We're looking for new writers to join us!

BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector

BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector

Written by Eric Hauter on 4/6/2022 for
More On: BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector

It is surprising to me how much of a projector guy I’ve become over the last couple of years. I’ve always wanted to watch movies at home on a big screen, so a few years ago I took the leap, buying a 480i projector for a hundred bucks. Immediately dissatisfied, I flipped around and bought a 1080p Optima gaming projector a couple of weeks later. This has kept me happily watching movies and gaming on a 100’ screen, but I am still haunted by the great white buffalo – an affordable, high-quality 4k projector. And after being put off by the daunting prices every time I lose my mind and start down that trail of temptation, I think I’ve finally found a winner.

I’ve spent the last month or so playing this year’s open-world epics (and watching a bunch of movies) on BenQ’s new X3000i 4K Gaming Projector, and damn it, after this experience I’m going to have an awfully hard time going back to my trusty Optima. It is currently sitting in a corner, looking dusty and dejected, and my fickle mind has already changed my perception of it from “beloved and cherished piece of technology” to “garage sale fodder”. It’s like going back to your regular old beater after driving an awesome rental for a few weeks.

Upon taking the X3000i out of the box, I was immediately impressed with the design. The projector is bulkier than what I am accustomed to, but in a cool, cube-y way. It is stark white on the sides, with a black front panel outlined by a tight orange stripe. With the lens in the upper left corner, the projector is imbued with a somewhat boxy retro-future look that reminds me of a THX-1138 microwave. It is not an object that people would immediately look at and think “projector”. Indeed, people have been walking into the room where the projector is set up, pointing at it, and saying “What is that?”.

Of course, as fun and weird as the design on the X3000i is, I don’t care all that much what it looks like. I care about what it does. And when it comes to splashing a brilliant, crystal-clear image on a screen, the X3000i is an absolute champion.

The first thing I did with the X3000i upon unboxing it was to hook up my PlayStation 5 and fire up Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök. I spent three hours or so with my time split evenly between wandering around Asgard and messing with the X3000i’s settings. After that first night of playing, I texted my wife (who was traveling) and said "This projector is a beast."

The projector offers several different video game preset configurations, tuned to sports games, first-person shooters, RPGs, etc. I found that the RPG setting was generally to my liking, so I pretty much left the X3000i in that mode for playing games. I was mostly playing open world epics on the big screen anyhow, spending time with Dying Light 2 and Horizon Forbidden West, in addition to the above-mentioned Valhalla.

What I found was nothing short of a revelation. Dying Light 2 revealed deep, pitch-colored blacks as I crawled through zombie-infested apartment complexes. Horizon Forbidden West was ablaze with life and color. And Dawn of Ragnarök almost blinded me with the game’s sunlight glittering off gold deposits in the mountains. I play on a 65” 4K Samsung normally, and my picture is crisp and bright. But on the X3000i, I felt like I was experiencing these games at the optimal level, the image from the screen brightening the entire room. It is impressive, to say the least – feeling like the way these games were meant to be played. 

Longtime readers know that while I enjoy tech, I’m not the techiest guy around. There are plenty of writers that will delve into the performance of the X3000i with light meters and measuring tapes. I’m not that guy; I’m more interested in what it feels like as a layman to use the equipment. But, for those that need it, I will provide some specs.

The X3000i is a DLP projector with a brightness rating of 3000 ANSI lumens (that basically means that it works well in a dim room, but not so great in a bright room). It is capable of a true 4K (3840x2160) UHD image, displaying up to 1.07 billion colors. The projector comes equipped with a 4LED light source, with a life span of 20,000 hours at normal use and 30,000 hours on the ECO setting.

As a gaming projector, special attention is paid to input lag. In 4K, the input lag is rated at 16 ms, with the image running at 60Hz. At 1080p (which also looks pretty darn great), that input lag is cut to 4 ms, with the image running at 240Hz. Bottom line: lag is completely unnoticeable. I tested input lag with my two favorite lag-testing games (Zen’s Pinball FX and Thumper) and was unable to discern the slightest bit of lag. Controls were snappy and tight, and it is my feeling that only a robot (or a liar) would be able to detect any delay between tapping a button and seeing the action on the screen.

The projector has two external HDMI ports (and one internal – for a bit of weirdness I’ll discuss in a minute), one USB Type A-1, and one RS232. For audio out, the projector has one 3.5mm Mini Jack and an optical digital port. I used the optical output to direct sound to my soundbar. The projector comes equipped with two 5W speakers, but when I’m playing on the big screen, I want sound to match. While the built-in sound is maybe adequate for smaller rooms, I’m filling a bigger space. I need the windows to shake.

The system comes with an Android TV dongle packed in the box (here comes that weirdness I was talking about). To install it in the system, the user has to get a screwdriver and remove the top from the projector, revealing an internal HDMI port and a USB power source. It’s not a huge hassle to install (though my fat fingers fumbled a bit), but I did wonder why I had to go through the motions to do so. It felt very much like something that could have been done as part of initial assembly, or prior to shipping. But once the dongle is installed, the projector has a handy-dandy internal streaming system, which allowed me to stream from almost every subscription I belong to (except Netflix, which is a glaring problem with Android TV, and not the fault of the projector).

Especially cool was the ability to play Stadia directly on the projector. As a big fan of Google’s streaming system, I was pretty happy to be able to snag one of my controllers from the front room and jump right into Red Dead Redemption II without a bunch of set up. I have a sizable Stadia collection, so even during periods when I moved my PS5 back to the living room, I was still able to continue gaming happily on the X3000i via Stadia.

As far as movies go, I had a blast with the X3000i. I am a huge movie fan, and this projector finally puts me where I want to be in terms of picture quality. Frankly, with the right input, I cannot see a difference between the output of this projector and what I get at the local AMC theater. From the variety of color settings, I chose the “Cinema” setting, which was most to my liking as it seemed to alter the color settings the least. I also bumped up the brightness by one notch to get a brighter picture (any more than that and the blacks start to wash out) and pushed up the HDR settings a bit.

I started by steaming some animation, checking out Hulu’s underrated Fireheart, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight on HBO, and Pixar’s stellar Turning Red. Three very different styles of animation each looked amazing on the X3000i, with a stunning amount of detail, and rich, bright colors. Even my little kids were able to tell the difference between what they were seeing and what we get from our “normal” projector.

I streamed a few more HBO films (Starship Troopers and Doctor Sleep), which both looked amazing. But I wanted the full monty (and I still firmly believe that physical media is better than streaming when it comes to home video), so I went nuts and bought a bunch of 4K Blu-rays to mess around with. Some of the older films I bought were somewhat mediocre looking, just due to the filmstock used and the quality of transfer (the 4K Close Encounters Blu-Ray is just awful). But two films I bought – Interstellar and Inception – absolutely knocked my socks off. I didn’t get the chance to see either of these films at the theater – a wrong that I now consider righted. The depth of color, the inkiness of the blacks of outer space, the swirling special effects in both films; these were the perfect test for the performance of the X3000i, and it crushed.

As a side note: I’m usually pretty sensitive to the “rainbow” effect that appears on certain home projectors, particularly in scenes where white text is displayed against a black field (or stars are shown in black space). Though I did notice a bit of rainbowing from the X3000i, it was far less than what I am used to, to the point where it was not really a distraction. While I can’t say that it is gone completely from this experience, it is significantly reduced.

For the sake of completionism, I also watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Titanic in 3D. I have a fairly decent 3D Blu-Ray collection, so that was as simple as pulling a few discs off the shelf. The 3D performance was adequate, about the same as what I get from my old Optima projector (which is really nothing to sneeze at). Of course, the resolution on these films is lower, due to the fact that I am running off of standard 1080p Blu-Rays, but it is worth noting that if you don’t already have the ability to watch 3D movies at home, the feature is included here.

My only major quibbles with the X3000i stem from a few remote and UX/UI issues. For whatever reason, I could never get my remote to connect correctly with the projector itself – only with the Android TV dongle. So, while the remote is great for browsing different streaming services, it is not-so-great for changing the HDR settings or selecting which color mode you want to use.

I had another problem specific to Blu-Ray functionality on the PS5. Whenever I would move through the menu of a Blu-Ray, the projector would detect that I was playing the disc through a gaming system with every click, and repeatedly ask me if I wanted to change the image to one of the gaming pre-sets. Combined with the remote issue, this had me hovering near the projector to click the on-projector buttons to get rid of the request until my movie started. Not a deal breaker by any means, but hardly convenient. There may be a setting to make this stop, but I haven’t found it.

But regardless of these issues, gamers will want to take a long, hard look at the BenQ X3000i for both games and movies. Sure, the projector is limited to 60 frames per second in 4K, but I can attest that those 60 frames are plenty, and if you want more, you will have to pay a damn sight more than the two grand you will be plunking down for this projector.

And that’s the bottom line: $2000 feels like a lot of money for a projector, until you start looking at what else is on the market. Then it suddenly comes crashing home – for a 4K projector, consumers can typically expect to pay $3000-4000. The BenQ X3000i is actually on the inexpensive side of things. And for an inexpensive projector, this thing is super-rich in features. I’ve been playing with it for a month, and I still feel like there are things hiding in the menus that I haven’t discovered yet.

From the lightning-fast lack of lag to the killer gaming-based visual settings, there is a lot of bang here for your buck. If you are just getting started it’s easy to go cheap on the rest of your set up; my pop-up screen was $80, and my soundbar was less than $200. And when I’m sitting in the dark, with colors flickering on my face, and Aloy is skidding over a cliff while the entire room shakes, I guarantee that money is the last thing on my mind. Whatever I spent feels worth every damn penny.

The BenQ X3000i feels like the best possible choice for a gaming projector within its price range. For $2000, gamers will get an amazing 4K HDR image with a ton of bells and whistles. Aside from a few UX/UI issues, this projector offers a stellar experience that you simply will not be able to duplicate in this price range. Brilliant colors and startlingly clear resolution combine to give a truly theatrical experience, elevating games to something that feels more experiential. Highly recommended.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector BenQ X3000i 4K LED Gaming Projector

About Author

Howdy.  My name is Eric Hauter, and I am a dad with a ton of kids.  During my non-existent spare time, I like to play a wide variety of games, including JRPGs, strategy and action games (with the occasional trip into the black hole of MMOs). I am intrigued by the prospect of cloud gaming, and am often found poking around the cloud various platforms looking for fun and interesting stories.  I was an early adopter of PSVR (I had one delivered on release day), and I’ve enjoyed trying out the variety of games that have released since day one. I've since added an Oculus Quest 2 to my headset collection.  I’m intrigued by the possibilities presented by VR multi-player, and I try almost every multi-player game that gets released.

My first system was a Commodore 64, and I’ve owned countless systems since then.  I was a manager at a toy store for the release of PS1, PS2, N64 and Dreamcast, so my nostalgia that era of gaming runs pretty deep.  Currently, I play on Stadia, PS5, PS4, PSVR, Quest 2, Switch, Luna, GeForce Now, and a super sweet gaming PC built by Joh Yan.  While I lean towards Sony products, I don’t have any brand loyalty, and am perfectly willing to play game on other systems.

When I’m not playing games or wrangling my gaggle of children, I enjoy watching horror movies and doing all the other geeky activities one might expect.

Follow me on Twitter @eric_hauter, and check out my YouTube channel here

View Profile