1080p DLP Home Theater Projector
BenQ's new W6000 is a 1080p DLP projector that is an interesting blend of low cost and high function for home theater. It includes high lumen output, impeccable sharpness, high dynamic range, and great placement flexibility. The factory default settings need some serious work -- color needs adjustment, as do brightness and contrast, but a competent calibration can bring the W6000 to its full potential. The BenQ W6000 is currently selling for less than $2,800.
Lumen output. The W6000 is a bright little projector. In the default Cinema mode, our test sample measured 853 ANSI lumens, which gives the W6000 one of the brightest Cinema modes available. After our calibrations, resulting in a much more balanced image, light output was 658 ANSI lumens. In other words, you can put a high-contrast, color-balanced image that's perfect for film up on a 150" diagonal screen in a light-controlled room. Low lamp mode still produces 579 lumens. Even using the telephoto end of the zoom lens, which causes a 25% drop in lumens, still nets you 435 lumens, which is easily enough for a 120" screen and probably larger.
But let's say you want to bring the W6000 out of the theater and into the living room so you can watch a football game and eat some pizza. If your only concern is image brightness, you can use Dynamic mode, the Lamp Native color temperature setting, and Brilliantcolor to create a 2061-lumen powerhouse of an image. Color balance is almost nonexistent, with an extremely heavy slant towards green, but it's certainly bright enough to do the job. Disabling BrilliantColor improves color balance but also cuts light output nearly in half, to 1137 lumens.
Contrast. The W6000 has very good dynamic range, which causes high-contrast scenes to look fantastic. A word of caution, though: the default calibration has Brightness set too low and Contrast set too high, which increases dynamic range, but it does so at the expense of realism. The image has blown out highlights, especially in characters' faces - if there is any light shining on them, they appear to have spotlights installed in their foreheads. A more realistic picture can be obtained by reducing Contrast and increasing Brightness. This picture has less dynamic range, but appears much more life-like.
Sharpness and detail. The picture displayed by the W6000 looks razor-sharp when using high-definition content. Every detail is transmitted faithfully from the disc to your screen, leading to an immersive, window-like experience. The only problem is that sharpness is set too high by default, leading to some artificial enhancement; you'll want to tone it down a bit if you're looking for a more natural image.
Placement flexibility. More and more often, we're seeing DLP projectors with extended zoom and lens shift capabilities, and the lensing of the W6000 is quite versatile. The projector has a 1.5:1 zoom lens, allowing it to project a 100" diagonal image from 11' 9" to 17' 8". Lens shift allows for a total range of 2.5 image heights and 1.4 image widths. This allows you to place the picture 25% of the image height above or below the centerline of the lens, or move the picture 20% of the image width in either direction.
This flexibility allows for any mounting option you choose. You can place the projector between the seats, on a low coffee table. You can use a ceiling mount. Or you can use a rear shelf mount, and aim the projector more or less dead-on at the screen. This is one of the easiest ways to install a projector yourself -- all you have to do is purchase a suitable shelf, preferably one without any backing to allow for ventilation.
Connectivity. The W6000 has two HDMI ports, so you can directly connect any high-definition sources you own. It also has a set of YPbPr component inputs and a VGA port, both of which will accept a high-definition signal. The legacy composite and s-video connections make an appearance, for older devices. On the data side, there are inputs for USB, RS-232, and a 12V trigger.
Out-of-the-box color. After calibration, the W6000 has very life-like, well-saturated color. Before calibration, however, color is a mess. On our test sample, the entire image was heavily biased towards green, which essentially rendered the pre-programmed color temperature settings useless. Instead, starting from one of the User color temperature settings, you can adjust the gain and bias of red, green, and blue until the image is balanced properly. This process is made much more precise by the use of a light meter, but the human eye is a very sensitive instrument all by itself and you can get reasonably good color without any equipment at all.
No frame interpolation. The W6000 lacks a frame interpolation system. Frame interpolation is a technology that looks at the frames of film or video, then creates interim frames in order to enhance the smoothness of motion. It was perhaps the biggest development in home theater projectors last year, and people are still debating its desirability and effectiveness. Many new models coming out this fall will have some form of frame interpolation, but the W6000 does not.
Image noise. When compared to the competition, the W6000 had more evident image noise. This manifests as a dazzling, shimmering, or dancing graininess, especially in blocks of mid-toned or lighter colors. This can be distracting to some people, while others find it easy to ignore.
Audible noise. While we're on the subject of noise - the projector occasionally produces a high-pitched, low-volume whine for about one second at a time, every few minutes. It is otherwise very quiet; fan noise is low in pitch and volume and overall easy to ignore. If your installation has the projector too close to the audience, you might notice this sound, so it is best to mount the projector a few feet away from the seats.
Remote control. BenQ has been using the same remote control for their home theater projectors for several years now, and there is a certain merit in consistency. The remote is a large tower design, with lozenge-shaped buttons. Functions are written out in clear, easy-to-read text which can be illuminated with a strong red backlight. All of this is wonderful. However, the same things that bothered us about it in 2007 are still bothering us now. The remote includes a whole slew of buttons - 36 in all - and it can be a little overwhelming at times. Occasionally, we found ourselves digging through the menu to find a function which had its own remote button, because we forgot it was there. The buttons also have a tendency to stick, so you might end up pushing a given button more times than you intended to.
BenQ W6000 versus Mitsubishi HC6800
Note: the content of this section is reproduced in our review of the Mitsubishi HC6800.
BenQ's W6000 and Mitsubishi's HC6800 are quite similar in many ways. Both are 1080p projectors with retail prices of $3,495. They have similar lensing; to fill a 120" screen, the W6000 needs 14 to 21 feet of throw while the HC6800 needs 12 to 19 feet. They have similar vertical lens shift ranges. Both have two HDMI ports, two options for component video input, a serial control port, and a single 12-volt trigger. Both have anamorphic stretch modes to accommodate an A-lens. Neither model has frame interpolation.
The similarities end there, though. As far as differences go, they are:
- The W6000 is DLP, and the HC6800 is 3LCD. Beyond the inherent differences in picture quality to be discussed momentarily, this means that the HC6800 will require periodic air filter cleaning, whereas the W6000 is filter free. It also means that some users will experience occasional DLP rainbow artifacts on the W6000, while there will be none on the HC6800.
- The W6000 is brighter in its brightest operating modes, so it has the advantage if you plan to project under ambient light conditions. Conversely, after calibration for optimal cinema use in a dedicated dark viewing room, we found the lumen output to be almost identical.
- The W6000 is higher in contrast. There is a greater range between black and white in any given image. However, the HC6800 is capable of deeper black levels in darker scenes.
- The HC6800 has powered zoom, focus, and lens shift, while the W6000 is manual. That means the HC6800 is easier to use with a 2.40 Cinemascope screen, if you wish to use the zoom feature to accommodate both 2.40 and 16:9 format material on a 2.40 screen.
- Both expect a maximum of 2000 hours lamp life in standard mode. In low power mode, the HC6800 is expected to get 4000 hours, while the W6000 is rated for 3000 hours.
- The W6000 has a 280-watt lamp, compared to a 170-watt lamp on the HC6800. The HC6800 will throw off less heat in the room, and has lower fan noise.
- Mitsubishi offers a 2 year warranty with one year or 500 hours (whichever comes first) on the lamp. BenQ offers a 1 year warranty with 90 days on the lamp.
Setting aside all of the nuts and bolts issues, for many buyers it really gets down to which projector gives you the best picture. Believe it or not, this is a very difficult call. Neither projector looks very good in factory default settings, but the W6000 is decidedly more out of whack than the HC6800 in this regard. They are both biased toward green, but the W6000 is also maladjusted for contrast, brightness, and gamma as well. Both of these models need more adjustments than usual out of the box to look their best. If you are not accustomed to calibrating video systems, a professional calibration of them will improve their picture quality rather dramatically.
What is most surprising to us is that after calibration they look extremely similar, and indeed many scenes look virtually identical. Once we had modified their respective Cinema modes, we measured lumen output on the W6000 at 658, while the HC6800 measured 649. The W6000 ends up slightly higher in contrast, and the HC6800 is slightly smoother with less digital noise. But most viewers looking at them side by side would be most impressed with how similar they look. The differences between them are very subtle, and they have to be examined closely side by side to make any differentiation.
Thus, it eventually comes down to desired functionality and price. The HC6800 is a Diamond Series product which is not intended for sale on the Internet. At this writing there are a few Internet dealers quoting discounted prices, but whether they will continue to do so remains to be seen. If you find the HC6800 available only through custom installers and specialty retailers it is not likely to be discounted much below the $3,495 MSRP. Meanwhile, the W6000 is sold on the Internet, and street prices are in the range of $2,800 as of this writing.
There is no striking difference in picture quality between the HC6800 and the W6000 that would justify a significant price differential. So if all you care about is picture quality, the W6000 is the better deal. However, the extra price of the HC6800 does buy some benefits beyond picture quality that you may care about-lower fan noise, less heat output, a powered zoom/focus lens, a more substantive warranty on both the projector and the lamp, and perhaps some calibration service depending upon who you buy it from.
The BenQ W6000, at factory default settings, is a bit of an ugly duckling. Contrast and brightness are out of alignment, as are color balance and saturation. Sharpness is too high. However, with a little perseverance and some remote-control kung-fu, it emerges looking like a swan. With a very bright cinema mode and great contrast, the W6000 is a solid choice for large-screen home theater in a dark room or Sunday afternoon football in the living room.
We are withholding star ratings for all 1080p projectors released this season until we have a better feel for the state of the market. Once we have reviewed several more 1080p projectors which were announced at the CEDIA expo, we will begin assigning our five-star ratings to all products reviewed since that time.