Looking for a bigscreen TV? Well, if you’re unafraid to think outside the box and love the idea of having the largest display possible in tight spaces, then the BenQ HT1085STis an extraordinary 1080p home entertainment projector you can currently pick up. With a short-throw lens that can produce a 105” image at just 5 feet away from any wall with minor adjustments, 2200 ANSI lumen brightness that’s able to hold up against ambient lighting, and a nearly-unspoiled quality that even the pickiest viewer can respect.
Somehow, either through voodoo or magic – this might be one of the best all-around DLPs I’ve ever come across.
Yes, the HT1085ST really does seem that good but you’d never realize it from its appearance. The 6.28lb body is compact (12.28×4.09×9.06 in) and white with silver faux-metallic wraparound accents, which feature horizontal vents and honeycomb inlets for circulation. Up top, a usual assortment of physical focus/zoom dials and control panel are predictably laid out in a clean, organized fashion; while a predominant 1.2:1 zoom lens and a single button release leg that locks into place at fixed heights occupy the front. The remote control is revamped like the top panel and makes good use of backlighting, almost every button works as a direct shortcut except for “PIP” and “SWAP” which are merely placeholders.
MHL (Mobile High-Definition Link) is an addition that supplies onboard power and content mirroring from tablets, smartphones, and specifically the pocket-sized Roku Stick with an absolute minimum of connectivity involved. The menu setup has also been heavily simplified with big labels and a direct selection of options for those not privy to read the manual first, but can be alternated to a more traditional layout that includes advanced and locked options for professional ISF calibration.
The single mono 10W speaker can easily carry a lot of sound for a medium-sized room, though nobody will confuse the audio for a proper home theater system or sound stand. At higher levels, the driver does pack a lot of weight without distortion, but for all that power there’s still a flatness with very little differentiation between quiet and loud, in fact it’s basically on or off which is fine unless you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls.
Compared to other projectors like the Optoma GT1080 which covers the essentials or the LCD-based Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030, the BenQ is a well-balanced performer and moderate update of their popular W1080ST/W1070 models. Similar to its predecessors color management is an area the HT1085ST is excels at despite a very minor default preference to warmer tones, in fact, I believe many first-timers probably won’t bother changing much of anything until their curiosity eventually gets the better of them; thanks to a RGBRGB color wheel, hues are evenly saturated with extremely high light output to match white highlights. However, some eyes may catch the DLP “rainbow effect” which appears as flashes of color, a brief but adaptable anomaly for many people.
Contrast is more than enough although blacks and shadow details often appear crushed, the immediate tradeoff comes with the adjustable gamma that punches up dynamic image luminescence (ideally you’ll want to keep it at 2.2 or 2.4 when ambient lighting is present). Sharpness is handled without any enhancements and looks incredibly detailed even if the initial settings are a bit exaggerated. I turned it down a couple notches for a more natural picture and managed without sacrificing clarity either.
In terms of connectivity, the HT1085ST has left well enough alone for I/O choices. With two HDMI (one with MHL), analog composite, component video (YPbPr), and VGA you’re pretty much set for current or legacy entertainment needs. Also included are 3.5mm audio jacks (input/output), two USB, 12V trigger, and a RS232 port – the latter two specifically for custom and professional installations. Input lag is also accounted for with a best observed 15 milliseconds over 1080/60p (HDMI), those are more than ideal figures for any serious amount of gaming.
The embedded stereoscopic 3D is standard and syncs without an external emitter, with performance that’s absent of crosstalk, artifacts, and pretty much identical to other DLP projectors of this caliber. Since this is DLP-Link though – and utilizes active-shutter technology, general brightness will be reduced to compensate and you might need to look into 144Hz-compatible glasses, but the only real issue I have is that most manufacturers never include a starter kit or a pair of glasses to sweeten the deal; and annoyingly, BenQ decided to skimp here as well.
There are plenty of home entertainment projectors available but few are as nice when matched against the BenQ HT1085ST. Okay, so it has a more expensive MSRP than most, but it also has the advantage of still being a budget-minded home theater enthusiast display or a portable gaming machine in thanks to its short throw lens. Unless your pupils can’t acclimate with the notorious rainbow artifacts there is very little that’s wrong with this Editors’ Choice pick.