Bright, with 5,000-lumen rating. Holds detail well. 1.6x zoom. Small, but useful, vertical lens shift. Only minor hints of rainbow artifacts for static data images.
Some colors for data images are a little dark in every preset mode. Lacks horizontal lens shift.
- Bottom Line
The BenQ SX920 XGA projector is bright enough to throw a suitably large image for a medium to large size room, and it offers some welcome setup conveniences, including a 1.6x zoom and a small vertical lens shift to help match the image position to the screen.
The BenQ SX920 ($1,399) offers a 5,000-lumen brightness rating paired with an XGA (1,024-by-768) resolution. The combination makes it of obvious interest if you need a projector for a midsize to large room to show images that don't have a lot of detail. Factor in near-excellent image quality for data images, surprisingly watchable video with fewer rainbow artifacts than most DLP data projectors, and convenience features like a 1.6x zoom, and the SX920 is worth a look.
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One important plus for the SX920 is that it's significantly less expensive than the Epson PowerLite 4650 XGA 3LCD Projector, our Editors' Choice XGA projector for a large room. However, a key reason for the lower price is its less capable lensing system. The Epson model offers a higher zoom, at 2x rather than 1.6x, giving it more flexibility for how far you can place it from the screen for a given size image. It also offers both vertical and horizontal lens shift, compared with vertical shift only for the SX920, and a much larger vertical shift as well.
Lens shift lets you adjust image position—up or down for vertical shift and left or right for horizontal shift—without tilting or swiveling the projector and distorting the rectangular image into a trapezoid. With most projectors, you can correct for the distortion with digital keystone control, but that can add artifacts to some images.
When I reviewed the Epson 4650, I measured its lens shift at 59 percent of the image height up or down from the midpoint and 25 percent of the image width left or right, a level of lens shift that offers lots of flexibility for where to place the projector. The SX920 can adjust the image position up or down only and by less than 5 percent of the image height. That's just enough to make it a useful convenience without increasing the cost or complexity of the lensing system enough to drive up the price.
A more basic difference between the SX920 and the Epson model is that the SX920 uses a single-chip DLP engine rather than a three-chip LCD engine. The Epson 4650's three-chip design ensures that it can't show the rainbow artifacts (red-green-blue flashes) that at least some people can see with almost any single-chip DLP projector. In my tests, however, this wasn't an issue for the SX920 for data images at all, and was much less of a problem for video than with many DLP models.
Another advantage for the Epson model is that having three chips ensures that its color brightness matches its white brightness. With most single-chip DLP projectors, including the SX920, the two measurements don't match, which can affect both color quality and the brightness of color images.
A small advantage for the SX920 is that, like almost all DLP projectors today and almost no LCD data projectors, it supports 3D. Of course, if you're looking for a projector to watch 3D video you probably want a higher resolution than XGA. But if you're one of the few who needs 3D in an XGA data projector, the SX920 offers it, including support for all HDMI 1.4a formats, which means you can connect it to a video device like a Blu-ray player for 3D.
Setup and Brightness
At 4.7 by 16.2 by 10.5 inches (HWD) and 10 pounds 13 ounces, the SX920 is most appropriate for permanent installation or room-to-room portability on a cart. Setup is standard. I measured the lens shift at about 2 percent up or down from the midpoint or less than 5 percent total. That's not much, but it's enough to let you compensate for, say, a minor error in measurement when you installed a ceiling mount.
As with most models, all the connectors are on the back of the projector, with two HDMI ports, one VGA port for a computer or component video, and both S-Video and composite video ports. One of the HDMI ports supports MHL. There's also a LAN port, but it's strictly for controlling the projector over a network, and a USB Type A port, which is strictly for supplying power to a USB device.
The SX920 shares the same platform as the higher resolution BenQ SW921 and SU922 models, which gives it the same size and weight—at 4.7 by 10.5 by 16.2 inches (HWD) and 10 pounds 13 ounces—the same set of connectors, the same 1.6x zoom lens, and the same sound system, including a 20-watt speaker. The difference in price among the three models comes from the difference in resolution, with the WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution of the BenQ SW921 giving it a price tag that's $150 more than the SX920, and the BenQ SU922's WUXGA (1,920-by-1,200) resolution giving it a price premium of $400.
The three BenQ models also have essentially the same vertical lens shift feature. However, the different resolutions for the projectors also give them different aspect ratios for the image, so the percentage of vertical shift is different. The BenQ SW921 offers a vertical shift at a total of not quite 3 percent of the image height, while I measured the total shift of the BenQ SU922 at 2.5 percent of the image height.
As always with DLP projectors, any discussion of the SX920's brightness is complicated by the difference between white and color brightness, so that color images won't be as bright as you would expect based on the white brightness. (For more on the topic, see Color Brightness: What It Is, Why It Matters.)
Strictly as a point of reference, however, according to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations and assuming a 1.0-gain screen, 5,000 lumens would be suitable for a 261- to 353-inch image (measured diagonally) at the projector's native 4:3 aspect ratio in theater-dark lighting. With moderate ambient light, it would still be bright enough for a 173-inch image. For smaller screen sizes, you can lower the brightness level by using the projector's Eco mode, a lower brightness preset mode, or both.
Image and Audio Quality
The SX920's quality for data images falls a little short of excellent. However, that's only because some colors in every preset mode are a little dark in terms of a hue-saturation-brightness model, which is expected for any projector with a significant difference between its white and color brightness.
Beyond that, the projector handled our standard suite of DisplayMate tests with no problems worth mention. In particular, it maintained detail well, with white text on black highly readable at sizes as small as 9 points in our tests, and black text on white crisp and readable even at 6.8 points. It also did a good job of avoiding showing rainbow artifacts. The only time I saw even a hint of them in our data-image tests was when I shifted my gaze quickly with one image that's designed to bring them out.
Rainbow artifacts were more frequent and more obvious with full-motion video in our tests, but still few enough that even most people who see them easily will likely find them tolerable, even for long sessions. The low native resolution is the more important limitation. If you plan to show video much, you should be looking at a higher-resolution projector in any case. If you don't mind the low resolution, however, the video is watchable.
The mono speaker in the SX920 delivers surprisingly low volume for its 20-watt rating, but it's enough to fill a small to midsize conference room. The sound quality is good enough to be useful.
For an XGA projector for a large room, be sure to consider the Epson 4650 and the NEC NP-P501X—another top pick that uses a three-chip LCD engine—for their guaranteed lack of rainbow artifacts and their significant lens shift capabilities. Also take a look at the DLP-based Dell 4220 Network Projector, which isn't as bright as the BenQ SX920, but costs a little less. For a projector that's bright enough to throw a suitably large, bright image for a large room, however, and is a little more affordable than the Epson or NEC models, the BenQ SX920 is a more-than-reasonable choice.
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By M. David Stone Lead Analyst Printers, Scanners & Projectors
M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant. Although a confirmed generalist, with writing credits on subjects as varied as ape language experiments, politics, quantum physics, and an overview of a top company in the gaming industry. David is also an expert in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. He is a recognized expert on printers, well known within the industry, and has been a judge for… More »
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