BenQ W6000 vs. LG CF181D Home Projectors Compared
This comparison of the W6000 projector and LG's first US home theater entry, the CF181D home projector, is going to be a fun comparison to write. The best part of it, is that the LG CF181D was one of the very last projectors to arrive for review, and make it into the report. Until I got a good look at the LG, I wasn't sure if there would be two runner-up awards. I can tell you that the LG, as it turns out, knocked out any hope for the Sony VPL-HW15 picking up a runner-up award.
I think it's awesome to have a major new player enter the home projector space in the US. I am aware that LG has marketed home projectors elsewhere for at least a couple of years. OK, let's take a look!
4/27/2010 - Art Feierman
BenQ W6000 vs. LG CF181D Home Projectors - An Overview
Let's start with the LG CF181D home projector (image on the right), since it's brand new, and unfamiliar to a lot more folks than the BenQ W6000 projector. The LG CF181D uses 3 LCoS panels, is a fairly large projector (especially tall, too). The CF181D projector has a manual lens, offers vertical lens shift. One of its key claims to fame is its brightness, which we'll discuss in greater depth, below.
By comparison, the BenQ W6000 is another extremely bright projector, although the W6000 is a single chip DLP projector. In terms of size, it's more of a medium size. At any rate, it is a a good bit smaller and less bulky than the LG projector.
Both projectors have very good, but not exceptional, placement flexibility, and both rely on a dynamic iris to improve black level performance for your movie viewing (and other content with dark scenes).
BenQ intended the W6000 to be one of the brightest home theater projectors on the market. I'm not sure about LG's intent, but it too has a healthy amount of lumens, even if it can't match the BenQ's brightest mode, it actually just barely beat the W6000 in "best" mode, making it the brightest "best mode" projector measured in this $2000 - $3500 class, and 2nd brightest in this report. Impressive.
If one is considering brightest modes, then the BenQ's W6000 is the 3rd brightest in this report, trailing only a near identical pair of low cost "crossover" type projectors, the BenQ W1000 and the Vivitek H1080FD. The LG CF181D, comes in fourth with 1380 measured lumens compared to the W6000's 1750, but the LG has better color. Just to keep things honest, the more expensive InFocus SP8602 has the ability to be brighter than the LG, but only when mounted for optimum brightness.
Let's see how these two bright projectors do head to head. The reviews were done months apart. I never did have the opportunity to run them at the same time, or take side-by-side comparison pictures etc. Of course I have plenty of opportunity to do images comparing each with the Epson 8500UB. In this comparison, the Epson will occasionally get to be our reference.
Let's start with the lens. Both projectors lenses are manual. The BenQ has a 1.5:1 ratio zoom lens, while the LG has more range with a 1.8:1 zoom.
The BenQ W6000's zoom, however is longer throw than typical for 1.5:1 zoom lenses, and can sit as far back as 17.7 feet back from that typical100 inch diagonal screen. That should be enough to allow the BenQ to rear shelf mount for most people interested in doing so.
The lens shift of the LG is only vertical, but it has more range than the BenQ. The BenQ has horizontal too, but in terms of vertical it is 0 offset. That means the highest you can place it is even with the top of your screen. For almost everyone, that's not a problem. The LG has more vertical, which is beneficial if you are hanging the projector down from a high ceiling.
I should mention that both projectors have center mounted lenses. Only the BenQ, however, supports using an anamorphic lens.
The BenQ is slightly better equipped when it comes to inputs and connections. Both have the usual: 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs, one component video input, one computer input (that can double as a second component video input), a composite video and an S-video. Both have a USB input. In addition, the BenQ W6000 has a serial port as well, for support, and it has one 12 volt screen trigger. All in all, no real difference unless you must have a 12 volt screen trigger.
The first image below is the BenQ W6000, and below it the input panel of the LG CF181D.
Both have filters. The BenQ however really requires little maintenance. They recommend dealing with the filter only once every 1000 hours of use. I am not sure about the LG, I missed finding it out when I reviewed it, but it is likely more often.
Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
The thing I really like about the LG CF181D, is that it feels bright. Sunny days almost make you feel warm when watching it. By comparison, and also not a bad thing, I would describe the W6000 as being more intense! The W6000 does just fine on those sunny days, but really comes into its own in darker scenes. These two projector definitely have a different feel to them.
Black level performance
The BenQ W6000 is an ultra-high contrast projector by my standards. It's at the lower end of the performance range in terms of black levels, among those projectors, but is still a step up from a whole lot of other projectors, including some projectors costing a good bit more. The dynamic iris has been significantly improved since I first reviewed a pre-production unit, and is now not overly noticeable.
The LG CF181D is definitely a notch down in black level performance. It too uses a dynamic iris, but it just isn't in the same league in terms of blacks. Let me put it this way: When it comes to black level performance, the CF181D is respectable. On the other hand, the W6000 is downright real good.
Score a big win for the BenQ projector!
Unfortunately I do not have any side by sides of the two, nor even the same image on both, compared to another projector. They would be nice, but, as it turns out, not a problem. There are two pair below. In each pair, the BenQ is first. In the first pair, the sky is definitely darker with the W6000. If you look at the second pair, the same thing is true. We're not talking a huge difference, but one that will make a difference on the darker scenes.
Here's a third set, something completely different from space scenes. Again, the BenQ is first. On this scene below from The Dark Knight, both look pretty good. At this point, the difference seems to be slight. It's also a scene where the iris is not likely fully stopped down with either projector. As I said, it will be the really dark scenes where the difference is greatest.
In the Shadow Detail section, be sure to look at our Casino Royale night train scene that we use in all reviews. Here's a scene where the dynamic difference between the two projectors is rather significant, and it's primarily due to the blacker blacks.
Almost a tie. I'll give the slightest advantage - an insignificant one, to the LG CF181D projector. You can compare the two projectors in the Casino Royale train images (W6000 first, of course.) You'll note that the blacks on the W6000 are at least as dark as the LG, but all the brighter areas of this very dark scene (badly overexposed), are much brighter than the LG - more dynamic range, thanks to the blacker blacks.
The BenQ W6000 isn't particularly great, right out of the box. With Brilliant Color off, the image is pretty good, but a touch thin on green. With it on, it's way strong on reds and still thin on greens. By comparison, the LG, out of the box, I described as being "pretty good, just lacking a little red". Advantage: LG CF181D
Once both projectors were calibrated it becomes really close. I just love the LG's skin tones. The BenQ's right up there but finishes a close second in that regard. Other than the different feel of the projector's I'd say that which one is actually the best, is probably going to be determined by the quality of any calibration. If you don't even want to bother, and just go plug and play, then, by all means, the LG gets a win, otherwise, let's call Color Accuracy a tie.
Keep in mind, we're talking about "best mode" performance. When both are at brightest, the BenQ goes very green, poor color, but it's next brightest mode is comparable to the LG's brightest in terms of color, and is almost as bright.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture
The LG has that comfortable big image feel to it. It shines best on medium and especially bright scenes. On very dark scenes, on the other hand, it lacks the punch of the BenQ. The BenQ will, on the same types of brighter scenes will seem a touch darker, and gamma likely has to do with that, but also because the BenQ's darker colors seem very rich. I've always said that Medium to dark scenes are where the W6000 really stands out, in a comparison like this.
Hey, don't forget, I get to work with exactly one of each projector, and Mike's doing the calibrating. When I'm describing things as being rather close, remember that I might have a slightly different opinion with someone else doing the calibrating. It's still part art, not all science.
Oh what fun, two of the brightest projectors in the entire report, go head to head.
The LG CF181D measured a whopping 898 lumens in "best mode", while the BenQ W6000 projector, with Brilliant Color turned off, was right up there at 866 lumens. If you turn Brilliant Color on the image is a little less natural than the LG, but lumens jump to 1039.
Comparing the brightest modes, the BenQ's got the LG beat, with 1750 lumens compared to a still one of the brightest at 1380 lumens. The thing is, the BenQ's color is way too green so you only want to use their Dynamic mode when absolutely necessary. The BenQ does have a far better looking 2nd brightest mode, which still puts 1250 lumens on the screen.
Bottom line - this has to be a tie!
And the Sharpness?
The advantage in sharpness goes to the single chip DLP projector, the W6000. The LG's sharpness is nice - average. The BenQ is just sharper. Below: W6000 on the left, CF181D on the right.
Both have dynamic irises. The pre-production W6000 iris was way too visible, but BenQ did a great job of upgrading it immediately. The LG's Dynamic iris is definitely a bit smoother, but also doesn't seem to have the range (can't darken as much), which does make it harder to spot iris action. All considered, the LG may have the smoothness advantage, but the BenQ delivers the blacker blacks.
Creative Frame Interpolation
The LG offers up Creative Frame Interpolation (CFI) to smooth fast moving images. The BenQ does not. This is LG's first generation CFI, and its got some issues. It's a bit too noticeable for watching 24fps movies, even if you like CFI's "live digital video" or "soap opera" look. Even on sports it can be a little rough, but I watched a whole lot of Winter Olympics with it engaged, as well as some football. I found it worked reasonably well for fast paced sports. I normally wouldn't recommend it for movie viewing. If you engage it for some Travel HD, Discovery HD type scenic content, you likely will be able to spot some of its artifacts, but you might not mind. (That would be 60fps content, definitely a bit easier for the LG to deal with that 24 fps, film based movies.
No issue with the BenQ of course, as it lacks the CFI.
LG CF181D vs. BenQ W6000 - The Bottom Line
This year, the BenQ has some respectable placement flexibility, so the lack of same (last year's W5000) allowed a lot of readers to say: "Won't work in my setup." That's not the case this year, even though the LG CF181D has more placement range. Most people interested in rear shelf mounting should find either projector will work, and both have tons of range for ceiling mounting.
Sharpness and black level performance are the major pluses of the BenQ W6000. Color is truly extremely good after calibration
The LG CF181D projector has better out of the box color. It's got a slight edge in shadow detail. I'd say it has the more forgiving image, and a bright feel to the projected image. The LG offers creative frame interplation (motion smoothing).
Brightness is a tie - they are two of the very brightest projectors in this review, and effortlessly can handle larger screens in best mode. Both have plenty for some lights on sports.
I like the LG a tad better on those brightly lit scenes found in a lot of Discovery HD, Travel HD type content, football games, etc. I more strongly favor the BenQ on the darkest of scenes, and I like it about as much on typical darker scenes as I favor the LG on the brighter ones. I mentioned I liked the color better on football games, with the LG, that may be true, but I also favor the W6000 on football and other HD sports for its extra sharpness.
Neither projector dissapoints unless you are talking very dark scenes and are as hung up about black levels as I am, in which case the advantage goes with the BenQ.
Below, first image is the CF181D, second one is the W6000.
In the LG review, far more recent than the W6000, I mused towards the end that if I couldn't have my JVC and had to choose in this price range, that I would choose the LG. (The Epson is out - it doesn't have enough lumens in best mode to properly fill my 128" gray screen). I've been reflecting on that. I know one contributing factor is that the W6000 is DLP and I am somewhat rainbow sensitive.
The more I think about which I prefer of these two, the more I feel like a headache coming on. (Especially if I dismiss the rainbow effect.
Consider this - On movies, the W6000 has black level advantage, on HDTV it has the sharpness, and an extra 20% more lumens if you really need them at the expense of color fidelity. Alternately, the LG gives you a decent CFI for sports, which is definitely worth points to those who like CFI. Ultimately, the LG can put more lumens that have very good color on the screen. For example, viewing the new Blu-ray Lord of the Rings, I am going to prefer the LG's overall picture most of time until the scenes get dark. Finally, let's not forget that the LG comes with a year longer warranty.
Lastly, there's not enough difference in selling price or replacement lamp, cost of ownership issues to have any significant impact.
Which projector is better? Aargh! You figure it out. I'm stumped.