Highly Recommended Award
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Most conference room projectors are bright, first and foremost. Often, this comes at the expense of color and contrast performance as accuracy is traded for even more lumens. And while this super-bright concept works well in certain applications, it isn't for everyone.
Enter the BenQ HC1200. The HC1200 is a novel concept: it's a reference-grade 1080p conference room projector. Instead of maximizing light output at the expense of all else, BenQ engineered the HC1200 for color accuracy and high contrast. Built around the sRGB color gamut, the HC1200 is intended for business applications where a big picture with accurate color is needed; in other words, for those times when a reference monitor is too small for the group you're meeting with. And the HC1200 is built with business in mind, so it has two VGA inputs, monitor pass-through, wired networking, and a laser pointer in the remote - features that are useful in a conference room, but are seldom found on home theater projectors. So whether you work in graphic design, advertising, video production, or photography, you can count on the HC1200 to produce an accurate sRGB image straight out of the box.
When I started reviewing the HC1200, I briefly thought we'd been sent the wrong projector. After all, the BenQ HC1200 is marketed as a conference room projector, but the image had accurate color, high contrast, and a balanced picture reminiscent of home theater projectors. Conference room projectors aren't exactly known for their subtlety.
And that's the draw of the HC1200, in a nutshell. The HC1200 is BenQ's statement that super-high white light output isn't the only important characteristic in conference room projectors. It offers the kind of color accuracy and contrast normally only found on home theater projectors, but it packages them with the features and connectivity that businesses need. Add a 1.5:1 lens to give it some flexibility and a three-year warranty to give the users some peace of mind and you end up with a unique product that's perfect for those times when light output isn't the single most important consideration.
Not that it isn't bright. The projector's most accurate image modes both produce over 2,000 lumens at factory settings, so you don't sacrifice a lot in terms of brightness to get a great picture. The picture in sRGB and Cinema mode is balanced, with bright highlights, strong ANSI contrast, and good color saturation, brightness, and accuracy. These image modes make photographs and video look natural and life-like.
Accurate sRGB color. The HC1200 is intended to perform like a reference-grade monitor, so accurate color is paramount. The HC1200 gives you a balanced sRGB image with high contrast and a natural, life-like appearance. That puts the HC1200 a cut above many other conference room projectors.
Calibration is still important, however, because no display is perfect. Businesses that need reference-quality color will typically calibrate all of their displays so every employee is working with the same image. So what the HC1200 gives you isn't picture-perfect accuracy out of the box, but it does provide a very good starting point. And because of the focus on color and contrast, the drop in light output due to calibration is minimal. You end up with a much brighter picture than you'd see on many other DLP business projectors.
Placement flexibility. With a 1.5:1 zoom lens, the HC1200 has the flexibility needed for use in rooms of almost any shape or size. You can display an 80" diagonal 16:9 image at throw distances between 8' 1" and 12' 2", thereby giving you a much larger picture than you'd get from a reference monitor. The projector doesn't have lens shift, unfortunately, but most business projectors don't, and the HC1200's zoom range is head and shoulders above most of the competition.
Connectivity. One of the ways in which the HC1200 distinguishes itself from home theater projectors is in its wide variety of available connections. The rear panel of the projector has two HDMI ports, two VGA ports, one VGA monitor passthrough, a 12V trigger, USB, and RJ-45 wired networking. The ethernet port lets the HC1200 tie into your workplace's existing network infrastructure, allowing remote monitoring and control by your IT department.
Light output. With a rated output of 2,800 ANSI lumens, the HC1200 is on the low side of the spec range for conference room projectors, many of which promise well over 3,000 lumens. But unlike many of those projectors, the HC1200 retains most of its promised lumens once optimized for accurate, balanced color.
A typical single-chip DLP conference room projector might be specified at 3,200 ANSI lumens. In its brightest mode, it will deliver 3,200 ANSI lumens, which are measured using a 100% white test pattern. But once switched into a color-optimized mode, light output typically drops off a cliff; you'd be lucky on most of these projectors to see even 1,000 lumens of accurate, color-balanced output. In comparison, the HC1200's sRGB mode produces 2,140 lumens out of the 2,800 lumen spec. So while it might look dimmer on paper, in reality the HC1200 is punching above its weight.
Warranty. The HC1200 includes a three-year warranty that guarantees trouble-free projection well into the future. Three years is as good as it gets for projector warranties, so you can rest easy. The warranty also includes one year or 2,000 hours of coverage on the lamp. That's much more than usual, and it provides an additional level of protection against defective lamps, which do happen from time to time. In a large organization running many projectors, the odds of running into a defect increase, so a comprehensive warranty is a good way to protect your organization's investment.
Light output. Our test sample measured 2,503 lumens in Dynamic mode, which is the brightest factory preset on the HC1200. Dynamic mode is optimized for brightness, so it has a greenish cast but is still quite usable when maximum brightness is required. Next in line is Presentation mode, which has a slightly bluish image at 2,180 lumens that works well for PowerPoint presentations and other office documents -- the cooler tint can be beneficial when displaying text and spreadsheets.
The next mode is sRGB, at 2,140 lumens. As one of the two best out-of-the-box image modes, sRGB gives you decently accurate color without sacrificing much light output to get it. Cinema mode, at 2,110 lumens, has a warmer grayscale and slightly different gamma curve than sRGB mode, but is otherwise very similar.
Mounting the projector such that it uses the telephoto end of its zoom lens only reduces output by 16%. But if you need to reduce light output on the HC1200, there are a couple of other things you can do: switch lamp modes, or disable BrilliantColor.
Eco lamp mode reduces brightness by 23% while also increasing expected lamp life from 2,500 to 3,500 hours. Eco lamp is a dedicated low power setting, but the HC1200 also has SmartEco, a dynamic brightness function that emulates the behavior of an automatic iris. If you need to reduce light output, you should use Eco, as SmartEco will still come to full brightness when presented with bright content.
BrilliantColor boosts white light output, but does not change color light output. All of the HC1200's image modes start with BrilliantColor enabled, giving them higher white light output for people who need it. Disabling BrilliantColor cuts white light output by 25%, which in sRGB mode results in 1,615 lumens, but it does not change color light output one bit. Switch BrilliantColor off while looking at the SMPTE color bars and the image looks almost exactly the same.
This is an obvious shortcoming of the ANSI lumen specification: it only reflects white light output. If you primarily work with photographs or video, where 100% white isn't found as often as it is with graphics and documents, you can turn BrilliantColor off without losing anything at all. If you do work with documents and graphics and prefer a brighter white, leave BC enabled. BrilliantColor has its place, and it can be useful in certain situations, so it's up to you to decide if you need it or not.
Contrast. Black level on the HC1200 is typical of other projectors in this class, which is to say it's acceptable without being exceptional. In a conference room, ultra-deep black levels aren't needed or even wanted, necessarily, as ambient light is a fact of life in many workplaces. On the other hand, the HC1200 displays excellent contrast in any given scene, putting it on the same level as many home theater projectors when it comes to the simultaneous display of bright highlights and deep shadows. This gives it a three-dimensionality that's great for photography, video editing, and other highly detailed source material.
Color. Out of the box, gamut in sRGB mode was relatively close to the sRGB standard gamut. There was some error, especially in green, but overall it's a much better showing than most business projectors, especially with zero calibration. Out of the box performance is reminiscent of BenQ's popular HT1075 home theater projector - it's accurate, especially by entry-level standards, but not perfect.
BenQ HC1200, sRGB color gamut at factory settings
Grayscale, at 7000K, was slightly cool. However, it's smooth and consistent across the range of luminance values, which is arguably more important than perfect 6500K.
BenQ HC1200, sRGB grayscale at factory settings
Switching to Cinema mode, we found that it had even better performance than sRGB mode. Both modes can be calibrated to perfection, but it's a little surprising that a projector putting so much focus on sRGB applications would have better accuracy in Cinema mode.
BenQ HC1200, Cinema color gamut at factory settings
Grayscale was nearly perfect. Turning off BrilliantColor takes it from "nearly perfect" to "absolutely perfect." If you're working in applications where highlight brightness isn't important, you can turn off BrilliantColor without losing anything. The ANSI lumen difference is less important in these contexts due to the increased importance of color.
BenQ HC1200, grayscale in Cinema mode, BrilliantColor off
Detail and clarity. The projector's high contrast image makes it look razor sharp, but it's also just a naturally sharp projector. Focus is perfect from edge to edge, and that's not always the case with inexpensive projectors. And since it is native 1080p, it can render full HD images without any scaling.
Input lag. In all of the HC1200's image modes, input lag measured 33.1 milliseconds. That's equivalent to two frames from a 60 frame per second input signal. We've found that many presentation projectors measure at or near this same figure, possibly because they do very little image processing compared to home theater projectors (which tend to measure higher).
Rainbow effect. In a comparative test, we saw more rainbows on the HC1200 than we did on BenQ's ultra-popular home theater projector, the HT1075. If you are considering the HC1200 for home theater use, and you or someone in your family sees rainbow effects on some DLP projectors, it might be worthwhile to do an audition before committing to the purchase.
Non-intuitive color controls. The HC1200 has full white balance and color gamut adjustments, but at times they didn't behave as expected. For example, when trying to fine-tune the projector's grayscale, we decreased Blue Offset to reduce the amount of blue in low-illumination areas. This made blue jump up, not down. Decreasing Green Offset, on the other hand, also decreased red and increased blue. While it's possible to dial in the calibration of the HC1200, the controls can make it harder than it needs to be.
The BenQ HC1200 is a conference room projector, but due to its 1080p resolution, accurate color, high contrast, and flexible lens, it's been attracting a lot of attention from people who want to use it in home theater or home entertainment applications. To help clarify the issue, we looked at the HC1200 next to BenQ's popular HT1075, a native 1080p home theater projector that sells for less than $1,000.
Looking at the images produced by the two projectors, the HC1200 is slightly brighter. With BrilliantColor enabled, the HC1200 measured 2110 lumens in Cinema versus 1782 lumens on the HT1075. With BrilliantColor disabled, the projectors measured 1605 lumens (HC1200) versus 1443 lumens (HT1075). The difference in light output isn't big enough to be a make-or-break issue for most people, but it's worth noting.
The HC1200 is marketed as a high-contrast projector, but that marketing specifically references other conference room projectors. Head to head against the HT1075, the HC1200 does not have any visible contrast advantage, and the two projectors are quite close. The HT1075 does have a slightly deeper black level, but at normal home theater screen sizes it's not big enough to matter.
In their Cinema modes, both projectors have good color using the factory settings. Neither is perfect; their color gamuts do have significant error, but they are "close enough" that many folks won't feel the need to calibrate them.
In terms of features, the HT1075 is built for home theater; it has a (small) vertical lens shift, longer estimated lamp life (though we have no way of knowing if this holds up over time), a quieter fan, and shows fewer rainbow effects with film and video. Meanwhile, the HC1200 has a longer zoom, more varied connectivity, and a much longer warranty.
The BenQ HC1200 is a unique conference room projector. Its emphasis on color and contrast instead of lumens means that it is a great projector for applications that demand color accuracy. Design studios, art departments, and graphic artists who need a conference room display that retains the accuracy of their reference monitors will find that the HC1200 is a viable choice, combining the accurate color of a home theater projector with the features and functionality required by businesses.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ HC1200 projector page.