ViewSonic’s website touts the PX701HD ($589.99) as ideal for both home and office, but it’s better thought of as a home entertainment projector that can also serve for presentations—a statement that’s true for almost any home projector. In truth, it’s a close match to the BenQ TH585, which BenQ calls a home entertainment model. Like the TH585, the PX701HD offers native 1080p resolution, a low lag time for snap responses in games, a picture mode that brightens the dark areas in game scenes to reveal hidden dangers, and another for watching movies that delivers more dramatic-looking dark scenes and better contrast. It even offers the same 3,500-lumen brightness rating. It’s an able full-HD projector choice.
Built around a single 1,920-by-1,200 DLP chip, the projector uses only 1,920 by 1,080 pixels on the chip to limit its native resolution to 1080p. Its high brightness rating is due in part to its RBGCYW (red-blue-green-cyan-yellow-white) color wheel. The white segment lets more light reach the lens than in a projector that lacks one, making the image better able to stand up to ambient light. Unfortunately, it also tends to hurt color accuracy. The cyan and yellow panels help mitigate that tendency by improving accuracy for some colors. But note that DLP projectors designed for viewing in a dark room, such as the BenQ HT2150ST, use color wheels without white panels, precisely because the design focuses more on color accuracy than brightness.
The PX701HD scores well on both portability and input lag—two features of particular interest for gamers. Although it doesn’t come with a carrying case, it’s small and light enough (4.4 by 12.2 by 8.7 inches, 5.7 pounds) to easily move from room to room, carry to a friend’s house, or store away when not in use. It also delivers low input lag, which I measured using a Bodnar meter at 16.4ms at 1080p 60Hz with the projector’s 3X Fast Input setting on.
The onboard 10-watt speaker delivers usable if slightly tinny sound at sufficient volume to fill a medium-size family room. If you want truly immersive sound, however, plan on using an external sound system.
Besides being compact, the PX701HD offers some convenience features for setup, most notably a 1.1x zoom and a digital image shift—two more items it shares with the BenQ TH585. The shift takes advantage of the extra pixels on the 1,920-by-1,200 chip to let you move the image up or down from its centered position by about 5 percent of the image height. If you need to tilt the projector to aim at the screen, there’s +/-40 degree vertical keystone control for squaring off the image. Inputs include two HDMI 1.4a ports. I set the projector up for a 90-inch image at 9 feet and 4 inches from the screen.
Image quality with default settings is usable, but even the picture mode with the best color accuracy can benefit from a little tweaking. Brightest mode was noticeably shifted toward a greenish-blue. Blue shifts tend to be less distracting that the green bias in most projectors’ brightest modes, but the shift in this case was enough to make the lips in a closeup of a face look like the actor had been swimming for too long in cold water. So while Brightest mode is more usable than the Bright mode of many projectors, it’s still best reserved for occasional use.
Sports, Standard, and Gaming modes are all blue-shifted to varying degrees, if less so than Brightest mode. Most people will consider all three usable with default settings for at least casual viewing. Gaming mode also brightens up dark areas on screen, making shadow detail (details in dark areas) easier to see. This can be an advantage in games, letting you spot objects or potential enemies in dark areas more quickly. However, it can rob photorealistic scenes of contrast and reduce the sense of three-dimensionality. For movies and video, Movie mode delivers more visual impact for dark scenes and the best color accuracy.
Even in Movie mode, though, I felt the need to adjust the color for watching movies. Straight out of the box, blue skies turned just turquoise enough for me to consider the shift bothersome. However, thanks to the color management system’s settings for adjusting hue, saturation, and gain separately for each primary and secondary color, it was easy to fix the problem. I brought blue skies into a realistic range without creating issues with other colors simply by adjusting the Hue setting for Cyan. Other settings include brightness, contrast, gamma, and Brilliant Color, which is common on DLP projectors. Typically, lowering the Brilliant Color setting will lower brightness while improving color accuracy. With the PX701HD, however, changing the setting in Movie mode lowered the brightness without any significant effect on color.
Using the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, the ViewSonic’s rated 3,500 lumens is bright enough to deliver a suitably bright 270-inch-diagonal 16:9 image using a 1.0-gain screen in a dark room, or a 150-inch image in moderately bright ambient light. But again, the Brightest mode isn’t the one you’ll generally want to use. As a point of reference, Movie mode was easily bright enough in a dark room to fill a 90-inch screen for my formal testing. In informal tests in a family room with lots of windows, it was bright enough to fill an 80-inch 1.0-gain white screen for nighttime viewing with lights on. For daytime viewing, colors were noticeably less saturated, but the picture was still highly watchable.
Like most projectors in this price range—including the BenQ TH585 and HT2150ST—the PX701HD offers only one 3D picture mode and works with DLP-link glasses only. I didn’t see any crosstalk in my tests and noticed only minor 3D-related motion artifacts.
One potential issue for the PX701HD is that it showed more rainbow artifacts—red-green-blue flashes—in my tests than is typical for current DLP projectors. If you see these artifacts easily, or aren’t sure whether you do, be sure to buy the projector from a source that allows returns without a restocking fee, in case you find them bothersome.
If you’re interested in gaming, watching movies and video on a large screen in rooms with ambient light, or both, the ViewSonic PX701HD is a capable 1080p choice. But be sure to consider whether it’s worth paying a bit more for a projector like the Optoma GT1080HDR or Optoma HD39HDR, both of which are also 1080p projectors designed for gaming as well as movies and video, but which add higher brightness and HDR support, with its promise of a wider color gamut.
If you don’t need those extra features, however, be sure to also take a look at the BenQ TH585, which offers a close match to the PX701HD point by point and—for the units I tested, at least—a bit better color accuracy out of the box. The BenQ falls short of an Editors’ Choice award, so the PX701HD remains worth a look.
M. David Stone is an award-winning freelance writer and computer industry consultant. Although a confirmed generalist, with writing credits on subjects as varied as ape language experiments, politics, quantum physics, and an overview of a top company in the gaming industry. David is also an expert in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing. He is a recognized expert on printers, well known within the industry, and has been a judge for the Hewlett-Packard HP Invent Awards.
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ViewSonic, Digital Light Processing, Projector, BenQ
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