The best way to judge a projector is to try it out! So upon receiving the projector, I happily rearranged my bedroom to fit the thing. I removed the HDTV from its position on a chest of drawers at the foot of my bed, and took down the flags that were on the wall immediately opposite. I had to move my bed forward a bit to accommodate the projector on boxes stacked behind, as I didn’t have a shelf or any means to mount it from the ceiling. This meant that I had to properly lie down on one side of the bed to not block the beam, but the other side was quite comfortable.
I was lucky enough that the particular space cleared turned out to be just larger than the maximum size of the projection. Given that the projector was four metres from the wall, I ended up with a diagonal measurement of 115 inches. The arrangement looked something like this, although substitute in a cramped bedroom instead of a roomy conference room:
Once installed, I set about putting the projector through its paces. I tried for a range of media from a range of sources – videos streamed from my desktop to a PS3, video games on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, as well as ‘normal’ use of an Android tablet and a Mac laptop. Games played include Borderlands 2 (PC), Super Hexagon (PC), Halo 4 (Xbox 360) and Soul Calibur IV (PS3). Videos played included Skyfall, Mulan, The Walking Dead and Girls’ Generation music videos.
I’d like to evaluate the projector along three lines: video quality, audio quality and ease of use.
So – let’s talk video quality, as this is one of the most important aspects of a digital projector. Thankfully, the BenQ W1060 performed fairly well, with few real faults. Image quality at 1080p was excellent, with nice and clear images from all games consoles and computers connected. The projector excelled at brighter scenes particularly – video games like Borderlands 2 and Super Hexagon looked great, movies like Skyfall and Mulan were suitably impressive and the cheery scenes of the Girls’ Generation – Oh! music video looked better than ever before.
Darker scenes proved more problematic, even given that it is understandably more difficult to project black than it is to show black on a TV. Whether it was the survival segments of Halo 4 or night scenes in The Walking Dead, it was difficult to make out details compared to other projectors, even with all lights in the room extinguished.
Even with this weakness, the experience of the much larger screen provided by the projector was a clear advantage over HDTVs at similar price points.
In terms of audio quality, things were unfortunately far worse. I’m not sure whether I received a review unit that had been tested too far, but I found that any sound above a moderate volume became quite distorted, crackling and booming unexpectedly. Given that basically all other speakers we tried (even at a lower wattage) could perform at a higher volume, I’m fairly certain that this is a flaw limited to my test unit.
Even excepting this though, audio performance was rather subpar as you’d expect from a projector. While it’s nice to have the option of audio where no speakers are available, if you’re going to use this in a permanent installation it makes sense to spring for a good set of stereo or surround sound speakers. I hooked up the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 to my old Logitech Z-5500 5.1 system, and it made a massive improvement. Similarly, even a battery-powered 3.5 mm mono speaker could provide significantly louder and clearer audio.
So the A/V experience is on the whole quite good, but that’s not the whole story. Usability is another key factor, and while there were no game-breakers here there are some points you should know about.
One issue is the unfortunate byproduct of a projector versus an HDTV: noise and heat. The M1060W is not incredibly loud, but the constant fan noise will demand that you turn up your volume a little bit extra to compensate. In quiet or properly silent scenes in The Walkind Dead, for instance, the whine of the projector did spoil a bit of the atmosphere. Heat was perhaps a greater problem that couldn’t be so easily sidestepped, as I had to step away for a bit or change places with the second person on the bed after perhaps 20 or 30 minutes of use. While these would be non-issues with ceiling mounting or a larger room, as I was sitting about a foot in front of the projector they did factor into my usage of it.
The throw ratio was another point of interest. Ultimately, I was happy with the throw ratio, although it wasn’t the projector’s biggest strength. With four metres of distance between projector and wall, I got a diagonal measurement of about 115″, which was a big upgrade from the 40″ HDTV that I normally use and big enough for anyone in the room to watch comfortably.
The inputs provided were one of the projector’s strongest points. I was able to have a laptop plugged in via VGA, a PS3 via HDMI, a tablet via HDMI and an Xbox 360 via Component. While more HDMI ports are always welcome, I feel two will be enough for most users. The only inputs I thought could have been included were DisplayPort and optical audio, but these aren’t typically found in HDTVs either and their absence proved a non-issue.
I’d like to finish up this section by speaking about the software for a bit – in general, I found it quite excellent. The automatic source selection worked quickly and correctly and the automatic keystone setting also worked perfectly. Other settings were easily accessible via the on-screen controls, as well as via shortcut buttons on the remote and projector itself.