BenQ MS517 review

With its classroom-friendly features and pricing, the BenQ MS517 directly targets the educational sector. At only £283, you're not going to be getting high quality here, but the projector should offer just enough for basic classroom use.

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A manufacturer's brightness rating of 2800 ANSI lumens is very high and in practise it was bright enough to allow the BenQ MS517 to project happily even in broad daylight. The biggest issue though will be the limited pixel resolution. The BenQ MS517 only reaches SVGA, which is just 800 x 600 pixels.

Even ignoring the trend for HD models, not every school will deem this to be enough – especially as most computer software demands at least 1024 x 768 pixel in order to operate correctly.

Should you need a higher resolution, the BenQ MW519 offers 1280 x 720 pixels for around £90 more.

You even have the option of adding 3D to this projector, although the limited resolution and need to buy a pair of glasses for every viewer may leave this feature as little more than tick on the specs list.

No dullard to look at, the BenQ MS517's swish and glossy black casing should catch the eye of even the most particular of pupils. We also like the clear menu system, and the clean control panel with its bold subtitles – it's very easy to see which ports and connectors are which.

You get the usual array of pre-digital connections, namely VGA, composite, S-Video and analogue audio, along with HDMI. It also has a pair of speakers although they lack clarity. If you're wanting to hear audio then you'll certainly want to tack on a better set.

The BenQ MS517 won't create a particularly large picture, but you can beam a 50in image from around two metres away. In a classroom, huge size may not be so necessary, and this could be more than sufficient.

Keystone can be corrected vertically. You don't get any of the sophisticated aids supplied with the likes of the Epson EB-1945W. But then, the BenQ MS517 is less than a quarter of the price.

The BenQ MS517 projector does have some nice educational-themed features. The screen can quickly be blanked when the image is no longer needed, while a series of teaching templates allow you to display a number of designs, from manuscript paper to charts.

In truth, we suspect that most teachers will already have software that allows them to display such designs if needed, but it's still a nice addition that could help in the odd case.

A 13,000:1 contrast ratio is touted, although the results fall far short of such a claim.

Given the price tag and resolution, the BenQ MS517 was never likely to offer a polished colour palette either. The results are not displeasing, but the palette definitely lacks depth and accuracy, with a slightly yellow tinge present throughout.

We can also see problems for classrooms with the dreaded rainbow effect, and the MS517 seemed more prone to this than many others we've tested recently.

Few of us are particularly sensitive to this strange phenomenon, induced by DLP technology's spinning colour whee. With a full classroom, there's more chance that at least one or two pupils will be particularly afflicted, and will have their viewing disrupted by multi-coloured artefacts randomly flying out at them.

With that in mind, you probably won't be wanting to use this projector for showing many black-and-white clips, which exacerbate the problem.

BenQ MS517: Specs

  • DLP video projector
  • 800 x 600 pixel
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 2800 ANSI lumens
  • ‘13,000:1 contrast ratio’
  • 32dB (30dB eco) noise output
  • HDMI, VGA, USB
  • composite video
  • audio in/out
  • S-Video
  • 37-300in recommended display size
  • 1.2–12.6 m throw distance (wide)
  • 190W lamp
  • 4500 hours lamp lift (normal), 6500 hours (eco)
  • speakers with 2W amp
  • 303 x 222 x 112 mm
  • 2.3 kg
  • DLP video projector
  • 800 x 600 pixel
  • 4:3 aspect ratio
  • 2800 ANSI lumens
  • ‘13,000:1 contrast ratio’
  • 32dB (30dB eco) noise output
  • HDMI, VGA, USB
  • composite video
  • audio in/out
  • S-Video
  • 37-300in recommended display size
  • 1.2–12.6 m throw distance (wide)
  • 190W lamp
  • 4500 hours lamp lift (normal), 6500 hours (eco)
  • speakers with 2W amp
  • 303 x 222 x 112 mm
  • 2.3 kg

OUR VERDICT

The colour palette isn't accurate, and the native pixel count is too low for much computer-based use. But the attractively styled BenQ can handle light-filled rooms, and generally does a proficient job of projecting images.

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