screen TV option in the home. BenQ specifies up to 6,000hrs when in SmartEco mode. In this mode, lamp output may be reduced by up to 70% depending on the level of ambient light.
We have already said that the BenQ W1070 supports excellent picture quality for the price; but not just for the price. Image sharpness and clarity are excellent even with respect to other 1080p projectors, while black levels and color accuracy are on par with more expensive video projectors.
Though blacks are not a home video projector stronghold, the blacks on the BenQ are neutral and with a depth that is in line with similarly priced home theater projectors. The only real problem we see with the BenQ is that it misses on shadow detail especially in the darker parts of the image; however, it still maintains sufficient information in the shadow parts under ambient light conditions.
Color accuracy is one of BenQ's main key features. The W1070 features extensive user adjustable color settings that are extremely responsive; these include full RGB gain/bias adjustments for grayscale calibration and full three-axis color management system for gamut adjustments. However, more important for the average home user is that the BenQ video projector come with relatively accurate out-of-the-box colors that are well saturated.
The W1070 also sports excellent 3D reply, doing much better than most HDTVs irrespective of price — delivering a massive 3D image no HDTV will ever match that is not only free from image crosstalk, but one that yields a more realistic 3D viewing experience. No 3D glasses are included with the projector but that is a small price to pay for such superb 3D playback performance. The only real limitation with the BenQ is that it cannot do 2D-to-3D conversion; otherwise, the W0170 represents a great 3D-ready budget video projector.
Mentioning the BenQ limitations, it is worth taking note that though this is one of the few that includes a lens shift feature, the shift range is quite limited and adjustment is difficult and rather too sensitive.
One final limitation we do like to highlight is that the front facing exhaust grill on the BenQ W1070 fails to completely block lamp leakage onto the screen; not that this is much of an issue as it is hardly noticeable, but it would have been better if any light leakages faced away from the screen.
The bottom line:
The BenQ W1070 is a great little home video projector capable of superb 100-inch big screen image projections worthy of more expensive models. 2D is excellent while the 3D experience is simply mind-blowing - one that no HDTV will ever deliver!
Its accurate out-of-the-box color makes it an easy plug-and-play video projector option for most home users at the sub-$1,000 bracket. In addition, its high image brightness output, relatively deep blacks, and good shadow detail even under ambient light conditions makes it a versatile projector for use in the diverse environments of home entertainment.
It is true that its black levels are not exactly what one would desire to have in the dark environment of the home theater. However, the BenQ delivers an excellent home entertainment experience at a price that makes it a worthy 'big screen' TV replacement option in the home.
Acer H6510BD Home Video Projector
Available from amazon.com
The Acer H6510BD is a surprisingly small yet powerful home video projector. In fact, at 10.4 x 8.7 x 3.1 inches (W x D x H), it is more compact than the BenQ W1070, yet it is even more powerful, with a 3000 ANSI Lumens light output in standard mode. Partly, the reason is the use of a slightly more powerful 270W projector lamp on the Acer. This makes the H6510BD one of the brightest home video projectors within its category. Yet, at just $800, the Acer H6510BD comes at a price that is almost $200 cheaper than the BenQ!
Equally appealing for the home market is its extended lamp life, which at 7000hrs in what Acer defines as ExtremeECO mode, renders the Acer with one of the cheapest cost of ownership.
Like the BenQ W1070, the new Acer home video projector makes use of Texas Instruments 1080p DarkChip3 DMD DLP technology. It does come to no surprise therefore that it has the same rated 10,000:1 ON/OFF contrast ratio rating, which as expressed earlier on, is very good irrespective of whether one is dealing with home video projectors or home theater projectors at this price bracket. In this respect, the Acer exhibits relatively very good black level despite the exceptionally high output.
As one would expect at this lower price bracket, there is some corner cutting at with some of the available features like the presence of a mediocre 2W mono speaker; but you would also enjoy a few features not available on the more expensive BenQ W1070, like instant 2D-to-3D conversion.
- DLP technology using TI DarkChip 3 DMD chip
- Full 1080p resolution,
- Active Full HD 3D,
- 3000 ANSI-Lumens light output,
- 10,000:1 full On/Off contrast ratio rating,
- DLP®Link 3D Ready & nVidia 3DTV Play
- 1.3 Manual zoom
- Lamp Life: 4000hrs in full power; 7000hrs in ExtremeECO mode
- On board 2W speaker
- Extensive connectivity complemented by dual HDMI input
Do not expect a home video projector at this price to come loaded with extensive features. In this respect, the Acer is no exception, but...
The H6510BD still features extensive picture controls despite a somewhat limited user color adjustment. Included are seven picture modes: Bright, Standard, Movie, Dark Cinema, Game, Sport, and one user mode for customization; movie and dark cinema gives the best out-of-the-box picture settings albeit slightly on the cool side.
The H6510BD features a dynamic black level system that varies the lamp power depending on the picture content to help improve black level. It is a rather attractive system that works fine, and that helps produce deeper blacks in darker scenes. However, it is also slower than a good iris system — which can be noticeable and distracting to some. We say 'some' because you have to look hard to take notice of the delay. However, more annoying than the delay is the varying noise fan during this feature use; if you are sitting too close to the projector during use, you may want to keep this feature deactivated.
Like the BenQ, the Acer H6510BD comes as a 3D-ready video projector. It does not include the 3D glasses but compatible third-party DLP Link 3D glasses are readily available at under $30. The Acer supports all common 3D formats, including Full HD 3D (Blu-ray 3D), DLP 3D, and NVIDIA 3DTV. Like the BenQ W1070, 3D support is well implemented on the Acer H6510BD; rather, we it is even better as Acer also managed to squeeze 2D-to-3D conversion, a feature that works fine and is a real asset. As expected, the use of DLP Link technology makes for superb 3D images that are practically crosstalk free.
Like most home video projectors, the Acer includes an onboard speaker. Generally, we do not consider this to be much of value in that video projector sound is often worst than what you get from a typical flat-panel HDTV; even the projector placement itself is far from ideal for an acceptable sound experience. In this respect, the Acer is far from being an exception with its 2W mono speaker. Sound quality is simply mediocre and by far from what you get from the BenQ.
The Acer H6510BD comes with a 1.3:1 manual zoom, which means you can enjoy a typical 100-inch projection from around 10 feet away; this is the same as the BenQ. Unfortunately, the zoom/focus mechanism feels rather flimsy on the Acer. In general, this is not an issue with a fixed installation as these adjustments are a onetime event; however, it can be an issue if you intend to move the projector around.
One thing missing on the Acer with respect to the BenQ is that the H6510BD does not include any lens shift mechanism, which may somehow limit projector placement; best projector placement is either tabletop or ceiling mounted.
An area in which the Acer seems to have done a better job than the BenQ is in the area of lamp life, with Acer boasting up to 7,000hrs when the projector is used in ExtremeECO mode; the mode still produces plenty of image brightness under a dark room environment.
The Acer is capable of a surprisingly great picture for the price. Despite the rather limited user color adjustment, out-of-the-box color is relatively good in movie or dark cinema mode; these modes emphasis color saturation and contrast under low ambient light conditions. While one cannot expect color on an $800 home video projector to be perfect, yet color on the H6510BD looks pretty accurate, which is good considering the limited color adjustment available.
One area in which the Acer excels is that it is fast... really fast. It is much faster than the BenQ; we measured input lag at around 24ms on the BenQ W1070 when in Standard mode (no games mode available) as against the less than 17ms for the H6510BD home video projector when in game mode. This makes the Acer ideal for 1080p true big screen gaming.
The H6510BD support excellent black levels thanks to its dynamic black level system. As stated above, it works well despite being a bit slow, but it is what gives the Acer its bright highlights and good shadow detail. What is often somewhat lacking at this price range is maximum black, and so is the case with the Acer, but then this is typical for all DLP projectors irrespective of price.
Among the Acer main limitations are the slower dynamic black level response with respect to an auto iris system and the limited color adjustment. And as with most home video projectors, projector placement is limited to table or ceiling mount installation; a rear shelf placement is out of the question.
The bottom line:
The Acer H6510BD delivers a lot for the price - not just plenty of light output and solid 1080p performance, but also relatively excellent overall picture quality with good color and deep blacks, excellent 3D viewing performance, and equally important for those gamers out there... a super fast response.
It is true that its dynamic black level system is a bit slow, user color adjustment is rather basic, and there is no lens shift feature. However, here we are talking about an $800 budget video home projector that is accompanied by one of the lowest cost of ownership. In this respect, the Acer H6510BD provides one of the best low cost video projector options for home entertainment - whether that being in the living room or in the home theater.
Overall, it is a versatile home video projector with a performance that can match that of even more expensive 3D-enabled 1080p video projectors.
- Acer H6510BD manual
It is difficult to just point to the best option that would provide a best fit for everyone, since it all depends on the exact requirements. However, there are a few points worth taking into account when deciding between the BenQ and the Acer.
Despite the similarities in picture quality and supported features, our thumbs up here go for the Acer. That may sound strange, but as stated, it all depends on what are your exact requirements. One must not forget that we are dealing with 'budget' class home video projectors. As explained earlier on in this review, these are indented for use in general home entertainment, mainly as a living room option where the presence of some ambient light is to be expected.
In this respect, the Acer H6510BD makes for a most compelling home video projector solution. At under $800, it is a relatively cheap - $200 cheaper than its main competitor, yet it also represents an exceptional piece of gear. First and foremost, it is bright... really bright for such a small projector, making it a great living room projector option; and a great gamers' big screen option as well since apart from supporting big screen bright projections, it is also very fast — one of the fastest around!
Add its on-the-fly 2D-to-3D conversion feature, missing on the more expensive BenQ W1070, and there you have a most compelling home entertainment projector solution in the home. We still consider built-in 2D-to-3D conversion a most important feature since the availability of 3D content is still relatively scares. However, it must be emphasized here that both projectors are capable of doing a superb job in delivering a most immersive and realistic big screen 3D viewing experience no HDTV can ever achieve.
Some may argue that the Acer leaves the user with a rather limited set of picture user settings; yet this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the H6510BD comes with relatively good out-of-the box settings especially in Movie and Dark Cinema modes. Also, though black levels are not exactly what one would desire to have in the darkened home theater environment, the Dark Cinema mode can still do a great job at this price bracket.
Add the Acer's extended lamp life which keeps cost of ownership down, and the extended connectivity so important in home entertainment, and there you have a home video projector option that is hard to beat.
Well, if you have $200 more to spend on a home video projector, it may be worth having second thoughts especially if picture quality is more important for you than the average home user. Why?
The BenQ may not be as bright as the Acer, and in the most economical lamp mode, lamp life on the BenQ is at least a 1,000hrs less than that of the Acer. However, the BenQ W1070 has an edge when it comes to picture quality, and though blacks are practically in line with those on the Acer, the BenQ's more accurate color and better shadow detail will surely take the upper hand with those looking for the better picture at this price level.
In addition, the presence of a vertical lens shift mechanism on the BenQ is an added bonus at the price level that gives the W1070 more versatility with projector placement; this would surely come in hand in a fixed installation.
Some may also complain about the lack of 2D-to-to-3D feature on the BenQ, yet though important, it is surely not a deal breaker as this is often available on your video source. In particular, many of today's inexpensive 3D-enabled Blu-ray disc players come with built-in 2D-to3D converters.
Both the BenQ W1070 and the Acer H6510BD 1080p home video projectors reviewed in this article are available from amazon.com; you may check pricing and availability using the links below:
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