Highly Recommended Award
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The BenQ W7500 is BenQ's newest flagship home theater projector and the long-awaited successor to 2011's BenQ W7000. This 1080p DLP projector is built with home theater in mind and incorporates a number of significant upgrades that make it a worthy successor to the W7000. The projector's high light output makes it a great choice for those who want a really big screen, while its razor-sharp image, dynamic range, and accurate color can be appreciated in just about any setting. The W7500 has an MSRP of $2,799.
The W7500 is BenQ's new flagship home theater projector, built for use in darkened spaces on medium-sized screens. We set up the W7500 on a rear shelf in our darkened theater space, connected it to our Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player, killed the lights, and turned on the power. The image that sprang to life on the screen isn't too dissimilar from the one produced by the BenQ W7000, BenQ's previous flagship model released in late 2011.
The W7500 has a crystal clear, highly detailed image, and it really shows its full potential when you're watching a high-quality HD source. Clarity is one of the W7500's stronger features, and the projector easily holds its own against similarly-priced competition.
The W7500 produces quite a bit of light -- our test unit measured slightly over 1400 lumens in Cinema mode out of the box and over 1100 lumens after calibration. Black level is more than adequate for the display of film and video, though it is not the W7500's strongest suit. Good dynamic range gives the image some serious three-dimensional pop, especially in bright scenes. After a quick calibration, color on the W7500 is close to ideal, with strong saturation, high brightness, and a gamut that hews very closely to the Rec. 709 standard for HD.
By all the technical criteria, the W7500 produces a very good image. Once you've set up the projector and started watching a movie, though, the technical criteria go right out the window. The W7500 has a natural, life-like image, and the projector brings out every scrap of detail in the source material.
With a 1.5:1 zoom lens and H/V lens shift, the BenQ W7500 can be installed almost anywhere. Rear shelf mounting is popular due to its simplicity, but the W7500 could just as easily be ceiling mounted. Due to the projector's throw ratio, coffee table mounting isn't ideal; the projector must sit slightly behind the audience if you want to watch from 1.5x the screen width. Since the 1.5x viewing distance gives you the full benefit of a good 1080p signal, you shouldn't sit farther away if you can help it.
The lens shift range allows you to place the W7500's image completely above or completely below the centerline of the lens, plus about a quarter image height of additional leeway, or shift the image about 1/3 of the image's width in either direction.
The W7500 can project a 120" diagonal 16:9 image from throw distances between 14' 1" and 21' 2", giving you a good range in which to place the projector. A perk of the W7500 is that its lens only loses 9% of the projector's total light output when moving from wide angle to telephoto zoom, so even mounting the projector near the back of its range will not cause a significant loss of image brightness.
The BenQ W7500 will look its best in a darkened home theater, but it also has enough power to be used in a living room. Cinema mode measured 1108 lumens after calibration, which works out to 33 foot Lamberts on a 120" diagonal 1.3 gain screen. That's just over double the 16 fL required for 2D viewing in a light-controlled room. Even a 140" diagonal screen with the same 1.3 gain comes in at over 24 fL. Switching to Economic lamp mode can help -- it reduces Cinema's light output to 931 lumens, which is a 16% reduction. You might also consider a low-gain gray or black screen, which will also help to improve the W7500's black level.
The pre-programmed image modes will remember your settings, but the projector also includes three User modes in case you need additional flexibility. You can also use one of the presets as a baseline for your User calibrations. So, for example, you could calibrate Cinema for film, then copy those settings over to User 1, turn off the iris, and boost color saturation for video gaming. Copy those settings again to User 2 and enable frame interpolation for your TV setting.
Image quality. The W7500's cinema image is full of detail and has excellent dynamic range. The projector is brighter after calibration than most other home theater projectors, allowing you to use either larger screen sizes or low-gain contrast-enhancing screen materials. Color after calibration closely mirrors the Rec. 709 standard for HD. The image is well-saturated, and color brightness is high thanks to a color wheel that uses only red, green, and blue segments. From a qualitative perspective, the W7500's image is bright, three-dimensional, detailed, natural, colorful, and easy to watch.
Sharpness and detail clarity. BenQ's flagship home theater line has long had a reputation for highly detailed images, reaching all the way back to 2005's PE8720. The W7500 does not have a dramatic sharpness advantage over most of its competitors, but it definitely wrings every scrap of detail out of HD content.
The W7500 has a detail enhancement system, appropriately called Detail Enhancement, that boosts the appearance of fine detail by applying selective, subtle edge enhancement. However, the W7500's picture doesn't need a lot of help, so we ended up leaving the Detail Enhancement slider at 1 (on a scale from 0 to 4).
Placement flexibility. A 1.5:1 manual zoom lens paired with both horizontal and vertical lens shift makes the W7500 one of the more flexible DLP projectors available when it comes to mounting and installation. Vertical lens shift has a total range of roughly 2.5 picture heights, allowing the image to be placed entirely above or below the centerline of the lens with a 25% lens height throw offset. Horizontal shift has a range of just under 1/2 image width in each direction.
Frame interpolation. The W7500's frame interpolation system can smooth out judder found in film and video. The FI system has three settings (Low/Medium/High), and all three are fairly aggressive. Even on Low, film content appears slightly too smooth, more like video than film. This is the digital video effect, also sometimes called the "soap opera effect." Some folks won't find this level of DVE objectionable, while others might want to leave frame interpolation turned off when watching film. The system is unambiguously useful when it comes to video, such as sports and live TV, where it smooths motion without affecting the "feel" of the picture.
Though it doesn't look very different from the outside and the specifications are similar, the BenQ W7500 is a significant upgrade to the previous flagship model, the W7000. The two projectors share some features in common; they have the same casework and the same 1.5:1 manual zoom lens, among other things. But the W7500 keeps all of the W7000's strengths while also addressing all of its significant weak spots. The following areas were considered weaknesses on the W7000, but have been improved on the W7500:
Black level. The W7000's black level was not up to par with its competition, most notably the Epson Home Cinema 5010. The W7500's black level is much improved, giving a deep, more satisfying black. This may be due in part to the W7500's use of the DarkChip3, whereas its predecessor was built around a DarkChip2. And while the competition is no less fierce now than it was in 2012, the W7500 is a stronger competitor in this area than the W7000 was.
Color wheel. The W7000's 4x speed, 6-segment RGBRGB color wheel was good, but some folks can still see rainbows on 4x wheels. The W7500 keeps the RGBRGB segments, but ups the wheel speed to 6x. That ought to eliminate rainbows for most people, though some folks will still be able to see color separation artifacts on occasion. And since the color wheel uses only red, green, and blue segments, the projector's image has excellent color saturation and balance.
Auto iris. The W7500 has an automatic iris, but its operation is quieter than it was on the W7000. The iris helps to deepen black levels during dark scenes, bringing out the deepest shadow detail and improving perceived contrast.
Full HD 3D. Like the W7000, the W7500 has Full HD 3D compatibility and uses DLP Link for synchronization with its active shutter glasses. Unlike the old model, the W7500 has a 144 Hz refresh rate and is capable of 2D to 3D conversion. BenQ's new 3D glasses are more comfortable than the previous model, but you're not bound to BenQ's glasses -- any 144 Hz DLP Link glasses will suffice.
Lens shift. The W7500's lens shift has the same range and basic layout, but the joystick-type control is much easier to use this time around. Adjustments are smoother, it's easier to make fine tweaks, and the screw-type locking control holds adjustments in place quite well.
Lamp life. The W7500's lamp is rated to last 2,000 hours at full power or 3,000 hours in Economic mode. That's better than the 2000/2500 hour estimate found on the W7000, if only slightly.
Light output. Straight out of the box, the W7500's Dynamic mode measured 1968 lumens, which is close enough to the projector's 2000 lumen specification that the difference can be chalked up to measurement error. Dynamic mode is very bright, somewhat green, and perfect if you need a lot of light and can sacrifice black level and color balance to get it.
The W7500 has several features that boost light output, all of which are enabled in Dynamic mode's factory settings. Each of these features can be enabled or disabled independently. BrilliantColor boosts white brightness without affecting color, and disabling it gives Dynamic mode a more balanced appearance while cutting white light output by 21%. Dynamic also uses the Lamp Native color temperature preset; switching to Normal color temperature reduces light output by a whopping 51%. Lamp native can be selected in other image modes, but only in Dynamic does it boost brightness by such a large amount. Dynamic also uses the BenQ gamma preset, and switching to 2.2 or 2.4 gamma reduces light output by 13%. Finally, lowering lamp power using the Economic setting reduces output by 16%.
The W7500 only has three pre-calibrated image modes. After Dynamic is Standard, a slightly blue mode with better contrast and color balance than Dynamic. At 1430 lumens, Standard doesn't give up a lot of light compared to Dynamic mode, and would be a good choice when watching video or playing games with some ambient room lighting. The cool tint of Standard's color balance helps to cancel out the warm temperature of most interior lighting.
Last but not least is Cinema mode. Using factory settings, Cinema mode measured 1403 lumens on our projector, which is too bright for a light-controlled home theater even at very large screen sizes. Two settings you'll want to change right away are BrilliantColor (turn it off) and Lamp power (set it to Economic). Those changes reduce light output to 931 lumens, which is still more than enough light to power even a 140" diagonal, 1.0 gain screen at 16 fL.
Since the W7500 has a 1.5:1 zoom lens, you'd normally expect it to lose about 20% of its light output at the telephoto end of the zoom range. However, thanks to some internal magic, the W7500 loses only 9% of its output due to zoom. So, even using the longest possible throw distance, Cinema mode with the tweaks outlined above still produces 847 lumens.
Contrast. When it comes to black level, the W7500 certainly shows improvement over its predecessor. Black is black, not gray, at normal viewing sizes and distances, and the projector's automatic iris ensures that dark scenes look right. But the W7500 doesn't have the ultra-deep black performance of the best of its competitors in this price range. In other words, the W7500's black level is very good, and definitely improved over its predecessor, but not class-leading.
Dynamic range, on the other hand, is superb. The W7500 produces an image that is rich and three-dimensional, creating excellent separation and pop in most HD content. The default gamma setting of 2.4 ensures that no shadow detail is lost and highlights are not compressed even in scenes with exceptionally high tonal range.
Color. Out of the box, the W7500's Cinema mode needed a bit of work. Color temperature was too red in the shadows, too blue in the highlights, and green was overdriven in both. This was not difficult to fix, though, because the projector has comprehensive controls for both color temperature and color gamut.
Using the W7500's "Color Temperature Fine Tuning" control, we increased red gain and blue offset until the color temperature leveled out. This gave us a near-perfect 6500K across the entire brightness range.
The default color gamut is close enough to the ideal Rec. 709 standard that most people won't feel the need to have their projector professionally calibrated. However, for those who have the necessary equipment and enjoy fiddling with their projector, the W7500's gamut adjustments are easy to use. Each notch of adjustment applies a meaningful amount of correction, which make the process much less frustrating. Less granular adjustments make it more difficult to dial in absolute perfection, but getting to near-perfect takes much less time.
Sharpness and clarity. The image produced by the W7500 is rich in fine detail, and it can make the most of a good high-definition source or a particularly clean Blu-ray transfer. The IMAX scenes in The Dark Knight are a particular favorite, as are the non-narrative documentaries Baraka and Samsara.
On the technical side, we left Detail Enhancement at 1, the minimum setting without turning the system off entirely. Sharpness was set to 0. With these settings, the W7500 produced a natural image with no trace of artificial enhancement that was nonetheless beautifully rendered.
Input lag. The W7500 does not have any lag-reducing features such as Game mode or Fast processing, so the stock image modes are as fast as it gets. These measured 61.7 milliseconds, or 3.7 frames at 60 frames per second. This is snappy enough that an audio delay circuit isn't strictly necessary (though still recommended), but sluggish enough that hardcore gamers will want to find a different projector to fill their needs. Casual gamers and those playing games which are not as time-sensitive, on the other hand, can consider the W7500 as a solid option, especially because of its high brightness in its calibrated mode.
Setting interactions. During testing, we noticed that certain combinations of settings would cause unexpected effects. As an example, using the Lamp Native color temperature in Standard or Cinema mode creates a slight brightness boost and a slight green tint. But in Dynamic, it is responsible for over half of that mode's total light output.
Another example has to do with Detail Enhancement and the automatic iris. With Detail Enhancement set to 1, the iris is quiet, unobtrusive, and not particularly aggressive. It lowered overall illumination in very dark scenes, but its action was not otherwise evident. However, if you turn off Detail Enhancement completely, the iris becomes both more aggressive and much louder. Suddenly, the iris motor can be heard over the operational noise of the projector, cranking back and forth as the content changes. Dark scenes are made much darker, and the iris becomes more active overall.
Neither of these behaviors is particularly bad, but they are not documented, and it's not difficult to imagine someone sitting at home, staring at the remote, trying to remember what they touched that made the projector start acting funny.
Frame interpolation. The presence of frame interpolation on the W7500 is useful when you're watching video or television, but the projector's "Low" setting is not subtle enough to use with 24p content without adding digital video effect, or DVE. Sometimes called the "soap opera effect," DVE creates a feeling that the picture is "too real" or that the actors are moving too quickly or too smoothly. It causes a loss of immersion and that intangible "film-like" quality that all home theater projectors strive for. We don't recommend the use of the W7500's frame interpolation system with content filmed at 24 frames per second.
Lamp life. With an estimated lifespan of 2,000 to 3,000 hours, the W7500's lamp is shorter lived than the 4,000 to 5,000 hours promised by its competitors. And while pricing has not been announced on the W7500's lamps, replacements for the W7000 were priced at $299, which is in line with other projectors in this class. While it isn't always safe to assume that a lamp will last for its entire stated life, you could potentially replace the W7500's lamp twice as often, making it twice as expensive to maintain over the long run.
DLP Link. DLP Link 3D has improved significantly since its inception, and new glasses are less expensive and more comfortable. However, the addition of a VESA 3D sync port would make it possible to use infrared or radio-frequency 3D emitters and glasses, which some people prefer to DLP Link. On the other hand, DLP Link glasses are now produced by a variety of companies, so you're not forced to use the manufacturer's glasses.
Rainbow effect. A 6X-speed RGBRGB wheel is as good as it gets as far as reducing rainbows is concerned. However, some folks (admittedly not many) will still see them. We still noticed rainbows during fast action sequences, especially when the scene is mostly dark and bright highlights move across the frame rapidly. A perfect example is the opening chase scene from the 2008 Bond film Quantum of Solace. Despite the W7500's fast wheel speed, we still saw rainbows.
There is no way to determine sensitivity to RBE without actually watching the projector in question. If you are considering the W7500 as your first DLP projector, it is a good idea to find a way to watch it for at least a couple of hours before you commit to the purchase -- though you'll know whether rainbows are visible within the first five minutes.
BenQ W7500 vs. Epson Home Cinema 5030UB
The W7500's obvious competition is the Epson Home Cinema 5030UB. The 5030UB is a 1080p LCD home theater projector that sells for $2,599, putting it in the same price range and performance class as the W7500. Both projectors offer rock-solid performance, but the quirks of each model make them suited for different applications.
Image quality. Once they're calibrated, both the W7500 and the 5030UB look great. The immediately identifiable differences are mostly qualitative. Both projectors' images have plenty of detail. The Epson 5030UB has less digital noise, which can give it a more film-like appearance. The W7500 has better dynamic range in bright scenes, while the 5030UB appears more three-dimensional whenever the scene is darker. Incidentally, this is true whether or not the projectors' automatic irises are engaged. In brighter scenes, the 5030UB's black level was comparable to that of the W7500. But the 5030UB's black level is unquestionably deeper in most scenes and dramatically deeper in very dark scenes, such as nighttime shots or film credits against a black background.
There is no significant difference in color accuracy, as both projectors can be calibrated to Rec.709 and 6500K. The 5030UB has higher saturation at its default settings, and has a greater tendency to lose color detail due to over-saturation, but this can be corrected through calibration and is not a serious flaw. On the other hand, you cannot adjust color saturation on the W7500 when using an RGB signal, and the projector can look undersaturated at its default setting.
In other words, it's a mixed bag, and which projector is better is largely a matter of not only which qualities are most important to you, but also what you most often like to watch.
Frame interpolation. Epson has been doing frame interpolation for quite a few years now, and their FI system can smooth judder from 24p sources without adding much, if any, digital video effect. The W7500, on the other hand, manifests digital video effect even at the lowest setting when used with 24p film. Both projectors handle video quite well. If you want to use FI with 24p film, the 5030UB's implementation is better suited to it.
Light output. If we're talking about sheer maximum light output, the Epson 5030UB wins with 2230 lumens in Dynamic mode versus 1968 on the W7500. However, this only amounts to a 12% difference, which isn't enough to matter. In Cinema mode, the W7500 is slightly brighter at 931 lumens against the 5030UB's 805. Again, though, this isn't enough to make a difference during actual use. The 5030UB does have Living Room mode, which can be calibrated to give good color and contrast performance while also pumping out over 1700 lumens. The W7500 does not have an equivalent mode.
Here's the monkey wrench, though: the Home Cinema 5030UB has a 2.1:1 zoom lens that can reduce light output by over 40% when used at the telephoto end of the zoom range. The W7500, in contrast, has a 1.5:1 lens that only loses 9% of the projector's output. This has the potential to change the results of the "who is brighter" battle, and it is worth looking at our Projection Calculator to find out how much of the projector's zoom range will be required.
In a hypothetical example, say we want to project a 120" diagonal image from 16'. On the 5030UB, this uses the midpoint of the zoom, bringing Cinema mode to 644 lumens. On the W7500, this uses 2/3 of the zoom range, bringing Cinema light output to 875 lumens. Suddenly, the insignificant difference in light output has become significant. You can compensate by switching the 5030UB to Living Room mode, which increases light output to about 1150 lumens.
Placement flexibility. On the other hand, the 5030UB's 2.1:1 zoom gives it more flexibility than the W7500, and the 5030UB's lens shift has a larger range.
Input lag. At 61.7 milliseconds, the W7500 has a quicker response time in its calibrated full-resolution mode than the 5030UB at 91 ms. However, the 5030UB also has Fast processing, which lowers input lag to 37 ms at the cost of image resolution. The W7500 has no equivalent feature.
Anamorphic stretch. The 5030UB lacks anamorphic stretch, meaning it cannot be used in conjunction with an anamorphic lens for super-widescreen home theater. That feature is reserved for the Epson Pro Cinema 6030UB, which costs $1,000 more. The W7500 does include anamorphic stretch.
Warranty. The W7500 has a three-year warranty that covers parts and labor, while the 5030UB's two-year warranty includes express replacement.
It's hard to look at these two projectors and declare one the absolute winner. Sharpness is a dead lock, while contrast is a mixed bag. Neither projector has an advantage in color, and light output is something of a toss-up as well, since image brightness on the 5030UB is heavily dependent on where the projector will be mounted. In other words, it is impossible to declare one projector a clear winner and then close the book on the subject forever. No two home theaters are exactly alike, and which projector is right for you is a question you have to answer for yourself.
The BenQ W7500 is a high performance, purpose built home theater projector that combines high calibrated light output with a sharp, detailed image and near-perfect color. Improved in every significant way over its predecessor, the W7500 is BenQ's best home theater projector to date. Its Cinema mode has the power to light up a 140" diagonal screen, even after light loss from calibration and installation have been accounted for. The projector's picture positively pops thanks to a high dynamic range, while black level is improved over previous models. Color calibrates easily, resulting in an accurate, well-saturated, well-balanced image.
The projector is not without its flaws, of course. Frame interpolation isn't subtle enough to use with film without adding significant digital video effect. Lamp life is short compared to the competition, and there are some settings quirks that can be confusing until you figure them out. Overall, though, the W7500 is a highly polished home theater powerhouse that can slug it out with the best projectors in its class.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ W7500 projector page.