Golf Projector Shootout – What Are The Best Alternatives To The Panasonic VZ-580?

  • BenQ
  • 2021-05-25

In 2020, the market for golf simulators exploded as the newest cameras and projectors enabled people stuck in their homes to easily convert bedrooms and basements into St. Andrews and Augusta National.  Panasonic and BenQ are the most popular projector brands that develop projectors for golf simulators – which are used by players around the world.   Both brands offer projectors with both traditional projector lamps and the latest laser light technology,  so what should you be looking for when evaluating the best projector for your simulation space?   Here are four key factors to consider:

 

·         WUXGA vs. 4K UHD Resolution

·         Traditional projector lamps or laser engine

·         Sealed Engine Design vs. Open Design with Paper Filters

·         Color Accuracy specifications

·         Throw Ratio & Lens Shift

Best Panasonic and BenQ projector models for golf simulators

For a high-end golf simulator setup, the 5000 lumen Panasonic PT-VZ580U lamp projector is a popular model used for simulation setups with larger impact screens.   BenQ is the leading brand in the world using DLP technology, and both companies have outstanding reputations for high-quality, reliable projectors.  For mid-range and higher-end simulators, here are the most popular golf simulator projectors from Panasonic and BenQ:

 

·         Panasonic PT-VZ580U

·         BenQ LU930

·         BenQ LU935ST

·         BenQ LK953ST

 

 To make sure you get the right projector for your setup, you may want to consider these factors when selecting choosing projector:

Consideration #1 – WUXGA or 4K Resolution

Golf simulator projectors are designed to display their images on a large impact screen – typically 8 to 15 feet wide.  The larger your screen – the more important resolution is for you to see the details and avoid distractions such as the “screen door effect” common on less expensive projectors.   For a midrange system, the best projectors use WUXGA resolution with 2.3 million pixels.  This setup has a 16:10 aspect ratio that many golf simulation customers prefer since the image is taller than a 1080p projector.

For golf simulation customers looking at the 4K enabled ForesightTruGolf, and other high-end simulators – you can match up these systems with a 4K UHD resolution projector that outputs a whopping 8.3 million pixels.   Although it is more expensive than the WUXGA models, the BenQ LK953ST projector enables you to see all of the minute detail on the course generated from your 4K simulator software and is the most realistic.  The short-throw lens also enables you to be closer to the impact screen – and generates an amazing lifelike immersion experience.    One other benefit of the 4K is that it will enable your impact screen to double as an amazing home theater for movies or watching the Masters in true 4K resolution. This is especially important on 4K enabled ForesightTruGolf, and other simulators that enable putting.

Consideration #2 – Traditional Lamp or Laser Light source

Golf simulator projectors rack up a lot of hours over the years, and –until recently – this meant buying replacement lamps for your projector.  The Panasonic PT-VZ580U has a 5000 hour rated lamp life and will start losing brightness after the first few hundred hours.  For golf simulators, there are several advantages that BenQ laser projectors have over the Panasonic lamp projectors.   Here are a few to keep in mind:

 

  • 20,000-hour lamp life – assuming a street price of $350 for Panasonic replacement lamps, the BenQ laser can save as much as $1400 over the life of the projector
  • Instant On & Off – A laser projector is ready to go in a couple of seconds after you turn it on
  • Higher color accuracy – lasers provide higher color accuracy  - more on that below

 

For years, lasers were too expensive for use in golf simulators, but today, a BenQ LU930 laser projector costs under $2400– and can save you the hassle of buying and installing replacement lamps.

Consideration #3 – Maintenance Free vs. cleaning filters

Most people using a simulator want to focus on the course – not maintaining the projector.  The Panasonic PT-VZ580U has lamps that need to be maintained, as well as filters that have to be kept clean.   If the filter gets dirty, the projector will either provide a warning – or just shut down until the problem is fixed.   The problem – if the “Clean filter” light comes on during your game of “Wolf” – all play stops until the filter is washed, dried, and reinstalled - or a new filter is purchased.    

 

 By contrast, the projectors BenQ has designed for golf simulators use a sealed laser engine – which doesn’t require a filter.  Because it uses DLP technology, the projector can be cooled using the same heat sink technology used in ultra-thin notebooks such as the Macbook.  BenQ tests these models using an industry-standard IP5X certification to ensure that the projector will operate even when dusty.

Sealed DLP Engine

Figure 1 - All BenQ laser projectors use a completely sealed light engine that is torture tested under the IP5X standard for outdoor gear.

Difference #4 – Color Accuracy

Most people only look at the brightness specification for a projector – but if you want the fairway grass on your impact screen to look the same as on your monitor, make sure to check the color accuracy of the projector.  This ensures that your greens and sand traps look realistic, and not like a Nintendo game. The best way to ensure this is to look at the color accuracy measurements of your projector.

 

The Panasonic uses an 8-bit color engine that creates over 16 million colors but does not provide any color accuracy specifications.   All the BenQ golf simulators use a 10-bit color engine that can render over 1 billion different colors.   BenQ uses this to create a highly color-accurate projector and provides a specification of 92% color accuracy using industry-standard specifications such as Rec.709.  

Difference #5 – Throw Ratio and Lens Shift

Throw ratios measure how far the projector has to be placed away from the impact screen to properly fill the screen.   Lens shift enables the projector’s image to be moved up and down – or side to side to enable it to match the screen – even if the projector is mounted off-center.

 

The Panasonic PT-VZ580U and the BenQ LU930 use a standard throw lens (throw ratio greater than 1.0) and both have excellent horizontal and vertical lens shift capabilities – enabling them to be used on a cart or ceiling mount.   The BenQ LU935ST and LK953ST feature short throw lenses that enable the projector to be mounted closer to the screen – nearly eliminating the risk of the player casting a shadow.   These models also have lens shift – making them ideal for ceiling-mounted setups above and behind the player.

How much do they cost?

Compared to the cost of the camera and impact screen, this is one of the less expensive components – but can make a big difference in how your simulator looks, plays – and how much the room is used for watching Tin Cup, live or recorded tournaments, and streaming golf content.  Here is a breakdown of the cost and features of the four models mentioned in this article that have the right throw ratios for golf simulation placement.  

 

BenQ LU930

 

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

Panasonic PTVZ580U

 

Brightness

BenQ LU930

 

5000 Lumen

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

5500 Lumen

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

5000 Lumen

Panasonic PTVZ580U

5000 lumen

 

Resolution

BenQ LU930

 

WUXGA

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

WUXGA

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

4K UHD

Panasonic PTVZ580U

WUXGA

 

# of Pixels

BenQ LU930

 

2.3 Million

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

2.3 Million

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

8.3 Million

Panasonic PTVZ580U

2.3 Million

 

# of Colors

BenQ LU930

 

+ 1 Billion

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

+1 Billion

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

+1 Billion

Panasonic PTVZ580U

16 Million

 

Lamp Type

BenQ LU930

 

Laser

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

Laser

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

Laser

Panasonic PTVZ580U

Lamp

 

Lamp Life

BenQ LU930

 

20,000 hours

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

20,000 hours

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

20,000 hours

Panasonic PTVZ580U

5000 hours

 

Est. Lamp Cost

BenQ LU930

 

N/A

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

N/A

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

N/A

Panasonic PTVZ580U

$350

 

Maintenance-Free Design

BenQ LU930

 

Yes

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

Yes

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

Yes

Panasonic PTVZ580U

No – requires filter cleaning

 

Color Accuracy

BenQ LU930

 

92% of Rec 709

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

92% of Rec 709

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

92% of Rec 709

Panasonic PTVZ580U

Not specified

 

Price

BenQ LU930

 

$2399

BenQ LU935ST

Short Throw

$3999

BenQ LK953ST Short Throw

$5499

Panasonic PTVZ580U

$1999

Want to talk to a Golf Simulation Projector expert?

BenQ has trained staff that can provide you the tools you need to find the perfect golf simulator projector – within your room constraints and budget.   Just give us a call at 888-818-5888 or fill out the form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.