BenQ lists the HT2150ST on its website as a home theater projector, but hides one of its secret powers: It’s the only model of that kind that BenQ also highlights as having a low input lag for gaming. And, indeed, serious gamers will appreciate not just the low lag, for its advantage in games that depend on reaction time, but some of its other features, too. (More on those shortly.) That said, the HT2150ST offers a lot even if you’re not interested in gaming at all. In particular, its color accuracy, contrast, and black levels are excellent for the $799 price, which also makes it a good choice strictly for watching movies and TV.
Not for Gaming Only
The HT2150ST is first and foremost a home theater projector meant for use in a dark room or in low-light situations. It’s built around a single DLP chip and a six-segment, RGBRGB color wheel—a choice that yields lower brightness but better color accuracy than wheels that include a white panel. Its rating of 2,200 ANSI lumens for its brightest predefined picture mode can boost brightness when you need it to stand up to ambient light, but as with almost any projector, the lower brightness modes deliver better color accuracy.
The most obvious feature strictly for gaming is the fast lag time, which I measured at 16.4 milliseconds in both Game and Game (Bright) modes. The other key feature is the second Game mode itself. BenQ says the first is for low levels of ambient light, while the second is for higher light levels. But arguably the more important difference is that by brightening up the darker areas of the image, the Bright version makes it easier to see anything hiding in the shadows even at low light levels. That may let you spot items of interest in a game—or targets to attack or defend against—a little faster.
That said, some features that make the HT2150ST a gaming projector can be just as important for home theater. Gamers often take their projectors to friends’ houses, which is why BenQ includes a soft carrying case with the projector. More important, these ad hoc setups sometimes mean having to use the projector in tight spaces. The short-throw lens is the only way to get a suitably large image in small rooms. It can be just as useful for turning a small room into a home theater space.
Gaming also demands a good sound system for the most immersive experience, so the HT2150ST’s stereo audio system, using a pair of onboard 10-watt speakers, yields good sound quality for a projector, along with high enough volume to easily fill any size family room. Most home theater users will connect an external audio system to the 3.5mm audio-out jack, but the built-in audio is good enough so they don’t have to. And even if they use an external system normally, they won’t have to carry it along with the projector for temporary setup in, say, the backyard for a movie night.
Setting Up and Testing the HT2150ST
The HT2150ST weighs only 7.3 pounds and measures 4.8 by 15 by 10.9 inches (HWD), making it easy to find room for. Its lens, unlike most short-throw lenses, includes a 1.2x zoom mode, which adds flexibility for positioning.
I set it up for a 90-inch image at only 4 feet and 4 inches from the screen. Setup essentially consists of connecting the power cord and cables—there are two HDMI ports—as well as setting the zoom and focusing the image using the controls hidden in a small compartment just behind the lens. There’s also a vertical keystone-correction option, if you need it.
Settings for tweaking the image range from basics such as brightness, contrast, and gamma, to a color-management system for adjusting hue, saturation, and gain separately for each primary and secondary color. Should you want to pay for professional calibration, the projector even supports ISF Day and Night modes, However, that’s an expensive proposition for such an inexpensive projector.
In truth, calibration isn’t really needed. Image quality straight out of the box was in the top tier for the price, with appropriate detail for the 1080p resolution and good color accuracy in most picture modes. Cinema gets the nod as my preferred mode, with the best color accuracy and best ability to hold the subtle gradations that give a sense of three dimensionality to rounded objects like closeups of faces. It also delivered good contrast and black levels, and held shadow detail well in dark scenes.
Based on the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, 2,200 lumens is bright enough in a dark room for a 210-inch diagonal 16:9 image using a 1.0-gain screen. For moderately bright ambient light, the size drops to 120 inches. I found Cinema mode easily bright enough in a dark room for long sessions using a 90-inch image for my formal tests. In informal tests in a family room with lots of windows, using an 80-inch 1.0 gain white screen, Cinema mode also delivered a satisfyingly bright picture with lights on at night, while the slightly brighter Vivid mode offered a highly watchable picture in the daytime.
As with most projectors, the brightest mode—Bright—added a green tint. However, it was slight enough that most people would consider it watchable, at least for occasional use if needed on a particularly bright day.
The one 3D mode works with DLP-link glasses only. As is typical, it delivers substantially lower brightness than any of the 2D modes, so you may need to either move the projector closer to the screen or lower the ambient light level when watching 3D. I saw no crosstalk in my tests and only minor 3D-related motion artifacts.
As with any single-chip projector, the HT2150ST can show rainbow artifacts in the form of red-green-blue flashes. However, I saw them only occasionally in my tests, and they were unusually fleeting. If you don’t see them easily or don’t mind them, they shouldn’t be an issue.
A Strong Contender
The BenQ HT2150ST is far from the only 1080p projector in its price class aimed at both gamers and home theater users. For viewing and gaming in higher levels of ambient light, be sure to take a look at the Optoma GT1080HDR and the Optoma HD39HDR in particular. Both have higher brightness ratings than the HT2150ST, thanks in part to color wheels that include a white panel, and both also add support for HDR, which the BenQ projector lacks.
However, in dark rooms or at low levels of ambient light, high brightness can make the image too bright for comfortable viewing, and the BenQ projector’s RGBRGB color wheel promises better color accuracy. If you’re planning to watch in a traditional dark-room home theater, or in low light levels at night, the BenQ HT2150ST may well be your under-$1,000 projector of choice.
The Bottom Line
BenQ’s HT2150ST does swimmingly for both gaming and home theater. Its minimal lag gives gamers an important reaction-time edge, while solid color accuracy, contrast, and black levels excel for viewing in a dark room.
BenQ HT2150ST Specs
|Rated Brightness||2200 ANSI lumens|
|Native Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Maximum Resolution||1920 by 1080; Full HD 3D|
|Inputs and Interfaces||HDMI (MHL), Wireless FHD (Optional), Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Dimensions (HWD)||4.8 by 15 by 10.9 inches|