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.
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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.
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).
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.
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.