Like many decisions in life, whether to spend more money for a better picture is a matter of priorities. Most projector buyers can appreciate the difference in image quality between ultracheap units like the $150 iRulu BL20 and the significantly better $350 Epson 640, and most will also notice the improvement afforded by the even-better $550 Optoma HD142X over the Epson. After that, diminishing returns really set in.
The best sub-$1,000 projector I've tested so far this year is the BenQ HT2050, which costs $800. It definitely has a better picture than the Optoma, thanks primarily to darker black levels that lead to superior contrast. If you watch in a completely black room and want the best image quality you can get, it might be worth the extra money to you.
Most viewers, however, will be perfectly happy with the slightly worse, but still very good, picture delivered by the Optoma (and for that matter, the $580 Viewsonic PJD7828HDL). On the other hand, if you can afford the BenQ and appreciate its nuances, it makes a superb step-up choice.
- Native resolution: 1080p
- Lumens spec: 2,200
- Zoom: Manual (1.3x)
- Lens shift: Vertical
- 3D-compatible: Yes
- Lamp life (Normal mode): 3,500 hours
- Replacement lamp cost: $270
Higher-end home theater projectors like the HT2050 often have a lower light output than cheaper units, mainly because they're designed to achieve better black levels, and 2,200 lumens is typical of the breed. If you're planning to watch in anything other than complete darkness, you should choose a brighter projector.
One step-up extra is vertical lens shift. It allows you to position the projector higher or lower relative to the screen and still get perfect geometry without having to use a keystone control (which impairs image quality). The lens can deliver a relatively short throw distance, similar to the Viewsonic projectors I tested. The closest it could get and still fill my 120-inch test screen was 118 inches, compared to 129 inches for the Epson 2045 and 156 inches for the Optoma.
If you want to use 3D with the BenQ, you'll need to buy 3D glasses. The projector uses DLP Link, which should be compatible with numerous third-party glasses (starting at $25 each on Amazon) or BenQ's own like the DGD5 ($60 each).
Lamp life is shorter than many projectors, although as usual you can adjust the settings to dim the image and extend the number of hours before you have to replace it. The cost of a new lamp is also on the high side compared to rival projectors.
Connectivity and convenience
- HDMI inputs: 2
- AV input: 2 (one component-video)
- PC input: Analog RGB
- USB port: 2
- MHL: No
- Remote: Backlit
- Built-in speaker: Yes
The back panel of the BenQ is standard for the breed, and like many higher-end units it lacks MHL. People with legacy (but not too legacy) gear will appreciate the presence of component-video.