Light output. It's no secret that the W1080ST is mostly the same as the W1070. They share most of the same parts and their spec sheets list most of the same capabilities. So it should come as no surprise to hear that the W1080ST's light output measured about the same as we saw on the W1070, give or take a handful of lumens.
The specified maximum output for the W1080ST is 2,000 lumens, and our test sample measured 1621 lumens in Dynamic mode using the default settings. It is possible to boost light output to nearly 2,000 lumens by cranking up the brightness and contrast controls, but this is not a usable mode. Dynamic mode at the default settings is a good choice for high ambient light applications, such as a living room with the curtains open during the day. You lose out on color accuracy and dynamic range, but at 60" to 70" diagonal you can approximate the look and feel of a television even when ambient light is a concern.
Standard mode (1232 lumens) is more balanced for ambient light and living room use. Contrast in Standard mode is about as high as it is in Cinema mode, and the principal difference between the modes is Standard's slightly blue cast. The blue can help to counteract the predominantly yellowish tint of typical room lighting without compromising dynamic range or color saturation. For its intended application, Standard mode is a good balance of light output and image integrity.
Cinema mode is not terribly different from Standard mode, and at 1230 lumens it measured about the same light output, as well. What Cinema does have is better default white balance, with less of the blue tint seen in Standard mode. For a lot of folks, Standard and Cinema modes are going to be the "go-to" presets for everyday use.
If you're not trying to fight off ambient light or just want to watch at night, Eco mode will drop light output in any mode by 29%. This reduces the Standard and Cinema modes to about 870 lumens, which while still bright is more reasonable for a smaller screen size.
SmartEco mode can reduce light output even more drastically than Eco mode, but there's a catch. In order to really bring down light output, you can't just select a setting from a menu or slider. Instead, you need to find content that has the desired brightness level, then activate SmartEco mode while that content is on screen. The projector will determine, based on the content on screen, what brightness level is appropriate. It will then lock the projector's output at that level until the lamp mode is changed.
If you really want to take down light output, the easy way to do it is to put up a pure black image and then activate SmartEco. That nets you a reduction of about 70% from the projector's maximum. You can fine-tune the setting by using test patterns of differing brightness, but it would be much easier if the projector just included some kind of manual control.
Contrast and black level. In typical use, the W1080ST's dynamic range is more than sufficient. In a pitch black room, we did notice some slight crushing of very deep shadow detail in some test material, but that performance is still very good for a projector priced below $1500 and intended for living room use. In a living room, the very bottom end of shadow detail will be washed out by ambient light anyway, and the W1080ST's slight deficiency in this regard will never be visible to most people. Like the W1070, the W1080ST has gamma adjustment, but it uses a slider with numbered presets instead of a comprehensive adjustment system. Stock gamma isn't terribly far off from the 2.2 recommendation, but going up to 2.4 results in a punchier, more dramatic image that's great in ambient light.
Color. One of the W1080ST's strong points, color is both accurate and easy to adjust. The projector has a full suite of color adjustments, both for grayscale tracking and color management. There's also an ISF calibration system locked away behind a password wall. More importantly, though, the stock color calibrations are perfectly usable and more accurate than any inexpensive projector has any right to be. This is advantageous for first-time buyers and people looking for a no-hassle solution, since you don't have to spend the time and money to have the projector calibrated unless you really want to.
Also important is the W1080ST's relative balance between color and white. The W1080ST, thanks to its RGBRGB color wheel, has exceptionally high color light output (CLO) for a single-chip DLP projector. As a result, color is well-saturated and appears balanced relative to highlights. This, more than anything, contributes to the feeling that the W1080ST's picture is natural, balanced, and film-like.
Sharpness and clarity. Many projectors now include some kind of smart sharpening or detail enhancement feature, but the W1080ST eschews that in favor of high natural sharpness. While the projector's sharpness control defaults to a level that is slightly too high, you can knock it down a couple of pegs without adversely affecting the appearance of detail in the image.
Input lag. Like the W1070, the W1080ST measured a zippy 24ms (1.5 frames) of input lag using a 1080p signal over HDMI. That's fast enough for most gamers and not far from our best-ever measured time, which stands at 17ms (1 frame).