Our recent review of the LG PF85U, a $1,299 LED-based projector that straddles the home theater/home entertainment line, almost immediately started drawing questions from readers about the viability of such a projector next to a lamp-based model.
The BenQ W1070 is an $899 lamp-based 1080p projector for home video and home theater and one of our favorite projectors. It fills the same application niche as the PF85U and has excellent image quality for its price.
The PF85U is an intriguing projector, but it's not yet clear that LED projectors are better than lamp-based projectors. Many folks will want to stick with high-pressure lamps for at least a few more years.
Both the BenQ W1070 and the LG PF85U straddle the line between home video and entry-level home theater. Both use DLP technology and are native 1080p. But the W1070 uses a traditional lamp while the PF85U has a solid-state LED light engine. The W1070 is a stripped-down projector that is light on features but delivers superb image quality, while the PF85U is feature-laden and includes just about every conceivable bell and whistle available, but carries a premium price in comparison to the W1070.
This article assumes some base knowledge of both projectors. The full details of each projector can be found in our BenQ W1070 review and LG PF85U review.
The comparison between the W1070 and PF85U reveals something ironic. The W1070's film-like image and comparative lack of features make it a better choice for home theater, while the slew of features like frame interpolation, Smart TV, and excellent connectivity of the PF85U make it a killer home video projector. But the PF85U lacks the light output needed to create a large, compelling image in ambient light, while the W1070 has brightness to spare but none of the features that make the PF85U a viable TV replacement.
The W1070's image is subtle in the best sense of the word, rendering a natural, film-like picture that is true to the source material. The picture is bright, but shadow detail is preserved well. Black level is not the W1070's strongest suit, but it is on par with other lamp-based video projectors in its price range. White balance in Cinema mode is acceptable for casual viewing, but further calibration gives the W1070 near-perfect color.
The PF85U lacks the W1070's intense brightness, but its black level is much deeper, more on par with home theater models. Shadow detail is superb, with the deepest detail still visible even in difficult scenes. Color saturation is high, but the projector's Dynamic Color control can make the image appear over-saturated even at low levels. The PF85U has a lot of features that make the picture more compelling in ambient light, but those same features can make it look cartoonish in a home theater setting. Default color is not bad, but the PF85U does not benefit much from calibration.
Light output. The W1070 has a decisive light output advantage in the living room and an even bigger one in the theater. The W1070's Dynamic mode measured 1554 lumens on our test sample, though the image is greenish. The PF85U, on the other hand, maxes out at 706 lumens in Vivid mode with all brightness-boosting features turned on. The image is noticeably bluish, and both gamma and color saturation are exaggerated. For movies and other lights-off use, the W1070's Cinema mode measures 1220 lumens with the lamp at full power and 880 lumens in Eco mode. The PF85U, on the other hand, measured 346 lumens in Cinema with the LEDs at full blast.
While the PF85U can light a 100" diagonal screen in a dark room, a 120" screen is a stretch without a higher-gain screen. In a room with ambient light, going above 70" diagonal is a surefire way to end up with a washed-out image. The W1070 does not have these same restrictions.
Other Advantages of the PF85U. The PF85U has frame interpolation, which reduces judder in video and film. The PF85U also includes Smart TV functionality, so you can watch streaming video from a number of popular services right on the projector. It has a greater number of connection options, including a coaxial port you can use to attach a broadcast antenna and both wired and WiFi networking. It has stereo speakers versus the W1070's mono. It is also smaller and lighter than the W1070.
Other Advantages of the W1070. The W1070 has both a zoom lens and vertical lens shift. It is also Full HD 3D compatible. The W1070 has more accurate color in its factory default settings, and post-calibration color is more accurate as well. But really, the big draw of the W1070 is its film-like image and high light output.