While it omits features like lens shift and an auto-iris, it provides 3D, brightness over 36 foot-Lamberts and superb color accuracy. Even though it looks and measures really well out of the box, you can still tweak the gamma, white balance and color gamut with a full 18-point color management system. Let’s take a look.
BenQ HT1085ST Full HD 1080P 3D Wireless Projector
- DLP technology offers a very sharp image without resorting to expensive optics.
- The BenQ HT1085ST has some of the best out-of-box performance I’ve seen at any price.
- 36 foot-Lamberts of peak brightness means you can project a large image even with some ambient light in the room.
- At $1200 list, this BenQ competes easily with projectors costing two or three times as much.
- On top of everything, it’s small, light and portable and even includes an internal speaker.
There are three major front-projection technologies available today – LCD, LCoS and DLP. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. When I’m asked which is best, I counter with several questions like: what is your display environment? What is your budget? What image qualities are most important to you? For the best clarity and brightness, it’s hard to most DLP models. Even with average-quality optics, the image is very sharp thanks to its one-chip design. Color never changes during the life of the projector thanks to a fade-free filter wheel. And its motion-processing is free of the motion-blur and judder inherent to the sample-and-hold technology of LCD and LCoS.
DLP Digital Projector
Native Aspect Ratio:
1920 x 1080
Anamorphic Lens Support:
Frame-packing, Side-by-Side, Top-Bottom
0.69 – 0.83
38” – 300”
2 x HDMI 1.4a (1 x MHL), 1 x Component, 1 x Composite, 1 x VGA
1 x RCA Stereo Input, 1 x 3.5mm Input, 1 x 3.5mm Output
1 x 10 Watt
1 x RS-232, 1 x 12V Trigger Out
Rated Lamp Life:
4.1″ H x 12.4″ W x 9.7″D
1 Year, 180 Days Lamp, 90 Days Lamp Replacement
BenQ HT1085ST DLP 3D Projector, BenQ, 2015 Projector Reviews, DLP 3D, Secrets 2015 Projector Reviews
I’ve reviewed several other BenQ projectors and always found them to be a good value but not quite a replacement for the more-expensive Epson LCD models. The principal reasons for this have been color accuracy and contrast performance. When I received the HT1085ST for review, I thought I knew what to expect. Once I ran my first series of measurements however, I realized that BenQ has really raised the bar. Even without calibration its accuracy matches or exceeds that of many more-expensive displays.
I’ve been a champion of Epson’s LCD models for years in the sub-$3000 category. Can the BenQ HT1085ST compete with them at less than half the price? Let’s find out.
The HT1085ST is a single-chip DLP projector based on Texas Instruments’ DarkChip 3. It was just a couple of years ago that this chip was only found in high-end models. It offers excellent native contrast even without an iris. That’s a good thing here because BenQ doesn’t include one. DLP doesn’t quite have the deep black levels of LCD or LCoS technology so an iris would be a welcome addition to this projector. As you’ll see on the benchmark page, I measured pretty good native contrast and perfect gamma so it’s easy to excuse slightly grayish blacks. The color wheel is a six-segment type (RGBRGB) which helps to reduce the rainbow effect since each color intersects the light path twice per revolution.
Another feature I missed is lens shift. It’s pretty rare to see that on a projector in this price range but it does make installation a little more challenging. The HT1085ST’s image has a fixed vertical offset of 105 percent. This means the bottom of the picture is five percent of the screen height above the bottom edge of the screen. You’ll have to either mount it slightly above your screen on the ceiling or slightly below on a table. For my tests, I did the latter.
Of course there is keystone correction available in both the vertical and horizontal plane. I recommend avoiding it if possible. Even a single click on either axis creates a visible loss of resolution in finely-detailed content.
You might have noticed the short throw ratios in the spec. The HT1085ST is indeed a short-throw model. To project a 100-inch diagonal image, you have to place it no more than six feet from the screen. This is great for small living rooms where you might place the projector on a coffee table. In typical home theaters where you might need a greater throw distance, the HT1075 would be a better choice.
Externally, the HT1085ST is very compact; smaller than the average Blu-ray player in fact. It’s also very light which makes it a breeze to pack into a bag and take with you. While it’s aimed at home use, there’s no reason you couldn’t use it as a presentation projector with your laptop.
When setting up the projector, all the basic controls you need are on top. The lens is adjusted with smooth-feeling rings for zoom and focus while a small keypad takes care of menu navigation, source selection, lamp power and speaker volume. The chassis is finished in a combination of shiny white plastic with silver vents on the side and a brushed-look surround over the lens. If you need to level the HT1085ST, a single foot pops out of the bottom front for that purpose.
Ventilation is very generous on both sides but there is some light leakage there as well. It didn’t affect image quality in my darkened room but if you use the projector on a conference table, it might bother some viewers. Fan noise is minimal even in the highest lamp mode. You can see one of the back feet is adjustable to level the projector side-to-side.
The input panel is very complete and includes two HDMI ports, one of which supports MHL, and one each of VGA, component and composite. There are also two audio inputs, RCA and mini-headphone; and a single output to feed an external system. If the HT1085ST is to be part of a permanent installation, you can control it via the RS-232 port.
It doesn’t offer individual source keys but that’s OK because the HT1085ST has a very effective auto-search feature that locks onto the first active signal.
I never had to select inputs during my tests. Under the menu keys are transport controls for HDMI-CEC-enabled components. At the bottom are buttons that give you direct access to commonly-used image parameters.
My first impression of the glasses was that they were a bit large and heavy but once I put them on, I forgot about them entirely. The side pieces are a soft rubber that makes them feel lighter than they are. The internal battery can be charged by your computer using the included USB cable. A toggle switch inhabits the left sidepiece to power them on. When the projector returns to 2D mode, they turn off automatically. Incidentally, the HT1085ST uses DLP link to sync with the glasses which means you don’t have to use BenQ’s though at $59, they’re not too expensive.
Installing the HT1085ST is a little different than the projectors I’m used to. Since it’s a short-throw model, I had to place it much closer to the screen than usual (about five feet for my 92-inch) to prevent the image from falling off the edges. I also had to use a small table set a few inches below the bottom edge to compensate for the 105 percent offset.
The BenQ has two menu systems, Basic and Advanced. Basic only has a few functions like source select and projector position. You can change the picture mode but you can’t adjust any image parameters. If you need the keystone correction, it’s found on the remote not in the menu. My first order of business was to change over to the Advanced menu. That gave me lots of calibration options including gamma, two-point grayscale and a full color management system.
Image parameters are all in the Picture sub-menu. The first thing you should do is set the picture mode to Cinema. When I measured the HT1085ST in that state, it returned almost perfect results. If you don’t have the means to calibrate, that’s OK, it’s really not necessary.
The only way to control light output is with the lamp power options, Economic and Normal. The lower level, which rates the bulb life at 6000 hours, is good for just over 36 foot-Lamberts which is more than bright enough for just about any room. You’ll still get the best results in total darkness but some ambient light is OK.
As I said, calibration is merely optional on the HT1085ST. There are no visible color or grayscale errors in the Cinema mode but I made a few tweaks anyway; mostly in the CMS. I found color luminance to be a little lacking even though the saturation points were pretty close to their targets. Upping the Gain for all six colors really helped make the image bright and vivid. And still within spec of course.
Since my favorite aspect of DLP projectors is their sharp bright image, I decided to include all recently-released films in my viewing suite. What I really wanted to see was how the HT1085ST’s contrast held up against the lower black levels of the LCD and LCoS projector’s I’ve reviewed. And if you’re wondering about the DLP rainbow effect, I’m not prone to it and I didn’t observe it on this projector.
Man of Steel has lots of difficult dark material that’s loaded with detail. Not only does it require a display with good blacks, it won’t look good without accurate low-end gamma tracking. Luckily BenQ has addressed the gamma issue beautifully. You’ll see later in the benchmarks that this projector conforms perfectly to the 2.2 standard and it showed in this film. The first act scenes on Krypton have lots of detailed black areas with a splash of bright highlight in the foreground. Watching this was almost mesmerizing. The image just leapt from the screen. No detail was left unrendered.
The opening of Guardians of the Galaxy has similar dark effects with lots of detail like rock faces and subtle textures. None of this detail was lost to murkiness. I did miss the deep blacks I normally see in an LCoS projector. Shots in outer space or in dark ship interiors were a bit more gray than black. This is a situation where I wished for an auto-iris. In my experience so far, only the best LCoS models can get away without one. Every other projector I’ve worked with benefits from the feature.
I finished my 2D viewing with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Pretty much every ape in the film has black or dark gray hair. The HT1085ST had no trouble showing every fiber but there was never a true black tone. Overall contrast was still excellent. It’s just that the entire dynamic range has been moved upwards. As much as I enjoy a bright image, I sometimes wished for deeper blacks.
An area where DLP projectors have a distinct advantage is motion-rendering. LCD and LCoS all show motion blur to some degree. It’s subtle to be sure but when you watch the same material on a DLP display, that blur is non-existent. The fast-moving action scenes in all the above movies looked fantastically smooth with no hint of judder or blur.
For 3D viewing I turned to a couple of Imax films, Grand Canyon Adventure and Wild Ocean. DLP is usually my favorite projector type to watch 3D on because of its low or non-existent crosstalk and super-smooth motion processing. Both films showed these qualities in spades. Scenes that show ghosting on other displays had none of that on the HT1085ST. The 3D effect was super-deep and felt almost limitless, especially in wide aerial shots. I initially found brightness a bit lacking and the picture a little hazy so I adjusted the gamma from 2.2 to 2.0. Luckily this projector allows independent settings for 2D and 3D so you can perform separate calibrations if you wish. Changing that one setting made a noticeable difference and perked up the image nicely. I still find 3D on projectors to be too dark and this BenQ is on par with pretty much every other one I’ve seen.
In a change from past projector reviews, I’m now taking all grayscale, gamma and chroma readings from the lens rather than the screen. The X-Rite i1Pro is still used for all color measurements. Contrast tests are done with a Spectracal C6 tri-stimulus meter positioned at the lens axis and measuring from the screen at a 12-foot throw distance. Material is Carada Brilliant White with a gain of 1.3. 3D measurements are taken with the glasses placed over the meter’s sensor head. Patterns come from an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator and the whole procedure is controlled by CalMAN version 5. Color standards are Rec.709 with a white point of 6500 Kelvins. Gamma is compared to the BT.1886 spec or the 2.2 power function when appropriate.
The HT1085ST ships set to its Standard mode but I switched to Cinema before beginning my tests. The bulb was in the Economic mode and Brilliant Color was turned on by default.
This is pretty amazing for a $1200 projector. The grayscale errors are completely invisible to the naked eye and the gamma tracks 2.2 almost perfectly. My only nit-pick is there is no BT.1886 option.
By simply selecting the Cinema mode, you’ll have a projector that’s more accurate than some are after calibration.
The average error is 1.3dE with values ranging from .03 to a high of 2.2; amazing.
Gamma is pretty much the same which is a good thing. But now every luminance step from 50-percent on up has a visible green tint. The average error is 4dE with values ranging from 1.19 to 6.3. Light output drops by 25-percent but the black level stays the same so overall contrast is reduced. I can see no reason to turn Brilliant Color off.
After making the tiniest adjustments to the 2-point RGB controls, the grayscale tracking is even better. Now the average error is only .73dE with values from .12 to 1.19. This is the kind of performance one usually has to pay a lot more money for.
As I said above, Brilliant Color has no actual effect on the color gamut so I’m just showing the before and after charts here with the feature turned on.
This looks pretty good but there is room for improvement; especially in the luminance graph. The CIE chart shows a slight under-saturation of all colors. Therefore luminance should be at least neutral (at the zero line) or slightly above. Fortunately there’s a full color management system with hue, saturation, and gain controls for all six colors. The average error before calibration is still a reasonable 3.76dE.
I couldn’t do much to increase saturation in the red and green primaries, nor could I correct the hue error in green. However by upping the gain controls for all colors, the luminance graph becomes essentially perfect. Color now looks much more vivid while maintaining proper Rec.709 accuracy and the average error is down to 2.28dE. I’m still having to remind myself that this projector only costs $1200.
The HT1085ST puts out a good deal of light in its Cinema mode. Without changing the contrast control from its default setting I recorded a peak white level of 36.4435fL and a black level of .0168fL for an excellent 2173.4:1 native contrast ratio. There is no auto-iris available to increase this number. This is the bulb’s Economic setting. Increasing the lamp power to Normal upped the peak white to 51.7214fL and the black level to .0243fL for a contrast ratio of 2129.9:1. This kind of consistent performance is also a trait of much more expensive displays.
In 3D mode, measured output drops considerably through the active glasses. I measured a peak white of 5.1288 and a black level of .0131 for a 3D contrast ratio of 391.5. Crosstalk measured a very low .39 percent. While these numbers don’t sound that great, I thought real-world 3D content looked reasonably bright. And compared to every other 3D projector I’ve reviewed, the HT1085ST is on par in the output department.
The BenQ did very well in my standard battery of video processing tests. The only cadence failure was 2:2 which is pretty common. The jaggies test was a borderline fail. Some lines in the ship video looked OK but others had obvious stair-stepping and line twitter. In the below-black and above-white tests, I had to switch the projector’s HDMI Format option to PC Signal to see all the information. I also noticed that image settings are independent for RGB and YPbPr signals. Make sure you calibrate your HT1085ST for the correct format in your device chain.
THE BENQ HT1085ST is a Best Value Wireless HD Projector.
- Image sharpness rivals more expensive projectors
- Super-bright picture
- Very accurate color without calibration, even better with
- Amazing value
- No lens shift Lens shift
- No iris Adjustable Iris
Obviously I can’t really say much negative about the HT1085ST. Its lack of lens shift is perfectly excusable given the price-tag. Though, if you want that feature, BenQ offers the HT1075 for $100 less. What you’re paying extra for in the 1085 is its short-throw lens. That’s an unusual piece of glass but in situations when you can’t pull the projector back to a 10 or 12-foot throw distance, it’s invaluable.
Performance was exemplary both in the benchmark tests and my viewing sessions. 36fL sounds like a lot of output but even in my dark theater the image did not fatigue even after several hours. Remember that’s a peak number. Most films will only hit the maximum white level occasionally and only on a small part of the screen.
I was most impressed with the HT1085ST’s accuracy. I’ve reviewed a fair number of value-priced projectors and I’m not sure any of them have matched the out-of-box numbers I recorded here. Calibration is unnecessary but if you want to take a little time, slight improvements are possible.
With its small lightweight form factor, this BenQ is very portable. It’s marketed as a home theater model but it can just as easily serve as a presentation projector for corporate warriors on the go. It will fit into a small bag or backpack easily. And its MHL port means you can source the content from a smartphone or tablet.
If you’re still engaged in the DLP vs LCD vs LCoS debate, I’ll try to sum it up for you. DLP offers a bright image and probably the sharpest picture of the three. It won’t match the contrast performance of the other two but with the HT1085ST’s DarkChip 3, it’ll come close. At $1200 list, and less online, its value is hard to beat. With such great performance, a superb image and no compromises in build quality, I give the HT1085ST my highest recommendation in the sub-$2000 category.