Projectors work primarily because of the size of screen they allow you to get. When you think big screen, Plasmas or LCDs pop up but when you think big screens, projectors are your only port of call. Thanks to relatively new "short throw" DLP technology the ability to get a 60" screen only requires the projector to be placed a metre away from the projection surface. This means even those of us who live in the city can get a big picture even if we don't have big rooms.
For gaming it really wasn't until Nintendo's Wii console did we witness a mass market need for big screens. The games on the Wii not only work well when you have your mates around but when placed on a big screen it simply makes them pop. For this the MP512ST is perfect as like the Wii, it doesn't support high-definition resolutions.
Benq projectors typically cater for consumer and business buyers and the MP512ST slots in nearer the bottom end of the market, costing around the £400 mark. Even with this relative bargain basement price point, Benq realises that buyers are going to do some research before parting with their hard earned cash so the MP512ST has some nice additions to tempt you.
The MP512ST has a rather disappointing native resolution of only 800x600. The surprise is that Benq have included a HDMI input so you can plug high-def capable equipment into the MP512ST but it will re-scale the picture back down to 800x600. However being standard definition isn't the end of the world as the majority of television content is still sent out at 480i resolution. It’s also easy to forget that DVDs are standard definition so if you have a large collection the MP512ST is perfectly suited. When it comes to gaming, previous generation consoles and Wii users is where Benq is targeting the MP512ST at, and frankly, it doesn't disappoint.
Looks wise the MP512ST is certainly more consumer than business-like, with a glossy white fascia and a purple glow when in operation. The whole unit is relatively light and compact, with setup taking a few minutes from a cold start. The lamp doesn't take too long to get to appreciable brightness either, somewhere in the region of 70 seconds. Even at this price point, if you have access to a colourimeter, it's always best to use it to calibrate the MP512ST. Our viewing tests were done after calibration using a Spyder colourimeter.
With a good selection of inputs including HDMI, component, composite and S-Video it's got most bases covered. There's also a analogue D-Sub input allowing you to attach a PC or notebook easily. The built in 5w speaker can be fed through the HDMI port or a mini stereo jack. What would have been nice is an audio output to feed real speakers. With the Wii outputting through component the experience was good with no clipping or motion lag. The colour reproduction in a room with the curtains drawn was average but no worse than you would expect from a projector at this price point.
Another very notable inclusion is the ability for the MP512ST to adjust its colour output given the colour of the surface the picture is being projected on. Typically your surface will be white however if you are around your mates and they don't have a projection screen (highly likely) you'll just use a wall. Three settings exist allowing you to compensate for light green, blue and pink wall colours. It works quite well although it doesn't make up for good screen.
Watching television through a Sky+ box using the S-Video output was also enjoyable. Contrast was good with the only picture problems being that of the compression used in the broadcast. The fan of the MP512ST is audible however just as long as you aren't sitting next to it, you'll be hard pressed to find fault with it.
Bulb life is 3000 hours with new bulbs costing around £160 a pop. Like most projectors, the life of the current bulb can be viewed in the on-screen display. At £160 a new bulb does represent a significant percentage of the MP512ST's initial cost, however for most people 3000 hours should mean this is once every two years expenditure.
So the MP512ST is pretty much middle-of-the-road in everything. The only clanger is the resolution and those looking to purchase a projector with the intention of using it with a future high definition capable source will have to look elsewhere. That said for £400, it's hard bemoan this omission too much. With a good compliment of inputs and easy setup means that for low definition viewing and gaming it's well worth getting. Wii gamers with large DVD collections should rejoice as the MP512ST will make your room part of the gaming experience.