Hands-On With The BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector

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Introduction To The BenQ MH530

BenQ MH530 1080p 3D DLP Video Projector - Package Contents
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Although the recent advancements in TV tech get all the hype, the video projector category has had their own revolution: smaller sizes, more light output, and, most significantly, increasingly affordable price points. For example, when you compare the ability to display an image of very large size (80 inches and up) - a video projector may be lot more affordable than equivalent sized TV.

The BenQ MH530 is a compact, and affordable, video projector that is designed for both home entertainment and business/classroom use.

At its core, the MH530 incorporates DLP (Digital Light Processing) Technology. What this means is that images are created by a chip with rapidly tilting micro-mirrors. A lamp is used to bounce light off the mirrors, and those reflected light patterns then pass through a rapidly spinning segmented color wheel, and, finally, through a lens and onto a screen.

In terms of image detail, the native display resolution of the MH530 is 1080p, but also provides video upscaling for lower resolution sources.

The MH530 can also display both 2D and 3D images (content dependent).

Before going into the connectivity, setup, use, and evaluation of the BenQ MH530, here are some of additional features of importance.

Light Output and Contrast

The MH530 has the ability to output a maximum white light output of 3200 ANSI lumens. What this means is that this projector is designed to provide viewable images even in settings where there may be some ambient light present, such as an average living room or meeting room. However, it must be noted that color light output is less, so as the amount of light increases in the room, color brightness will be more dramatically affected than white brightness.

Along with its light output capability, the MH530 has a stated Contrast Ratio (Full On/Full Off) of 10,000:1. This provides an average range of black-to-white that is suitable for general use.

Color and Picture Settings

The MH530 provides several preset color/picture setting modes (Dynamic, Presentation, SRGB, Cinema, 3D, User 1, User 2).

Dynamic provides the maximum brightness and contrast, which is desirable in a room with ambient light present, but may be intense in a totally dark room.

Presentation provides a color balance that more closely matches PC and Laptop screens.

sRGB color capability is very useful for those in Business and Education, as the images projected using the sRGB mode will look the same as those on an sRGB LCD display monitor

Cinema provides a slightly dimmer and warmer image that is characteristic of film sources, and is best used in a totally dark room,

3D sets the right light and color balance for watching 3D movies.

User 1/User 2 provides two manual setting options that can be placed in memory.

Additional color support is provided by BenQ's trademark Colorific technology, which is designed to provide accurate, stable, fade resistant color over time, as well as additional color management settings provided for experienced users.

Aspect Ratio and Image Size Range

Characteristic of just about all video projectors available for general use, the MH530 has a Native 16x9 Screen Aspect Ratio, but it also compatible 16x10, 4x3, and 2.35:1 aspect ratio sources.

The MH530 can project images from 40 to 300 inches in size measured diagonally based on a combination of its native 16x9 aspect ratio and projector-to-screen distance. BenQ provides a more detailed chart for specific screen sizes and projector distances in the user manual.

Lamp Characteristics

In order to display images on a screen, a video projector needs a light source. The light source used in the MH530 is a 280 Watt Lamp. Lamp Life Hours: 4,000 (Normal), 6,000 (Economic), 6,500 (SmartECO Mode). Using the 4,000 hour normal mode number, that would mean that if using the projector 2 hours day, you can expect a useful life of about 5 1/2 years @ 730 hours per year). The lamp is user replaceable.

There is an additional feature called "Lamp Save" that reduces power by analyzing the content brightness requirements. This means that since dark scenes don't require as much light, by reducing light output those periods, the lamp life is further extended.

Of course, to keep the lamp cool, you need a fan, and the fan built-into the MH530 produces a 33db of noise under normal operation and 28db when using ECO mode. These noise levels are about average for a video projector, and may be noticeable during quiet scenes or in a small room.

Projector Size/Weight

The Benq MH530 has a compact size measuring 11.4 inches (Wide) x 8.7 inches (Deep) x 3.7 inches (High), and it only weighs 4.32 lbs.

What Comes In The Box

The accessories provided with the MH530 include a Remote Control with Battery, Detachable Power Cord, PC monitor cable, CD-Rom (user manual), Quick Start Guide, Warranty Card.

Optional accessories available include a ceiling mount, 3D glasses, Wireless HDMI Connection Kit, and, of course, a replacement lamp.

Price and More...

The initial suggested price for the BenQ MH530 is $999.

However, before pulling out your wallet, let's check out the details on how to set it up, use it, and how it performs, to better determine if it is the right video projector for you.

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BenQ MH530 Video Projector - Connectivity

BenQ MH530 1080p 3D DLP Video Projector - Front and Rear Views
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Now that have you have a basic idea of the technology and some of the features incorporated into the MH530, before you tackle the setup procedures, you need to get familiar with its connectivity and control options.

Using the above photos as a guide, the connection offerings are as follows.

Starting on the left side of the connection panel shown in the above photo are the loop through 3.5mm audio jacks. The blue jack is an audio-input, while the green jack is the audio output jack. The blue jack provides an incoming audio signal (the MH530 has a built-in speaker) for the S-Video, and Composite Video inputs located just to the right, while the audio output jack can transfer the incoming audio signal back out to a external audio system (a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter may be required).

It is also important to point out that the even if a stereo audio signal source is connected to the projector, the audio output signal from the projector will only be Mono. For a home theater audio experience, it is best to connect the audio output from your source component directly to an external audio system, rather than looping through the MH530.

Moving to the right of the S-Video and Composite Video input connections is 1 HDMI input followed by 2 VGA/Component (via VGA/Component Adapter) inputs, One VGA/PC monitor output, 1 USB port (mini type B), and an RS232 port.

The VGA/PC inputs allow connection of a PC or Laptop, as well as component video source (such as an older DVD player that does not have HDMI) for display on a screen. In turn, the VGA/PC monitor output allows a video signal to be displayed using both the projector and PC monitor at the same time. The included USB port allows compatible file transfer between a PC/Laptop and the projector.

The RS232 port provides the ability for the MH530 to be incorporated into a custom or computer controlled home theater setup. However, there are more basic control options provided.

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BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Onboard and Remote Control Features

BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector - Onboard and Remote Controls
Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The final thing to get familiar with before setting up the MH530 is the control system that provides both direct access and onscreen menu navigation functions.

The top image shows the onboard control keypad that is located on the top of the projector, and the bottom photo shows the provided wireless remote control.

Both are very easy to use, once you know what the buttons do.

Starting with the onboard control key pad, at the very top are the Temperature and Lamp status indicators.

The Temp indicator should not be lit when the projector is in operation. If it does light up (red) then the projector is too hot and should be turned off.

Likewise, the Lamp indicator should also be off during normal operation, if there is a problem with the Lamp, this indicator will flash orange or red.

Moving down to the first keypad row, on the left is the Menu Access/Menu Exit Button, which activates or deactivates the onscreen menu.

On the right is AUTO button. This button allows the projector auto-adjust the parameters of the projected image - should you opt for that convenience.

The button in the center is the Mode/Enter button. The mode feature accesses the picture setup modes, while the enter button activates the onscreen menu selectors.

The button on the bottom left (of the nine-button cluster) is the ECO BLANK button. This allows the user to "mute" the projected image without having to turn the projector off.

The button on the bottom right is the Source Select button. This allows you to manual toggle through the source input selections (HDMI, Composite/S-Video, VGA).

The arrow buttons are used primarily for navigating the onscreen menu options, but the left and right arrows also serve as volume up/down controls, while the top and bottom arrows are used to make manual Keystone Correction adjustments.

Finally, on the right side is the Power Button and Power Indicator light. When the projector is turned on the Power indicator will flash green and then will remain solid green during operation. When this indicator displays orange continuously. In cool down mode, the power indicator will flash orange.

Moving to the bottom photo is the provided wireless remote control, which duplicates everything available on the onboard control keypad, but separates some functions for easier access and use, but as the Volume Control, Aspect Ratio control, 3D Settings, Mute, Digital Zoom, Image Freeze, and Smart Eco.

One last thing to point out about the MH530 Remote Control is that it is only about 5-inches long and its practical gray, green, and red buttons on a white background make the remote control easier to use in a darkened room, but it was backlight that would have been even better.

Now that you have all the feature, connection, and control basics covered, it is time to set up the MH530 and enjoy some movies!

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Setting Up The BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector

BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Test Pattern
BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Test Pattern Screen Feature To Aid In Setup. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

Placing The MH530

To set up the BenQ MH530, first determine if you want to project onto a wall or screen, then position the the projector on a table or rack, or mount on the ceiling, at the optimal distance from the screen or wall.

However, one thing to keep in mind is that the MH530 requires about 10 feet of projector-to-screen/wall distance to project an 80-inch image. So, if you have a small room, and desire a large projected image, this projector may not be the best choice for you.

Also, before permanently placing the projector (especially on the ceiling), definitely consult the image size chart on pge 14 of the user manual (on CD-ROM).

What Happens When You Plug Everything In And Turn It On

Once you have determined the best spot for the MH530, plug in your source (DVD/Blu-ray Disc player/PC/Roku Streaming Stick/Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc....) to the designated input(s) of the projector. Next, plug in the power cord and turn on the projector using the button on the top of the projector or the remote.

After about 10 seconds or so you see the BenQ logo, and the 1080p display resolution indication, projected on your screen. However, one thing you may notice on MH530 is that the color that first appears on the screen seems a little off towards the warm side, but after a few seconds the correct color balance is displayed.

How To Adjust The Image Size and Shape On The MH530

Now that the projector is fully on, you may need to adjust the image size and focus on your screen. For this task you can either activate the MH530's built-in Test Pattern (in the projector's system setup menu) or turn on one of your sources.

With the image on the screen, raise or lower the front of the projector using the adjustable foot located on the bottom front center of the MH530 (or adjust the ceiling mount angle).

You can also adjust the image angle on the projection screen, or white wall, using the Keystone Correction function via the onscreen menu navigation buttons on the the top of the projector, or on the remote remote or onboard controls.

However, be cautious when using Keystone correction as it works by compensating the projector angle with the screen geometry. This can sometimes result in the edges on the left and right side of the image not being straight, but angled out or in. The BenQ MH530 Keystone correction function only works in the vertical plane.

Once the image frame is as close to an even rectangle as possible, zoom or move the projector to get the image to fill the screen properly, followed by using the manual focus control to sharpen your image.

NOTE: Only use the optical zoom control, if possible, which is located on top of the projector, just behind the lens. Avoid using the digital zoom feature that is provided on the projector's onscreen menu. The digital zoom, although useful in some cases to get a closer look are some aspects of a projected image, does degrade image quality.

Two more setup tips: The MH530 will search for the input of the source that is active. You can also access the source inputs manually via the controls on the projector, or via the wireless remote control.

Using 3D

If you have purchased an accessory 3D glasses - all you have to do is put on the glasses, turn them on (make sure you have charged them first). Turn on your 3D source, access your content (such as 3D Blu-ray Disc), and MH530 will auto detect and display the 3D content on your screen.

So, after getting familiar with the features of the MH530 and getting it set-up - What should you expect in terms of performance?

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BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Performance

BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Picture Quality Sample - Bridge, Waterfall, Garden
BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Picture Quality Sample - Bridge, Waterfall, Garden. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com - Image Source: Spears and Munsil

Video Performance - 2D

The BenQ MH530 does a very good job displaying 2D high-def (1080p) images in a traditional darkened home theater room setup, providing consistent color and detail (Note the above photo as an example - 2D image - sRGB mode).

With its strong light output, the MH530 can project a viewable image in a room that may have some ambient light present. However, it must noted in a room where there is some light present, you do sacrifice black level and contrast performance. On the other hand, in situations where a room cannot be made completely dark, such as classroom or business conference room, the MH530's increased light output does provide a viewable image.

The MH530 provides several pre-set modes various content sources, as well as two user modes that can also be present, once adjusted. For Home Theater viewing (Blu-ray, DVD) the Cinema mode provides the best option. On the other hand, I found that for TV and streaming content, I actually preferred the sRGB mode, even though that mode is intended more for business/education presentations. The mode that I felt was really terrible was the Dynamic Mode - to bright, too harsh, too much color saturation. However, another thing to point out is that even though the MH530 provides independently adjustable user modes, you can also change color/contrast/brightness/sharpness settings on any of the Preset Modes (except 3D) more to you liking.

In addition to 1080p content sources, the MH530 also does a very good job upscaling lower resolution sources, with minimal jaggedness and other artifacts. However, sources sent in via the composite and S-Video connections will be much softer than those input via VGA or HDMI connections.

Video Performance - 3D

The MH530 is 3D display compatible and is compatible with DLP-Link 3D glasses glasses sold separately).

To find out how well BenQ MH530 does with 3D, I used the OPPO BDP-103 and BDP-103D 3D-enabled Blu-ray Disc players in conjunction with the 3D glasses BenQ provided at my request (3D glasses do not come as part of the projector's package - require an optional purchase and are priced at about $50 a pair).

Using several 3D Blu-ray disc movies (see the list at the end of this review) and also running the depth and crosstalk tests available on the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark Disc 2nd Edition I found that the 3D viewing experience was good, with no visible crosstalk, and only minor glare and motion blurring.

However, the 3D images are somewhat darker and softer than their 2D counterparts. Unlike 2D, if you like to watch 3D content on a consistent basis, definitely consider a room that can be darkened well.

Since 3D images are naturally darker than 2D, the darker the room, the better the 3D viewing experience. When the MH530 detects 3D content, the projector automatically goes into a pre-set 3D mode for brightness, contrast, color, and light output.

However, an additional useful tip is to make sure you run the lamp in its standard mode, and not either of the two ECO modes, which, although saving energy and extending lamp life, does reduce the light output that is desirable for good 3D viewing.

Additional Note On Video Performance

One final thing to point out about the MH530's video performance is that since it is a DLP-based video projector, some may notice the appearance of the Rainbow Effect. However, although I am sensitive to this effect (some people are more than others), during my time with the MH530, I did not notice it much, and what I did notice was not distracting - What the DLP Rainbow Effect is.

Audio Performance

The BenQ MH530 or really cheap Bluetooth incorporates a 2 watt mono amplifier and built-in loudspeaker. The sound quality is what you would expect from something like a tabletop AM radio, which is definitely not desirable over long periods, and is definitely not practical for medium (15x20) or large size rooms (20x30).

I definitely recommend that you send your audio sources to a home theater receiver, other type of external audio system for a more satisfying listening experience, or, take advantage of the MH530's built-in audio outputs in conjunction with a sound system that is better suited for a large meeting or classroom.

Next up - The Review Summary and Rating...

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BenQ MH530 DLP Video Projector - Review Summary and Rating

BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector - Onscreen Menu System
BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector - Onscreen Menu System. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

What I Liked About The BenQ MH530

1. Very good color image quality - sRGB is a nice touch.

2. Accepts input resolutions up to 1080p. Also, all input signals are scaled to 1080p for display.

3. High white light output produces bright images for large rooms and screen sizes. This makes the projector usable for both living room and business/educational room environments. The MH530 would also work outdoors at night.

4. 3D viewing option, although slightly darker and warmer than 2D, is very solid, with no visible crosstalk.

5. Can be integrated into a PC or network controlled environment.

6. Compact physical size makes it easily movable from room to room, or for traveling, if needed.

What I Didn't Like About the BenQ MH530

1. Black level performance is just average.

2. No Lens Shift - only Vertical Keystone Correction provided.

3. Only 1 HDMI input - If you have multiple HDMI video sources, you will need to pass them through a home theater receiver or HDMI switcher.

4. Underpowered built-in speaker system.

5. Fan noise may be noticeable when running in Dynamic and 3D modes.

6. 3D glasses require extra purchase.

Final Take

Taking all into consideration, if you are looking for a good all-around affordable video projector that looks good, is easy to use both at home (a great projector for the family) or in the office or classroom, and is very affordable, the BenQ MH530 is definitely worth checking out - I give it a solid 4 out 5 Star rating.

Video Components Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Players (Bu-ray and DVD playback): OPPO BDP-103 and BDP-103D.

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Drive Angry, Godzilla (2014), Hugo, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Jupiter Ascending, The Adventures of Tintin,Terminator Genysis, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Age of Adaline, American Sniper, Max Max: Fury Road, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Pacific Rim, and San Andreas

John Wick, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, The Cave, U571, and V For Vendetta.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer, unless otherwise indicated. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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