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Performance
3.5
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
Education
BenQ MP780 ST Projector BenQ MP780 ST
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3000:1 Contrast Ratio
2500 Lumens
PC 3D Ready
Street Price: n/a

BenQ MP780ST Widescreen Interactive Short Throw Projector

Marc Davidson, January 11, 2011

Introduction

The BenQ MP780ST falls into what's rapidly becoming a distinct subcategory of interactive, DLP-based data projectors built around Texas Instruments' version of interactive technology. These projectors all share some key features, including a short throw, an interactive wand that doesn't have to touch the screen, and the ability to move the projector and then set it up quickly for interactive use without needing to calibrate it.

There are, of course, differences in the details. The MP780ST earns its claim to individuality with its balance of resolution, brightness and price - at WXGA (1280 x 800) resolution, a 2500 lumen rating that measures even a bit brighter than spec in its non-interactive mode and its $1350 street price. The price is low for the resolution class, with an education discount also available.

Advantages

Interactivity with almost everything you need. If you don't need the interactive feature, you can save money by buying an equivalent projector without it. However, compared to buying a standard WXGA projector plus an interactive whiteboard, the MP780ST is a bargain.

In addition, the MP780ST comes with almost everything you need, including an interactive wand and its own interactive software, QDraw, in case you don't already have an annotation program. The wand also lets you control your mouse pointer, and it includes left and right mouse buttons. For those times when you're not using the interactive mode, the projector's remote offers a laser pointer, which is a nice touch.

No calibration. One of the benefits of TI's interactive technology is that it doesn't need calibration. When interactive mode is turned on, the projector overlays a grid onto the image. The grid is invisible to the human eye, but the wand can use it like map coordinates to tell the projector what part of the image it's pointing to.

Being able to skip the calibration step makes setup a lot faster. Just set the projector in place, and it's ready to work. This makes interactivity far more practical for a projector that you may need to move from room to room or take on the road to give interactive presentations.

No need to touch the screen. Not having to touch the screen with the wand offers some advantages too. Unlike a stylus that has to touch the screen, the wand let's you work with any surface, including rough surfaces like cinderblock that could harm a stylus, sensitive surfaces like paint that could be marred by a stylus, and flexible surfaces like a screen hanging from a support without a solid backing behind it.

Interacting from a distance also means you can stand to one side of the screen or stand next to or even behind the projector instead of in front of it to avoid any possibility of casting shadows. You can even move around the room, which can be particularly useful in a classroom situation, where you might want to move to a student's desk in the middle of a session.

The wand worked at distances of about 30 feet from the screen in our tests. As you might expect, however, it's hard to control what you're pointing at. My experience was that trying to click on a menu command from even 10 feet was usually enough to move the pointer off whatever I was trying to click on.

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