Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
The BenQ HT2150ST Gaming Projector is as perfect a projector for serious gaming as we have yet seen. It combines a rapid 16 ms input lag with low fan noise, ample light output, fully saturated and balanced color, a short throw lens, and some very decent onboard audio in the event you don't have an external audio system handy. It is full native 1080p resolution and can be had for just $999. If you want the optional wireless module it is an extra $299.
In addition to very short lag time, another key to this projector's success is the RGBRGB color wheel which ends up delivering outstanding color brightness measuring up to 100% of white in Game mode, which is in all respects well calibrated for gaming use.
The ST in the name indicates short throw, and for gaming applications this is ideal for a lot of users. The HT2150ST puts up a 100" diagonal image from about 5.5 feet, give or take a half a foot, so it is well suited to coffee table or portable stand use with the gamers located behind it.
Upon start up the projector defaults to Game mode. The picture in this mode is clean, clear and sharp. It is slightly cool in color temperature but not dramatically so. Contrast and black levels are reasonably good -- quite sufficient for ambient light use and typical for gaming applications. In lower ambient light or for viewing in a dark room, if you want to give the Game picture a bit more snap you can bump the default 2.0 gamma setting up to 2.2 and switch the color temp from Cool to Normal. With these simple adjustments you are good to go with an exceptionally well calibrated picture for either gaming or movies that needs no further tweaking.
Cinema mode automatically defaults to 2.2 gamma and Normal color balance, rendering an impressively natural picture right out of the box. Choosing Cinema automatically sets the lamp to Eco mode, so it reduces brightness by 32%. If you want that dimmer picture you're all set, but switching the lamp to Normal brightens it up without any boost in fan noise.
The input lag in Cinema mode is 49.7 ms compared to 16.4 ms in Game mode. You can see the difference in lip synch when watching a movie. By selecting Game mode and switching gamma to 2.2 and color from Cool to Normal, you retain the short lag time of Game mode while getting the more accurate color and better saturation of Cinema mode.
Two of the operating modes have less appeal. Game Bright gives you slightly more brightness than Game but it drops gamma to 1.6, compromising black levels and color saturation. Some people might find a use for this, but we can't. Bright mode maximizes the total potential light output of the projector, but at the expense of a severe color shift toward green. The picture is harsh and unattractive. We'd avoid both of these modes.
The HT2150ST gets an "A" for image sharpness from top to bottom and side to side. One of the benefits of single-chip DLP design is that it eliminates any possibility of misalignment that can sometimes happen on any three-chip design. When three independent imaging devices are not properly converged it can compromise color and sharpness.
The Sharpness control runs on a scale from 0 to 15. We found the ideal setting for the smoothest image to be about 5. The Cinema mode defaults to 7 and the rest of the modes default to 15. Setting this control is a matter of personal taste, and the ideal setting will vary based on whether you are viewing game or movie material.
The only noteworthy flaw in the picture is that brightness uniformity is below average. On our sample the picture shows reduced luminance toward the left third of the screen. However, while this is obvious on a 100 IRE white test image, the viewer is not likely to be aware of it when gaming or watching movies. The high ANSI contrast and solid color saturation on this projector tend to mask this particular flaw.
Brightness. With the BenQ HT2150ST's 1.2x lens set to its widest throw angle position, our test unit measured as follows:
All of these operating modes default to Normal lamp power except Cinema, which defaults to eco mode. So when you are flipping through them sequentially the Cinema mode will appear much dimmer. You can switch it manually to Normal power if you wish.
Color Brightness. We found outstanding color brightness readings on the HT2150ST. Note that the numbers above are ANSI lumen readings which measure white light output only. Quite often on less expensive DLP projectors the color brightness measured as the sum of the independent red, green, and blue components measures noticeably lower than white, which is not good if you want rich natural color and a balanced video image. However, on the HT2150ST Game mode read 100% color brightness, Cinema was 87%, and the rest of the modes measured 78% or higher. Overall, no matter which mode you choose there is plenty of color information coming through to make the colors well saturated. There is no problem with white elements and colored elements appearing out of balance in their relative luminance.
Low Lamp Mode. Eco mode reduces lumen output by 32% in all modes. It has no effect on fan noise, which is already very low so it doesn't matter.
Video Optimized Lumens. Cinema mode offers more accurate color for movies compared to Game. It is the choice for best quality for video at 1200+ lumens or 825 in eco mode.
Zoom Lens Effect on Brightness. The built-in 1.2x zoom lens doesn't have much range, and it curtailed light output by 11% at the telephoto end as compared to the wide angle end. To get all the light possible out of the unit, place it as close to the screen as possible.
Brightness Uniformity. The measured brightness uniformity was 67% with the image showing lower luminance to the left side.
Input Lag. In Game modes our test unit measured 16.4 ms input lag on the HDMI inputs, and in Cinema mode it was 49.7 ms.
On-board Audio. The dual 10-watt stereo speakers deliver exceptionally good audio as compared to most projectors in this size and price class. There is plenty of volume for anyone sitting behind it, and there is no distortion when volume is pushed to the maximum. As you'd expect the audio lacks much of a bass component, so if you want fuller, more robust sound, a sound bar or external audio system is the way to go. But in a pinch, the audio on board this projector is quite acceptable and far better than competing units in its class.
Fan Noise. The very first thing you notice when you power up the HT2150ST is the amount of noise it does NOT make compared to many inexpensive home theater projectors in the same price and size class. It is very low in pitch and volume, and a great feature of this projector. In High Altitude mode, required above about 5000 feet, the fan noise increases but it is still remarkably quiet compared to most other HA modes on other projectors.
The HT2150ST is a short throw, but not ultra-short throw projector. It will fill a 100" diagonal screen from a distance of about 5.5 feet, plus or minus six inches. For the throw distance required for your desired screen size, see the Projection Calculator.
The built-in vertical offset puts the picture on the wall such that the centerline of the lens intersects the bottom edge of the image. This is ideal for coffee table set up, placing the unit in front of the users between the seats and the screen. For permanent installation you can ceiling mount it, although its location on the ceiling may require long cable runs. Due to its short throw, in most rooms it is not going to be practical to mount it on a rear shelf, projecting over the heads of the viewers. In a small dorm room it could work, but you would need to tilt the projector downward and use keystone correction to square up the geometry -- something we always like to avoid on 1080p resolution projectors.
All projectors have flaws and limitations relative to their intended use. Usually it is easy to summarize them in bullet point format. In the case of the HT2150ST is it hard to come up with any significant flaws although the 2200 lumen rating and brightness uniformity warrant comment.
Though BenQ rates the HT2150ST at 2200 lumens, we were only able to get 1660 from its brightest operating mode, a 25% shortfall from spec. Moreover in Bright mode it produces a unattractive green-biased picture. In the preset modes that produce its best image quality it is putting out 1100 to 1300 lumens. However, for its intended use, 1100 to 1300 lumens will be more than ample for most users, easily filling a 100" screen in moderate ambient light, and much larger in the dark.
One reason we don't care much about the lumen rating is that the projector is delivering 100% or close to 100% color brightness, so the picture shows none of the imbalance that can appear when color brightness falls far short of white. The bottom line is that the HT2150ST delivers ample brightness for the intended use. Gaming users are never going to be aware of any deficiencies in light output.
As noted, brightness uniformity is below average. However, this is also something the viewer is not likely to be aware of when gaming or watching movies. This projector's high ANSI contrast and solid color saturation tend to mask this flaw except in scenes with uniform subject matter like an empty sky across the entire screen. Even then the fact that the sky is a bit darker on the left than on the right is something you'd only notice if you were a projector critic. In other words, the flaw is subtle and easy to live with, especially for a gaming projector.
The BenQ HT2150ST hits on all cylinders where it counts the most. For serious gamers the BIG deal is input lag, and at 16 ms it is the fastest digital projector we've ever measured.
But in addition to the fast response time the HT2150ST produces very little fan noise -- a big advantage for those who are sitting right behind it. Its picture sparkles with solid ANSI contrast and color saturation. Color balance is close enough to ideal that it needs little or no tweaking out of the box, so it is fully functional for home theater as well as gaming. The on-board audio, while lacking bass, is as good as it gets for a projector of this size, and far better than most. Its short throw and relatively light weight make temporary coffee table set up easy for those that want to use it occasionally without a permanent installation. Really, what's not to love?
We rarely give an Editor's Choice Award, reserving it only for consumer and home theater products we get extremely excited about. The BenQ HT2150ST is one of them. If you are into serious gaming in very large screen format, don't miss it.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ HT2150ST projector page.