- Very good value
- Good picture quality in most ways
- Optional wireless video system works very well
- Red tone during 3D viewing
- Some rainbow effect
- Black levels only average
Key Features: Full HD DLP projector; Active 3D Playback (no glasses included); BrilliantColour Support; ISF Certified.
What is the BenQ W1080ST+?
The BenQ W1080ST+ is, you won’t be too surprised to learn, a new update to last year’s well-received original W1080ST. It’s a short-throw Full HD DLP projector designed for quick and easy set up whenever you want to use it, and its key upgrades over the original W1080ST are greater brightness and enhanced connectivity that includes compatibility with an optional wireless video system.
Design and Features
The BenQ W1080ST+ follows BenQ’s usual styling to a T – which is no bad thing, as the trademark combination of glossy white and silver colouring, neatly rounded sculpting and compact footprint looks very pleasant on your coffee table.
The top panel houses both a set of control buttons if you can’t find the remote control, as well as a window above the lens barrel providing access to simple zoom and focus adjustment wheels.
Connections are mounted on the rear, and comprise two HDMIs, a component video input, a VGA PC input, an RS-232 port, a 12V trigger, a USB service port, a composite video input, and a stereo audio in/out. These latter ports are there because, as with almost all cheap projectors these days, the W1080ST+ sports a built-in speaker. This claims a respectable 10W of power delivered in stereo from a resonant chamber design that claims to boost bass reproduction versus most integrated audio solutions. In other words, the W1080ST+ takes its audio duties a heck of a lot more seriously than most projectors do.
The W1080ST+’s connections introduce two significant differences between it and the original W1080ST. First, the HDMIs support the MHL connection protocol, making it easier to share videos and photos from your smartphones and tablet computers on your projection screen or wall. Second, as with the recently tested BenQ W1070, the W1080ST+ is compatible with a new BenQ Wireless Full HD Kit. This optional extra (£249/$373) system lets you stream video from your sources to the projector wirelessly with, supposedly, no loss of quality. This is a very welcome idea given the often extreme cable runs required to connect sources to a projector – especially as the system can even pass its signals to different rooms.
The short-throw nature of the W1080ST+’s lens enables it to project a 100-inch image when just 1.5m from your wall or screen. This means it can be used in small or awkwardly shaped rooms, makes it easier for people and pets to avoid walking between the projector and the screen or wall, and saves you from the noise and heat discomfort associated with having to sit right next to a projector, as can happen with projectors with more ‘normal’ throw distances.
The W1080ST+ uses a native Full HD DarkChip 3 DLP system with a six-speed RGBRGB colour wheel, illuminated by a claimed 2200 Lumens of maximum brightness. This brightness is 200 Lumens up on the max output of the original W1080ST. Claimed contrast is the same, though, at 10,000:1 full on/full off, or a highly respectable 500:1 using the more ‘real world’ ANSI contrast measurement.
The W1080ST+’s menus don’t initially look like they’ve got many options to play with. But this is only because the projector uses two levels of menus: a basic one containing just a few simple options for day to day use or technophobes, and a more in-depth one so packed with options that the projector is endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) as a model flexible enough to support a professional installation by one of its engineers.
The advanced options include colour management, various gamma presets, colour temperature presets, a trio of lamp power modes (more on these in the Set Up section), Brilliant Colour processing (though sadly you can only turn this on or off, rather than having a selection of levels to choose from) and a small selection of picture presets that includes a reasonably thoughtful Cinema one.
Unlike the recently tested Optoma GT1080, the W1080ST+ offers a welcome bit – 1.2x – of optical zoom. It also provides both horizontal and vertical keystone adjustment, so that you can get the edges of the image straight regardless of whether you’ve got the projector sat above or below your screen or set off to the left or right of it. Good stuff for a projector available for under £800/$1,200.
You can also tilt the projector up via a simple dropdown front leg, or tilt it down via screw-down rear legs, and both the zoom and focus rings are reasonably responsive, making it pretty easy to get them to deliver precisely the setting you’re after. It’s important to stress, though, that you aren’t provided with any optical image shift, leaving you having to use the keystone system to ‘distort’ your pictures into having straight sides unless you’re able to position the projector at exactly the right height and angle relative to where you want your images to appear.
When it comes to getting the most out of the W1080ST+’s picture settings, our main tips would be that you avoid the BrilliantColour option unless you’re watching with some ambient light in your room; that you use the Gamma 2.2 setting; that you use the Eco lamp mode – unless there’s light in the room – to stop the projector running too noisily (though the Smart Eco mode, which adjusts brightness according to content, delivers marginally the best picture results); and that you keep the noise-reduction feature turned off.
The W1080ST+ is another fine projector from BenQ – though we’re not sure we’d say its pictures are overall better than those of the original W1080ST. They’re just different in some good ways and some bad ways.
Focussing on the good stuff first, pictures are impressively dynamic and punchy. Bright scenes enjoy real pop and vibrancy, but there’s also a richer sense of overall contrast during dark scenes.
The extra brightness of the W1080ST+ helps it produce very impressive amounts of shadow detail during dark scenes too. This gives such scenes a sense of depth and clarity rarely seen in the sub-£1,000/$1,500 projector world, which makes them look more convincing and more in balance with the bright scenes they usually sit side by side with in a typical film.
Bright elements of mostly dark scenes look more dynamic on the W1080ST+, too, especially if you use the Smart Eco lamp setting – although bear in mind that this causes fan noise to rise.
Next, the slight brightness boost of the W1080ST+ pushes its sharpness more to the fore, leaving HD images that really do look exceptionally crisp and textured. It’s a relief, too, to find the W1080ST+’s images suffering far less with focus/uniformity issues in the corners of its images than the Optoma GT1080, despite both models using a short-throw lens.
Perhaps the single most persuasive aspect of the new BenQ, though, is the boost its extra brightness gives to colours, leaving tones looking pleasingly natural with excellent blend subtlety even if you haven’t bothered doing much calibration.
The colour boost is especially apparent during dark scenes, and helps the W1080ST+ stand out nicely against the rather pasty and occasionally unnatural colours of the Optoma GT1080.
It’s also important to say that the W1080ST+’s extra brightness makes it a better option than the original model if it’s hard to completely black out your room, especially if you use the Brilliant Colour option as well.
There are as we suggested earlier, though, reasons why some people might prefer to go for the original W1080ST, which is going to continue to be on sale for £100/$150 less than its brighter brother. For instance, the newer model’s extra brightness meant we felt slightly more aware of the rainbow effect – colour striping over very bright objects or if you move your eyes over the image – than we did on the original W1080ST. We also felt slightly more aware of some low-level fizzing noise in very dark areas due to the W1080ST+’s more aggressive nature.
Next, it also felt to us – though we didn’t still have an original W1080ST for direct comparison – that the brighter model didn’t produce quite such deep black levels as its older sibling.
The last thing to consider in this section is the performance of the optional wireless Full HD system. Happily it works brilliantly, presenting flawless images even if you try to introduce blockages between the transmitter and receiver.
3D Picture Quality
The W1080ST+ is a chip off the old BenQ block with its 3D images. Which isn’t wholly great news…
The thing is, while the projector presents 3D images with plenty of detail and precious little crosstalk ghosting noise, it also infuses everything with a weird red tone. You’re not always aware of this, but it’s pretty blatant during dark scenes. And whenever you see it it’s seriously distracting.
We have no idea why BenQ’s 3D system has to have this red undertone; we certainly didn’t see anything similar while watching 3D on Optoma’s GT1080, even though that projector also uses a single-chip DLP system. Basically it would be great if BenQ could sort this issue out at some point.
Thanks to its Resonant Chamber technology, the W1080ST+ delivers a noticeably louder soundstage than most projectors. Even better, it also manages to project voices forwards from the projector so that they appear to be coming from at least vaguely in the vicinity of the images they’re meant to be accompanying – which is in itself an improvement over most projector sound systems.
However, the Resonant Chamber doesn’t introduce much bass, meaning there’s a rather thin and even sometimes quite harsh quality to the sound despite its ability to go louder than most.
Other Things to Consider
The remote you get with the W1080ST+ is, thankfully, brightly backlit, making it easy to use in a dark room. Though in an ideal world its buttons would be larger or more widely spaced.
Projectors like the W1080ST+ clearly have massive appeal for gamers wanting to take their hobby to the next level. So it’s great to find it turning in an input lag figure of only slightly over 30ms. This is one of the lowest figures we’ve tested from a projector, and should mean you can game on the W1080ST+ without having to worry about it damaging your skills. What’s more, the 30ms reading remains the same if you use the wireless HD video system.
One final point to cover in this section is the W1080ST+’s running noise – which is actually a little louder than we’d like. It’s stated by BenQ to be 31dB or 28dB depending on your lamp output setting, and it certainly doesn’t sound any quieter. Though it is actually slightly quieter than the original W1080ST.
Should I buy a BenQ W1080ST+?
There are plenty of compelling reasons why you should want to buy a W1080ST+. Its pictures are bright, vibrant, sharp and full of shadow detail. It’s well connected, and its input lag is low enough to make it a strong and affordable gaming projector.
Personally we prefer it to Optoma’s rival gaming projector, the admittedly cheaper GT1080. Though if you’re looking for a more dedicated movie machine to be used in a consistently dark environment, the slightly gentler approach of the original (and now cheaper) W1080ST might serve you better.
The W1080ST+ isn’t necessarily better than the original W1080ST, but it offers something different enough to make it another worthwhile addition to BenQ’s consistently strong projector range.
Scores In Detail
- 2D Image Quality : 8/10
- 3D Image Quality : 5/10
- Design : 8/10
- Features : 8/10
- Value : 9/10