Introduction to the BenQ W1200 DLP Projector
With a steady flow of new models hitting the market since the CEDIA Expo, I’ve had plenty of projectors passing through my theater of late. When I got the opportunity to review the BenQ W1200, I realized it was my first time evaluating a product from this company.
BenQ is well-known in the projector world, though I am more accustomed to seeing them in conference and class rooms than in home theaters. They do however offer several models that are specifically aimed at the home theater and entertainment market. In researching this young (since 2001) company, I learned of their singular philosophy, “Enjoyment Matters.” This mantra is applied to all their products no matter what the intent.
The W1200 represents the top of their Entertainment line. These products are value-priced and offer features for casual tabletop setups or small dedicated theaters. Since there are speakers built in, you can have movie night with just a Blu-ray player, the W1200 and some popcorn. If you want something to anchor a multi-seat theater, the W1200 can fill that bill too. It includes full calibration controls, all the necessary inputs for the latest receivers and players and a lightweight compact chassis. With a retail price of $1499 and a street price about $300 below that, BenQ is showing they’re serious about competing in the crowded under-$3000 projector category. Let’s cut the packing tape and take a closer look.
BENQ W1200 DLP PROJECTOR SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: Single-Chip DLP Projector
- Native Resolution: 1920×1080
- Maximum Refresh Rate: 60 Hz
- Lens Shift: No
- Throw ratio: 1.4-2.1:1
- Anamorphic Lens Support: No
- Light Output: 1800 ANSI Lumens
- Contrast Ratio:5,000:1 (full-on/full-off)
- Iris Control: No
- Image size: 24″ – 300″
- Inputs (Video): HDMI 1.3 (2), Component (1), S-Video (1), Composite (1), 15-pin VGA (1)
- Inputs (Audio): RCA Stereo (1), Stereo Mini (1)
- Outputs: VGA Monitor (1), Stereo Mini Audio (1)
- Control: RS-232 (1), 12v trigger (1)
- Other: USB (1), for service use
- Lamp Power: 230 Watts
- Rated Lamp Life: 2500 Hr Normal, 4000 Hr Economy
- Dimensions: 5.5″ H x 13.4″ W x 10.25″ D
- Weight: 7.9 Pounds
- MSRP: $1,499 USD
- Secrets Tags: Projectors, DLP
Design of the BenQ W1200 DLP Projector
The BenQ W1200 is one of the smallest projectors I’ve ever worked with. At just under eight pounds, it’s also the lightest. Don’t let the small form factor fool you; this thing is packed with features. The case is a basic white box with ventilation on each side and something unusual – speakers. If you want audio, you can hook up RCAs or a mini-headphone cable and get sound by connecting only a disc player. This makes the W1200 ideal for a quickie movie night where you just plop the projector on your coffee table, whip out a roll-up screen and sit back with some popcorn. On top of the case are large rings to adjust focus and zoom. Also included are basic keys for power, input selection and menu navigation.
Underneath, at the rear, there is one fixed foot and one adjustable one, and a single extendable foot at the front. Ideally, the projector should always be level; but sometimes you will be forced to tilt it upward to place the image properly. The extendable foot extends about one inch giving you a fair amount of flexibility. Of course, standard threaded fittings are provided for a universal ceiling mount. The back jack panel has connections for every type of video source including two HDMI 1.3; one each of component, composite and S-video; and a VGA input. There is also a VGA output which makes the W1200 useful as a presentation projector where the operator can monitor the show from another location. For control, RS-232 and USB ports are provided. Audio connections include RCA stereo and mini-headphone. They provide a signal for the on-board 10-watt speakers located on either side of the chassis.
The remote is small but includes everything you need to control the W1200. Power is a toggle but discrete keys are included for all inputs which I like. Below the center-located menu controls are more discretes for the three user modes and all the basic picture adjustments – brightness, contrast, color, tint and sharpness. Next are the PIP controls and the bottom row of keys accesses the gamma offsets, the color temp presets and the brilliant color feature. The backlight is strong and the key labels are printed on the buttons so you know what everything does in the dark. Response was quite good when I pointed at the screen and the handset never gave me a moment’s trouble.
Setup of the BenQ W1200 DLP Projector
With its compact chassis and light weight, the BenQ can be placed just about anywhere providing you can line up the image on the screen. Since there’s no lens shift you either have to place the W1200 34 percent above or below the edge of the screen. In my case, that worked out to about 15 inches since my screen is 45 inches high. I placed the projector on a stand just in front of my seating. Focus and zoom are via large rings on top. You won’t find motorized controls in this price range so I had to spend a bit more time going back and forth to get the image really sharp. The effort is worth it though because the end result was quite good. The only connection I needed was a single HDMI cable to my Oppo BDP-93. If you want to use the built-in speakers, you’ll have to connect either a pair of RCAs or a mini-headphone cable. Audio is not available over the HDMI connection.
After putting 50 hours or so on the bulb, it was time to investigate the menu system. The first two sub-menus, Picture Basic and Picture Advanced have everything you need to adjust the image including a color management system; which is a rarity on a projector this inexpensive. The picture modes run the usual list of Dynamic, Standard and Cinema. There are also three User modes which can use any of the presets as their starting point. Cinema is the most accurate out of the box and yielded the best calibrated result.
The remaining menus yielded no surprises, just a full set of convenience features. Display has the settings for aspect ratio (16:9, 4:3, Auto, Real and Letterbox). These work the same as on other displays. Auto works fine as it will not stretch 4:3 images to the 16:9 format. There is no support for anamorphic lenses but you can use the Letterbox mode to eliminate the black bars on 2.35:1 movies. Moving down the list, there is keystone correction which should never be used as it reduces resolution. Overscan lets you expand the picture slightly to remove garbage from the edges. Again, it’s always best to leave this set at zero. A set of options lets you fine-tune analog signals from computer sources and HDMI options are there for colorspace and signal format. These can nearly always be left on Auto. Like almost all projectors today, the W1200 offers frame interpolation to smooth motion from film-based sources. BenQ does a fine job with this as there are no artifacts like tearing or judder. Still, it’s an effect I prefer to leave off.
A small audio menu lets you activate the SRS simulated surround effect from the built-in speakers. I did not test this feature. The System Setup covers options like PIP, high altitude mode (greater fan speed), menu position, lamp power, auto power-off, and a reset which returns all settings to their factory defaults.
Calibration went pretty smoothly as the W1200 responded predictably to adjustment. Grayscale only required small changes to achieve flat tracking at 6500K. Gamma is set by choosing an appropriate offset. According to measurements, 2.4 is the proper setting; but I found after watching actual content, bumping it up to 2.6 resulted in better contrast and deeper black levels with no loss of shadow detail. Turning to the CMS, I found all the necessary controls were available. I was able to adjust hue, saturation and lightness (BenQ calls it gain) for all six colors and achieve an excellent result. Only blue appeared to run out of adjustment range before I could get it perfect. The end result was accurate and nicely saturated color. After re-tweaking the white balance, I had a very satisfactory image.
One thing I discovered during the video processing tests; changing the input resolution switches to a separate settings memory. This meant I had to re-enter the adjustments for both 480i and 1080p. Once you do this and save the settings in the Picture Basic menu, you won’t have to worry about it again. Typically, one would always send a 1080p signal anyway. If you want even more security, the W1200 offers ISF modes which can be locked with a passcode. Another quirk which I could not work around was the undefeatable edge enhancement I saw when inputting an RGB signal. For some reason, the Sharpness control is locked at 8 and grayed out. If you use YCbCr, you can access the control and set it to zero which removes the ringing. Unfortunately, if you want to see maximum resolution, you need to use RGB since YCbCr failed my chroma resolution tests for the 1-pixel pattern. It’s a Catch-22 but ultimately, the picture looked better without the added sharpness so I used YCbCr for all my viewing.
The BenQ W1200 DLP Projector In Use
While I do enjoy a certain zen experience when I spend hours in a lightless room calibrating a projector, watching movies is still my favorite activity. To that end, I chose a mix of recent and not-so-recent Blu-ray titles to help put the W1200 through its paces.
I love superhero flicks so I started with Thor, released earlier this year. I really enjoyed the alien landscapes depicted in the film courtesy of some superb CGI. Even though they weren’t awash in bold colors, the textures and detail popped nicely and never fell flat. Darker scenes showed the limitations of the BenQ’s contrast. I was quickly motivated to tweak the gamma up (darker) which helped. While the image is nice and bright with excellent detail, I was wishing for deeper blacks and a more 3D look. Fast action looked awesome thanks to solid video processing and the DLP chip’s ultra-fast pixel response. Rainbows were not visible to me, though I almost never see them in any DLP display.
Moving on to Green Zone, I wanted to see how the W1200 handled heavy film grain. The nighttime scenes in this movie are shot on very grainy stock and the image often runs the ragged edge of breaking up. While this did not happen, the grain looked to me as if it were laid over top of the image rather than being a part of the picture. Perhaps it was a result of the high black level causing excessive dithering. Everything but the darkest material looked great however. The bright desert climate of Iraq shone through just as director Paul Greengrass intended.
I Am Legend goes back to 2007 but has the same stellar image as newer films. I saw lots of sharp detail in the abandoned New York City streets as well as in close-up shots of the actors’ faces. Subtle CGI effects are overlaid on the live footage and you can’t tell what’s real what’s not. Color is richly saturated and natural and the W1200 handled this beautifully with a high degree of accuracy. The higher gamma setting I chose helped deepen the dark scenes a bit but they still looked a tad gray. Panned shots retained excellent resolution with no judder or other motion artifacts.
I turned on the wayback machine when I decided to drop Tron into the player; the newly released Blu-ray of course. I remember being enthralled by this film back in 1982 with its then-groundbreaking computer effects. Of course, it looks dated now but there’s a certain feel to it that you don’t find in modern titles where physics don’t matter and the impossible is taken for granted. The W1200 had no problems showing every minute detail; both bad and good. The color palette is pretty much monochromatic but the picture still retained some depth thanks to the projector’s excellent lens and superb color reproduction. The lighter black levels didn’t really bother me too much since shadow detail was retained very well.
I finished up with another viewing of Nirvana Unplugged in New York. I used this video for a previous review and just had to watch the performance again. It’s vintage TV show for sure with lots of artifacts and soft resolution. I tried putting my Oppo BDP-93 in source direct mode to test the projector’s scaling ability. It seemed fine with no great difference in detail level observed. Color and contrast held up pretty well and I enjoyed the presentation just as much as I did on my reference Anthem LTX-500. While I always recommend a player with good video processing, the BenQ W1200 does a fine job if called upon.
The BenQ W1200 DLP Projector On The Bench
Equipment used: EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer, CalMAN Professional 3.7 analysis software, Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator, Spears & Munsil Benchmark Blu-ray disc.
All measurements were taken off the screen (Carada Brilliant White, gain 1.4) from the seating position (10 feet back). Video processing tests were performed using an Oppo BDP-93 connected directly to the projector and set to Source Direct mode. The W1200 was set to Cinema mode with the lamp at low power (economy).
Pre-calibration color is only fair with significant errors in luminance for all colors but red. Measured Y values ranged from 1 to 15fL of oversaturation. The CIE chart looks OK but since there’s a CMS available, I wasn’t too worried. The impact on image quality would be a slightly cartoonish look to bright colors with crushing of high-end detail.
Grayscale ran noticeably warm on the Normal preset. The tracking is quite good however with a straight-line consistency from bottom to top. This is a good sign because all one needs to do is bring the three primaries together with the white balance controls. Gamma was fairly flat but too bright resulting in a washed-out look to the picture.
After spending some time with the CMS, I achieved the below result. Luminance is pretty much perfect, and the color points are right on the money with the exception of blue. There was simply not enough adjustment range to bring blue into the triangle. It was pretty close though with a Delta E of 8.7. All other Deltas were under 1. I would call this an excellent result.
Grayscale tracked perfectly from 20 to 100 percent with some of the lowest errors I’ve ever measured. This is within the tightest tolerances of my meter. It doesn’t get better than this. Gamma was not quite perfect but pretty close. Mid-range values ran around 2.3 with a solid 2.2 at both ends of the scale. With the light black levels though, I preferred to click the gamma control one notch higher (darker) which improved intra-image contrast. Please see my comments in the In Use section for more detail on how I set gamma with the W1200.
Contrast performance was average for a DLP projector in this price range. Minimum black measured .02 fL which is more of a dark gray. This impacted the picture negatively giving it a slightly washed-out look. Increasing the gamma correction helped add some depth. I believe 2.2 is not the right setting for the W1200. It looks better at 2.6. Maximum light output in the calibrated Cinema mode was 18.5 fL for an on/off contrast ratio of 925:1. This could be increased a bit by turning up the Contrast control but it didn’t make the perception of contrast any better.
Screen uniformity was excellent with no visible tint or variation anywhere. This speaks to the lens quality which was very good. Detail popped on sharp images from Blu-ray discs. In crosshatch test patterns, I could see the pixel structure clearly when I viewed the screen up close; a very strong indicator of good optics.
Video processing was quite good with all motion tests passed save the mixed content vertical which showed combing artifacts on the scrolling text. As you can see in the table, an RGB Video signal produces the greatest resolution. YCbCr signals would not resolve the highest frequency pattern on the chroma burst.
Conclusions About the BenQ W1200 DLP Projector
- Terrific value
- Full and operational color management system
- Very accurate color, grayscale and gamma
- Excellent lens produces a bright, sharp image
- Decent video processing
The Not So Good
- Mediocre black levels
- Undefeatable edge enhancement in RGB mode
This is the second budget projector in a row that has impressed me. It’s amazing how far technology has come in this category. While I will always gravitate to the more expensive models thanks to my nit-picking videophile sensibilities, the W1200 will satisfy anyone looking to go beyond their 50-inch flat-panel into the world of front projection. Image accuracy is no longer exclusive to expensive models and a bright, saturated picture can now be had for less than the price of a good plasma television. If you don’t want to have a dedicated room, all you need is a disc player and a roll-up screen for instant big-screen fun thanks to the included speakers. With a solid and complete feature set and excellent image accuracy, I give the BenQ W1200 a confident two thumbs up.