BenQ W5000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6500UB
Battle of two technologies. In this comparison, we have my favorite mid-priced Epson projector, the Home Cinema 6500UB, going head-to-head, with the BenQ W5000. Disclosure: I currently own the older version of the Epson 6500UB - in my 2nd theater. Not that many years back, I owned a BenQ PE8700, then the PE 8700+ (different DLP chips), then followed those both with the even better PE-8720. In case you haven't yet figured it out, I'm a fan of both companies' projectors.
It's DLP against LCD. Each has its strengths and weaknesses compared to the other, but both are truly impressive for the money.
March 2009 - Art Feierman
BenQ W5000 vs. Home Cinema 6500UB - An Overview
What we have here are two projectors with significantly different strengths. The BenQ W5000 is the best of the mid to lower priced DLP projectors we've reviewed, while the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB is our favorite of the 3LCD projectors. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB won this year's Best In Class award for this price range, while the BenQ W5000 picked up the Best In Class Runner-Up honor. Interestingly, the BenQ W5000 was about the last projector reviewed last year, before last year's comparison report. Last year it also won the runner-up award! Back then, however it was one of the most expensive projectors in this category, while it is one of the least expensive this time around.
The BenQ W5000 is a bright DLP projector, it has a dynamic iris to improve black levels. It has adjustable lens shift, a plus for a lot of people, which, with DLP projectors, is typically only found on much more expensive models. That is something that is now changing. The zoom range of the lens, though is limited, another typical DLP projector trait. What passes though that lens though, produces an extremely sharp image.
The W5000 produces those rich, deep, colors and sense of depth that DLP projectors are well regarded for.
The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB replaces the older 1080 UB, which set the standard for black level performance for LCD projectors and for the first time established LCD projectors as the ones capable of better black levels than DLP projectors which long held that honor. The Home Cnema 6500UB offers outstanding placement flexibility. If you can't make this one work in your room, you are probably going to have to give up, and staple a a flat panel TV to your wall instead.
Black levels are, simply stated, the best of any projector in the mid-priced Class. Sharpness is good, but it is still in the "average", as opposed to "sharper still" classification we use in this report. The Epson projector, in "best" mode, is the brightest of the 3LCD projectors in this report (tied with other Epson variations), but there are projectors that are brighter. In "brightest" mode, however, the Epson has no equal, at least not at this price or below, with only one projector in the entire report being brighter still. The Epson's picture always impresses. It's not the most natural looking, but it makes up for that with that "pop and wow" look. The purist may look elsewhere because of that, but most enthusiasts report to be, well, very enthusiastic, as numerous owners have told me just that.
Time to get into the head-to-head. Let me just say, whichever of these two particularly good projectors works best for you, you should end up really pleased.
These two projectors are not even similar where it counts. The Epson wins hands down, but, that said, the BenQ can prove to be surprisingly flexible. The Home Cinema 6500UB has a 2:1 zoom and lots of lens shift, that should allow ceiling or shelf mounting, in almost any room. By comparison, the BenQ W5000 has only a 1.2:1 zoom range, however they were smart about it. Since they do have vertical lens shift, it is practical to shelf mount the W5000. Most DLP projectors have relatively short throw zooms, so they place fairly close to the screen (typically 11 - 13 feet from a 100" screen). That almost certainly means that you can't place them far enough back to sit on a shelf.
The BenQ W5000's zoom, however is longer throw, and can sit almost 17 feet back from that 100 inch diagonal screen. My guess is the more than half of the folks preferring shelf mounting, will find that the BenQ will work for them.
Lens shift is different. First, the Epson projector offers horizontal as well as vertical lens shift, the BenQ projector is vertical only. Next, the Epson can be mounted well above the top of your screen, if need be (about 2 feet for a 100 inch screen), by comparison the BenQ has a 0 offset - the highest it can be placed is with the center of its lens even with the top of the screen's surface. That shouldn't stop any shelf mounting installations, but for those ceiling mounting with high ceilings, the BenQ would have to hang down a full two feet more than the Epson. I should note, with any projector with lens shift, try not to use every last bit of it. No lens is ever at its best at its extremes, be it lens shift, focus, or zoom.
The Home Cinema 6500UB lens system is all manual, while the W5000 is all motorized (focus, zoom, and lens shift).
The BenQ's zoom lens is center mounted (keeps life simpler for mounting), while the Epson's lens is offset. Not a big deal. The Epson is a fairly small projector, while the BenQ W5000 is one of the largest covered in this report.
The BenQ has internal support for an anamorphic lens. The Epson 6500UB does not, but their almost identical, but more expensive version, the Pro Cinema 7500UB does.
The BenQ control panel is on the top, while the Epson has it on the right side (when looking from the front). Both projectors can change out their lamps without unmounting from a ceiling mount. Both projectors have their input panels in the back. The selection of inputs and outputs is pretty much the same, both have two HDMI 1.3 inputs, composite video, S-video, an RS-232 for command and control of the projector, and a 12 volt screen trigger. Both have one component video input with the usual three color coded RCA jacks. The Epson has an HD15, the standard connector for analog computers, which can double as a second component video source with an adapter. The BenQ does it the other way around. They provide five BNC connectors, which can with adapters can take an analog computer input or component video input. In other words, slightly different, but the exact same capabilites.
The first image below is the BenQ W5000, and below it the input panel of the Home Cinema 6500UB.
Both have filters. The BenQ however really requires little maintenance. They recommend dealing with the filter only once every 1000 hours of use. Epson asks for more frequent care.
Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
We reviewed the W5000 just over a year ago, when it was first released. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB was reviewed in December. As a result, we don't have any side by side images, but below you will find some of the same screen shots from both projectors. That doesn't work as well, since we can't get the exposures to match up perfectly, but still can provide some insight.
Since the BenQ review, I managed to come up with custom settings for my dSLR that are less contrasty than the older reviews. Bottom line: Older images (ie. W5000) have too much contrast (at least on my MacbookPro, and to a lesser extent on my wife's PC desktop), as well as a slight shift to blue. By comparison, the images I've shot in the last six months, if anything, are often just a little thin on contrast, and perhaps a touch too much yellow and green. I know this makes comparing tough, so best of luck.
Black level performance
We were most impressed with the W5000's black levels when reviewed. In last year's report, we commented that the W5000 had very good black levels, better than any other projectors in the price class, except for the Home Cinema 1080 UB, which was replaced by the Home Cinema 6500UB. As a result, while the W5000 does the best black levels of any of the non ultra-high-contrast projectors, it can't match the newer Epson (or for that matter, the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 and Panasonic PT-AE3000.) It does come close though, to the PLV-Z3000, the projector of that group with the least great black levels. All considered, the W5000 is very good, but the Epson still wins by a real margin.
Before we get into images from both projectors, here are two old images. This is the BenQ W5000 side by side, with the older Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB that the 6500UB replaces. Black level performance of the two Epsons is close to identical, with the newer one being very marginally better. I include these due to the lack of side-by-side images between the BenQ and the newer Epson. The BenQ is on the left:
Nonetheless, the BenQ has black levels that most people will find impressive. If you are really into the best black levels, the Epson scores a nice win, but for many, the W5000's black levels are definitely good enough, as they are better than most projectors in this class and any in the entry-level class.
Regarding the images: In the image pairs below, the BenQ W5000 will be the first one, unless otherwise indicated. Due to a change in the way we wanted the images to look, the newer projectors' images tend to be a bit brighter, and less contrasty. That makes it tougher for these comparisons. In all pairs, the Epson, you can see, is the slightly brighter image (look at the red lights, and the beams on the left, in the first pair, for example), and that is why you are seeing more stars, in the first and third images, and more leaves, in the second one. Because of the higher contrast in the older images, they lose a fair amount of dark shadow detail that the newer images reveal.
The BenQ W5000 is a projector that I have in the past described as having excellent dark shadow detail. That compares very favorably with the Home Cinema 6500UB which I have often said "isn't the best at shadow detail". Shadow detail is indeed a particular strength of the BenQ, compared to the Epson, although the Epson isn't bad at all. Shadow detail performance is therefore pretty much a reverse compared to black level performance, where the Epson is "best in class", and the BenQ only very good. The BenQ was only bested last year (black levels), by Epson's older model, and today, probably of the projectors in this class, also by the Panasonic and probably the Sanyo PLV-Z3000. Personally I'd rather have the black level performance, and a slight loss of shadow detail, than the other way around. Still, the BenQ shadow detail is impressive.
The BenQ W5000 is better than most projectors in terms of out-of-the-box color accuracy. That said, there is a bit too much green, which shows up slightly in skin tones. That quickly goes away with a grayscale calibration. Once that is done, skin tones and color accuracy in general, are extremely good, although our photos tend to be a bit strong on blue.
By comparison, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB tends to be a little warm (shift towards red - away from blue) out of the box. Still, I prefer the Epson's out-of-the-box color because the slight extra green in skin tones are more annoying than the slight extra red.
But, what we really care about is after the projectors are properly set up. Both projectors while good out-of-the-box, visibly improve with calibration. At this point, my money favors the BenQ W5000 slightly, for its excellent skin tones. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, I describe as "being really very good", but not quite as natural as the W5000.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture
The BenQ W5000 has that DLP look and feel, very rich colors, especially dark ones, yet without looking over the top. The Epson Home Cinema 6500, though, is a little less natural - less film-like but more dynamic looking - what I call more "pop and wow".
The BenQ should be a touch more forgiving on poorer quality content (ie. standard TV, many standard DVDs). Dark scenes (desipte the rich dark colors of the BenQ) I prefer on the Epson. Those blacker blacks do make a difference. Still, both projectors do tend to look pretty spectacular, neither ever look flat or dull, unless you run out of lumens for your room and screen size. I favor, overall, the Epson, but I fully understand the strengths of the BenQ. If the BenQ had just a little bit better black level performance...well, actually, if it did, it would be the much more expensive W20000.
The first three images below represent the BenQ W5000. That's followed by three from the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.
Very interesting, in that both projectors offer almost identical brightness in their "best" mode. In fact, with our measurements, the Epson only beat the BenQ by 9 lumens - well within the margin of error. (491 vs. 482 lumens). Where there's a real difference is in "brightest" mode. No contest there, as the BenQ only increases output to 914 lumens, while the Epson - a veritable light canon, jumps to 1566 lumens. I confess, though, that the color accuracy of BenQ's "bright" mode is significantly better than the Epson's Dynamic mode (which yielded the 1566 lumens). A calibrated LivingRoom mode on the Epson, however definitely rivals the BenQ's "brightest" for image quality, but still is substantially brighter, still producing over 1200 lumens, or about 1/3 brighter than the BenQ.
Tie in terms of "best" mode, easy win for Epson when you need lots of lumens.
What about sharpness
The BenQ is extremely sharp, and fits perfectly in our "sharper still" classification, while the Epson, though not bad at all, fits into the "average" category. Those are the only two categories we use for 1080p projectors. You'll notice any sharpness differences more on pure digital content, say HDTV, than a movie (other than animations). The BenQ W5000 is stunningly sharp on all that great digital programming on channels like Discovery HD, not to mention sports broadcasts in 1080i. (Remember some HDTV channels are using 720p, thus not as sharp.)
A clear win for BenQ, but you only get to truly appreciate the difference if you have had a chance to view an average projector side by side with one of the "sharper still" projectors.
I'll put it this way, since I am constantly playing with projectors in both sharpness categories: For movie viewing I don't consider the difference between a good "average" sharpness projector like the Epson, and a "sharper still" like the BenQ to be an important issue at all.
Knowing, however, how sharp the BenQ looks on that Discovery HD and other top quality digital content over 1080 HD, I would say that I would appreciate the difference between BenQ and the Epson (or my similarlly sharp JVC), and occasionally long for that touch of extra sharpness.
In other words, with a projector like the Epson, the vast majority should be perfectly happy with its sharpness, as you won't miss that little extra, that you've never seen.
Creative Frame Interpolation
Epson's got creative frame interpolation (CFI) the BenQ does not. Epson's current iteration of their CFI, works pretty well with 30/60 source material, but it has definite issues with 24fps content typical of movies on Blu-ray disc. We recommend not using it with 24fps content, which also includes movies on HDTV, in most cases, but definitely fire it up for your sports viewing.
Epson is promising improvements in their CFI in the next few weeks. Hopefully they will make CFI with 24fps source material work well. By the time most people read this, Epson will have the fix in all their dealer inventories.
This isn't really a special feature, since all but a couple of older projectors in this report have full support for HDMI 1.3. The BenQ W5000, though, is one of the exceptions. It will work fine with your equipment, but, if, and when, we finally start getting some Deep Color content on Blu-ray disc, the BenQ's HDMI 1.2 won't be able to accept the greater color palette. You'll still be stuck with a mere 16.7 million original colors. (Mind you most projectors, including the W5000 do much of their image processing with 10 bit per channel, widening the color palette).
Is this a problem for the W5000? No! Those of us with nice 1080p projectors have never seen Deep Color content. And we're hardly complaining. I can appreciate the subtle differences it may bring about if it catches on, but, hey, these projectors all look great without it.
Home Cinema 6500UB vs. BenQ W5000 Bottom Line
Forget about placement flexibility. Check if the BenQ will work in your setup, if not, just cross it off your list. If it does work, then you've got some thinking to do.
There are lots of trade-offs. The BenQ has the slightly sharper image. It's got a more "film-like" quality, and really good skin tones and overall color. In addition, its shadow detail performance is really excellent.
The Epson though, is up to the challenge. It bests the BenQ's really good black levels, with the best around under $5000, and the difference is enough to be significant. The Epson, of course wins in placement flexibility, and it "crushes" the BenQ when it comes to pushing out lots of lumens when you need them, even though the two are virtually identical in brightness when in "best" modes. The Epson has the overall more dynamic look to the picture; it's that "pop and wow" factor. The BenQ, is pretty good there as well, but, the Epson has the advantage.
I favor the Epson overall, but, I certainly like, and could live with the W5000 as well. I'm confident of that having owned older models. Then there's one other difference, worthy of considerations: The Epson has a great two year warranty with a replacement program both years, compared to t e W5000's basic one year warranty.