1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
Some of you may remember the BenQ W1000, a 1080p DLP projector that left us impressed with what $1000 could get you these days. BenQ has just released an update, the W1000+, which improves on some aspects of the W1000. These upgrades make the W1000+ a better value. If you were looking at the W1000 for your own theater but thought you needed a little something extra to push you over the edge, this might be the upgrade you've been waiting for.
Contrast. The W1000's 3000:1 contrast has been increased to 3500:1. This manifests as a slightly deeper black level, but it's not the sort of thing one would notice unless conducting a side-by-side test. Even an A/B trial might not be good enough to set the two apart.
Lamp life. Using the same lamp, BenQ has boosted the estimated life from 3,000/4,000 hours to 4,000/5,000 hours in normal and eco modes respectively. BenQ claims that this is accomplished by adjusting the lamp wick and improving the cooling system, resulting in a 1,000-hour boost.
Faster color wheel. Color wheel rotation speed on the W1000+ has been boosted from 2x to 3x, reducing the appearance of rainbows. Those sensitive to rainbow effects see a 2x-speed wheel as an instant disqualification for home theater use. Boosting the wheel speed to 3x reduces the appearance of rainbows, making the W1000+ a more suitable option than the W1000 for those sensitive to color separation artifacts.
Different color filter configuration. It's not just color wheel speed that has been changed on the W1000+. Instead of the filter sequence RGBCYW which is on the W1000, the W1000+ swaps the white segment for magenta. The result is more accurate color and an overall more balanced picture better suited to photographs, video, and film. This also results in lower lumen output in some instances.
Lower maximum lumen output. As a result of the changes made, maximum lumen output on our respective test samples dropped by approximately 12%. This number is approximate as individual lamps can vary in output to some degree. On our samples, the W1000 measured 1912 lumens in Dynamic mode while the W1000+ measured 1695.
Our preferred mode for movies and video (a custom preset based off of Cinema 1 mode with BrilliantColor disabled) actually saw a slight increase from 525 to 536. Thus the lumen reduction occurs only in the high brightness Dynamic mode. The Cinema 1 mode is essentially the same in brightness on both models.
The W1000+ is a great first projector for a home theater. First and foremost it is inexpensive, setting a low bar for entry. It has the light output needed to put a big picture on the screen or wall and enjoy it with your favorite movies, games, and television shows. It uses full 1080p resolution for the maximum possible detail and sharpness, which is what people really want from a product labeled High Definition.
As it has a fixed upward throw angle and a 1.1:1 zoom (the shortest zoom range currently available), the W1000+ is best used in a ceiling mount if a permanent installation is desired. A ceiling mount allows you to set distance, zoom, and focus once and then maintain these settings without fear of bumping the projector out of alignment.
Throw offset for a 120" diagonal image is roughly nine inches, so the bottom edge of the projected image will appear less than a foot above the lens centerline when the projector is mounted upright, as on a coffee table. This is actually a good throw angle for coffee table use, since the table itself will add height above ground to the projected image. Conversely, a ceiling mount may require a drop tube to prevent the image appearing too close to the ceiling. This depends on the height of your ceiling and the ceiling mount you use.
The W1000+'s key advantage over the competition in its price class is a very bright image, making it uniquely suitable for use in ambient light. Even with a 12% reduction from the W1000's lumen output, the W1000+ is still brighter than its competition. For sports and television in a bright room, there's no replacement for a bright, high-resolution picture, and the W1000+ delivers this. For ambient light presentations, the W1000+ is unmatched by any other projector in its class.
Light output. The W1000+'s light output can be changed depending on the level of ambient light. In its brightest modes, it is good for HD sports, television, or some video games in a room with little light control. I say "some video games" because these days many games are more like movies than traditional brightly colored games, and should be used in the Cinema preset to maintain maximum impact. Those games meant for children or large groups, such as most of the party games available on the Wii system, would benefit from the brighter preset. More dramatic games would do well using the Cinema setting--the more balanced modes are great for film or television watching in light-controlled rooms.
Our preferred calibration, which used Cinema as a baseline, measured out to 536 lumens in high lamp mode. This does not sound like a lot, especially compared to the brightness of Dynamic, but the image is much better balanced, with good contrast and accurate color. It is not unusual for home theater projectors to put out around 500 lumens in video optimized mode. Our settings for this mode are provided below.
BrilliantColor has its advantages in some situations. Enabling BrilliantColor will give you almost double the lumens to play with, allowing the use of larger screens or an increase in ambient room lighting. On the other hand, the picture looks more natural and balanced with BrilliantColor disabled, but it cuts lumen output. Which setting you prefer is a matter of application. If you're watching sports in a well-lit room, use BrilliantColor. If you're watching movies in the dark, turn it off.
Contrast. The W1000+ is rated at 3500:1 on/off contrast, which at the moment is typical for a sub-$1000 1080p projector. However, calibration is very important in helping the W1000+ to realize its full potential, and at its defaults it does not look nearly as dynamic as some of its competition. With a little fine-tuning, such as the settings suggested above, it can easily hold its own against the competition.
Color. Color balance on the W1000+ is better than that of the W1000. The W1000 was too green and needed quite a bit more magenta. Now that the color wheel has a magenta segment, this is no longer a problem.
Picture Quality. None of the above comments reveal what is so exciting about the W1000+. The W1000+ has a solid, attractive, film-like picture that is on par, competitively speaking, with similarly priced models. While it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, and is definitely an entry-level, no-frills product, it has a very good image that holds its own against the competition. And when you're watching high definition film and video, image quality is ultimately the most important factor.
Low Maintenance. The W1000+ has a 4,000 hour lamp, but life is extended to 5,000 hours in eco-mode. Replacements cost only $249 direct from BenQ. This gives the W1000+ a cost per hour of operation somewhere between five and six cents. And since the W1000+ uses DLP's filter-free projector design, lamps are the only part that will need to be regularly replaced.
Menu system. Most of our frustrations with the W1000+ stemmed from the user interface. The menu system seems logical, with several tabs arranged along the top and options displayed underneath. However, we ran into a few oddities. The three preset modes (Dynamic, Standard, and Cinema) cannot be changed in any way; all of the adjustments in these modes are deactivated or "grayed out." To make any picture control adjustments, you must select one of three User modes, which then allow you to set one of the three presets as a baseline and make changes. However, one wonders why BenQ did not just allow the user to change the basic presets to begin with.
In addition, BrilliantColor is enabled by default on all image modes. BrilliantColor boosts highlights, giving the impression of bright whites, without affecting the rest of the image. While this is a great feature for presentation, it is not desirable for movie viewing as it produces an unbalanced image.
In our original review of the W1000, we put it head to head against the Optoma HD20, another sub-$1000 1080p projector. Since we do not currently have the HD20 in-house, we cannot do another full comparison of the W1000+ and the HD20; instead, we encourage you to read the original comparison in the W1000 review and then refer back to the points here.
Light output. The HD20's cinema mode measured 633 lumens to the W1000+'s 536. In their brightest modes, the W1000+'s 1695 lumen output easily tops the HD20's 973 lumens. though it does so with less accurate color. These readings lend themselves to a certain type of installation; the W1000+ is better in an installation where ambient light would foul color accuracy and give cause to use the brighter image modes, while the HD20 is better for large screens in darkened theaters. Using the W1000+ on a very large screen in a darkened room results in inferior color performance when compared to the HD20.
Color. Thanks to the addition of a magenta color wheel segment, the HD20 and W1000+ are now equals when it comes to out of the box color accuracy. However, the HD20 has standard RGB Gain/Bias controls while the W1000+ does not. If you plan on adjusting your projector's color settings, the HD20 is easier to use; however, both projectors are perfectly usable out of the box, with bright vibrant color.
User Interface. The W1000+'s menu system is sometimes difficult to navigate, with some common options missing altogether. Color is difficult to adjust and BrilliantColor cannot be disabled without losing the ability to change color temperature. The HD20 has a far more conventional menu system, with RGB Gain/Bias color controls that make it much easier to adjust the projector to the 6500K standard.
Placement Flexibility. Both the W1000+ and the HD20 have manual 1.2:1 zoom lenses and fixed throw angles. The W1000+'s 13% throw offset and the HD20's 15% throw offset are very similar; using a 100" diagonal image, the HD20's picture would appear about an inch higher than that of the W1000+. Both are ideally placed on low coffee tables or in ceiling mounts. There are some differences in throw distance, as the HD20 throws slightly longer, but the two projectors are functionally almost identical in this category.
Color Wheel. The W1000+ has a 3X-speed color wheel with six segments (RGBCYW). This is an improvement over the typical 2X-speed wheel found in inexpensive DLP projectors, and should reduce the appearance of rainbow artifacts significantly. However, the HD20 has a six-segment (RGBRGB) 4X-speed wheel, making it even less likely to induce rainbows.
Picture Quality. Overall, we enjoy the HD20's picture a little bit more, as it seems better integrated, smoother, and more film-like. For home theater applications, its color settings are easier to manipulate, allowing you to calibrate it to perfect 6500K with less fuss. The W1000+ is certainly brighter, and is a better fit for sports and video game applications. But when it comes to home theater, the HD20 gets our vote.
The BenQ W1000+ is a value-priced product that delivers a great picture. It is bright enough to be used in the living room, high enough in contrast to be used in the theater, and vibrant enough in color to display anything you desire. The user interface is not what it could be, with several confusing options and defaults that don't fit the intended application. But if what you want is a bright picture at a bargain price, the W1000 is a great place to start.
The W1000+ boasts several improvements over the W1000 that make it a stronger performer than its predecessor. The color wheel improvement alone will make it usable by many people who previously were not able to consider it; rainbow artifacts are a deal breaker for plenty of folks. Due to these improvements, we have raised our rating relative to the W1000 and urge anyone looking for a first projector to give the W1000+ a good, hard look.