BenQ HT2150ST Review
Pros: Great image quality, vibrant colors, full HD
Cons: Dim lamp, not ideal for well lit rooms
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The BenQ HT2150ST was the top overall performer in our testing and our top recommendation for those seeking a home theater projector for less than $1000. You can read about how this machine performed in all of our individual tests below.
Earning the top score of 9 out of 10 in our image quality testing, the BenQ HT2150ST the best sub-$1000 projector for your home theater.
The secret to its image quality is its black levels. It produced the darkest, truest blacks of any of the models we tested. These deep rich blacks automatically made other colors look more vibrant, lending a brilliance to the overall image. The HT2150ST excelled at projecting bright scenes as well. Where other models would wash out the brightest sections of an image into a muddled patch of white, the HT2150ST produced bright whites that retained their definition. It also produced very accurate skin tones, avoiding the problems of washing out or over reddening that were present in many of the other models. In general, the BenQ HT2150ST produced very accurate colors in everything from wide shots of landscapes to harshly lit indoor scenes. In our testing it went from red scenes of the martian landscape to the bright interior of space stations without any odd color artifacts or inconsistencies.
The BenQ HT2150ST also had the best preset color modes of all the models we tested. It offered the most color adjustments amongst our test models. This is great for people who like to fine tune and tinker, or that would like to have a professional come in and optimize their projector's color settings. Hectic, fast paced scenes were also not a problem for this model. Everything from car chases to football games looked seamless and smooth without odd lagging or rainbow effect. In addition to creating sharp images, the 1080p resolution of the BenQ HT2150ST also produces crisp text and graphs, though ambient light does dull some colors when projecting these types of things in a bright room. If you're looking for a top notch image in this price range, the HT2150ST is the clear choice.
Short Throw Capabilities
The BenQ HT2150ST's throw ratio of 0.69 to 0.83 is shorter than most of the leading home cinema projectors on the market. This can make a huge difference in many home theaters. For instance, placing the projector just over 8 feet from the screen can create a massive 150" picture, a feat that would require most projectors to be around 14 feet from the screen. This opens up the opportunity for massive pictures in even smaller rooms, or in rooms where all the convenient mounting opportunities tend to be closer to the screen.
Ease of Use
While we didn't see a huge difference between models in terms of ease of use (the scores in this metric ranged only between 5 and 7 out of 10) the HT2150ST was our testers' clear favorite. It took away the top score of 7.
This was the only high performing model we found in this price range that offered a lens shift feature. Lens shift allows you to move the image up or down without any sort of digital distortion. This is incredibly useful for those constructing permanent mounts as it lends much more room for error in placement. The 1.3x zoom also gives you some screen size adjustability. Vertical keystone correction is controlled via the easy to use remote. The knobs that control lens shift, zoom, and focus all feel smooth and solid. They also have a retractable cover that hides them away. This is nice if you plan to put the projector on a permanent mount as you can dial in all the ideal settings, then close the cover to make sure the knobs won't accidentally get nudged out of place. Both of the BenQ HT2150ST's back feet sit on an adjustable screw, allowing you to level the unit if it's sitting on a tilted surface. The front leg slides freely up and down when a button is depressed and locks into place when the button is released. It is quite easy to adjust the angle of the projector by first pulling the front leg all the way out, then pushing the button and slowly lowering the unit until the image is at the proper height, and then releasing the button. The front leg is somewhat shorter than most models', but our testers didn't find this to be a hindrance. The only inconvenience of the projector body itself is its size. The BenQ HT2150ST is both the heaviest and largest model we tested, and is thus the least portable. At 7.3 pounds it's not immobile, but certainly is not a great choice for people who will be traveling with their projector.
The BenQ HT2150ST's remote control was also our testers' favorite. Its buttons are well labeled and easy to press. The button layout is intuitive, allowing you to easily scroll through color modes, adjust contrast and other settings, and correct for keystoning. The entire control panel is backlit with a red light that doesn't affect your night vision but allows you to clearly read the labels on each button. The light stays on for about eight seconds after you've pushed a button, and can also be turned off instantly by pushing the 'light' button in the upper right-hand corner. This backlight is especially useful if you're using the projector's built-in speakers as it allows you to easily adjust the volume mid-movie.
We measured the BenQ HT2150ST's brightness at 1548 lumens, which is about 31% less than the manufacturer's claim of 2200 lumens. This made it the dimmest model in our test, and a rare instance where the Editors' Choice Award winner received the lowest score in a metric. The HT2150ST earned a 4 out of 10 in this metric, which saw scores ranging from 4 to 9.
We found this relatively dim brightness level to be ideal for viewings in a dark home theater, though it was just a bit weak for viewings in a well lit room. The BenQ HT2150ST retained its sharp resolution and stellar contrast ratio when projecting in ambient light, but some colors became a bit washed out. White areas in text and graph heavy pages took on a blue tint. Skin tones lost their healthy glow and looked a bit paler. Colors in general became a bit duller and lost some of their luster. We certainly wouldn't suggest the BenQ HT2150ST if you're looking specifically for a high definition presentation projector. If that's what you're in the market for you should check out the Epson EX9200.
The BenQ HT2150ST had the quietest fan in the bunch. It received the top score of 9 out of 10 in our fan noise testing, putting it leaps and bounds ahead of the low score of 2.
We barely noticed its fan at all, even when we pushed the lamp heat to the extreme by projecting a bright white image for an extended period of time. With such a lack of fan noise we often forgot we were even watching a projector, until someone walked in front of the lamp.
If your projector budget is $1000, we think this is the best model you're going to find, making it quite a good value. In fact, it slightly outperforms the Epson Home Cinema 2150, which lists for more.
For those looking to spend less than $1000 for a home theater rig, the BenQ HT2150ST is the clear choice. It offers the best image quality you will find in this price range. If you're looking for a high definition presentation projector, check out the Epson EX9200.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata