Review: Can New Products Revive BenQ In The Channel?

With a slew of new product releases since the second half of last year, the Taiwan based manufacturer is positioning itself for a comeback. The Test Center recently evaluated a digital projector and two widescreen LCD monitors from the company to see if they stand a chance.

First, we looked at the $1,999 MSRP SP820. The SP820 is a 4000 lumens, DLP projector. One of the initial things reviewers noticed upon removing it from the box, was the built-in grip handle, which extends from the top of the projector over the left side. The location and shape of the handle made it very easy to lift and carry the unit.

Also noted was a cutout just above the lens opening that houses the Focus and Zoom controls. This design allows for simple adjustments, while positioning them out of the way from an accidental nudge.

Compared to equally bright projectors we've previously evaluated, the SP820 is a lightweight. Measuring 11.8 inches by 9.6 inches by 3.5 inches and weighing 8.2 pounds, it can be effortlessly carried and stored. When it comes to performance the unit is no slouch.

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The Texas Instruments' DLP BrilliantColor technology produced extremely vivid colors against noticeably dark blacks. When evaluated against 17 calibration tests in the DisplayMate suite, the SP820 needed no adjustments at all. The native aspect ratio is 4:3, but 16:9 is selectable.

Due to the size and brightness of the projector, the unit ran a little hotter than most, measuring 120 degrees Fahrenheit on the top and 168 degrees at the fan's vent. Power consumption was a steady 328 watts and the specified 36 decibel sound level was well below the threshold of our meter.

It might also be worth mentioning that the SP820 is one of very few devices that have passed through the Test Center with an actual printed manual, as well as a pdf version on disc. The projector has a variety of input connections including Analog RGB, DVI, Component and Composite Video, and S-Video. There is also an internal 3 watt speaker.

After evaluating the projector, it was time to move on to the LCD monitors. The T241W is a 24 inch widescreen with an MSRP of $529, and the G2200W is a 22 inch widescreen with a lower selling price of $299.

The T241W has a native resolution of 1920 by 1200 and two internal 1 watt speakers. With an HDMI input connection, as well as a D-Sub 15, its matte black LCD displayed vibrant colors with no glare at all. As with the projector, the T241W sailed through the DisplayMate calibration tests without any necessary fine tuning. On test patterns we would have preferred the whites to be a little warmer, but during actual use it wasn't a factor. The sturdy base and stand allows for height adjustment, as well as a -5 to +20 degree tilt and a -45 to +45 degree swivel. With a viewing angle of 160 degrees from all sides, this monitor quickly became a favorite in the lab.

The lesser expensive G2200W has DVI and D-Sub 15 input connections and a native resolution of 1680x1050. Although it also tilts from -5 to +20 degrees and has 160 degree viewing angles, the stand does not allow for the adjustment of height or swivel. This made finding a comfortable position a little difficult. DisplayMate results were similar to the T241W with bright colors and hardly any glare.

Based on these three models, it appears that BenQ is serious about returning to the market and making waves. A spokeswoman says the company says it maintains a "no-frills" and no-hassle channel program, with a "cashback" feature that acts as a financial incentive. Other LCD and projector vendors, including NEC, Samsung and ViewSonic, appear to have been much more aggressive in their approach to courting VARs over the past several years. While the competition may take action to make it tough for rivals like BenQ to gain momentum from a program perspective, BenQ is making a solid case on the product side.