Highly Recommended Award
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Thanks to the spread of high-resolution laptops and associated content, there is increasing demand for high-resolution data projectors in the workplace. The BenQ SP890 is one such projector, a 4,000 lumen 1080p DLP projector that's tailored for presentation use. Unlike other 1080p business projectors, the SP890 has a 50,000:1 contrast ratio, making it a good choice for the display of photography or other images on a large screen. Color is more accurate than many competing models as well. A 1.5:1 zoom and H/V lens shift make the projector easy to install, while dual 5W speakers are useful in a conference room or even a back-yard summertime theater. It is available now at prices just under $3,000.
High resolution. What distinguishes the SP890 from the crowd of me-too business presentation projectors is a combination of factors, but the most obvious of them is its resolution. At native 1920x1080, the SP890 brings the highest commonly-available widescreen resolution into the workplace. This makes it well-suited to the display of detailed content such as photographs, data graphics, spreadsheets, or even video. And while 1080p resolution isn't necessary for the display of text documents or Powerpoint presentations, those look great as well. Any content you choose to display on the SP890 comes out looking crisp and sharp.
Light output. Then again, if all you need is 1080p, there are plenty of home theater projectors available that will do just that--some of them for less money. But the SP890 has more than one trick up its sleeve. It is rated at 4,000 lumens of brightness, far exceeding the typical lumen output of a 1080p projector. Our test sample at its brightest measured 2692 lumens, or roughly 67% of the specified maximum output. This output was measured in Dynamic mode using high lamp and the widest angle lens setting. This mode emphasizes highlights at the expense of contrast and color accuracy, so it is best used when you have a high-contrast document where color is not critical, such as a simple Powerpoint presentation or text document. Presentation mode, with slightly better color and contrast, measured 2092 lumens (also in high lamp mode). However, if you are really looking for great color performance, there is no replacement for custom calibration. After such a fine-tuning, our test sample measured 853 lumens. This is not much for a presentation projector, but grayscale tracking was very close to the 6500K standard and contrast was excellent. For the display of film or photography, this is an excellent operating mode.
Several factors can adversely affect lumen output. First of all, using the telephoto end of the zoom lens (smallest image at a given distance) will reduce lumens by 10%. Using low lamp mode, which increases lamp life from 2,000 to 3,000 hours, also drops lumen output by 22%. VGA signals measure roughly 10% brighter than HDMI signals, so using the projector's VGA port will result in a slightly brighter image than our readings would otherwise imply (we used HDMI). We did not see any significant lumen reduction when using the extreme edges of the lens shift range.
Contrast. The SP890 is not the first 1080p presentation projector, but it does have the highest contrast of any comparable projector. At 50,000:1, the difference between the SP890 and a typical 2,000:1 data projector is immense. As far as black level, there is no contest. Shadow detail is exceptionally well-defined and high-contrast scenes are presented accurately. Foregrounds seem to pop off of backgrounds, and there is a clear sense of depth in high-contrast material. Photographs in particular look striking and life-like. Even 1080p film content, which is notoriously hard to reproduce well on a data projector, looks vivid and three-dimensional. [BAN1]
Color. The SP890 is unusual for a data projector in that it has the potential for very accurate color. The preprogrammed image modes are not terribly inaccurate, though Dynamic exhibits a clear green push and can be rough on photographs or film. Cinema and sRGB modes are better, though nothing is as accurate as a custom calibration. This is not as daunting as it sounds, but it does require some special equipment. If you do not own this equipment or merely want a place to start from, these are the adjustments we made to our test sample. Remember, individual variances in projectors and lamps mean that our settings will be, at best, a ballpark estimate for your projector.
Placement flexibility. The SP890, while a business projector, has the flexibility of a home theater machine. A 1.50:1 manual zoom/focus lens with H/V lens shift makes it easy to place the projector in many common room configurations. A 120" diagonal 16:9 picture can be displayed from any throw distance between 14' 2" and 21' 2" inclusive. Lens shift allows the picture to be moved 1.2 image heights up or down from the center position, so you can place the projected image completely above or below the lens. You can also move the image roughly 2/3 of the picture width to either side. This sort of flexibility is expected on a home theater projector, but seeing it on a presentation product is a welcome surprise.
Warranty. The SP890 is warrantied for three years from the date of purchase. A three-year warranty is increasingly becoming an oddity these days, but BenQ has shown that it stands behind its products. A three-year warranty displays the utmost confidence in a product, which is why we like to see it. [BAN2]
Speakers. With two five-watt speakers, the SP890 is capable of outputting some serious sound. The speakers themselves sound a little tinny, as is typical of small speakers everywhere. However, used at 50% to 75% volume, they are still loud enough to be heard by a small group and do not exhibit any unpleasant distortion. If you plan to use the SP890 for summertime movies in the yard, you will want a larger sound system. In fact, in almost any instance where sound is an important part of the presentation, an external sound system is preferable. But if you just need a quick-and-dirty solution, the SP890's onboard speakers are better than most.
Connectivity. The SP890 has a comprehensive connection panel. Whether you want to hook up a brand new laptop with HDMI or an old VCR with composite video, you will not have any problems. The SP890 also has both VGA and component video (as separate jacks, not just using a breakout cable) as well as monitor-out, RJ45 wired networking, and USB. One thing it does not have is dual HDMI, though BenQ's website claims such. This claim is placed just above a picture of the connection panel showing the single HDMI port.
Digital noise. While the SP890 isn't intended as a theater projector, it is reasonable to expect that someone will use it for film or video given its 1080p resolution. When using it in this application, you will see more digital noise than you would on a comparable home theater product. Noise is visible in solid-colored fields, such as skies and fabric. It manifests as a dancing, sparkling artifact. Some people find this more objectionable than others, but it is an undesirable artifact in any case. [BAN1]
2x color wheel. Like many data projectors, the SP890 has a 2x-speed color wheel. The segments are RGBCYW (red, green, blue, cyan, yellow, white). If you are sensitive to rainbow artifacts, as I am, you will notice flashes of color where none should be; this is especially evident in content with bright highlights and dark shadows in close proximity. The effect is even more noticeable when coupled with fast motion. While this is most often seen in video and film, it can also be found in Powerpoint presentations. White text on a dark background, coupled with a fast frame transition, can be a recipe for rainbows.
Edge enhancement in BrilliantColor. On most projectors, BrilliantColor does not have anything to do with color, instead boosting highlights without affecting the rest of the image. But BrilliantColor is not a rigid standard - it is a technology used in DLP projection, and it is up to the manufacturer how they choose to implement this technology. Engaging BrilliantColor on the SP890 does indeed affect color. We saw a noticeable boost in saturation, but especially in green. We also saw an increase in artificial edge enhancement, so soft edges suddenly stood out clearly and detailed textures seemed artificial. There is also a net boost in brightness. There is no way to have one without the other, so those using the SP890 for video or photography will want to leave BrilliantColor disabled. [BAN2]
BenQ's SP890 is a strong presentation projector that is ideal for high-resolution applications from photography to medical imaging to light video use. It is not a home theater projector, and its 2x-speed color wheel and digital noise detract from this application significantly. However, its 50,000:1 contrast ratio is evident on screen, and its accurate colors make photographs look their best. And with brightness to spare, the SP890 can be used on a very large screen. When you need a bright 1080p projector for data display, the SP890 should be on your short list.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ SP890 projector page.