Need a bigger screen?


Well, I’m on shaky ground again, rewatching something I’ve never seen before.

I know people use projectors at home. I understand this is an effective way to maximize your screen size. I understand that technology has come a long way since those boring educational videos a million years ago in school.

But why?

I have this other cool way of watching movies and playing video games; it’s called a TV. Are you seriously trying to tell me that there is a projector that can do everything my TV does?

Alright, let’s go then…

The BenQ X3000i is a 4LED 4K HDR gaming projector and it’s much smaller than my TV.

It’s basically a fairly innocuous looking white cube with a black front – edged in bright orange. As such, it’s probably not a device that will blend in well with your decor. Beware, depending on where you intend to use it, it may even end up sitting on your coffee table in front of you. There are suitable screw holes for mounting it to the ceiling or you have the option of resting it on the included adjustable rubber feet – whichever position works best given the angle of the l ‘objective.

Having never set up a device like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but actually the most complicated thing I had to do was install the QS01 Android TV dongle which is included in the box. It’s a full streaming stick that you can plug into any screen – BenQ sells them separately – and I don’t fully understand why it’s not pre-installed or even built into the projector itself. This may be a future-proof thing; if BenQ starts producing a better streaming stick somewhere down the track, I guess it would be handy to be able to swap it out.

Anyway, to plug it in you need a screwdriver – because you have to remove the entire top cover of the projector to access the hidden compartment with the HDMI port and the microUSB power supply. Once everything is done, you are ready to plug in the X3000i and turn it on. That’s literally all it takes.

I expected to have to do all sorts of calibrations, but it turns out that if you more or less steer this thing in the right direction, it can take care of a lot of things on its own. That’s just as well, since operations such as adjusting keystone distortion aren’t something I have much experience with.

After being guided through the few short steps to pair the remote, you will then be instructed to initialize your Android TV setup. Unlike other projectors that may just be insane AV accessories, thanks to this QS01 dongle, the X3000i works like any smart TV. Once connected, you can access thousands of apps – from Disney+ to Amazon Prime Video (for which there’s a dedicated shortcut button on the remote). Oddly, no Netflix though. My research indicates some sort of licensing issue that makes viewing Netflix on this projector somewhat difficult, to say the least. Not only can’t you install the Netflix app directly on the dongle, you can’t even stream from another device using the app, even if by pressing another shortcut button on the remote, the X3000i effectively turns into a Chromecast.

The Netflix plot thickens… you can also Airplay the X3000i from your Apple devices. Except when I opened Netflix from my browser on my iMac and streamed it to the projector, all I got was sound and a black screen.

In the end, I just plugged in a real Chromecast and watched Netflix that way. Very strange.

My biggest challenge was finding a place in my house where I could use the projector and plug things into it to test it without annoying everyone. I don’t have a projection screen, so I needed a big white wall. This meant that the guest bedroom became my media suite.

The way I configured the X3000i projected an image large enough to cover the entire wall of the spare room. However, when I measured it, it turns out to be only 91 inches. What a pity. I mean, there are TVs with bigger screens than that… well… after a quick Google search, I found one; a 98-inch model that costs NZ$16,999.00. Meanwhile, the X3000i retails for just NZ$3,799.99 and will comfortably project an image up to 200 inches. After doing these calculations, I begin to understand why people love projectors.

The bonus of setting everything up in the guest bedroom is that’s where we keep the ironing board. By placing the projector on it, I was able to lie in bed to play games or watch TV. Not bad.

Especially considering the amazing job the X3000i does – even on a plain wall.

I don’t even begin to understand the technology involved in projecting a bright, crisp, clear and colorful 4K image like this. I’ve read a lot about it and it’s a bit like trying to read a foreign language. What I get is that there is an additional blue LED which is largely responsible for the impressive brightness the X3000i is capable of.

While you can obviously access a long list of images, sounds, and other settings, there are also presets to make your life easier. If you’re like me, you’ll play around with this a bit, then leave it on a setting you prefer for most operations. It will probably differ a bit between users depending on whether they primarily game, watch sports, or enjoy movies.

In fact, I found watching TV to be a lot like being at the movies. As I caught up on a few episodes of “For All Mankind” on Apple TV, the extreme close-ups of the astronauts’ faces as they lived in their cramped little moon base made them look two or three times larger than normal – much like on a movie screen. For some reason, natural skin tone is often the only thing electronic screens struggle to reproduce – I’m not just talking about projectors here, I’m talking about TVs too. In the past I’ve spent years playing with color, brightness and contrast just to keep on-screen actors from getting seasick. I couldn’t believe how natural faces looked to the X3000i. No wonder BenQ has won awards for skin tone. (Who knew there were prizes for that?)

Sound is the weak point of the X3000i. This is more due to the form factor – not really due to any technical shortcomings with the 5W stereo speakers. The main problem is that whether you’ve placed the projector on a table in front of you, a bookshelf (or ironing board) behind you, or the ceiling above you, none of these places are particularly close to the projected image. No matter what kind of magic BenQ’s treVolo audio team can come up with, nothing will really make the sound come out of the opposite wall. The speakers get reasonably loud, with good dynamic contrast, but they’re still trapped inside the projector.

Luckily there’s an HDMI eARC, an optical line-out and even a 3.5mm AUX socket so you can hook up an external sound system. I don’t rate the X3000i for this at all; I wouldn’t use a TV’s built-in speakers either. That’s why God created soundbars.

Ultimately, this device is marketed as a gaming projector and that’s where the experience really started to blow my mind. I’ve never played games on a screen of this size before and it’s hard to describe how immersive the experience is. Piloting my X-Wing fighter through the battle fleets and asteroid fields of Star Wars: Squadrons, I found myself literally looking up, down, and side to side to avoid enemy fire and lock on my targets. While researching projectors for this review, I learned a lot about screen lag, but if there’s any here, I definitely can’t tell.

The 3D-like design of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is quite breathtaking at times – or at least when projected at 3840 X 2160 resolution, 240 Hz refresh rate. The illusions of height, depth, and of distance as you weave your way through narrow bridges of space junk are so real it makes you dizzy.

As you can see, for my first hands-on experience with a home projector, the BenQ X3000i had a huge impact. In all honesty I can’t argue that this would be an exact replacement for a conventional TV – however bright it is, in daylight a TV will probably be a much easier watch…although you won’t get any reflections of a protrusion. Obviously, my time with the X3000i would also have been greatly improved had I been projecting onto a proper screen and not just an off-white painted spare room wall.

That said, if your gaming rig is set up somewhere you can lower the blinds and crank up some serious surround sound (or better yet, headphones), why not raise your screen to room-size proportions? It’s crazy.

Click here for more information and pricing for the BenQ X3000i gaming projector.

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