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BenQ MP512 ST DLP Projector
No matter how good or huge a TV gets (and as the 103in Panasonic TH-103PF9 proved, TVs get pretty big), they still can't match projectors for giving that immersive, cinema experience. Better still, unlike a real cinema, you don't have screaming kids or mumbling wanna-be-film-critics in your own living room - or at the very least it's much easier to remove them. However, the downside is that to get a projector as good as even a reasonable HDTV, you generally have to spend a significant amount of money.
Even such devices as the sub-£1000 Full HD InFocus X10 still aren't what you could call cheap; ludicrously good value for money, maybe, but cheap, no. However, not everyone is looking for a high definition setup, not having (or even wanting) an HD source to feed to it.
That isn't to say, however, that these consumers don't want the big screen experience. BenQ, the savvy company it is, knows that this audience is pretty large and is targeting it with the MP512 ST projector. Even just going by sales of the Wii, there are some four million (says VGChartz) owners out there, not to mention the countless Sky (SD) subscribers, Freeview watchers and… you get the idea. The point is, there's a big market for a standard definition projector offering above average performance at a better than average price.
The ST in the product name stands for short throw - this is important because it means the MP512 can sit on a coffee table, a relatively short distance from the surface it is projecting on. In my own living room, I had the projector maybe 1.5m away from the wall, and still had a 60in image - Wii Sports has never looked so good.
As already pointed out, the MP512 is only a standard definition projector, with an 800 x 600 resolution to be precise. Despite that, it still goes so far as to sport an HDMI port, which will even accept a 1080p signal - which the projector then downscales. When inputting a 16:9 signal, there are obviously going to be black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, but the projector is bright enough, at a quoted 2,200 ANSI lumens, for that not to be an issue. Yes these bars are noticeable, but not distractingly so.
As well as HDMI, there is a VGA connector, for hooking up a PC or laptop (with the maximum input resolution accepted being 1,280 x 1,024, downscaled), an S-Video input, a composite port and a 3.5mm jack for audio input. That latter input should be avoided like the plague and investing in a pair of dedicated speakers, even something as cheap as the GigaWorks T20s should be a top priority for anyone thinking of buying the MP512 - or any projector for that matter. Even BenQ seems to agree, because neither the remote, nor the projector's top-mounted controls offer a volume function.