BenQ has been one of the more elusive projector manufacturers for the home theater market. They are huge in the world of professional projectors for business use, but have only dabbled a bit in home theater. So, if you’ve been lucky enough to experience what they bring to the home theater projector world, you know they pack state of the art features into very attractively priced projectors.
For this review, I received the W10000, which is a full 1920×1080 Digital Light Processing (DLP) home theater projector. The W10000 has a lot of features that I’ve found lacking in most of the 1080p designs I’ve used so far and comes in at a price point that is almost too good to be true.
- Imaging Device: Texas Instruments Dark Chip 3 1920×1080 DMD
- Brightness: 1200 ANSI Lumens
- Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1
- Faroudja/O-Plus Video Processing
- Lens Shift: Vertical
- Inputs: (1) HDMI, (1) Component, (1) S-Video, (1) Composite, (1) RGB+HV
- Accepts 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p60, 1080p24
- MSRP (USA): $5,995
The W10000 is very similar in form and function to BenQ’s previous 720p flagship DLP design, the PE-8720. The chassis is on the larger side and is white in color. This is probably one of my biggest complaints with the projector as I’m not a fan of white chassis on home theater projectors, but if this is one of the bigger complaints BenQ must be doing a pretty good job elsewhere.
The chassis exhausts heat through the front and puts out a decent amount of warm air. The cooling system is very effective though, and this is one of the quietest projectors I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Another huge plus is the lack of noise in high lamp mode. I used this mode a few times during my review, and I never heard an increase in noise output from the fan. Normally high lamp mode sends most projectors into jet engine noise levels (well maybe not that bad, but enough to be too distracting in quiet movie passages). Surprisingly BenQ even added a quieter mode available through its service menu, but I never saw a reason to use it. This mode slows the color wheel down a bit in case the whine is getting to you, but I never noticed it.
Like most of the projectors out there, the W10000 has a collection of interface tools right on top, including buttons for the menu, power, and navigational keys. I never used these keys, as I had the projector ceiling mounted during the review.
The back panel is pretty customary and includes a single HDMI input, a component video input, an RGB+HV input complete with BNC connections, an S-Video input, and a composite input. You’ll also find an RS-232 connection for remote systems.
The W10000 offers full remote control of nearly all of its features. You can adjust zoom, focus, and vertical lens shift all from the remote control. I haven’t played with too many 1080p DLP designs that offer this feature.
I must say the ability to focus the projector while standing right up at the screen is a huge plus. I don’t have to rely on someone else standing up there to tell me when it’s dialed in, and I’m not the biggest fan of trying to eyeball it from the projector 15 feet away. I’ve heard criticisms about powered focus designs and not being able to focus in as tight as a manual lens design, but that certainly wasn’t the case here. The 10000’s powered focus allowed me to focus in tight enough to clearly resolve each pixel and the dimple in the center of the digital mirror device (DMD). While that doesn’t sound like much, I’ve been around enough projectors that can’t even come close to that.
The zoom and lens shift worked nicely. While I would always like to see horizontal lens shift as well, BenQ has included a nice range of movement with its lens shift abilities.
There is a downside though. Because of the cat’s eye-like iris the projector employs, I saw some vignetting at times. I had to shift the image down a bit since I mounted the projector above the screen, and this caused the image to have some slight darkening in the lower left corner. Since the iris has nearly 30 positions, I was able to open it up just enough to eliminate the issue, but this in turn sacrifices a bit of contrast. Some people may never have this problem, but it is something to think about if you need to use a lot of lens shift.
The projector has a bit of a limited throw (zoom) and is on the longer focal length side. I know some may have issues getting this projector to work with their setups, but I usually find this the case with most of the designs out there. I had no problem filling up my reference Stewart Filmscreen 120″ Studiotek 130, but I have a pretty long room (23 feet).
The W10000 offers some features that most of the 1080p DLP projectors are lacking. This oner has an ISF mode, allowing calibrators to dial in more than just the cursory adjustments, making this one of the most calibration friendly designs I’ve seen yet. It also works with constant height setups. BenQ has included modes to use with an anamorphic lens and is even certified for Panamorph lens applications.
Installing the projector was a snap. BenQ provides an easy-to-use throw calculator in the instruction manual and provides a few built-in test patterns that come in handy. I used the cross hatch pattern a few times. The powered zoom, focus, and lens shift also made lining up the image and getting the tightest focus possible quite easy.
For this review, I mounted the projector on the ceiling, using BenQ’s universal mount. The mount uses a plate that is essentially a cross bar mesh, and you bolt on the projector using four simple arms. From there, you level the projector in both directions and you’re good to go. Then you simply connect power and your video inputs (for this review I used component and HDMI) and select ceiling mount from the setup menu for proper image orientation.
Setup and Calibration
As I mentioned before, the W10000 may be one of the best projectors I’ve seen to date from a calibration standpoint. It offers an awesome amount of flexibility for calibration and can be dialed in to near perfection.
The W10000 uses three completely different menu systems to achieve this. There is the standard users menu, an ISF menu, and the service menu. The standard users menu is what most people are used to when it comes to projectors. Here you’ll find the usual picture controls like contrast and brightness, as well as refined picture controls like color temperature, and a few advanced picture controls.
The ISF menu system goes a bit further. It requires a code to enter but unlocks a host of options that are required to make the most of this projector’s image. Here you’ll find adjustments for color primaries and secondaries (I’d be happy if most projectors on the market offered adjustments for just the primaries!), gamma, color temperature, and all of the cursory adjustments that can be made in the standard menu. All of these settings can be saved to the various user settings or the ISF Night and Day presets. This enables a calibrator to tweak the projector in for both dark rooms and lighter rooms and lock the settings in with a password so your kids or friends don’t mistakenly erase all your settings. Each mode is available from a push of a button on the remote.
The service menu is another beast entirely and isn’t the place for the novice to go messing around. Controls for the DLP chip are here, including timings, color wheel speeds, gamma, and more. Unless you’re working with a calibrator who really knows what he is doing, I’d stick to the previous two menus. You can still achieve an almost perfect calibration and don’t have to worry about messing up the projector.
When I first received the W10000, I did a cursory calibration using mainly the ISF menu. With an assortment of custom HD test patterns, I was able to get a decent grayscale by eye, and get all of the cursory settings dialed in accurately. The ISF menu provides several different pre-set gamma options and color temperature options.
Later, I employed the help of calibrator Michael Chen for a full calibration. Michael Chen is one of the owners of Lion Audio/Video Consultants (www.lionav.com) and is a very respected calibrator. I’ve used his service before back in the CRT days, and he’s always done a tremendous job.
This projector wasn’t too far off the mark to begin with, but a little bit of dialing in did tighten the image in to reference quality. This projector really dials in well with great grayscale tracking, gamma, and color accuracy.
As you can see, color coordinates weren’t too far off the mark to begin with, but we managed to get them almost all dialed in to D65. Some of the lower level IRE’s were a bit difficult, but most meters aren’t nearly as accurate below 30 IRE as you would hope them to be anyways.
Color tracking was also excellent after calibration. With BenQ’s flexible color management system, we were able to dial in both primaries and secondaries to almost perfection. Green was just a bit low ,which also pulled in Cyan a tad. The only real fault we found with the BenQ in relation to color was its decoder. Since this is an HD projector, it should use a color decoder that is accurate with REC 709. Unfortunately, the color decoder is set up for an SD color space. We tried to dial in the decoder a bit more to resolve this issue but found it ultimately frustrating. The projector should look at the incoming video signal and switch accordingly, which is what we’ve seen from other HD projectors. I’ve informed BenQ of the issue and hopefully they will resolve it with firmware and in future models.
Grayscale performance was excellent after calibration, with only a slight dip in the lower IREs (again this is more of an issue with the meter than the projector; even the high priced Minolta meter that was used starts running out in the lower IREs). We managed to get a nearly perfect grayscale from the W10000 and a gamma of 2.38, which is exactly what we want to see from a digital projector.
The W10000 had no problems at all in clipping luma or chroma with our HD test patterns. I was able to dial in the image to near perfection with no obvious banding on a luma ramp, which is a rarity in the digital projection world. There is no image cropping at all with this projector either.
Like the other 1080p DLP based projectors I’ve reviewed, the W10000 resolves the full resolution of 1080p with no obvious roll-off or distortion. This includes single pixel bursts and Nyquist patterns for both luma and chroma in the horizontal and vertical planes.
One of my favorite features on the W10000 is its variable iris. The BenQ employs a motorized iris that can be controlled from the remote allowing you to dial in contrast and brightness to your liking. The iris has nearly 30 steps available. At first I tightened the iris all the way down, maximizing contrast as much as possible. With the projector in low lamp mode and fully calibrated we measured out an impressive 4200:1 On/Off contrast ratio and 610:1 ANSI contrast. This is nearly the best contrast ratio that we’ve measured yet from a DLP design.
The flexible iris can also be used to dial in the overall image brightness you want from the projector. There are a lot of people out there who would gladly sacrifice a bit of contrast to get more lumens from their projector. This iris allows you to start with the iris closed down and open it up until you find a comfortable brightness level that works for your environment. As the bulb wears, you simply open the iris up a little more. I kept the iris closed down to about 90% of its range. This provided plenty of contrast and deep blacks, but still enough punch in the image to give the picture some snap.
Video processing is probably the weakest area of this design and its Achilles’ heel if you are depending on it for HD video processing. BenQ went with a two chip solution for its video processing, employing a Faroudja/Genesis chipset for I/P conversion and filtering, and an O-Plus solution for scaling.
We’ve tested all of the Faroudja-based video processing solutions, and while they offer impressive performance for SD video sources, they haven’t been as impressive with HD performance until the recent “Cortez” line was released.
The W10000 does a fine job with SD video content such as DVD sources. Feeding this projector a 480i signal from a DVD player resulted in a very good image with proper de-interlacing of both 2-3 and 2-2 sources. The O-Plus scaler did a commendable job with scaling, with only a small amount of ringing added to the image. You could improve performance by feeding this projector a fully progressive image from a higher end DVD player and get a slightly better image, but I think most consumers would notice little difference.
The HD side is another story. This projector cannot do proper inverse telecine de-interlacing of 1080i sources to its full 1080p resolution. It essentially does a “Bob” style weaving which results in several artifacts and an apparent loss in resolution compared with a good 1080p feed. While this might not be as apparent with a cable broadcast or home videos from a camcorder, it is quite noticeable with higher end sources such as HD DVD and Blu-ray. If you are using these sources and don’t have a player that supports a true 1080p output, I would recommend coupling this projector with a more capable outboard video processing solution.
With true 1080p60 and 1080p24 sources, this projector shines. The BenQ will accept these resolutions and pass them straight through. For 1080p24 sources, the projector frame doubles and displays them at 48 Hz, resulting in a very clean, judder-free image that is exceptionally film-like.
Staring at test patterns and running a projector through the gambit of tests is all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, projectors were designed for viewing real content. I know many people put a lot of weight on tests (as they should), but I find that some of the issues we see with testing don’t impact the image nearly as much as one might think with typical viewing. But it’s nice to know what your display can and can’t do.
One of the biggest gripes I’ve had so far with the new line of DLP projectors is audible noise. Both the color wheel and fans generate a lot of noise. Whine is usually an annoyance during normal viewing, especially during the more quiet scenes in a movie.
Thankfully, that was not the case with the W10000. This is by far the quietest DLP projector I’ve used to date. During normal use it is nearly whisper quiet and just slightly louder than the best LCoS/SXRD options on the market. On top of that, the W10000 doesn’t get audibly louder when you put it in high lamp mode. This may be the only projector I’ve used that I can say that about, but I switched to high lamp quite a few times during the course of my review and never once did fan noise increase.
BenQ also provides a “Whisper” mode in the service menu that slows down the color wheel to reduce noise even further. I didn’t use this mode though, as the projector was more than quiet enough in normal use, even mounted just above me. It is details like this that truly set this projector apart from the pack.
The remote supplied was also quite easy to use and provided all of the commands I needed. It is fully backlit and has one- touch buttons for adjustment of brightness, contrast, color, and tint. You can also access your preset picture modes and the stored ISF Day and Night modes. Aspect ratio, video processing, and inputs are also selectable.
Now that I’ve gone over the projector as a whole, lets get down to the real deal: picture quality. As most of you already know, I am the staff HD DVD and Blu-ray movie reviewer for Secrets, so I watch A LOT of HD content. Usually a day doesn’t go by where I don’t watch at least one movie on HD DVD or Blu-ray. And with an HD projector of this quality, I really can’t imagine not taking full advantage of the picture it has to offer with the best software around.
A great example of this was Universal’s Hot Fuzz HD DVD. Simon Pegg’s off kilter action film pokes fun at just about every action film before it, but delivers one of the best transfers I’ve seen on HD DVD to date. Fine detail was impeccable when viewed on the W10000. Fine object detail was resolved with aplomb, and depth of image was spectacular. Colors were never exaggerated, and saturation was always balanced perfectly. I’ve viewed a few 1080p projectors on the market that just blow colors out a bit too much. While this does add some punch to the image, it creates an unrealistic balance at times with some colors losing their natural appearance.
Another great HD DVD was Warner’s release of Happy Feet. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the third act of this film, the animation is quite impressive, and the contrast and detail in the image are impeccable. I’ve viewed this feature on several high end projectors, and I’ve noticed some banding creep in on a few of them that shouldn’t be there. As I mentioned before, evaluating a luma ramp identifies these problems early on and the BenQ delivered one of the smoothest ramps I’ve seen to date. The detail and “pop” of the animation in this feature were resolved wonderfully with the W10000, resulting in some of the best HD images I’ve yet seen. Some of the scenes in this presentation were so good you would swear you could just reach in and grab the objects. If you have the chance to see this HD presentation on this projector, check out the chapter when the main character visits the seals toward the end. Absolutely amazing.
Blu-ray has been putting out some of the best and most consistent video transfers, and having a high end 1080p projector to squeeze every ounce out of them makes them that much better. A great example is the recent James Bond film, Casino Royale. Not only is this probably the best Bond film in decades, it’s absolutely gorgeous to look at. The photography captures amazing detail, depth, color, and contrast. You can really put a projector through its paces with material like this, and the W10000 did as well as any projector I’ve ever tested to date, including models nearly four times its price.
I think it’s safe to say that I loved the BenQ W10000. This projector just does so much right and comes in at very good price point. A few tweaks here and there to the design and BenQ could be looking at a performance leader in this category regardless of price. Those looking for high quality 1080p performance, image accuracy, and lots of flexibility in setup and calibration should put this one on their short list. The W10000 gets my highest recommendation.