Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The BenQ MH530, at $599, is listed as a home entertainment projector, but it's actually an inexpensive crossover model for home, office, and classroom. In addition to offering full 3D support and a fast lag time for gaming--two features of interest for home use--it also offers solid classroom functionality, including two VGA ports, a monitor-out port, and built-in teaching templates that project guides to help write text in straight lines on a blackboard or whiteboard.
Beyond that, its native 1920x1080 resolution is ideal for presentations with fine detail as well as for HD video. And with a 3200-lumen rating, the MH530 is bright enough to stand up to ambient light with a suitably large image for a small-to-mid size family room, conference room, or classroom.
Color Preset Modes. The MH530 has four customizable color preset modes--Dynamic, Presentation, sRGB, and Cinema--and two User modes. As with most projectors, the brightest mode--Dynamic--sacrifices color quality for brightness. It's also the only preset whose color balance is a little off, with brown or yellow tints at various shades of gray.
For video and photos, Dynamic mode also tends to posterize brightly-lit faces, losing the subtle shading that gives them a photo-realistic look. Presentation, sRGB, and Cinema all offer good color quality or better, with Cinema the best of the three. For our Video Optimized settings, we started with Cinema mode, turned off Brilliant Color and tweaked the levels for individual colors, winding up with near-excellent color quality.
For data images like business presentations, all four modes offer nicely saturated color. In Dynamic mode, however, some colors look notably dark, off hue, or both. Presentation offers the highest brightness with suitably eye-catching color. For our Presentation Optimized settings, we improved color a bit by adjusting the mode's Color Temperature.
Data Presentations. The MH530 doesn't hold fine detail as well as the best 1080p models, but it comes close. White text on black, for example, was easily readable at 7 points in my tests, and black text on white was easily readable at 4.5 points. If you happen to be using a VGA connection, the projector does a good job of resisting most pixel jitter and moire patterns with images that tend to cause them. In my tests, it introduced a little of each in images with patterned fills using closely spaced lines or dots. If you see either problem, however, you can eliminate it by using an HDMI connection instead.
2D Video. The test unit did an excellent job of avoiding posterization and holding shadow detail. I saw some moderately obvious noise in test clips that tend to show noise, but not enough to consider it a problem. The contrast ratio is low enough so colors look a little flat in theater-dark lighting, but they look fine with lights on, where the benefit of a higher contrast ratio gets compromised by the ambient light.
Full 3D Video. The MH530 offers essentially the same quality for 3D as 2D for those aspects of quality that the two share. It also does well on 3D-specific issues. I didn't see any crosstalk and saw only the typical minor levels of 3D-related motion artifacts and loss of brightness. There's only one 3D color preset, but you can tweak it by adjusting red, green, and blue individually for hue, saturation, and brightness.
Rainbow artifacts shouldn't be an issue for most people. With data images, I saw them only with one test image that's designed to bring them out. With video, I saw them rarely enough with well-lit test clips and in an evening of TV-watching that few people, if any, would find them bothersome. The only times they showed often enough that someone might find them annoying was in a black-and-white test clip and a dark scene in a color clip. If you don't watch much black and white material, they aren't likely to be a problem.
Small and light. At 4.3 pounds, the MH530 is one of the lightest lamp-based projectors on the market. It's also small, at only 3.7" by 11.1" by 8.7" (HWD). That makes it easy to carry and easy to set it up quickly as needed if you don't have a place to install it permanently. The optional carrying case is $49.99.
Full HD 3D. The MH530 supports full HD 3D using DLP-Link glasses.
Good Lag time. The 33.0 ms lag time in everything but Cinema mode makes the MH530 as fast as or faster than all but a few models.
Security. In addition to a menu option for password protection, there's a Kensington lock slot on the back and a security bar along the left side. There's also a non-password protected panel key lock.
Warranty. The price includes a one-year warranty for parts and labor and a better-than-typical one-year or 2000-hour warranty for the lamp.
Brightness. Using Normal and Economic lamp settings and the widest angle setting for the zoom lens (the shortest throw for the image size), we measured the ANSI Lumens for each of the predefined modes as follows:
BenQ MH530 ANSI Lumens
There are also two other settings for the lamp: SmartEco and LampSave. According to BenQ, both work much like an auto iris, making dark scenes darker. However they control brightness by changing lamp power, which conserves energy and lengthens lamp life.
Presentation Optimized Lumens. Presentation mode offers notably better color than Dynamic mode with only a modest drop in brightness, to about 2300 lumens. You can also adjust it to give still better color quality, with a small additional drop to 2011 lumens.
Video Optimized Lumens. Cinema mode delivers the best color quality of the presets, but you can improve color even more by turning off Brilliant Color and adjusting the color settings. The brightness drops to a measured 659 lumens, which is still enough for a 115" image in theater-dark lighting or a 75" image in moderate ambient light.
Zoom Lens Effect. The 1.1x zoom isn't enough for the zoom setting to have a noticeable effect on brightness.
Brightness uniformity. We measured the MH530's brightness uniformity at 62%. That's low enough to see brightness differences easily with a solid white or color image. However, the brightness changes gradually enough across the screen so any image that breaks up the field of view effectively hides the difference.
Color brightness. The MH530's color brightness ranges from 21% of its white brightness in Dynamic mode to 60% in Cinema mode, which explains why some colors look noticeably dark in Dynamic mode and is one of the reasons Cinema mode delivers the best color quality. Having lower color brightness than white brightness in each mode means full color images won't be as bright as you would expect based on the white brightness.
Rainbow artifacts show infrequently enough with color video that few people, if any, will consider them a problem. People who see these artifacts easily may find them bothersome with black and white video, however, where they show more often.
Fan noise. As may be inevitable for a projector that's both this light and bright, the MH530's fan noise, rated at 33 dB in Normal mode, is easy to hear from 10 feet away. However, it's the kind of constant whooshing sound that I don't find distracting. If you're particularly bothered by noise, you'll want to use Economic mode, which has the same sound quality but is noticeably quieter, with a 28 dB rating.
High altitude mode, which BenQ recommends for altitudes of 5,000 feet or above, is loud enough to hear easily from 30 feet and adds a higher frequency overtone, which I find somewhat annoying. I also couldn't hear any difference between Normal and Economic modes. If I had to use the MH530 in high altitude mode, I wouldn't want to sit much closer than 20 feet away.
Input lag, measured by the Bodnar meter, is 33.0 ms with default settings in all color presets but Cinema, which is a touch slower, at 34.8 ms. Turning off Brilliant color raises the lag to a still low 33.7 ms for Dynamic and Presentation modes, and 35.8 ms for sRGB and Cinema.
Lamp life. BenQ rates the lamp at 4,000 hours in Normal mode, 6,000 hours in Economic mode, 6,500 hours in SmartEco mode, and up to 10,000 hours in LampSave mode. The 6,500 and 10,000 hour ratings are based on best-case assumptions, however, which means you won't likely see that long a lamp life in real-world use. Lamp replacements are $149.
The MH530 can throw a 120" 16:9 image from a range of about 13 to 14 feet. See the Projection Calculator to determine the throw distance range for your desired screen size.
With the projector sitting on a table, the bottom of the image is 16% of the image height above the centerline of the lens plus or minus 5% of the image height according to BenQ, or about 6" to 12" above the centerline. We measured the unit provided for testing at the low end of the range.
This vertical offset is designed to work best with the projector on a table or inverted in a ceiling mount. If you need to tilt the projector to match the image to the screen, you can manually adjust for vertical keystone distortion of up to plus or minus 40 degrees. There is no horizontal or automatic keystone correction.
The rule of thumb for high-pressure lamps is that brightness typically drops in the first 500 hours of use by about 25% and then continues to decline much more slowly.
One easy way to prepare for the loss over time is to make sure that the initial brightness in Economic mode is enough to give you a suitably bright image at the size you want. As the lamp ages, you can boost the brightness by switching to Normal lamp mode. Similarly, you can use one of the lower-brightness predefined modes at first, then switch to a brighter mode when you need to.
Zoom. The 1.1x zoom allows little flexibility in how far you can position the projector from the screen for a given size image.
Limited connectivity. The MH530 offers composite video and VGA ports for a PC or component video. But there's only one HDMI port, no MHL support, and no USB A port for reading files directly from a USB memory key.
Fan noise. Although the MH530's level of fan noise is forgivable, and expected for a model that combines a sub-five-pound weight with a 3200-lumen rating, you still need to consider it. You may prefer a bigger, heavier projector with a lower noise level, particularly for permanent installation.
Low audio volume. The built-in 2-watt mono speaker offers acceptable sound quality but at such low volume that it's barely suitable for a small, quiet room.
The MH530 gives you a bright 1080p picture in an extremely portable package. It is small and light enough to easily bring with you on the road, to use in the classroom or for business and also bring home for weekend sports or a movie watching. As a home entertainment projector you can move from room to room or out to backyard for summer night movies under the stars.
It delivers more than acceptable image quality for both data and video and a fast lag time for gaming. Even better, it's bright enough for a 75" image in moderate ambient light with our video optimized settings for best color quality, or a 140" image with its brightest predefined color mode. If you need an inexpensive, highly portable 1080p projector for home entertainment, presentations, or both, the BenQ MH530 is a compelling choice at a very low price.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ MH530 projector page.