BenQ W7000 DLP Projector Reviewed

BenQ W7000 DLP Projector Reviewed

More and more the home theater is becoming a multi-purpose space for many enthusiasts. It was with that in mind that Adrienne Maxwell reviewed the BenQ W7000 projector.

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After a bit of a quiet stretch, BenQ introduced two new projectors in 2012. Early in the year, we saw the arrival of the company’s new flagship, the W7000, a follow-up to the W6000, which was first introduced in 2009. Then, in July, BenQ announced the entry-level EP5920, which carries an MSRP of just $899. Both are single-chip DLP 1080p projectors. Whereas the EP5920 is aimed at the more casual home entertainment space (it’s a 2D-only model with integrated speakers), the W7000 is targeted more at the home theater crowd, offering 3D capability, 120Hz frame interpolation, ISF certification, anamorphic lens support, and a solid assortment of setup tools. The W7000 has a rated dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1 and a rated brightness of 2,000 ANSI lumens. Even though it sits at the top of BenQ’s projector line, the W7000 carries an MSRP of just $3,999 and a street price around $2,000.

Additional Resources
• Read more projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com’s writers.
• Explore options in our Projector Screen Review section.
• Learn more about the bargain that is the video projector.
• To purchase this projector, check out Visual Apex.

The Hookup
The W7000 has a fairly compact form, measuring 16.85 x 5.71 x 12.48 inches (WHD) and weighing 14.8 pounds. The cabinet sports a glossy black finish and a center-placed lens with manual zoom and focus rings. Top-panel controls include buttons for power, source, menu, exit, enter, and picture mode, as well digital keystone controls and indicator lights for power, temperature warning, and lamp issues. Around back, the input panel consists of two HDMI, one PC, one component video, one S-video, and one composite video port. There’s also RS-232 and a 12-volt trigger (not givens at this price), plus a USB port for firmware updates. The supplied remote control is larger than you’ll often see with a projector, which provides a lot of real estate to spread out the buttons and arrange them intuitively. The remote offers full (and very bright) amber backlighting, and you get dedicated buttons for on/off, source, and aspect ratio, as well as direct access to many desirable picture adjustments. The W7000 uses a 300-watt lamp with a rated lamp life of 2,000 hours in normal mode and 2,500 hours in eco mode.

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Lower-priced projectors can often be lean when it comes to setup tools, with limited zoom and minimal to zero lens shifting. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the W7000, which offers a respectable 1.5x zoom (giving it a throw ratio of 1.62 to 2.43), 40 percent horizontal lens shift, 125 percent vertical lens shift, and adjustable front feet. Compare that with my reference projector, the more expensive Sony VPL-HW30ES (street price around $3,000), which offers 1.6x zoom, 25 percent horizontal, and 65 percent vertical lens shift. For further comparison, the lower-priced Epson Home Cinema 3010 (street price around $1,500) has 1.6x zoom but no lens shifting. The W7000 can display an image size from 28 to 300 inches diagonally; I mated it with a rather modest Elite Screens Home2 75-inch-diagonal 1.1-gain matte-white screen. I placed the projector on top of a 46-inch-tall equipment rack located just behind the seating area, about 12 feet away from the screen. In this location, I had no trouble positioning and sizing the image to fit my screen using the manual zoom dial and lens-shifting tools. Many manufacturers use separate vertical and horizontal lens-shifting dials, but BenQ combines both into a joystick control located next to the lens. This makes it a little easier to precisely place the image, but it doesn’t feel entirely secure. After positioning the image, you can secure the joystick in place (by turning it clockwise) but, in trying to do so, I kept moving the image, which defeats the purpose.

The W7000 offers a full suite of picture adjustments, but some higher-end options are missing within the different controls. Six picture modes are available: Cinema, Standard, Dynamic, and three User modes. As usual, I found the Cinema mode to offer the most natural, accurate image and provide the best starting point from which to make adjustments using the Digital Video Essentials and Disney WOW setup discs. Basic controls for contrast, brightness, color, and tint are available; it’s worth noting that the projector did not pass below-black or above-white signals, which can make it a little more tricky to precisely set brightness and contrast (although, frankly, minimal adjustment was required). There are options to set up HDMI for PC or Video, but neither choice gave me the below-black PLUGE signal. In addition to four color-temperature presets (Warm, Normal, Cool, Lamp Native), you get flesh-tone adjustment and RGB gain/offset to fine-tune the white balance. The color management system includes the ability to adjust the hue, gain and saturation of all six color points. Nine gamma presets are available, ranging from 1.6 to 2.8, plus a choice simply labeled “BenQ.” Absent is the ability to precisely configure the gamma curve.

The W7000 uses an automatic iris to improve contrast and black level by automatically tailoring the light output to suit the onscreen content. The setup menu’s Dynamic Black control turns the W7000’s auto iris on or off; you can’t adjust the speed of the auto iris, nor can you manually adjust the iris. You can choose between two lamp modes: normal and economic. Texas Instruments’ BrilliantColor technology is included, which allows you to boost mid-tone colors to further heighten the brightness level. The projector offers both sharpness and detail enhancement tools; I found that I needed to set the sharpness control at a maximum setting of 2 and keep detail enhancement at 0 to achieve the best level of detail without adding edge enhancement. Noise reduction is also available, although not entirely necessary. The W7000 includes the ability to turn on frame interpolation to reduce motion blur and film judder; the options are low, middle, high, and off (we’ll discuss performance in the next section). Finally, the projector has five aspect-ratio options, including a real mode for one-to-one pixel mapping and a letterbox mode for use with an add-on anamorphic lens (to view 2.35:1 movies with no black bars on a 2.35:1 screen).

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The W7000 is an ISF-certified projector. To configure ISF Day and ISF Night modes, you need to hire an ISF-certified calibrator who can enter a password to access those menus. If you’re a motivated DIYer, you can simply use the picture controls described above to configure separate day- and night-appropriate modes. The W7000 doesn’t offer a lot of memory settings to store multiple picture configurations, but you do have three User modes at your disposal.

The W7000 is also BenQ’s first 3D-capable projector. This active 3D model uses DLP Link technology, in which the DLP chip itself sends data to the glasses in between each video frame so that you don’t need to use an add-on or integrated IR/RF emitter. (You can learn more about DLP Link here.) BenQ does not include any glasses with the W7000; the optional DLP Link glasses cost about $100. The W7000 only offers one 3D picture mode, which it automatically switches to when the projector detects a 3D signal. Within this mode, you can’t change color-temperature presets, but you can still access the RGB gain/offset controls. You also can’t use the auto iris with 3D content, but you can still switch between the normal and eco lamp modes. The 3D setup menu allows you do a sync invert if necessary, but there are no advanced adjustments for 3D depth or perspective. 2D-to-3D conversion is not available.

Performance
The first thing that jumped out at me about the W7000 was its light output. With this being the first 3D-capable model in the line, BenQ clearly wanted to make sure that the W7000 was bright enough to offset the light loss that occurs with active-shutter glasses to produce a well-saturated 3D image, and the company has succeeded (more on 3D performance in a moment). When I set the projector in the Cinema picture mode and eco lamp setting, the W7000 had ample light output to cast a vibrantly bright 2D image on my 75-inch-diagonal screen, even with the room lights on. (The Dynamic picture mode is even brighter, but is far less accurate in the color department.) I watched a couple of Saturday afternoon college football games with both the room lamp on and a fair amount of daylight creeping around the window shades; even under these circumstances, the W7000’s image had great saturation. Once I moved to a completely dark room, the level of saturation improved even further, at least with brighter HDTV and film content. Combine that level of brightness with the rich color and excellent image clarity of this DLP design, and it made for an engaging big-screen presentation.

Read more about the performance of the BenQ W7000 projector on Page 2.

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Of course, the flip side of the high-brightness coin is that the projector’s black-level performance can suffer. The W7000, which uses the older Dark Chip 2 DLP chip, could not produce the deeper shades of black that I saw on my reference Sony VPL-HW30ES projector, which itself could not compete with the JVC DLA-X3 I previously reviewed. Of course, both of those LCoS projectors carry a higher price tag than the W7000, and the JVC is nowhere near as bright. In this respect, the BenQ is similar to the Epson Home Cinema 3010, which was even brighter than the W7000 and, if memory serves, didn’t perform quite as well as the BenQ in its black-level reproduction.

Interestingly, when I used the auto-iris function on both the BenQ and my reference Sony, the black level wasn’t substantially different in head-to-head comparisons; the Sony had a slight advantage, but the BenQ held its own in the darkest demo scenes from The Bourne Supremacy (Universal), Flags of Our Fathers (Paramount), and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Buena Vista). The difference is that the Sony adds a manual iris that allowed me to further limit light output and get much better black-level performance on my smaller screen. The BenQ does not have a manual iris, so it doesn’t have the flexibility to further reduce light output when you’re dealing with a smaller screen. As a result, darker film scenes lacked that higher level of saturation and depth that characterize the better home theater projectors, although they still looked pretty good. If you plan to mate this projector with a larger 100- to 120-inch screen, then the W7000’s image won’t be as bright, but the black level will improve a bit. In the area of black detail, the W7000 again wasn’t quite as good as the LCoS projector, but it still did a very good job at a gamma setting of 2.2 of rendering the finest details in my darkest demos.

The W7000 offers rich, vibrant colors that, while not spot on the Rec 709 target, don’t deviate too far off the mark. Compared with the more laidback color quality of the Sony LCoS, the W7000’s colors, aided by the projector’s brightness, were very lush, and the overall tone of the W7000 was warmer and more inviting. By default, the W7000’s Cinema mode is set to the Normal color temperature preset. Usually, as part of the setup process, I would switch to the Warm preset. However, in this case, the Warm preset had a noticeable green push, whereas the Normal preset produced a more neutral palette with more natural-looking whites and pleasingly warm skin tones. For those who desire the accuracy of a 6500K color temp and exact Rec 709 color points, the W7000 does offer the necessary calibration tools.

The W7000 serves up a crisp, clean high-definition image with excellent detail and minimal digital noise. In the head-to-head comparison with the VPL-HW30ES, the W7000’s image was a tad cleaner in some solid-colored backgrounds and light-to-dark transitions, although it was pretty close. With standard-definition sources like DVD and SDTV, the W7000 also performs well, producing an image with good detail. With the HQV Benchmark DVD test disc, the W7000 quickly detected the 3:2 sequence in film sources, but failed to properly handle video-based content and other assorted cadences, creating jaggies and shimmering artifacts. With my real-world DVD tests, the BenQ cleanly rendered the Coliseum flyover in chapter 12 of Gladiator (DreamWorks), but it struggled a bit with moiré in my favorite demo scenes from The Bourne Identity (Universal, Chapters 2 and 4). Despite failing the video cadence on the HQV disc, the W7000 kept jaggies to a minimum in a video-based Pilates DVD. In terms of motion blur, with the 120Hz Frame Interpolation mode turned off, this DLP projector offered results similar to the Sony LCoS: In the motion resolution test on the FPD Benchmark BD, both projectors revealed some clean lines at HD 720, but the HD 1080 lines were still blurry. That’s better than most of the LCD projectors I’ve seen recently. Enabling the BenQ’s Frame Interpolation mode did not provide much improvement in motion resolution (whereas the Sony’s 120Hz mode produced a noticeably clearer image). I’m not a big fan of the super-smooth, video-like motion that Frame Interpolation creates with film sources. In some projectors, the Low mode is subtle enough to reduce judder without being blatantly smooth, but that’s not really the case with the W7000. Even the Low FI mode produced an overtly smooth image, so I chose to leave it turned off.

When I switched over to 3D content of both the Blu-ray and DirecTV 3D varieties, the W7000 had a chance to shine … figuratively. As I suggested above, its high level of light output allowed the 3D image to retain a good deal of brightness, and the active 3D approach allowed for a very crisp, detailed 3D image. In the 2D realm, the BrilliantColor control slightly boosts brightness at the mild expense of color accuracy, so I usually left it off (I certainly didn’t need the additional brightness in my setup). In the 3D realm, though, the image’s color temperature was much more neutral when I left BrilliantColor on; turning it off made the image look extremely cool, or blue. The DLP Link communication method produced no significant crosstalk, so this BenQ projector proved to be a better choice for 3D than other bright projectors like the Epson 3010, which struggled with crosstalk.

The Downside
As I said in the Performance section, the W7000’s main performance issue is its inability to produce a truly deep black, especially on a smaller screen. Its auto iris does help in the areas of contrast and black level, but the iris is a tad slow and noisy. I occasionally saw the brightness shift as the iris performed its job, and the function also produced a soft, high-pitched squeal (almost like a soft cricket chirp). It wasn’t loud enough to be a huge concern under normal volume situations, but I did notice it during a few low-volume scenes.

The W7000’s fan noise is louder than average, certainly louder than that of the pleasantly quiet Sony VPL-HW30ES I’m accustomed to using. The amount of noise generated in the eco lamp mode is tolerable and likely won’t distract, but the normal lamp mode is really quite loud. I live at 5,000 feet above sea level and thankfully did not have to use the projector’s High Altitude mode, which is even louder.

The W7000 uses a six-segment color wheel that spins at a 4x speed for all but the Dynamic picture mode, which spins at 6x. If you are sensitive to seeing the DLP rainbow effect, you may notice it on this projector. I personally don’t notice rainbows, so I can’t speak to the W7000’s performance in this respect.

The projector is fairly slow to switch between resolutions; I would get seven to ten seconds of blank screen when going from a 720p TV channel to a 1080i channel (and vice versa).

In 3D Land, the DLP Link approach means you don’t have to pay for the 3D emitter, as you do with some 3D projectors. However, you do still have to buy 3D glasses, since BenQ chose not to include any in the package.

Competition and Comparison
With a street price around $2,000, the BenQ W7000 falls in a middle ground between budget projectors like the Epson Home Cinema 3010 and Optoma HD33 and mid-priced models like the Sony VPL-HW30ES and JVC DLA-X3. For more projector reviews, check out our Video Projector category.

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Conclusion
BenQ’s W7000 is an excellent choice for someone who’s looking for a cost-effective projector for a multi-purpose theater space. Yes, you can find other projectors that will provide better black levels and contrast for a completely light-controlled room, but the W7000 strikes a nice balance between brightness and black level, serving up a bright, crisp, clean, colorful image in both darker and brighter viewing environments. The W7000 has more setup flexibility than other low-priced DLP models, thanks to its solid zoom and lens-shifting specs. This is also one of the best active 3D projectors I’ve seen yet, so it’s a must-demo if you plan to do a lot of 3D viewing.

Additional Resources
Read more projector reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com’s writers.
Explore options in our Projector Screen Review section.
Learn more about the bargain that is the video projector.
To purchase this projector, check out Visual Apex.

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