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The EP5920 is BenQ's new home video projector. Its 1080p resolution promises plenty of detail, while high light output and a built-in ten-watt speaker firmly establish it as a projector for the living room.
Home video projectors are a relatively new category of projector that bridges the gap between presentation and home theater. Built for use in rooms with some ambient light, these projectors offer high brightness, accurate color, and solid video performance for the consumer who wants to watch movies or play games but doesn't want to black out an entire room to do it. As a result, you get projectors that are more akin to a television than anything else, and can function in the same environments as a typical TV.
With a 5,000 hour lamp life in Eco mode, the EP5920 is well suited to being a home's primary display in lieu of a television. And with a street price of only $839, it won't break the bank, either.
The Viewing Experience
Our testing of the EP5920 began in a darkened theater. Upon startup, it becomes obvious that the projector is far too bright for a traditional theater space, while its black levels leave something to be desired in the absence of ambient light. This is typical behavior for home video projectors and did not come as a surprise.
Turn on some lights, though, and the EP5920 starts to show its stuff. The projector's 1800 lumen specification is a little generous; our test unit measured 1200 lumens in typical use. That's still enough for a good 80" diagonal image in mild to moderate ambient light, such as a room with the shades drawn. The EP5920 defaults to Living Room mode, which is a good choice for general video watching and game playing. It is not the projector's brightest mode -- that one is called Bright -- but Living Room has more accurate, better saturated color than Bright mode along with better black level and overall higher contrast.
As the EP5920 has no lens shift and a mild upward throw, it is best used on a coffee table or in a ceiling mount with an extension tube. If you have an exceptionally low coffee table, you might find that the image is a touch lower on the wall than you would otherwise prefer. In this case, you can either tilt the projector and apply keystone correction or simply place the projector on top of something to boost it up (a phone book works well for this if you're doing a temporary setup).
As far as the actual picture on screen, the EP5920 is bright and color is well-saturated, while contrast gives the picture a pleasant amount of pop, helping it stand out in ambient light. Detail is crisp and clean thanks to a native 1080p DLP chip.
1080p. One of the EP5920's principal advantages is its 1080p resolution, something not found on many other home video products. The ability to display full HD 1080p in native resolution in your living room is valuable when you want to watch HD sports or movies, and video games will likewise look their best. Even photos should benefit from the high resolution, making them appear more detailed.
Connectivity. The EP5920 sports dual HDMI 1.3 inputs, which is one more than most of its competitors have. This feature allows you to connect, for example, a Blu-ray player and a game console simultaneously. The connection panel also features a set of YPbPr component inputs and a VGA port, giving you two more high-quality signal hookups, plus an audio passthrough if you have a larger sound system you want to use. While the projector's ten-watt speaker is loud, it's no substitute for the real deal, if available.
High brightness. Light output is what makes the EP5920 a home video projector. While our test unit output about 1200 lumens as opposed to the 1800 lumens listed in the specifications, that's still quite a bit of light, and more than enough to overcome some ambient light in a living room or other gathering area. While the EP5920 is not as bright as some other home video projectors, it is an attractive option for smaller screens or less well-lit areas. Not everyone's living room demands 3000 lumens, after all.
Portability. The EP5920 is small and light, and even comes packaged in its own carrying case. With the built-in speaker, getting a movie running is as simple as connecting a single HDMI cable. The projector itself weighs 8 lbs, which is not as "portable" as some business projectors under five pounds, but the EP5920 outclasses all of those projectors on resolution and image quality. And, let's be honest, an extra three pounds isn't going to kill you.
Quick shutoff. Most projectors take a few minutes to cool down before you can unplug them. During this time, the fan continues running to cool the projector's internal workings. However, the EP5920 has a quick shutoff feature, which shortens this time significantly. Three seconds after you power down the projector, the fan stops running and the projector beeps. This indicates that it is safe to unplug and pack up, even though the projector won't be fully cool for another few minutes. The remaining heat radiates away.
One important note: If you try to start the projector back up before it's fully cooled down, it will run the fan for a few minutes before sparking the lamp again. This is normal behavior and you should let the projector finish cycling before trying anything else.
10W speaker. For a home video projector to be truly portable, it needs to have a sound system onboard. The EP5920's ten-watt speaker has enough power to make it a reasonable option for portable use, and it can crank out plenty of volume before it starts sounding tinny and distorted. It's not enough to replace a real sound system, and the system is mono rather than stereo, but as a stopgap solution it does an admirable job.
Longevity. The EP5920's lamp is rated for 5,000 hours of life in Eco mode. Even if you use the projector for four hours per day, that still gives you over three years of life before the thing conks out. What's more, replacements are only $199 direct from BenQ, so getting the EP5920 up and running again won't hurt your wallet. If you assume the lamp lasts for the entire 5,000 hours, it works out to about four cents per hour.
Light output. The EP5920 is rated to produce 1800 lumens. The brightest mode is appropriately called Bright, and on our test sample it measured 1200 lumens with the lamp set to full power. Low lamp drops output to 1065 lumens, or 88% of full power. This percentage holds across all image modes.
Our preferred operating mode is Living Room, which produces 1010 lumens with the lamp at full power. Living Room has better contrast, color saturation, and color accuracy than Bright mode, making it more appropriate for film and video, but reduced lumen output also means smaller screen sizes or better ambient light control will be necessary.
The EP5920 has two additional image modes, Gaming and Cinema, that cater to different situations than Living Room. Gaming mode, at 962 lumens, boosts color saturation even further, to a degree that some might find objectionable for regular film and video. Cinema mode warms the color temperature, lowers black level, and drops light output to 778 lumens. It is a good mode to use in a darkened theater space, but as this isn't the primary application for a projector like the EP5920, we did not use it very often.
Contrast. The EP5920's 4500:1 contrast rating is about typical for home video projectors, but its actual performance is far better than the numbers would suggest. In ambient light, black levels cease to matter as much as they do in darkened theaters, as ambient light washes out black and kills contrast. However, the projector's dynamic range is excellent. Highlights pop while shadows are clean and easy to discern, even in ambient light.
Color. For home video projectors, color is less important than it is on home theater projectors. Why, you ask? Two reasons. One, ambient lighting in the room will change the white balance of the projected image, with incandescent lighting appearing warmer and fluorescent lighting appearing cooler (as a general rule). Two, a lot of folks will just be projecting onto a wall, which will (again) change your perception of color.
That said, the EP5920 does a solid job of rendering accurate color. Living Room mode appears a touch bluer than the ideal 6500K, but that blue tint will help to cancel out some of the aforementioned color shift. The EP5920 has RGB color controls, so you can fine-tune the picture as you'd like, which should help you make the projector appear correct for your room.
Light output. At only 1200 lumens of actual output, it's difficult to get behind the EP5920 as a full-ambient-light living room projector -- it just doesn't have the oomph for it. Now, 1200 lumens is a fair amount of light, but some home theater projectors can produce that kind of brightness while also supplying the contrast to make them contenders in the cinema. Other home video projectors can produce up to 3000 lumens but still cost about the same as the EP5920 -- though these projectors are typically lower in resolution. If you have a very bright living room, or windows that you can't cover up, you might want to consider a different projector.
Mild upward throw angle. The projector's mild upward throw makes it hard to use on a low coffee table, and nigh impossible to use under such a table. A ceiling mount will almost certainly require a drop tube, especially in a room with high ceilings. Despite this, it is still difficult to use the EP5920 on a rear shelf without placing it low enough that the audience stands a decent chance of getting in the way of the picture. While this is nothing unique to the EP5920, it is the sort of issue that folks often don't consider before purchase, leading to an unpleasant surprise later on.
Light leakage. On our test sample, there is a spill of yellow light from the front of the case, which cast a bright patch on the floor of our testing room. This can get kind of annoying if it falls on something important or, worse yet, reflective. We were forced to reorient the projector such that the light leak did not fall on our coffee table, as it reflected upward onto the screen and reduced contrast on one side.
The EP5920 is a solid product from BenQ and a good addition to the increasingly large ranks of home video projectors. With two HDMI ports and a carrying case included, the EP5920 is a great portable video projector, perfect for bringing to a friend's house or just setting up in your own living room. Its most serious drawback is a lack of light output, which at 1200 lumens is only enough power for a moderately-sized screen if the room has a significant amount of ambient light.
The BenQ EP5920 is the right projector for a certain subset of people: they want a living room projector, but they have few windows in the intended viewing environment or they can block them off with curtains without much trouble. Those looking for a light cannon will, unfortunately, need to look elsewhere. But as a general-purpose projector for home video and games, the EP5920 can really shine.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ EP5920 projector page.