1080p DLP Home Theater Projector Review
August 19, 2013
Light output. For a home theater projector, the W1500 has power to spare. The projector's specifications list a 2200 lumen maximum white light output, and our test sample measured 1980 lumens in its brightest mode (Dynamic). Dynamic mode uses the projector's Lamp Native color temperature option, which boosts green and makes minimal efforts at color correction but does boost light output. Standard mode, at 1750 lumens, reduces the green push and provides a much more balanced white (around 6900K on average). Cinema mode produces 1766 lumens -- yes, more than Standard mode -- and by default has a color temperature around 6400K, though there is too much green in the image. While this is not ideal for real home theater use, it can be easily tweaked to produce a perfect 6500K grayscale without too much effort.
If you plan to do most of your viewing in 3D, you're already all set - the W1500's high brightness will serve you well on a screen up to 120" diagonal. If you plan to watch more 2D content, it's time to talk about reducing light output. Eco mode on the W1500 drops light output by 37%, bringing Cinema mode to 1112 lumens. That is a much more reasonable number when it comes to home theater viewing in a darkened environment. It also pays to keep in mind that the 1.6:1 zoom lens will reduce light output by 21% at its maximum telephoto setting, so if you plan to place the W1500 near the back of your viewing room, you should make allowances for the light loss. Still, that brings Cinema mode to roughly 875 lumens, which is still more than enough for a 100" to 120" diagonal screen. When you do want to watch 3D movies, simply switch the projector back to Normal lamp mode for a brightness boost.
Contrast. The W1500 is rated at 10,000:1, a modest number in today's market. But the projector performs where it counts. Black levels are solid and very competitive with other projectors in the W1500's price range, especially when using SmartEco mode. Dynamic range is quite good, and the projector has no trouble reproducing shadow detail thanks to a solid factory gamma calibration. Gamma defaults to 2.4 in Cinema mode, which actually measured around 2.35 on our test sample. The result is a picture with plenty of pop and three-dimensionality, once again proving that specifications don't tell the whole story.
Color. The W1500 has the potential to be a great performer when it comes to color, but it does take a little bit of fine-tuning to get things just right. By default, our test sample's Cinema mode displayed a green push, which boosts brightness but does not do any favors to a home theater image.
BenQ W1500, Cinema mode, RGB levels, factory default
This is not difficult to fix, luckily. The W1500 has full RGB gain/bias controls, allowing for full adjustment of the projector's white balance. It can be a little bit tricky to find the controls, though: from the Picture-Basic menu, go to Advanced, then Color Temperature Fine Tuning.
By default, all Gain controls are set to 100 and all Offset controls are set to 255. Our final calibration reduces green in both Gain and Offset and adjusts the red/blue balance in Offset to yield a final calibration that is a smooth 6500K across the grayscale.
BenQ W1500, Cinema mode, RGB levels, post-calibration
As far as color gamut is concerned, our test sample was so close to the Rec. 709 HD standard that we did not feel the need to make any further adjustments. This is good news for you, because gamut adjustments are almost impossible to make without a color meter and calibration software package. Those tend to get expensive, so it's nice to find a projector that does not require gamut adjustments to begin with.
BenQ W1500 color gamut
Sharpness and clarity. Detail on the W1500 is razor sharp, even without the aid of a smart sharpening system. Fine detail from 1080p HD movies is reproduced perfectly, without even a hint of fuzz or blurriness on the part of the projector. This is most evident when watching a high-quality Blu-ray transfer of a well-shot movie. The opening IMAX-filmed sequence in The Dark Knight is a particular favorite for this, and it'll make a good projector like the W1500 look amazing. It doesn't hurt that the camera tends to linger on its subjects during this sequence, making it even easier for you to notice the fine detail in every frame.
Input lag. Gamers concerned with quick response times need projectors with fast input lag numbers, which indicate that the image from the source reaches the screen as quickly as possible. The most demanding gamers want projectors with input lag of 33 milliseconds (2 frames) or below.
Unfortunately, the W1500 measured an average 66ms (4 frames) of input lag when fed a 2D 1080p input signal over HDMI. This is slower than several of its competitors and makes it a tough sell for gamers sensitive to input delay. WHDI increases this delay to 118ms (7 frames) on our test sample, so gamers who do opt for the W1500 will want to stick to wired transmission. Using features like frame interpolation will further delay processing, so it is wise to leave these features turned off when playing games.