The BenQ MP77ST is a short throw, XGA resolution projector with high brightness and a full feature set that includes 3D capability. It is one of BenQ's "Professional" projector models. While this projector is intended for use in conference rooms or classrooms, it includes features normally found in home projectors - such as an HDMI input, a 3D Color Management System, and a Cinema mode that is relatively accurate to video standards in out of the box settings. The unique lens assembly gives the MP776ST the ability to produce an image that is 1.67 times wide as the distance of the projector from the screen. This short throw distance makes the projector a great fit for small conference rooms that require a large projected image or for the interactive classroom. The BenQ MP776ST features a maintenance free design, network control capability and additional presentation-specific features that make it a great 'future-proof' fit for the office or classroom that needs a large format, high quality and bright image.
Brightness & Picture Quality: The MP776ST measured 2,715 ANSI-lumens in the brightest possible mode - normal lamp, 'Presentation' mode and Brilliant Color on. While not quite meeting the published specification of 3,500 ANSI lumens, the BenQ MP776ST is a very bright projector, capable of filling large screens in environments that include ambient light. Switching to 'economic' lamp mode reduced brightness by only 12% and provides an additional 33% of lamp run time per BenQ's specifications - lamps are rated at 3,000 hours in normal or 4,000 hours in economic mode.
The Brilliant Color feature is described by BenQ as a "color-processing algorithm" that enables a brighter image by selectively increasing brightness in the "mid-tones" of an image. Brilliant Color mode has a large contribution to the MP776ST's high brightness. Using the same max brightness image mode but with Brilliant Color off, the MP776ST drops to a measured brightness of 1,752 ANSI lumens. For presentation-based material, the use of Brilliant Color had no noticeable side effects and would be highly recommended for the increase in brightness.
Another factor that contributes to the MP776ST's ability to produces images of high impact is the respectable 2,400:1 on-off contrast ratio (as specified by BenQ). The combination of this level of on-off contrast and the MP776ST's high brightness help the projector to display clearly delineated text and reproduce static images with a noticeable amount of image "pop".
Video performance of the MP776ST is above average - video settings based on the Cinema image pre-set and using the T3 color temperature show accurate flesh tones and primary colors that are solid, but not garish. The MP776ST also includes the capability to fine tune hue, saturation and gain of each of the 6 primary and secondary colors using the 3D Color Management System - a useful feature if the projector will be calibrated for video playback. The overall image accuracy in the Cinema setting does come at the expense of brightness - the image with the optimal video setting measured 1,066 ANSI-lumens with Brilliant Color on. While this is significantly less than the max brightness in presentation mode, this amount of light is about double that of the typical home theater projector, so it is more than sufficient for normal screen sizes in dark, light controlled environments.
Short Throw: The throw distance of the MP776ST is measured in inches versus the usual projector throw distance that is measured in feet. I was able to display an image 80" wide (or 100" diagonal on a 4/3 aspect screen) with the projector only 47 inches away from the screen. This makes the MP776ST an idea fit for a ceiling mount installation where the screen is used actively, so that the presenter can stand at the screen without blocking the projected image. As with all short throw projectors, care is required in setting up the projector relative to the screen as the lens does not include the any zoom range to alter image size.
Full Featured input panel: The BenQ MP776ST includes an HDMI input, a VGA D-sub monitor input (and VGA monitor pass-through) plus S-video and composite inputs. DVI-A and Component video input is also supported over the VGA connector with proper breakout cables. Audio inputs to the MP776ST include analog RCA and 3.5mm connectors - a 3.5mm audio output is also provided. Audio input is also supported via the HDMI connector and can be enabled or disabled via the projector's menu. The MP776ST also supports remote connection and control of projector functions via a combination of LAN connection and a web browser or the Creston RoomView network service software. The MP776ST can also be controlled remotely via standard RS232 protocol.
Audio Capability: The BenQ MP776ST includes dual 5W speakers. While the audio capability of the MP776ST is not of audiophile grade, the projector is capable of above average levels of volume level and audio quality. While testing the MP776ST using a HDMI connection connected to a Blu-ray player, I was surprised at the volume the projector was able to produce when the film transitioned from a quite passage to an intense action scene. I would not want to watch an entire movie using the onboard speakers as the audio source; but this audio capability is above average for this class of product.
Presentation features: The BenQ MP776ST includes many features that make it a great fit for a presentation or teaching environment. The MP776ST includes an Auto Keystone feature, very useful if the projector is used in a non-fixed installation. It works quickly and does not require any fine-tuning for optimal image orientation. The MP776ST features multiple presets for use when a non-standard projection surface is used (such as a blackboard). The presets balance the projected image color with the display surface color to display the image as it would be if projected on a white screen. Additionally, the remote control contains a laser-pointer and dedicated buttons for a static image capture, a presentation timer and an auto setup feature. The MP776ST also includes hard and soft security features; a Kensington lock input is included on the rear face of the projector and there is also a password protection feature that requires the password to be entered when the projector is started before an image will be displayed.
3D Capability: The MP766ST has 3D capability. A commentary on setting up 3D display on the MP766ST using NVIDIA's 3D Vision system is posted in this separate article.
Lens Performance: The BenQ MP776ST displayed a noticeable amount of chromatic aberration. This is most visible in text at the screen edges. Small format text displayed a color shift toward red on the left hand side of the character and a lower degree of color shift to green on the right side of the character. The amount of color shift is increasingly significant as one moves to screen edge and was not nearly as noticeable at screen center. While the color fringing was not noticeable from a normal viewing distance, it does contribute to a perceived lack of sharpness. The MP776ST is not as sharp as expected for a business class DLP projector. The MP776 model is also available in a normal throw distance configuration. We did not test it, but it is probable that the longer throw lens will have less chromatic aberration.
120Hz mode limitations - Inputting a 120Hz signal to the BenQ MP776ST has two unfortunate side effects-a significant reduction of image brightness and the lockout of all image adjustment features such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc. The reduction in brightness when switching between a 120Hz signal almost exactly matches the reduction in brightness when Brilliant Color is deactivated. Testing in Presentation mode, the peak image brightness was reduced by 61% when a 120Hz input signal was used versus a 60Hz signal with the same settings - a value that closely matches the 64% reduction seen when switching Brilliant Color on and off.
Additionally, one loses the ability to make any picture control changes when a 120 Hz input signal is used. This results in a very complicated process for adjusting basic image parameters that essentially prevents reaching optimized video settings at a 120 Hz refresh rate. When fed a 120 Hz signal, the MP776ST uses the last image settings used prior to switching to the 120 Hz refresh rate. Basic adjustments to brightness and contrast required switching back and forth between different refresh rates and trying to estimate the changes required in the 120Hz signal mode. By using the complex and time-consuming process of switching refresh rates, I was able to grossly set brightness and contrast, but not reach optimal values.
Lack of user adjustable image settings: The MP776ST does not give the ability to adjust basic picture controls such as brightness and contrast in the four pre-set display modes. However, it provides two user modes that allow custom adjustments. Changes to brightness and contrast will usually be required to optimize the image quality depending on the viewing environment. The two user modes allow one to save settings that are optimized for both 'presentation' and 'video'.
The BenQ MP776ST includes many features that set it apart from most projectors in this class. It includes presentation specific features such as a laser pointer on the remote and a built in presentation count down timer make the MP776ST an ideal fit for classroom or business settings. It also has exceptional brightness, pleasing video performance, and satisfying color quality using normal, out of the box settings. The MP776ST also supports the display of 3D images using active shutter glasses, which will become more useful as the amount of 3D content increases. Overall, this fully featured short throw projector is expected to perform admirably in both classroom and conference room settings.