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’ 1920×1080, 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.
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.
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.
The advanced settings include adjustments for color temperature, color temperature fine tuning, gamma selection, brilliant color, color management and dynamic black. For detail, the advanced picture settings feature a “clarity control” section that includes the ability to tweak noise reduction and detail enhancement. I experimented a bit with these two settings, but for the most part I thought the image needed little of either—noise reduction I tended to keep off and I had the detail enhancement on low, as there seemed to be a fine line between how the image appeared naturally and then adding more reduction and enhancement to then render it more artificial looking. Textures like the stone surfaces and clothing of the warriors during night scenes of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Blu-ray benefited from a slight bump in enhancement, but you have to be careful not to go overboard and wash out detail. Overall, black-level detail was very nice, from the textures and shadow imagery during night scenes in Crouching Tiger to the amount of lines, creases and reflection in things like Darth Vader’s outfit in the Star Wars trilogy on DVD, and glimmers and scuffing of microphone stands and instruments onstage in several concert Blu-rays.
The visually stunning Art of Flight Blu-ray was a showcase for the crisp detail and colors that jumped off the screen. The contrast of the white mountains against the backdrop of the blue sky, along with the snow texture and jaggedy rocks and glaciers really brought out the strong dimensionality of the 2D images rendered by the W7000. No less stunning was the color palette to the lushly restored Blu-ray version of Disney’s 50-plus-year-old Sleeping Beauty (whose ultra-wide 2.55:1 aspect ratio left black bars even on the Kestrel screen) in which the animated dresses, trees, birds and such looked particularly vibrant. They held up pretty well against modern day Pixar goodies like Up and Wall-E, both of which dazzled through the W7000. You almost don’t want to go back to real-life material after seeing such vivid animation. For films such as Wall-E I did not use an anamorphic lens (opting for the zoom method) for filling the 2.35:1 Kestrel screen, but the projector does include an anamorphic setting if you want to pair it with a Panamorph or other lens to achieve the super-wide results.
I checked out the projector’s “full HD 3D” (which Benq says was certified by TUV Rheinland) and found it quite enjoyable and enveloping. Through the DLP Link active glasses (no special emitter necessary), the images during Despicable Me and Tangled suffered from slight brightness loss but no discernible crosstalk or “ghosting” that I could see. Depth of the 3D was pleasing, but there is no scalability to it as I’ve seen in other projectors. Fast-action 3D scenes like Maximus chasing around Flynn were pretty smooth compared with other 3D projection I’ve viewed, and high amounts of detail are maintained when switching over to the 3D format.
Related: The Blu-ray That Made Me Love 3D
If you’ve got a couple grand to spend, you’ll be more than happy building a theater room around this projector, plus you can take it upstairs and use it in a bonus room or living room for more daily use—just know that you’ll probably be needing to replace the lamp much sooner that way unless you keep the W7000 in eco mode. I love that companies such as Benq and Epson continue to make projectors attractive options to flat-panel TVs, and the increasing quality of their offerings are making past compromises much less worrisome.
2,000 ANSI lumens
50,000:1 contrast ratio
1.62-2.43 throw ratio
I/Os HDMI 1.4 x2; component; composite; VGA computer; S-video
lens shift +/-125 degrees vertical, +/-40 degrees horizontal
Excellent color rendering, image depth
Solid 3D capability
Plentiful picture fine-tune adjustments
Sensitive manual focus/zoom
PIP can’t be used with 2nd HDMI port
Annoying delay when switching sources