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Lifewire / Nick Jaynes
4,000 lumens brightness
3D and Blu-Ray 3D compatible
Two HDMI ports, including an MHL port
User and visually friendly operating system
Only a single, 2-watt mono speaker
The BenQ MW612 is a mighty business projector that’s hard to beat. It pumps out 4,000 lumens of light, offers wireless connectivity on top of a slew of wired connection ports, a great operating system, and the ability to project 3D images.
Not every casual home viewer—or office conference room—wants or needs 4K HDR projection capability. Furthermore, not everyone wants, or can afford, to pay for that sort of image resolution. That’s where the BenQ MW612 projector comes in. It might not have 4K resolution, but what it lacks in image crispness and downright resolution, it handily makes up for with other features and specs. For example, it can project 3D (3D glasses sold separately), it has wireless compatibility, and puts out a claimed 4,000 lumens. It’s also compact, weighing a meager 5.1 pounds.
These all sound like great features, especially given the $499 price point and the fact it’s from the brand BenQ, which is highly regarded in the projector market. But is it actually any good in practice? To find out, we tested the BenQ MW612 to see if you can get a potent projector for under $500.
If you’re at all accustomed to higher-end projectors, the BenQ MW612 will feel surprisingly compact, as you pull it out of the box. Measuring just 9.3 inches long, 11.6 inches wide, and 4.5 tall, and clocking in at just 5.1 pounds, it’s on the small side of the projector market. This diminutive size makes it great for transporting it around or stashing it away on a shelf. To that end, it won’t take up much real estate on a conference table either.
The focus and zoom adjustments are on the top of the case, up near the lens. Both are recessed into the body a bit, so errant bumps won’t knock the image out of whack. The lens is also recessed into the body, which makes it less prone to scratches when moving as well.
Unlike some projectors that only include a single, low-wattage mono speaker, the BenQ MW612 offers an audio-in port.
Several inches back, on the top-center, are the control buttons. Normally, it’s undesirable to have these buttons on the top. That’s because they become inaccessible once the projector is mounted high off the ground or on the ceiling. Since this projector is primarily designed for business and office use, it will likely spend the majority of its life on a desk or conference tabletop. So, in this case, button placement is excusable. However, we’d still prefer to see them on the side.
At the back of the projector, we find the various input and output ports. These include a mini-jack audio-in and audio-out, two HDMIs (one of which is MHL), a USB, a mini-USB, 15-pin VGA, RS-232, S-Video, and RCA.
Fan heat vents are located solely to the front right corner of the case. So you’ll want to keep that area clear, as this unit—especially on full blast—can put out a significant amount of heat for its size.
BenQ makes it abundantly clear that this projector is first and foremost designed to be a workplace projector. We say that because the default picture mode out of the box is Presentation mode.
The lamp has several intensity levels or modes. Default is SmartEco, which is not the full blast image offered by Normal, nor is it as dim as Economy. Essentially, this mode is marketing speak for medium—or mid-level brightness. BenQ seems so proud of this lamp mode that it is the only lamp brightness setting to receive its very own dedicated button on the MW612’s remote.
Dialing the BenQ MW612 in for your first use is easy. The manual focus and zoom adjustments are located on the lens in the upper left-hand corner of the case. They’re deeply recessed into the body, which eliminates the chance that you’ll accidentally bump either knob out of place.
Since this is a business-forward projector, setup is easy and intuitive. If you needed to set it on top of a table and quickly plug in a laptop, you could be presenting in 30 seconds. There’s little need to adjust color quality or further square up the image (with the projector’s adjustable feet)—it comes well tuned out of the box.
After all, you’re not likely to be screening a Marvel movie. If you’re looking at a PowerPoint presentation, few business-meeting attendees are going to quibble about an image that’s slightly color askew. So, for that reason, the BenQ MW612 succeeds right out of the box.
The BenQ MW612’s claimed 4,000 lumens, at first blush, seems like a bit of an overestimation. For example, some manufacturers claim 2,000 lumens on their budget models and sometimes even those seem a bit dimmer than claimed. We were expecting a similar experience with the BenQ MW612; we anticipated that the image would be darker than claimed. But that’s alright because even 75 percent of 4,000 is still 3,000 lumens.
Imagine our surprise when we clicked the lamp setting to Normal mode and found our retinas begging for relief in our blacked-out home cinema testing room. The BenQ MW612 gets almost too bright, especially when projecting mostly white images, and when the viewer is sitting close to the screen.
With its 4,000 lumens of light output, wireless compatibility, 3D image projection, and a relatively lightweight and sturdy construction, the BenQ MW612 is hard to beat.
Thankfully, you don’t need to sit right on top of the screen with this projector, as it is capable of projecting a 120-inch image from as far away as 13 feet. Since we weren’t able to get that far away, we opted to use either ‘LampSave or SmartEco mode during most projecting sessions, from PowerPoint to movies. Simply, we never found a lighting situation—aside from full, unfiltered daylight—under which Normal mode’s 4,000 lumens of light was necessary.
Presumably, with this much projecting power, you could feasibly do a work presentation at an outdoor lunch and not lose any image quality. If you’re the kind of presenter who likes to take things outside the boardroom, this is definitely a great projector for you.
In terms of pure resolution, though, the BenQ MW612 was adequate. We’re not disparaging the image quality—quite the contrary. Again, this projector is not capable of 4K HDR images. But it can project 1080p, at a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1200, which is more than enough for virtually any projecting need. You just won’t get full 4K if you send 4K content through it.
Unlike some projectors that only include a single, low-wattage mono speaker, the BenQ MW612 offers an audio-in port. Since this is first and foremost a workplace projector, that makes sense. Trying to enjoy a Marvel movie through the single speaker would be a disappointing experience. But hearing a bit of audio in a presentation through the BenQ MW612’s single speaker is more than satisfactory.
That said, it is a single, low-wattage speaker. Accordingly, it doesn’t get very loud, nor does the fidelity hold up at full volume. If you are planning to utilize media that requires (or deserves) more than a low-wattage speaker, we recommend using auxiliary speakers routed through an outside tuner.
With mini-jack audio-in and audio-out, two HDMIs (one of which is MHL), USB, mini-USB, 15-pin VGA, RS-232, S-Video, and RCA, you should have no problem hooking up virtually any kind of video and audio input source to the BenQ MW612. Since one of the two HDMI ports is MHL, you can plug a streaming stick into the back, which further builds on the projector’s connectivity bona fides.
The remote control is a good one. Range is adequate. But it lacks any backlighting, which makes using the remote in the dark a challenge. If you’re using this projector in a well-lit conference room, the lack of a backlight won’t prove problematic.
That said, it includes some useful dedicated buttons. For example, in addition to the Source button that allows users to quickly toggle through input sources, there is an HDMI button. This saves precious seconds for users who want to quickly switch to the HDMI input rather than having to scroll through several other input options.
The remote also includes an EcoBlank button. Pressing this sends the screen into a blacked-out mode. Think of it as a pause button of sorts. It doesn’t put the projector into a sleep mode, nor does it pause the image. Rather, it just gives the lamp a bit of downtime. This is a nice feature when you don’t want to necessarily turn the projector off, nor do you need to be projecting a mostly white screen saver image. Furthermore, the remote includes optical zoom buttons for when a user has to zoom in on the fly and doesn’t wish to use the physical zoom knob on the lens.
Lastly, there’s the Auto button. Imagine you’re coming into a conference room and someone before you messed with the light, color, and other settings on the BenQ MW612. Rather than having to dig through one by one to get it back to square one, you can simply hit Auto and the projector’s presets take over. This is a good way to ensure you’ll have good projection settings in a pinch.
Many projectors, even higher-end units, have software, menus, and screens that look downright ancient. They resemble Windows of the early 1990s—and not in a fun, retro way. They’re not pretty but they’re utilitarian. Delightfully, the BenQ MW612 has a menu software that looks downright modern (almost). It has an early 2010s look to it. The color scheme is purple based. The buttons are rounded out pill-shaped icons. The fonts are clear to read. And the layout is user-friendly.
We wish more projector manufacturers would copy the BenQ operating system for its simplicity and ease of use.
The software responds quickly to inputs, both from the top-mounted buttons and from the remote control. We wish more projector manufacturers would copy the BenQ operating system for its simplicity and ease of use. The operating systems of the competitors are good, but the BenQ OS and user experience is better.
The BenQ MW612 can be purchased at the $599 price point on Amazon, but it’s usually on sale for $100 less. This puts it around the middle of the competitive price range for other, non-4K projectors, which typically range from $250 up to $800. With its 4,000 lumens of light output, wireless compatibility, 3D image projection, and a relatively lightweight and sturdy construction, the BenQ MW612 is hard to beat.
For the sake of comparison, let’s look at another BenQ product. We are comparing one that is just slightly more costly than the MW612, the HT2150ST. The BenQ HT2150ST is priced at almost 50% more than the MW612. However, for that additional sum, you get a short throw projector with a native 1080p image. The benefit of a short throw projector is that it can throw an image to a screen at close proximity. And since its native 1080p, compared with the native 1280 x 800 (WXGA) image of the MW612, the image of the HT2150ST will be high resolution.
Aside from that, however, the less expensive MW612 really stands out. The HT2150ST has only 2,200 lumens as where the MW612 offers 4,000 lumens. What’s more, the HT2150ST doesn’t offer wireless connectivity while the MW612 does. Plus, the HT2150ST weighs almost 3 pounds more than the MW612, making it less portable.
To pick between the two, you’d need to consider what the primary use of your projector will be. The MW612 is first and foremost a business projector. The HT2150ST is intended to be more of a budget-friendly home cinema projector. Of course, both have features that would enable them to play dual roles. So either could be a wise choice, depending on your usage.
A flexible business projector.
We see the BenQ MW612 as a dual-purpose machine. Yes, it was primarily built for business use, with its lightweight, compact body, plentiful ports, and potent power output. At the same time, however, since it can support a streaming stick and also project 3D images. It could even be used as a great home cinema projector, so long as the user doesn’t care that images aren’t 1080p or 4K HDR. It might not be the coolest, flashiest, or most refined projector on the market. But for the price, you’d be hard pressed to find a projector from a respected brand that can serve so many purposes.