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BenQ PE5120 Projector BenQ PE5120
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2000:1 Contrast Ratio
1100 Lumens
Street Price: n/a
$1,299 MSRP

BenQ PE5120 Video Projector

Evan Powell, December 9, 2004


The PE5120 is a simple, easy to use projector that is ready to go right out of the box. It is designed with the first time projector user in mind. The menu is well laid out, and easy to use. The extra large remote control is beautifully designed with convenient layout, adequate space between buttons, and full backlighting.

The 854x480 format is ideal for NTSC format DVDs which are encoded at 720x480. The one-to-one mapping of the lines on the DVD to the lines on the display means no vertical scaling is required, resulting in very sharp images. Standard NTSC television also looks quite good on this unit, again due in part to the native nonscaled display of 4:3 material.

HDTV material, while not quite as razor sharp as you get with higher resolution projectors, is quite admirable and absolutely engaging. However, those who are particularly interested in the highest possible performance for HDTV would want to scrape together some more money and go for a higher resolution projector. But given the small impact the PE5120 has on your wallet, this is a great value even for HDTV.

The PE5120 is somewhat brighter than most of the other home theater projectors we've seen lately. The Cinema option gives you maximum contrast performance, and the economy mode reduces fan noise and increases lamp life. With both selected, lumen output is as its lowest, which we measured at 380 ANSI lumens. Switching to standard lamp mode boost lumen output to about 480 lumens, which is bright enough to light up a very large screen as long as you have no ambient light.

The PE5120 has several other precalibrated settings including gaming, which is the lowest in video contrast but by far the brightest, boosting lumen output to over 600. So the kids can hook up the game boxes and enjoy a big, bright image without having to sit in the dark.

As with all lower resolution projectors, pixels are a bit more apparent than they are with more expensive units. However, if you position yourself at a viewing distance of about twice the screen width the pixelation becomes invisible and you have a clean, well integrated image.

The small form factor might initially suggest the possibility of mounting the unit in a bookcase or shelf on the rear wall. A note of caution here. This unit exhausts heat out the rear of the unit, so it needs plenty of rear clearance for adequate heat dissipation. So bookcase mounting is not advised unless you use an external fan to eliminate heat buildup around the unit.

Shelf mounting behind the seating area may also be a difficult due to the throw distance limitations. For example, if you wish to place seating at 2x the screen width to eliminate visible pixelation, that would be a distance of 14.5 feet from a 100" diagonal screen. The PE5120 cannot hit a 100" screen from that far back. One option would be to place the seats and the projector closer to the screen and accept seeing a bit of pixelation. Or you could choose instead to (a) ceiling mount the projector, or (b) table mount it between the seats. (A coffee table placement in front of the seating is not recommended--too much light is visible in the rear vents, and it would create a visual distraction in a dark viewing space).

The good news is that the built-in projection angle is perfect for table mounting between the seats because it will throw the image at just the right height on the wall--high enough, but not so high that you are forced to look up at it, which puts unusual stress on the neck over time. In addition, the rear exhaust will direct the heat away from viewers, and the low fan noise lets you sit quite close to it without it being a distraction. This is the easy way to get started in home theater.

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