The BenQ W770ST is a lightweight, portable 720p projector with a short-throw lens that's perfect for living room and gaming use. Producing 2500 lumens in its brightest mode, the W770ST has the power to overcome ambient light, while its 13000:1 contrast and solid color performance make it a respectable movie projector when the sun goes down. Full HDMI 3D compatibility and a ten-watt speaker round out the projector's features, while its $799 price tag makes the W770ST a great option for those on a budget.
The W770ST comes wrapped in a sturdy soft carrying case, complete with a front pocket to hold the remote control and any necessary cables. The remote itself is a small "candy bar" model that feels good in the hand, but might get lost in the couch cushions if you're not careful.
The "ST" in the projector's model name stands for short throw, so you will want to place it on a table fairly close to the screen. A 60" diagonal image, which is about the right size for a room with moderate ambient light, can be displayed from a throw distance between 3' 2" and 3' 9" depending on zoom. That doesn't give you a lot of wiggle room, but as a portable projector, the W770ST can usually be physically moved if the zoom range is inadequate. The W770ST places the bottom edge of the projected image a few inches above the lens centerline -- on a 60" diagonal image, it's a 2" offset, for example, assuming the projector is level.
The W770ST produces a bright, powerful image from the get-go. Light output is sufficient to illuminate a 60" diagonal screen in moderate ambient light or a 80" diagonal screen in low ambient light. Black levels are excellent for such an inexpensive projector, and SmartEco mode can make them even better in scenes with low average illumination. The W770ST's default color calibration is slightly under-saturated but accurate, averaging around 7000K across the grayscale without any adjustment. Color brightness in the W770ST's Cinema mode is only about 630 lumens, or 35% of white, but knocking BrilliantColor down can make the image appear much better balanced at the cost of white light output. (Click here for more info on DLP technology and Color Light Output).
The W770ST has full HDMI 3D compatibility, and the projector uses DLP Link to create the 3D image. 3D performance is largely dependent on which glasses you use, as the projector does not come bundled with any eyewear. Like most DLP Link projectors, the W770ST's 3D image is free of crosstalk and has very little flicker thanks to its 144Hz refresh rate.
Portable. At only six pounds, the W770ST might not be light enough for a businessperson who's constantly on the road, but it's more than portable enough to lug over to a friend's house for games or sports viewing. The projector's included carrying case feels sturdy, while the onboard speaker provides sound output when no other option is available.
Short throw. The W770ST's short throw lens makes it ideal for setup in small rooms. The projector can create a 60" image from a little over three feet of throw distance. This allows it to be placed on a coffee table in the front of the room, rather than the middle of the room, thereby giving the audience some extra space in which to move around.
Full HDMI 3D. While the W770ST isn't a 1080p projector and therefore can't truly be called "full HD 3D," it is completely compatible with 3D transmission formats outlined in the HDMI 1.4 specification. In other words, you can easily hook up a Blu-ray player or set-top box and watch 3D content.
The W770ST uses DLP Link for glasses synchronization, so all you need to do is buy some 144Hz glasses and hook up a source. There are a wide variety of 144Hz glasses available, and some cost as little as $30 per pair.
SmartEco. The W770ST uses SmartEco to boost contrast and reduce power usage. SmartEco is a third lamp setting (the other two are Normal and Eco) which interprets the brightness of the content on screen and then adjusts lamp power to an appropriate level. This has the effect of making highlights brighter in bright scenes and shadows deeper in dark scenes while also reducing power consumption. Unlike previous implementations of lamp-based brightness control, SmartEco has no noticeable effect on fan noise.
Onboard sound. A 10W mono speaker is the W770ST's answer to mobile, no-hassle sound. This speaker is powerful enough to accommodate small audiences of no more than 4-6 people in quiet rooms, and is more than loud enough to be heard over the projector's fan noise. In 3D mode, when fan noise is higher, you may have to increase speaker volume to maximum in order to compensate.
Long lamp life. The W770ST's 210W lamp is expected to last up to 4,000 hours at full power or 5,000 hours in Eco-mode. However, SmartEco mode can extend lamp life up to 6,500 hours, though this also depends on what kind of content you watch.
Light output. Dynamic mode is the W770ST's brightest pre-calibrated setting, producing 2479 lumens on our test sample. Dynamic mode has a strong green cast due to the Lamp Native color temperature preset. As a result, color saturation is lower than in other modes and colors are not as accurate. But when you need to put the maximum amount of light on the screen, Dynamic mode will do that.
The projector's next factory preset is Standard mode, which at 1800 lumens has superior balance, color saturation, color accuracy, and contrast when compared to Dynamic mode. Standard mode tends towards blue, and our test sample measured about 7600K. That's not a bad thing when there's ambient light to contend with, and for these reasons Standard mode is a good choice for living room use with strong ambient light.
Cinema mode produced the same 1800 lumens as Standard mode, but color temperature was closer to the 6500K standard and color saturation was increased somewhat. In Eco mode, Cinema produced 1379 lumens, or 76% of its full power output. At this setting, it is ideal for completely darkened theater spaces.
SmartEco, the projector's intelligent lamp power system, still produces Cinema mode's full 1800 lumens on a white test pattern. Since SmartEco reduces power consumption and improves contrast without affecting maximum light output, it is our recommended setting for rooms with mild ambient light.
Contrast. The W770ST is a bright projector tailored for home video use, so black level is not its chief concern. Despite this, the projector produces a respectable black with the lamp at full power and an even better black when using SmartEco mode. The W770ST's dynamic range is very good, and shadow detail is preserved even in difficult scenes.
Color. Cinema mode features the W770ST's best color saturation and accuracy in a pre-calibrated mode, and our test sample measured about 7200K average color temperature across the grayscale. That is "close enough" for home video use, so most folks probably won't feel the need to adjust white balance. The W770ST also has a full color management system, which can be used to adjust color gamut, though we did not find any major gamut errors during our testing.
The W770ST produces much more white light than colored light. Color light output is only 35% of white light output in Cinema mode, in fact, using the default settings. This can cause color to appear undersaturated, especially when areas of color are bordered by highlights. Reducing BrilliantColor to its minimum setting upped color light output to 79% of white light output, at which point highlights no longer had an undue negative effect on perceived color saturation. However, this also cuts white light output by 56%.
Sharpness and clarity. Since the W770ST is a 720p projector, it must compress 1080p content before displaying it. Our test unit did not show any evidence of serious compression artifacts or loss of detail; in fact, most Blu-ray content looks almost as sharp on the W770ST as it does on a full 1080p projector. The key word is "almost" -- if you go looking for smudged-out detail and sit too close to the screen, you will find it. The W770ST is not a 1080p projector, but it is a very sharp 720p projector.
Input lag. Gamers looking for an inexpensive, fast projector for gaming are in luck. The W770ST measured 25ms of input lag, about 1.5 frames on a 60 frame per second signal. That's fast enough for most gamers, even those playing the kind of games where reaction speed matters.
Visible pixelation. Since the W770ST has a native resolution of only 720p, pixelation can become visible when the audience is seated too close to the screen. We began to notice visible pixelation when seated closer than 1.5 times the screen width. Using a 60" diagonal image, that puts minimum viewing distance at six and a half feet if you want to avoid pixelation.
Color light output. There is a large gap between white light output and color light output, such that highly saturated areas of color can appear undersaturated and dull next to white highlights. This can be corrected by reducing BrilliantColor, but this also drops white light output by 56%.
Truth is, if you are watching a movie or television show, very little of the content on screen is actually made up of bright white highlights. You are already getting this reduced light output in every area of color on screen, regardless of how you set your projector. Reducing BrilliantColor restores the balance between white and color, and chances are you won't find the projector much less bright overall. You can leave BrilliantColor turned on when light output is the primary concern, but be sure to reduce it when the sun goes down and it's time to watch a movie.
The BenQ W770ST is an inexpensive living room projector with solid image quality that's perfect for gaming or portable use. A short-throw lens keeps the projector out of the way, giving you more room space to work with, while a 10W onboard speaker can provide sound output when there are no other options. Compression of 1080p sources is clean and crisp, and there's not much detail loss. Full HDMI 3D compatibility makes the W770ST an affordable option for entry-level 3D movies and gaming, especially since the projector uses inexpensive DLP Link glasses.
On the downside, the W770ST's BrilliantColor increases white light output without also boosting color light output, and at its default settings color can appear dull and undersaturated as a result. Reducing BrilliantColor solves this problem but also cuts lumen output by more than half. And since the W770ST is native 720p, pixelation can be seen when sitting too close or using a too-large image.
Overall, the BenQ W770ST is an inexpensive purpose-built video projector that offers solid image quality without the usual video projector price tag. If you need a living room projector and have a tight budget, this may be the one you're looking for.