720p 3D DLP Home Theater Projector Review
March 10, 2010
The BenQ W600 is a DLP 720p home entertainment projector with 3D capability. With 2600 lumens of brightness, it has the power to be used in almost any projection environment. Its 3000:1 contrast is great for home entertainment such as video games and television. Its user interface is sometimes difficult to manage, and its limited adjustability will not appeal to those who like to fine-tune their equipment. But with a price of $799 at most retailers, it is a solid value.Advantages
Light output. The W600 has a highly variable light output that makes it easy to use in almost any projection environment. Dynamic mode, the brightest available, measured 2494 lumens on our test unit, very nearly reaching the projector's specified maximum of 2600 lumens. This mode has a strong green push, but would be appropriate for high-brightness applications such as HD sports in a living room or even "party" video games meant to be played by a large group in a moderately-lit room.
Standard mode, the next brightest, has less of a green push than Dynamic along with better color saturation and contrast. Our test sample read 1748 lumens in this mode. If you do not need the extreme brightness of Dynamic mode, Standard mode results in a generally more accurate, better saturated image with better shadow detail.
If color accuracy and contrast are your primary concerns, Cinema mode is better still, though lumen output drops to 1320. Using low lamp mode extends lamp life from 2500 hours to 4000 hours, but also decreases brightness by 20%.
For the best possible performance with film or video, you will want to disable BrilliantColor, which is enabled by default. BrilliantColor boosts highlights without affecting the rest of the image, leading to a brighter picture with much higher dynamic range. While this sounds like a good thing, it also destroys the sense of balance that you get from a good home theater projector, where the picture feels like an integrated whole. This quality, sometimes difficult to describe but always important, is improved greatly by disabling BrilliantColor. This brings lumen output down to 795 in Cinema mode using high lamp and 636 in Cinema mode using low lamp.
Contrast. When using the brighter image modes, the W600 has a very dynamic picture, with brilliant whites and deep blacks - or, at least, it seems that way. In image modes like Cinema, especially with BrilliantColor disabled, dynamic range is reduced but the picture as a whole looks more natural and well-balanced. The actual measured black level does not change; it merely looks less deep in comparison to the less brilliant highlights. Shadow detail is very good - in fact it is better in Cinema than in Dynamic - so you are not losing any information in the projected image itself. The W600's competitors do not fare well with regards to black level either, so in comparison it has a slight edge.
Inexpensive Maintenance. The W600 is not just inexpensive at purchase; it is also inexpensive to maintain over time. Lamps last 2,500 hours in High lamp mode or 4,000 hours in Eco mode. Replacement lamps cost only $199 each directly from BenQ. Assume for a moment that the lamp runs for a full 4,000 hours, and the cost per hour is a mere nickel. At 2,500 hours of runtime, it is still only eight cents per hour. And, since there are no filters to replace, lamp changes are the only required maintenance you will ever have to perform.
Placement. The W600 has a fixed throw offset of 18%, meaning the bottom edge of the projected image will appear 18% of the image height above the centerline of the lens. In practical terms, a 100" diagonal image would have an offset of just under 9". While this is ideal for a coffee table placement, a ceiling mount might require a drop tube if you have a ceiling fan or other obstruction.
The projector has a manual 1.2:1 zoom lens, allowing it to throw a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 11' to 12' 8". This leeway should allow you some flexibility when mounting the projector, though care must still be taken to plan at least the basics of your installation before purchase.
Speaker. The W600 has a 2W mono speaker. This doesn't sound like much (pun fully and completely intended), and indeed volume is rather low. The sound never gets loud enough to cause distortion, which is good, but it also never gets loud enough to be audible to more than about three people, which is not so good. Unless you are sitting very close to the projector in a quiet room, you will need an outboard sound system of some kind.