1080p resolution. Sharp text. Portable. Long-lasting LED light source.
Significant rainbow effect in video. Low brightness for a 1080p projector.
- Bottom Line
The LED-based BenQ CH100 projects the sharp text one expects from a 1080p data projector, but its low brightness effectively limits its use to small, dark rooms.
By Tony Hoffman
Full HD projectors are no longer limited to showing video, but have made inroads into the business world as well. Like other 1080p data projectors, the BenQ CH100 ($999) does well in displaying sharp text and detail in graphics. Its relatively low brightness for a 1080p data projector makes it best for use in a small, dark space. You can use the CH100 for video as well as data presentations, but largely due to the prevalence of rainbow artifacts, you will likely want to limit its use to shorter clips.
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Design and Features
A white projector with rounded corners, the CH100 weighs 5.5 pounds and is very thin at 2.5 by 12.8 by 8.4 inches (HWD). It is portable and comes with a soft carrying case, though it is neither as light nor compact as the InFocus IN1118HD, which weighs 3.5 pounds and measures 3.1 by 8.8 by 7.3 inches. A focus wheel lies at the top of the projector, behind the lens. The wheel is the only physical control; there are no buttons, and functions are controlled through the wireless remote.
The CH100 is a DLP-based projector with an LED light source and 1080p native resolution (1,920 by 1,080 pixels). Its rated brightness of 1,000 lumens is low among compared with other 1080p data projectors we have looked at. (The InFocus IN1118HD has a 2,400-lumen rating, while the BenQ MH630 is rated at 3,000 lumens, and the Editors' Choice Optoma EH341 at 3,500 lumens.) LED projectors such as the CH100 are limited to lower brightness than traditional lamp-based projectors. There is an upside, though; the CH100's LED light source is rated to last up to 20,000 hours in normal mode, and 30,000 hours in eco mode, so it should effectively last the lifetime of the projector.
Ports and Connectivity
Its ports are all located on the back of the projector. A VGA port can be used for connecting to a computer or data source (though it also supports component video). Two HDMI ports allow for connecting to a Blu-ray player or other video source, with one of them supporting the Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) protocol for streaming content from a smart phone or tablet. The USB Type A port can charge a device such as an optional Wi-Fi dongle, and a USB Type mini-B port can be used for firmware upgrades. There are also two jacks: audio-in and audio-out.
Data Image Testing
I tested the CH100 in theater-dark conditions, where it projected an image about 75 inches (diagonal) on our test screen with the projector about 6 feet away from the screen. With the introduction of ambient light, the image looked faded, though it improved when I shrank the image size to around 60 inches.
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I ran our data image tests with the CH100 using the DisplayMate suite. It showed good image quality, with sharp text. Overall text quality was typical of data projectors, with black text on white easily readable down to 6 points, and white text on black easily readable at sizes down to 7.5 points.
Colors were bright, well-saturated without being overly so, and looked reasonably true. (BenQ credits its sRGB graphics mode with providing exceptional color accuracy.) Color balance, however, was a little worse than usual, with light grays sometimes appearing slightly red or green; however, this should only be an issue in grayscale images. I did see obvious rainbow artifacts—little red-green-blue flashes, especially in light areas against dark backgrounds—in several images. Nonetheless, this rainbow effect, which we frequently see in single-chip DLP projectors, is seldom a serious issue in data images and shouldn't be with the CH100.
Video and Audio
In my testing, rainbow artifacts were very apparent in video clips. The effect was more pronounced than usual for a DLP projector, and it's likely that people even mildly sensitive to the effect would be distracted by these artifacts. They're visible in 3D as well as 2D content. Otherwise, the video image quality is decent. Audio from its two five-watt speakers was easily loud enough for a small room, though I noticed a bit of distortion at higher volumes.
The BenQ CH100 comes through with what 1080p data projectors do best: showing sharp, easily readable text. And it generally does well with rendering colors (except in grayscale backgrounds). It has the long lamp life that's typical of LED-based projectors, but its modest brightness makes it best for use in small, dark rooms. Though portable, the CH100 would be more appealing if it were smaller and lighter than its lamp-based competitors, but it's larger and heavier than the InFocus IN1118HD yet considerably fainter. The Optoma EH341, which remains our top pick as a 1080p data projector, is a tad heavier than the BenQ but is much brighter. That said, the CH100 is a reasonable choice for a small conference room and occasional portable use.
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As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
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