Ultra HD 4K resolution and curved OLED might be all the rage when it comes to TV viewing, but for that immersive home theater experience the best bang for your bucks can be had in the projector market. Pricing for 1080p resolution (you know, plain ol’ 1920x1080, known as “Full HD” when it came out) projectors continue to include a nice range of affordable sub-$2,000 models that will throw crisp pictures four times the size of the latest 55-inch flat panels.
Benq is among the brands that have helped make 1080p projection go from out-of-reach to downright affordable for many home theater enthusiasts. For its $1,999 street price, the company’s W7000 DLP model fits right into that trend to deliver solid 2D and 3D images to your media room.
I note “media room,” because for one thing, at 2,000 lumens of brightness you’ll have the flexibility to install the W7000 in a dark, dedicated theater as well as viewing rooms where controlling ambient light isn’t as easy. I was able to view the images well in my theater room when the few recessed can lights remained on, so if you can reasonably contain ambient light in a living room setting, for instance, by using shades you’d be able to watch shows and movies during the day with little worry and then at night without any frets.
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In my theater I had the W7000 paired with a Screen Innovations 92-inch Black Diamond fixed screen (whose gray material also aids ambient light viewing) for 16:9 aspect ratio content and with an Elite Screens 92-inch Kestrel (1.1 gain) motorized 2.35:1 screen for wider cinema content. Most of my viewing was done using Yamaha’s excellent BD-A1020 Blu-ray player for both Blu-rays and standard DVDs, because let’s face it, chances are you still have plenty of the latter hanging around and you might be worried how they look blown up to 100-plus inches (the W7000 can throw an image as big as 300 diagonal inches). Even when I bypassed the video processing on my Anthem Statement D2v processor, the Benq did plenty well making DVDs look almost as pretty as Blu-ray discs.
Other features of the W7000 include lamp life expectancy of 2,000 hours in standard mode and 2,500 in eco mode; zoom ratio of 1.50:1; rated contrast ratio of 50,000:1; and max lens shift adjustment of +/-125 degrees vertical and +/-40 degrees horizontal. At 14.8 pounds it isn’t too hefty installation-wise, and the lens is center-located. Zoom and focus are manual functions using the rings surrounding the lens—I’ve always found manual zoom and focus to be a little touchy, and this Benq model like others I’ve experienced was no different; it’s certainly easy enough to dial in, but you’ll want to keep from bumping into the projector if it’s not mounted to the ceiling. Even when I thought I had it correct, I always felt the need to re-focus just a touch whenever I fired up the projector for reassurance.
I’ve evaluated other Benq projectors, and the strengths I found in those were also evident in the W7000: namely, color and detail. Out of the box, the picture looked darn impressive, but you can also do plenty of fine-tuning to get the image, including the color and detail, just right for your room conditions via the generous picture settings within the projector’s menu.
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You can start with the basic picture settings menu, which allows you to switch between preset modes, and change aspects such as brightness, contrast, color, tint, sharpness and flesh tone. I like that all of those, except for sharpness and flesh tone, are also accessible from a button push on the remote control if you want to quickly try a few tweaks. In fact, there’s quite a bit you can do right from the remote, which is also orange backlit, a thoughtful touch for when you are using the projector in a darkened theater room. Along with picture settings you can use the remote to select the 3D option, the picture-in-picture (which, unfortunately, cannot be used with the second HDMI port—though having two HDMI ports two begin with is convenient), memory modes and image aspect ratio.
Picture presets offer standard, cinema, dynamic and three “user memory” modes for you to play around. I found the cinema setting to be a pretty good fit for most content I viewed, with slight adjustments made for less brightness and a smidge toning down of a tad redness to the hue. Colors in cinema mode looked natural and lifelike, as did flesh tones, for example, on the many closeups offered during TV shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad as well as sporting events.
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.