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BenQ X500i review: A short-throw 4K projector with gamers in its sights

Our Rating :
£1,499.00 from
Price when reviewed : £1499
inc VAT

The BenQ X500i offers stellar gaming visuals and impressive sound, but 4K rivals have the edge when it comes to home cinema capabilities


  • Strong gaming features
  • Vibrant colours and effective HDR
  • Immersive built-in audio


  • Limited HDR and audio format support
  • Not bright enough for daytime viewing

Many of the best projectors prioritise a captivating home-cinema experience above all else – but the BenQ X500i targets a slightly different audience. While it’s more than capable of handling films and TV shows, it truly shines when hooked up to a next-gen console, gaming laptop or gaming PC.

I spent a week using it to play various video games across a range of platforms; I also put it through its paces by watching 4K Blu-rays and content from popular streaming services. Its lack of Filmmaker mode and Dolby Atmos support means there are better choices out there for film buffs, but I was very impressed by its visual and audio performance when gaming.

If you’re looking for the biggest, most immersive gaming experience money can buy, forget about one of the best 4K TVs, an ultrawide monitor or a VR headset – pairing the BenQ X500i and a 90-inch to 150-inch projector screen is the way to go.

BenQ X500i review: What do you get for the money?

The aforementioned setup isn’t cheap, mind you, with the BenQ X500i costing £1,499 and a decent screen setting you back anywhere between £100 and £300.

The projector itself is of the 4K HDR variety and based on BenQ’s 4LED technology, adding an extra ‘pump’ LED light source over the usual three red, green and blue LEDs to boost the overall brightness and help project a wider gamut of colours. BenQ claims it can reproduce 84% of the DCI-P3 colour space. It also features BenQ’s HDR Pro technology for enhanced highlights and shadow detail, a low 4.16ms input lag in its three Game modes, plus spatial audio tech from MAXXAudio to give you accurately positioned, 3D sound if you’re using the internal CinematicSound speaker system.

The four 4LED light sources are designed to last for at least 30,000 hours and can pump out a healthy 2200 ANSI lumens of brightness. Meanwhile, the ultra-short throw ratio of 0.69-0.83:1 and a 1.2x optical zoom ensure that you can get a 100in image from 1.67m away or 150in from 2.29m. Two HDMI 2.0b ports are available for connecting your PC or console source. There’s also a USB Type-C port with DisplayPort support for desktop PC input, along with SP-DIF and 3.5mm audio outputs. BenQ bundles in a proper Google-licensed Android TV streaming stick, which sits inside a compartment at the rear, if you would rather use that to access content.

For many projectors I’ve tested recently, onboard streaming has necessitated having two remote controls; one for the projector and one for Google TV or Android TV. Not so with the X500i, where the projector remote pairs with the streaming stick during setup and from there on it handles everything. It’s a great remote too, with backlighting that kicks in when you press a button to make sure you can see what you’re doing in the dark.

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BenQ X500i review: What does it do well?

There’s a little more work to the setup of the X500i than there is with, say, the Hisense PL1 or the XGIMI Horizon Ultra. While the vertical keystone correction is handled automatically, you’ll need to fix any horizontal distortion manually, as well as use the old-school zoom and focus dials to get the picture sharp and at the right size. Move the projector and there’s no fancy tech to configure everything for you, therefore it’s best used in a central spot in your living room where it won’t get moved too much, or in a permanent position on the ceiling.

To make up for this though, it has a good set of picture modes and detailed colour adjustments, while the short throw ratio and zoom give you plenty of flexibility for getting big pictures in relatively small spaces. What’s more, its game modes go a little further than your average home entertainment projector. It automatically identifies PCs, laptops or consoles plugged into an HDMI port, and switches to the last settings used by that particular system. By default, it also switches to Game Auto mode, complete with a low 4.16ms input lag.

On top of this, the X500i has three specific game modes. RPG mode is designed to give you cinematic visuals and increase the bass level in the audio. SPG mode, aimed at sports games, gives you brighter colours and an EQ aimed at enhancing vocals, presumably for commentary purposes. FPS mode tweaks the HDR settings to improve clarity in darker areas, while focusing the audio on accurate positioning of surround effects.

I can’t say these modes make a night and day difference, but switching to FPS mode while playing the Dead Space remake definitely helped with enhancing detail in dark areas. Switching between RPG and FPS modes in Destiny 2 seemed to have more of an impact on the audio, with bigger booms, more emphasis on the score in RPG mode and slightly tighter stereo positioning in FPS mode.

Crucially, the audio and visual presentation of games is absolutely brilliant. It doesn’t go as bright as the XGIMI Horizon Ultra, BenQ’s W4000i or the Optoma UHD-38, but the X500i can still deliver vibrant colours and surprisingly strong HDR effects. I saw stunning results in the gloomy industrial sci-fi corridors of Dead Space and the rain-soaked post-apocalyptic vistas of Dead Stranding.

I also struggled to find any evidence of lag in the game modes, and there’s no issue with fast motion, either with 4K/60fps games from PS5 and a Windows gaming laptop or with 1080p/120fps games from the latter. Colours are bold and nicely saturated and there’s plenty of detail, even if 4K images don’t quite have that supernatural crispness we’ve seen on the XGIMI and Hisense laser models.

It’s not just games that benefit, either. I wouldn’t say that the X500i had the home cinema chops of the Horizon Ultra or the W4000i, but it still does well for clarity and cinematic colour across a range of streaming content, from animations like Blue Eye Samurai and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse to more naturalistic dramas like One Day and American Fiction. It also helps that BenQ’s Android TV implementation is so strong. All the major UK streaming apps are onboard, the UI is pretty much stock Android TV, and there are no tricky workarounds to worry about just to get Netflix to play ball.

Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised by how rich and immersive the audio turned out to be. I normally take manufacturer claims with a pinch of salt, as few projectors have internal speakers that can compete with a half-decent soundbar, but the X500i can push out a lot of volume, not to mention reasonable levels of bass. Steering of movie effects and, particularly, game effects is very effective, and I happily spent a few hours playing Destiny 2, Dead Space, Death Stranding and Returnal without ever feeling the need to connect to an external surround system or plug some headphones in. In fact, Dead Space was so spectacularly unnerving that I quit out of it to give my ageing nerves a rest.

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BenQ X500i review: What could it do better?

There’s nothing seriously wrong with the X500i, but you need to be aware that it doesn’t have the brightness to give you a strong, visible picture when there’s any real ambient light in the room. You really need to get those curtains closed, and it’s significantly better after dusk.

While BenQ claims 84% DCI-P3 coverage, I couldn’t get close to that in any mode I tested, generally hitting around 63%. That’s still better than some other 4K projectors, like the Epson EH-TW6150, and not far off the performance of the excellent BenQ W1800, and I can’t say I ever felt let down by the X500i’s colour performance overall.

Finally, home cinema aficionados might want something with more wide-ranging HDR and audio format support. The X500i supports HDR10 but not Dolby Vision or HLG. There’s no Filmmaker Mode and no DTS or Dolby Atmos either, though the HDMI ports can carry the Atmos signal via eARC if you have a compatible amplifier or soundbar.

BenQ X500i review: Should you buy it?

It depends on your priorities. This is one of the best projectors for gaming I’ve tested, delivering stunning results across a variety of games. Pictures aren’t quite as bright or crisp as on the Horizon Ultra or as rich as on the Optoma UHD-38, but the X500i makes up for it with its low latency, useful gaming features and superb built-in audio.

For movies and streaming it’s not quite as strong a contender, partly because it lacks the modes and format support that many home cinema fans will be looking for. Still, if gaming is your focus and movie streaming is just a plus, then the BenQ X500i is a great choice, particularly as it comes in cheaper than the majority of its 4K HDR rivals.

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