The W1000 is BenQ's entry level 1080p home theater offering: a 1080p DLP projector that costs less than $1000 at retail. It has precalibrated modes suitable for a wide variety of uses, from HD sports in a well-lit living room to home cinema in a darkened theater. While the user interface is sometimes hard to work with, and the cinema modes require some fine-tuning to look their best, the W1000 is a strong performer and a great choice for a first projector.
Light output. The W1000's light output can be changed drastically depending on the room environment and intended use. In its brightest modes, it is good for HD sports or some video games, while its more balanced modes are great for film.
The W1000 is rated at 2,000 lumens, and our test sample measured a very bright 1917 lumens in Dynamic mode. Dynamic mode has a strong green bias, which may or may not be suitable depending on the type of material you are viewing. If you want a bright picture without quite as much of a green tint, you can use Standard mode, which measured 1373 lumens. This mode also has better contrast than does Dynamic mode, making images and film appear more vivid and three-dimensional.
The third preset option, Cinema mode, measured 1211 lumens. Cinema mode was, despite the name, not particularly well suited for cinema use, due to the fact that BrilliantColor is enabled by default. Our preferred calibration, which used Cinema as a baseline, measured out to 525 lumens in high lamp mode. This does not sound like a lot, especially compared to the screaming 2000 lumens 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 more than 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 drastically. 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 4000:1 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. At its defaults, the W1000 is far too green and color is over-saturated by a fair amount. Due to the options available, one must move the tint control towards magenta (on this projector, that's above zero) in order to compensate for the green bias. Lowering saturation is even simpler. After these adjustments are made, color on the W1000 is vibrant and closer to accurate.
Picture Quality. None of the above comments reveal what is so exciting about the W1000. The W1000 has a very attractive, film-like picture that looks more expensive than it is. While it doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, and is definitely an entry-level, no-frills product, it has an image that doesn't compromise. And when you're dealing with high definition film, image quality is ultimately the most important factor.
Low Maintenance. The W1000 has a 3,000 hour lamp, but life is extended to 4,000 hours in eco-mode. Replacements cost only $249 direct from BenQ. This gives the W1000 a cost per hour of operation somewhere between six and eight cents. And since the W1000 uses DLP's filter-free projector design, lamps are the only part that will need to be regularly replaced.
On-board speaker. Rarely do we find a home theater projector with audio onboard. In a permanent viewing room, you'll want a more robust surround sound system. But an onboard speaker is handy for portable use. It lets you play a movie in a temporary location that may not have an audio system available. However, let's keep it in perspective. The W1000 has a small 3W mono speaker, which is adequate only for very small audiences in very quiet rooms. The sound quality is actually quite good, but it lacks a volume control. For anything more than three people, the volume is simply not adequate to provide a satisfying experience. If you are running an air conditioner or even a particularly loud fan, the sound can be completely overwhelmed.
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 very bright whites, without affecting the rest of the image. While this is a great feature for presentation, it is not desirable for movie viewing in a dark room as it produces an unbalanced image.
Finally, there's the color adjustment system. There are three preset color temperatures, Warm, Normal, and Cool. If none of these are to your liking, you can pick the User setting, which then allows access to a sub-menu for further adjustment. So far, this is all fairly standard. But the sub-menu does not actually have adjustment controls in it. Instead, it just allows you to pick from a slightly larger range of presets, labeled Warmer, Warm, Normal, Cool, and Cooler. We hooked the W1000 up to our CalMan calibration system to measure the actual temperature of the presets, and here's what we came up with:
"Warmer" could be useful for viewing black-and-white films, though the ideal temperature for that would be closer to 5400K than 5000K. "Warm" is closest to the ideal 6500K standard used for color film, though the Warm setting includes too much green. "Normal," "Cool," and "Cooler" are biased towards blue, and their usefulness for home theater video is limited. Since other projectors in this price range include RGB Gain/Bias color adjustments, it is unfortunate that the W1000 lacks these controls.
Color Wheel. The W1000 has a six-segment color wheel with Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Yellow, and White segments. It spins at 7200 RPM. Technically speaking, this is a 2X-speed wheel--the RGB channels are refreshed twice per frame of a 60Hz signal. We did not see any rainbow artifacts during well-lit scenes, or even most scenes with average brightness. Rainbows manifest in dark scenes with small areas of bright light, such as streetlights or shiny objects. This is especially true when there is also rapid motion involved, like an action sequence or even a camera pan. The end result is that you may go an entire movie without seeing rainbows, even if you are susceptible to them; we watched the excellent Patton on Blu-ray without a hitch. When I watched Heat, though, I had to stop several times to allow my eyes to rest. If you are sensitive to DLP rainbow artifacts, this may not be the model for you.
Shootout: BenQ W1000 versus Optoma HD20
One of the W1000's chief competitors in this price range is the Optoma HD20, another inexpensive 1080p DLP projector. While they have some basics in common, they are very different machines. The HD20 is clearly built with home theater in mind, while the W1000 is a more flexible projector that is better suited to multi-purpose use.
Light output. The W1000 is rated at 2,000 lumens; the HD20 is rated at 1,700. The difference in measured lumens is even more drastic: the W1000's Dynamic mode reached 1917 lumens, while the HD20's Bright mode only hit 973. In high ambient light situations, the W1000 is the clear winner since its additional brightness can better compensate for room lighting. In home theater situations, where brightness is not as important, the two projectors are more evenly matched. In their calibrated modes, the W1000 and HD20 measure 525 and 633 lumens, respectively.
Color. Neither the W1000 nor the HD20 is calibrated to perfect 6500K straight out of the box, though the HD20 is closer to the standard. More importantly, the HD20 has standard RGB Gain/Bias controls, while the W1000 does not. When trying to fine-tune color to its ideal settings, this makes all the difference in the world. If you plan on adjusting your projector's color settings or having the projector calibrated professionally, the HD20 is easier to use.
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 2X-speed color wheel with six segments. If you or your family members see rainbow artifacts on 2X-speed DLP projectors, the W1000 will very likely manifest these same artifacts. However, the HD20 has a six-segment (RGBRGB) 4X-speed wheel, making it much less likely to induce rainbows.
Picture Quality. Overall, we enjoy the HD20's picture 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.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ W1000 projector page.