BenQ has been turning out home theater projectors for years now, but to this point they have not released a full HD 3D projector. Enter the BenQ W7000. The W7000 brings to the table 2,000 lumens of maximum brightness, a 50,000:1 contrast ratio, a small form factor (compared to other full HD 3D projectors in its price range), vertical and horizontal lens shift (unusual for a DLP projector, even today) and a 1.5:1 zoom lens.
The W7000 has its quirks, and it's not right for everyone -- no projector is. But if you understand the advantages and limitations, the W7000 can be a great projector for a home theater, living room, or game room, and at $2499 it won't break the bank, either.
First of all, let us note that our review sample uses BenQ's 1.00-3 firmware, which is not the version that has been floating around for a few months now. We checked with BenQ, and the firmware on our projector is the most current version available.
We set up the W7000 on a rear shelf in our darkened theater, ran the requisite wires, and started it up. After a moment of confusion, wherein we discovered that HDMI 2 was on the left and HDMI 1 was on the right, we were able to get a movie up and running.
In terms of the overall character of the image, the W7000 is very similar to the older W6000, BenQ's last high contrast 1080p projector released in 2009. The W6000 stood out for its high dynamic range and sharp, detail-rich image, and the W7000 shows every sign of continuing that tradition. The image, even at defaults, shows plenty of three-dimensionality. Once we got the image calibrated to our liking, color balance is almost perfect, while the impressive sharpness and dynamic range make the picture pop from the screen.
On the other hand, black level is also quite similar to the W6000, so it's unlikely to hold up to today's ultra-high-contrast projectors in this regard. We'll see more about this in the comparison section. The W7000 has an automatic iris, but we did notice that it makes a squeaking, whining sort of noise whenever it goes from a bright scene to a dark one or vice versa.
Just poking around the default settings, the W7000 does not have too many presets, but the ones that are there aren't bad at all. The Cinema preset at Normal color temperature came in around 6100K on our test sample, which is watchable if not ideal. There's a full color management system for gamut adjustments and a separate system for grayscale tracking, but no way to adjust gamma independent of the preset modes. The gamma presets are not bad, but none of them is a perfect 2.2, either. If you enjoy fine-tuning your projector, the W7000 does a fair job of giving you the tools to do so.
Image quality. In both 2D and 3D, the W7000 puts a great picture on the screen. Cinema mode is bright enough for even the largest screens in 2D, so you never have to worry about the picture looking dull or washed out. The projector's dynamic range is such that the image looks more like a window into another world than a two-dimensional representation of such. Detail is always clear, and the image is tack-sharp without any edge enhancement. Color, after calibration, is well-saturated and accurate. In 3D, there's no sign at all of crosstalk, which speaks for itself. While black level is a touch anemic, there's little to complain about on the W7000 when it comes to image quality.
Sharpness and clarity. Even compared to other modern 1080p projectors, the W7000 is sharp as a tack. Minute detail in Blu-ray or other HD content is easy to see, and the razor sharpness of the image makes it pop even more.
The W7000 has two options designed to increase edge definition. One is the standard Sharpness control, while the other is called Clarity Control. Clarity Control, like Super Resolution on Epson's home theater projectors and Detail Clarity on Panasonic machines, enhances the appearance of detail while trying to avoid the appearance of artifacts related to edge enhancement. It is a testament to the W7000's inherent clarity of detail that we left Sharpness at 0 and only brought the Clarity Control to 1, both out of 15. The projector simply doesn't need very much help.
Placement flexibility. DLP projectors have typically lagged behind their LCD counterparts when it comes to zoom range and lens shift, but the W7000 makes as good an effort as any DLP home theater projector we've seen. It has a 1.5:1 manual zoom lens and manual H/V lens shift. The vertical shift has a total range of about 2.5 picture heights, so you can place the image either completely above or completely below the centerline of the lens and still have a good amount of space to work with. This is especially useful for placement in a ceiling mount or on a low table. The horizontal shift has a total range of 1.8 image widths, so you can move the projected image 40% left or right. Remember that maximum lens shift cannot be achieved in both directions simultaneously. Applying significant vertical shift will prevent you from applying much horizontal shift and vice versa.
Frame Interpolation. The W7000 has a frame interpolation system, which the W6000 lacked. What's more, the W7000's FI system works in 3D, which is still something of an unusual feature these days. Whereas FI systems can sometimes make 2D film look unrealistically smooth (the so-called "soap opera effect"), in 3D the effect is much less noticeable. Instead, video looks smoother and less jittery, but not artificial or over-processed.
Picture-in-picture. One of the cool things about putting a big screen up is being able to display two pictures at once and having both be clearly visible. The W7000 can display a picture-in-picture view from two different inputs, though there is one major limitation: the second input has to be either composite or s-video. You can't display, for example, HDMI and VGA, or VGA and component. Still, most projectors can't do picture-in-picture at all.
3D. As BenQ's first Full HD 3D projector, expectations are high for the W7000's 3D performance. The W7000 uses DLP Link rather than infrared or radio frequency for glasses synchronization. This means you don't need to wire a separate emitter, and it also means you should not have any trouble getting the remote control to respond when watching 3D -- a common problem for projectors using IR sync.
DLP Link glasses are all more or less interchangeable, though there are reports that some are better than others. BenQ's own 3D glasses cost $99 each and none are included with the projector itself. The glasses themselves have large lenses and non-folding arms and take two button-style non-rechargeable batteries. The battery compartment is accessed via a small Phillips screw.
3D picture quality is excellent. The picture is high in contrast, and that impressive sharpness seen in 2D carries through to 3D as well. Crosstalk is nowhere to be seen, even in the scenes other projectors struggle with. There is a strong impression of depth to the image. All in all, 3D on the W7000 is a very dramatic presentation and should make enthusiasts very happy.
ISF. In the W7000's menu system is an ISF option which requires a password to access. Inside this menu are the tools an ISF technician needs to bring the W7000 into perfect color balance. Most of the options within this menu are different versions of what is available in the regular user menu, including a color management system where measurements from a color meter are used to automatically adjust the projector. The same results can be accomplished without the use of this menu, so do-it-yourselfers don't lose much.
Light output. Dynamic mode, which is the projector's brightest preset, measured 1939 lumens on our test sample. This is very close to the W7000's 2,000 lumen specified maximum output. The Dynamic setting has a greenish tint and tends to exaggerate colors and contrast, so it is best reserved for bright settings where the extra light output is required to combat ambient light.
Standard mode, the next preset, measured 1019 lumens with the lamp at full power. The huge difference between Dynamic and Standard can be attributed to the former's use of the Lamp Native color temperature preset, which cranks light output at the expense of color accuracy. Both Dynamic and Standard enable BrilliantColor by default, which boosts highlights. Disabling BrilliantColor in either of these image modes results in a more balanced picture and a 22% reduction in light output.
Cinema is the last preset available in 2D and our preferred mode for film and video. Cinema mode measures 909 lumens with the lamp at full power and the lens at its widest angle setting. What's more, the W7000 manages 88% brightness uniformity while cranking out this kind of light. The result is a bright, shining image that is evenly illuminated from edge to edge. This is enough light to power a 140" diagonal, 1.0-gain 16:9 screen, if you're going for the SMPTE-standard 16 foot-Lamberts.
On smaller screens, 909 lumens is far too much light. In this case, engaging Eco lamp mode reduces light output by 19%, which brings Cinema mode to 740 lumens. This is still a little bright for a 100" diagonal screen (25 fL at 1.0 gain) but will help if there is any ambient light in the room. Aside from using the long end of the 1.5:1 zoom lens, which will reduce light output by 9%, there's no convenient way to reduce light output further without purchasing a separate neutral density (ND) filter and placing it in front of the projector's lens.
On the upside, all of this light makes the W7000 plenty bright for 3D display. The projector has a dedicated 3D mode that is automatically engaged when displaying 3D content, and while adjusting this mode can be tricky (not everyone has access to 3D calibration materials), it will retain color temperature adjustments made in 2D.
Our measurements indicate that 3D mode puts out 1100 lumens on our test sample, and BenQ's 3D glasses transmit 28% of the total light they receive. If you have a 1.0-gain screen, that works out to 11 fL on a 100" diagonal screen. For 3D, that's not bad at all. Bump your screen gain to 1.3 and you have 14 fL at the same diagonal.
Color. The factory default settings on the W7000 show some improvement over BenQ's previous home theater projectors. The W6000 clearly, obviously needed a calibration before use. The W1200 was the same way. Both times, we asked BenQ to work on their factory presets, and it seems like they've listened. The W7000 comes out of the box in usable form, and calibration only makes it better.
Cinema mode, our preferred mode for watching films and video, defaults to around 6100K on our test sample. Shadows are slightly redder, around 6000K, while highlights are a bit cooler at 6200K. Some quick adjustments gave the projector a smooth, consistent, even grayscale, never deviating from 6500K by more than about 50 degrees. The settings we used, while tailored to our projector, may provide a useful starting point for your own:
|R Gain||47||R Offset||253|
|G Gain||38||G Offset||255|
|B Gain||37||B Offset||255|
While this does not give the W7000 perfect grayscale performance (you'll note small divergences at 20%, 50%, and 100% illumination), it is difficult to get any closer due to the coarseness of the adjustments. A one-point change in any control makes a significant, visible difference on the screen, so be careful in your fine-tuning to avoid getting lost. On the upside, there is a reset button in case you make a mistake.
Input lag. Certain video games (those wherein exact timing is crucial) require the projector to process and display an image as quickly as possible. The time it takes a signal to reach the screen is called input lag. Our measurements indicate that the W7000 creates a delay of approximately three frames on a 60Hz signal, or around 50 milliseconds. That puts the W7000 squarely in the middle of the road -- not fast, but not slow either. Serious gamers, those for whom gaming is the primary reason for buying a projector, will want something faster. Casual gamers who nonetheless value performance will have to judge for themselves what level of input lag is acceptable.
Black level. The W7000 includes an automatic iris, which is called Dynamic Black in the menu system. Dynamic Black is engaged by default, and black levels are quite good, especially for a $2500 DLP projector. However, the projector still cannot match the deep, dark, black-hole performance of some of this year's best black level performers, namely the Epson Home Cinema 5010. On the other hand, the W7000 costs less than the 5010.
No 2D to 3D conversion. While 2D to 3D conversion is rarely as impressive or immersive as actual 3D content, the fact remains that nearly every other Full HD 3D projector on the market has such a system, while the W7000 does not. 3D enthusiasts can work around this by using a Blu-ray player that supports conversion, but it is a shame that the projector can't do it too.
Lamp life. These days, a lamp life of 2,000 hours in Normal lamp mode and 2,500 hours in Eco mode is not as impressive as it once was. Other projectors in the same price range offer 4,000 to 5,000 hour lamp lives and less expensive replacement lamps -- the BenQ replacements are $349 each.
4x-speed color wheel. The W7000 has a 4x-speed, six-segment color wheel with RGBRGB segments. For most people, the rainbow effect disappears on projectors using 4x speed wheels, but some highly sensitive individuals still report seeing the artifact. While this will not affect the vast majority of users, those individuals might want to look into a projector with a faster wheel speed (like the 6x-speed Optoma HD33) or an LCD or LCoS projector, neither of which use color wheels.
Locked ISF presets. According to the manual, the ISF menu contains a color management system that adjusts the projector based on numbers taken from a user's color meter. Using this system will engage the "ISF Day" and "ISF Night" image presets in addition to the standard Dynamic, Standard, and Cinema. However, this menu is locked for end-users, requiring a password that BenQ does not distribute. The only way to get at this menu is to hire a professional calibrator and have him or her take a whack at your projector. If anything, this is standard practice; few projectors if any allow the user to access ISF controls. But considering that the W7000 costs only $2500, we wonder how many potential buyers are considering professional calibration in the first place.
Lens shift. "But wait!" you're saying. "Lens shift is a good thing!" And you're right, it is. But the W7000's lens shift uses a small joystick-like adjustment lever, the movement of which is not especially smooth, and the twist locking mechanism does not always hold the lens as still as we would like. Sometimes, the lens will shift slightly after locking it down, which defeats the purpose of locking it at all. And while it is good that the W7000 has lens shift, the range is not as extensive as some other projectors in its price range. If you need to place your projector significantly off-center from the screen, be sure to measure out your installation before purchasing.
Loud iris. The W7000's Dynamic Black auto-iris does a good job pulling black level down, but it is also noisy. When going from a dark scene to a bright scene or vice versa, there is a brief high-pitched squeal. Granted, our projector was situated only a few feet from the audience, which made the noise more noticeable, but in a quiet room the sound can get annoying. The solution here is to turn your speakers up. You could also disable Dynamic Black, but that would have a deleterious effect on black levels.
Uncomfortable glasses. BenQ's DLP Link glasses are large, heavy, and have non-folding arms. While the large lenses make it easier to immerse yourself in the movie and less likely that you'll see the glasses frames, they are also less comfortable to wear than some other DLP Link glasses. Luckily, you can use just about any DLP Link glasses with any DLP Link projector, so feel free to use the glasses you like best.
The BenQ W7000 and the Epson Home Cinema 5010, both full HD 3D projectors, are within $200 of one another when it comes to real retail price. There are some obvious differences between the two; one is LCD while the other is DLP, for starters. However, the really important distinctions between these two projectors are more subtle.
2D image quality. In HD, the W7000 is visibly sharper and more detailed than the 5010, even with all sharpness settings at 0. There is likewise a slight, but visible, difference in dynamic range and three-dimensionality, with the W7000 edging out the 5010. On the other hand, the 5010 has much better black level, with shadows appearing significantly deeper. The 5010's picture has more of a smooth, film-like quality, while the W7000 can appear slightly artificial in comparison. There's really no other way to describe the difference -- the 5010's picture looks a little more natural. However, this last difference is a highly subjective one, and while we prefer that naturalness, others will prefer the tack-sharpness and impressive three-dimensionality of the W7000.
3D image quality. The Epson 5010 and BenQ W7000 are two of the brightest 3D projectors around, but the experience of watching them is completely different. The W7000 uses DLP Link, while the 5010 has an Infrared emitter. Both have their benefits. The 5010's glasses seem to lose sync less often than the W7000's glasses do. The W7000 has a cleaner picture with less crosstalk; in fact, the W7000 has one of the cleanest 3D pictures we've seen lately. One final note: the W7000 allows the use of both its frame interpolation and auto iris systems while watching 3D, while the 5010 does not. If you plan to watch a lot of 3D, the W7000 is probably the way to go.
Features. On the features front, both projectors have good placement flexibility, though the 5010 wins out in the end. While both projectors have long zoom lenses, the W7000's 1.5:1 lens cannot match the flexibility of the 2.0:1 lens on the 5010. When it comes to lens shift range, the Epson projector once again comes out on top. The 5010's lens shift is also easier to use, as it has two knobs for adjustment compared to the W7000's joystick system. It is easier to precisely place the image where you want using the 5010's adjustments.
Both projectors, coincidentally, offer picture-in-picture, which is somewhat of a rare feature (on the 5010 the feature is called Split Screen, but the concept is the same). However, the W7000's PIP system can only display composite or s-video and one other source, while the 5010's system can make use of other inputs. For example, the Home Cinema 5010 can display VGA and HDMI simultaneously, while the W7000 cannot.
While both the W7000 and the 5010 have frame interpolation systems, there are significant differences in their performance. The W7000's FI system is more aggressive overall, so the Low setting appears more similar to the High setting on the 5010. This comes with commensurate increases in the appearance of the digital video effect and the "bubble" artifacts sometimes seen in frame interpolation. The 5010's Low setting is ideal for film, as it smooths the appearance of judder without making the picture look unduly artificial. Both systems look wonderful when watching video, though, and the W7000 has the added benefit of allowing FI use when watching 3D, a feature that the 5010 lacks.
Light output. On the quantitative side, the 5010 is brighter in its brightest mode than the W7000 at over 2500 lumens to the W7000's 1936, but neither is a slouch when it comes to ambient light. The 5010 can power a slightly larger screen or reject a bit more ambient light, but the difference is not dramatic. Meanwhile, in Cinema mode, the W7000's 909 lumens and the 5010's 827 lumens are functionally the same, as differences that small cannot be seen except when using a meter. In 3D, the W7000 splits the difference between the 5010's 3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema modes when it comes to brightness. Both projectors rank among the top projectors for 3D brightness, regardless of price.
Gaming. At less than $3000, both projectors are attractive propositions for the gaming crowd. However, neither has especially fast performance when it comes to input lag. The W7000's three frame delay is good, but by no means great, while the Epson Home Cinema 5010's laconic 5.5 frame delay makes it all but unusable for many gamers. Neither projector has a "Game" mode, so that's as good as it gets.
The BenQ W7000 is a bright, capable 3D projector, and at $2499 it is highly competitive in today's market. Its stunning sharpness and clarity of detail make it a great choice for the most demanding HD content, while crosstalk-free 3D and high overall brightness are must-haves for gaming. The three frame delay will keep some hardcore gamers from loving this projector, but most people won't notice.
In terms of image quality, the projector's main weakness is black level. While the W7000 has good black performance for a $2500 DLP projector, its LCD competition consistently outperforms it in this regard. Black level becomes increasingly important as ambient light control improves, so those with blacked-out theaters have a difficult choice to make. The W7000 earns 4.5 stars for performance due to its higher-than-average black level but otherwise excellent image quality.
The limitations of the W7000 are mostly related to usability, and its flaws can be frustrating to projection neophytes. As such, we've docked points in Features (no 2D to 3D conversion; limited lens shift) and Ease of Use (short lamp life; loud iris; uncomfortable 3D glasses). However, great image quality makes up for a lot. On the whole, the W7000 is a great projector and a strong competitor in today's market, and we are proud to recommend it as a great value.