BenQ LH730 Review
During the pandemic, conference rooms became abandoned caves where colleagues once gathered to collaborate, share meals and celebrate. Faded food wrappers left in haste sit on desks slightly askew from the last pushback. Chairs sit motionless, their rollers frozen on dusty carpet. The twigs of a Ficus tree reach ceilingward in the far corner, its dry pot surrounded by yellow and brown leaves.
That was the height of the pandemic. And then, for companies with money, conference rooms became over-engineered havens with wipe-down schedules and all manner of collaboration panels and sensors as collaboration companies attempted to turn offices into clean rooms without turning them into clean rooms. That was a “trend” that never became a trend.
And now, despite a few masks and continued vaccinations, COVID-19 has retreated from the concern of most conference room designers. Conference rooms have been cleaned out, some emptied for good, while the functional ones await more moderate technology upgrades, like new projectors.
And that is the point of the BenQ LH730. This projector has one job to do, and that job is to project images, video, presentations and spreadsheets in a conference room. The $1,299 LED projector comes with rubber feet for cart or table use. It also comes with its back panel mounted upside down because being upside down is its best posture. This relatively dust-proof box is meant to be hung, secured to a ceiling, set, and left untouched save for signals coming from its remote and an occasional exterior and lens dusting.
What we like
- Native 1080p that automatically downscales to HD.
- Excellent color
- Supports HDR10 and HLG HDR
- Basically, maintenance free, no filters or bulbs. Occasional exterior dusting still recommended.
One glance at the BenQ LH730 and flashbacks of conference room moments come streaming back, most of which no longer arrive with the same fidelity as the images being projected by the 4-LED emitters aiming their electrons at a screen.
This 98% Rec.709 color coverage HDR projector easily adapts from presentations to video. I flipped through a few PowerPoint and Keynote slides and quickly tired of me presenting to me. And then settled in for Apple’s new Monarch, which was next up in my watch queue.
The projector supports special video modes for infographics, presentations, and spreadsheets. In practice, that’s more a marketing gimmick than a feature people will apply. Most people in a conference room are just happy to have a projector that works when they connect. No one will explore the projector’s feature set before the meeting starts.
As a film aficionado, however, I do play with settings. The various HDR features will make for better consumption of high-quality digital media, though these features don’t make up for the fact that the projector is taking 4K video and downscaling it to 1080p—but I found the resulting experience adequate, especially after connecting headphones to the source device. But the experience is not as good as watching a film on an equivalently priced 4K panel.
The LH730 performed well, even on my smaller-than-average wall, which was the only place in my art-in-frame-laden home I could find to test BenQ’s 4,000 ANSI lumen image thrower. Its instant-on, no wait-for-bulb-warmup or cool-off period to protect a bulb’s life was a delight.
In a review situation, I’m never going to max out the lifetime of a unit like the BenQ LH730, which rates at 20,000 hours of maintenance-free operation (30,000 in Eco mode). BenQ says just leave it on. It requires no filter changes. Owners should probably invest in a long-pole duster, though, you know, ceilings and spiders and dust and all. They might not affect the LH70’s operation, but who wants a cool projector that looks like it’s retreating toward a haunted mansion vibe?
In the ceiling configuration, keep the remote handy and don’t let the batteries corrode, as it is the only configuration lifeline when the side panel buttons get placed far out of reach.
The BenQ LH730 will also work on a desk or stand, but it’s clearly intended as a ceiling unit, as in desk configuration, the back panel connector labels appear upside down. But given the simplicity of the inputs, that should not cause much of an issue should owners decide to use it that way.
The setup proved simple. Plug in a standard power cord and an HDMI cable, and optionally, audio out and go. I tested it with Macs, PCs and an iPad. All immediately recognized the projector, and it recognized them, which is often more important.
For those interested in wireless, the unit, of course, supports the likes of an Apple TV or Amazon Fire Stick, which easily integrates with one of the two HDMI ports. BenQ also sells a dongle (the EZC5201BS) to enable wireless projection.
Projectors and screens often need to find their way in the spaces in which they are used. In the old days, I remember my father moving a film projector closer or further to fill the screen and then perhaps placing a matchbook under the leg of the projector table to even out an edge. And then, it was time to focus the image.
Those jostling motions remain real concerns for image perfection. Digital features like Corner Fit, Digital Image Shrinking and Digital Shift have replaced those manipulations. BenQ manages those features through the remote or side panel.
Ideally, as in the case with the film projector, those features will only be required for desktop use, as a ceiling installation should be designed for the right distances and aspect ratio before installation. However, retrofit and replacement scenarios may require some initial configuration to meet the existing physical constraints.
Enterprises will appreciate that the BenQ LH730 supports BenQ proprietary management software, as well as those from Creston, AMX and PJ Link.
Packaging, while using Styrofoam struts to surround the projector, comes with recycling symbols printed everywhere. Its outer container is a plain brown box with product information printed on it. Those, along with the Eco mode setting to reduce power consumption, give BenQ high environmental marks.
What could be improved
- It’s big (but not too heavy)
- Poor internal sound
- No USB-C input
- Remote feels cheap
- Manual focus
The 5.2 by 16.5 by 11.3-inch, 11.7-pound projector isn’t gigantic, but it does demand a fair amount of space, as it needs not only a footprint but clear space ahead of its projection. In a conference room situation with a roll-away cart though, it will work fine. There is a reason ceiling mount was invented. It’s just more convenient on all fronts, from set-up to space allocation.
My only design negative was the sound from the built-in speaker, which is just OK. It’s OK for people huddled around the projector. It is not OK, however, for a conference room with a ceiling-mounted unit. I would be surprised if any organization buying and installing the BenQ LH730 would go to the trouble to ceiling mount it, run all the necessary cables down to the floor, and then leave out an alternative sound system to deliver big sound with a big picture.
With the near-universal move to USB-C for I/O, I wish the LH730 had come with a USB-C input port. USB-C would offer owners comfort that they were buying a device with an interface set meant to last as long as its LED emitters.
The remote includes all the required buttons to tweak the BenQ LH730 from afar, but it looks and feels cheap, even for a mid-range projector. This is a lifeline feature. I would love to see it not only made of heavier material (may I suggest metal?), but also that it comes with rechargeable batteries and a USB-C charging port.
The other thing that worries me from a ceiling mount perspective is manual sizing and focus. Should those get moved, I can imagine a manager or professor searching for a long stick to poke the focus and sizing handles. A good installation should prevent the need for adjustments, save for an earthquake or a hurricane shaking the entire building.
Note: the specification suggests that the BenQ LH730 can project 3D, but that feature is de-emphasized in the product overview, mentioned only in the specifications as related to compatible 3D glasses.
BenQ LH730: The bottom line
As I’ve returned to conference rooms after the pandemic, I can’t help but imagine that the digital projectors’ days are numbered. With large display panels dropping in price much more quickly than projectors (market size and demand), mounting a big screen on the wall has become much more common and, in many ways, more cost-effective and convenient for users.
But projectors have their advantages, especially those mounted in the ceiling so that the projection surface can be used for other purposes, and workspaces remain device-free.
Projectors also have their disadvantages. I visited a classroom recently with a projector mounted from the ceiling. Its signal was tethered down to a VGA cable secured to a 3.5mm audio jack.
I always bring a USB-C hub with me, but this time I was outmatched. My fancy USB-C dual HDMI dongle was no match for an antique projector. We found the “room” dongle, and it worked with my iPad, though the lighter images, and those with small type, were completely unreadable even in VGA writ large. Replacing old technology takes effort and investment, especially when it requires a big ladder.
The BenQ LH730, of course, would be an apt replacement, but budget and reach and working bulbs keep the old projector in place.
For organizations, however, looking for cost-effective HD projector upgrades or new installs, the BenQ LH730 should be on the shortlist. It excels as a ceiling-mounted unit with an excellent guaranteed lifetime. With its always-on, responsive and maintenance-free design, the LH730 makes an ideal conference room accessory that owners can just install and not worry about—because we all know there are plenty of things to worry about, and having a projector that works should not be one of them.
BenQ provided the BenQ LH730 for review. Images courtesy of BenQ unless otherwise noted.
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