How Good is the BenQ MH530FHD Projector? 1080p Full HD and Affordable.
If you’re like most US consumers, the name BenQ might be new to you – but rest assured that this company has been around for many years with the reputation of offering great value for money in consumer electronics space. They’re doing it again with the MH530FHD, BenQ’s home entertainment projector that’s characterized by the last three letters -FHD- Full High-Definition, which means yes, 1080p!
Projection technology has advanced far, and makes it possible to project this many pixels onto a wall displaying high resolution pictures.
STYLING / DESIGN
It’s pretty to look at and is designed with some nice curves – the edges are smoothed out to avoid being too “boxy”. It’s also got a printed texture on the top side, giving it a subtle elegance. To give a rough idea of its size, I’d say it’s two of my heads put together, but the unit is also fairly lightweight being that it’s made of plastics. The whole left and right sides are grills that allow for a good flow of air, thus elongating its life. There is a manual focus knob on the top as well as a mini-zoom, and basic controls for power, selecting a source, audio levels and keystoning. A very big plus with this is that you don’t have to worry if you ever misplace the remote – you can control almost everything with the controls right on the projector.
On the bottom, there are three little feet for adjusting the height and a ton of inputs in the back. But after staring at the panel for a good while, it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be using most of them since they consisted of legacy ports, like D-sub computer connectors (mostly used with older tube monitors) and RCA and S-video type connectors, that are used for DVD players and Super VHS. I suppose it isn’t bad to have them in case your folks come over one day to watch their favorite DVD’s, but it’s a good thing there are two HDMI ports so you don’t have to keep pulling out cables. For many, it’ll mean plugging in their gaming console in one and a computer in the other.
USABILITY / FUNCTION
Usage is fairly straight forward. You connect your source (computer or game console for example), press power, adjust “keystone” to fix the angle, set focus, and have at it with your movie or game. You can simply imagine the projector taking the place of your tv or monitor with a couple of minor differences, but to make all this work, you do need two things – a large white wall and some distance between that wall and the projector.
Keeping things simple, once you put the unit on a table or platform, you can raise or lower the front part by twisting the foot. Then you can use the circular pad on top of the projector (up and down) to set the keystone for a perfectly square picture. Focus couldn’t be easier – adjustments are made by turning the knob above the lens, with a slight zoom made possible by turning the adjacent knob below the focus. There’s also an “Eco blank” button that turns off the light source without turning off the unit for short periods when you’re not using it (the occasional bathroom break comes to mind or a dash to the cupboard for peanuts and popcorn.)
Of course if you’re really lazy, you can always use the infrared remote that allows you do all the functions plus a little more, without having to wade through various menu options.
The problem with having a projector like this is having a wall large enough to take advantage of it. I had just enough space on my own wall to project around 100″, which is 1.5 times my height (and that’s after moving my wall hangers, bookshelves and tables!) With an upper limit of 300″, there’s no need to worry if the picture will ever be big enough – for most of us living in a city with limited space, we’ll never reach that number. But you can relax knowing that it’s possible.
I’ve never seen a projector that is so bright that I can still see the picture with all the lights on in my apartment. Of course this only works if the picture is throwing some kind of color other than black – anything that’s too dark (like a night scene in a film) will be difficult to see, and for that you’d need to turn down the ambient light. Still, it’s no less than amazing. Take a look at the picture below to get an idea between a dark room (lights off) and a bright one (all lights on). The camera couldn’t capture how bright the room was, but believe me, it was much, much brighter in real life.
The technical brightness rating of 3300 ANSI lumens and a contrast ratio of 15000:1 explains a lot – but for most folks, those numbers may not mean a lot – though believe me when I tell you that if you wanted to watch a movie on this thing while doing your household chores, you can. Just don’t get too fixated on the film or you’ll burn a hole in the shirt you’re ironing.
Being full HD, it’s got a pixel density of 1920 across x 1080 vertical – the same as most FHD 40″ television sets and monitors. The interesting thing is that even though you make this 100″ big, you’ll be so far back that you won’t be able to see any dots or pixels unless you walk right up to the wall to pixel-peep. But if you’re that close, you won’t be seeing the whole screen, so what’s the point in doing that?
Finally, you have the option of watching in 3D if you have content in that format – but the projector doesn’t come with 3D glasses, so you’ll need to supply your own.)
The projector comes with a 3.5mm audio jack output, which is a great hint at what you should be doing when it comes to sound. And the correct answer is to connect it to a powered speaker.
It’s one of the very few cons of this unit, as the built-in speaker is a paltry 2W. Add to this the fact that the audio emanates from the same area where the fan blows out hot air – so unless you enjoy feeling hot projector air blowing in your ear, you’re going to struggle to hear anything despite the low fan noise (which is rated at 32 decibels on the Normal setting.)
It’s clear that audio hasn’t been a major focus in the design, but they have paid attention to the main event: excellent picture quality, which is the point of having a projector in the first place.
The menu system provides quite a bit of customizable settings from wall color to aspect ratio and many picture settings that you expect from high end products. The most useful among these is the picture mode for which you can select sRGB for a wider gamut of accurate colors, or a cinema mode for movies. For tighter control on top of that, separate settings are available for adjusting Red Green and Blue hues. There’s also a test pattern showing grid lines so you can adjust the keystone settings for a square image instead of a skewed trapezoid.
If you decide the best place for this projector is on the ceiling, there’s an option to invert the picture and set it “upside-down”. And with the built-in sensors to automatically detect the source, there’s no need to manually set the video source – it’ll find it by itself.
Gaming or movies, the colors were bright and the pictures sharp. It’s so sharp in fact, you will see artifacts in movies if it’s been super compressed, so having a good source (say a blu ray disc or lightly compressed mkv file) will reward you with a wondrous picture. There was no sense of muddiness or mixing of colors – lines were crisp and details just popped, especially in newer movies shot and recorded in digital. The pores on the old man’s face were so detailed, you could use the projected picture as a template if you wanted to draw him on the wall. The only time I saw unclear glowing of color was in the original “Tron”, but that was due to the source material. Computer graphics were in its infancy at the time and the pure red of the bad guys and the blues of the good overlapped and blurred quite a bit. And by that, I mean to say the projector showed me the limitations of the movie made in that time period.
Sadly, watching any form of entertainment on the BenQ revealed just how bad the quality of the panel was in my laptop as I much preferred watching the content on the wall. And the wall isn’t particularly straight or even.
Gaming was no different, and initially, I’d wondered about how good (or bad) gameplay would be affected – would the projector have a hard time trying to refresh the picture and would there be any lag? Granted, I wasn’t playing a super-fast game like an F1 race, but my worries were unfounded – at least not with the first person shooters like “The Last of Us”. Action games requiring quick reflexes played out just fine with no noticeable blurring or other issues and RPG’s were no problem at all. If words aren’t enough, let me show you – I took the above pic of my wall (the inset is the whole 100″ projection from corner to corner) with a camera while playing “The Last of Us” on a Playstation 3 – it looks really good!
MISCELLANEOUS / WEIRD STUFF
For a projector marketed for home theater, it’s puzzling to me why BenQ ships a D-sub PC cable instead of the more useful HDMI. I’m just wondering now, but being a computer science guy myself, if we consider the number of legacy ports and the RS-232 serial port (which is an archaic form of of today’s USB), it feels as if this product was made for a conference room where executives show powerpoint slides. The settings menu support that theory as well, as there is a presentation mode which is perfect for the boardroom. I guess it works both ways – if you’re lucky enough to have a conference room with a big wall, you can also use it as a makeshift movie theatre after work hours with beer and chips!
I’ve noticed another point of interest, but this one’s purely for observation’s sake. As I peered into the side grill to see what’s inside, I saw what looked like a computer fan – branded Foxconn! The very company that manufactures iPhones and other company’s smartphones by contract. It was funny to me that they made computer parts too, and had me wondering what else they manufactured. In a way, it reminded me of Hyundai, a brand most people recognize as a car maker – but who in their home country, also build ships and sells commodities like rice.
And then there’s the baud rate. I mean, how many people outside of Generation-X remember what modems are? As a technology that was the pre-cursor to the internet, it pioneered the sending of data over landline phones (though instead of websites and admins, they had BBS’s and SysOps.)
Really, the presence of this setting puzzles me to no end – why would there even be the super sluggish 2400 baud setting? Does anyone still have a working modem anymore? Why? Why?!? This troubles me for no reason and will bug me for a very long time…
The BenQ MH530FHD is a very good starter projector for anyone looking to build a home theater. Watching movies on it will give you a similar feeling of being at the cinema except you’ll be saving yourself a trip, cost of gas and money on overpriced snacks, and you can do this in your pajamas if you feel like it.
For $549, you get a three year warranty, a 10,000 hour lamp life (you’ll probably upgrade way before the lamp ever gets near this number) and enjoy BenQ’s continued reputation of delivering solid products at an affordable price. Now all we need to make this a bulletproof deal is include a lens cap.
More Info: http://www.benq.us/product/projector/MH530FHD
(Test unit provided by BenQ for this review.)
Check prices: http://amzn.to/2xzQbCN —Amazon affiliate link