BenQ MX518 review

Pros

  • Very portable
  • 3D ready
  • Long lamp life and power saving features

Cons

  • Some rainbow effect in video
  • Feeble audio
  • Lacks carrying case

As the middle-resolution model of three recently released budget BenQ DLP data projectors, the BenQ MX518 has much in common with the BenQ MS517 and BenQ MW519: Respectable brightness, a good price for the resolution, a data image quality suitable for typical classroom presentations and video suitable for shorter clips, along with sadly feeble audio. It also boasts a good assortment of ports, 3D compatibility (you supply the glasses), and a variety of eco-friendly features. Like its siblings, it's a solid choice as a low priced educational (or business) projector.

The MX518 provides XGA (1,024 x 768 pixel) resolution, sitting between the MS-517's SVGA (800 x 600) and the MW519's WXGA (1,280 x 800) resolution. Like the other two models, it's rated at 2,800 lumens of brightness.

The MX518 is all black, with rounded corners and a slightly bowed top. It has a very modest manual zoom (1.1:1), and the focus was fairly responsive. At 300 x 110 x 220mm (WxDxH) and weighing 2.3kg, the MX518 is quite portable, though it lacks a soft carrying case. It should be easy enough to shift about within a school or take on trips.

The MX518 has a good selection of ports for a low priced projector, including HDMI, composite video/audio, S-video, two VGA inputs to connect with computers and one to connect with a monitor, along with an audio out jack, an RS232 jack, and a USB type B connector for hooking up to a computer.

Testing

The image filled our test screen (about 60in on a diagonal) with the projector about seven feet away from the screen. As befitting its 2,800-lumen rated brightness, it was able to stand up to considerable ambient light without looking degraded.

In data testing, I ran our standard suite of DisplayMate tests over a VGA connection, and then over an HDMI connection. With VGA, when I first loaded the tests using default settings, I saw extensive pixel jitter – moving, thin dark lines appearing to flicker across the screen. I went into the menu and adjusted the Phase setting, and only a trace of the jitter remained. When I switched to HDMI, the jitter completely disappeared.

In our type test, text was slightly blurred at the second smallest white-on-black size, and barely readable at the smallest. As for colour, there was some mild green tinting to grey images in both VGA and (to a lesser extent) HMDI. Colours, most notably reds and yellows, generally looked somewhat dull, regardless of the projector's mode or connection type.

One issue that I noted, which is often an issue with DLP projectors, is the rainbow effect, in which bright areas seen against dark backgrounds seem to break up into little red-green-blue rainbows. As is typical, in data images it wasn't severe enough to be problematic, even to people who are sensitive to it.

Video quality

The rainbow effect was also visible in video images. Rainbow artifacts were apparent enough in some scenes that people who are sensitive to the effect are likely to be distracted by it, making this projector best for relatively short clips as part of a presentation or lecture. Another issue I encountered was posterisation, rapid changes in colour from one part of an image to another where those changes should be gradual.

Another impediment to video is this projector's feeble 2 Watt audio system. It makes the MX518 best for a small room or if you're sitting quite close to the projector. It does have an audio out port, so you could always hook it up to powered external speakers if need be.

The MX518 has several eco-friendly features that can conserve power and help extend lamp life, up to a claimed maximum of 6,500 hours. EcoBlank mode lets teachers easily take a break from a presentation, blanking the screen out and lowering energy consumption up to 70 per cent while paused. The projector will also automatically enter EcoBlank mode after 3 minutes without a signal. SmartEco mode automatically adjusts lamp brightness depending on lighting conditions.

The MX518 is 3D-capable, with support for 3D Blu-Ray via HDMI as well as Nvidia 3DTV Play, enabling it to display 3D content from NVIDIA 3D Vision. The active shutter 3D glasses are not included, and equipping a class with them could prove a very pricey proposition.

Verdict

All three of the new budget BenQ data projectors are capable of handling the demands of a classroom, providing multiple connection choices, solid data image quality, and good enough video for typical school (or business) use.

They're 3D capable, with eco-friendly features that should help to prolong lamp life. The major downsides here are the very quiet audio and rainbow effect. As to which of these three budget BenQ models you should go for, that mostly depends on the level of detail you need to display – for typical presentations, the BenQ MX518 should do fine – and how much you're willing to spend.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

BenQ MX518

Video Inputs

Composite, HDMI, S-Video

Computer Interfaces

VGA

Wireless Connectivity

No

Native Resolution

1024 x 768

Rated Contrast Ratio

13000:1

Engine Type

DLP

Type

Business

Aspect Ratio

4:3

Rated Brightness

2800 ANSI lumens