BenQ PE7800

BenQ’s PE7800 receives a Hot Product Award, for Mid-Priced Home Theater Projectors (Typically between $2100 and $3999.)
Get out your credit card – you’ve found it!

At least, you have just found the best HT projector shipping today, that can purchase for under $3000. There are HT projectors out there selling for thousands more that don’t offer any better viewing enjoyment than this BenQ.

You get a great image – “transparent” when watching the PE7800 – you don’t notice that you are watching a projector, you notice that you are watching a movie… Sure, if you are close enough, you can spot some pixels (mostly in the credits, etc), but very, very few would sit that close (the ”we like to sit in first 10 rows of the movie theater” type viewers). If it is a problem, try the more expensive PE8700+.

So for many, this may be the big question:
BenQ PE7800 vs PE8700
“Should I buy the PE7800, or the PE8700, for the additional $1200 – $1600 dollars?

First, lets say, that my comments throughout, compare the 7800 with the 8700. BenQ, however has replaced the PE8700 with the newer PE8700+. Since the newer model has the Mustange HD2+ chip, instead of the HD2 chip, it does deliver higher contrast (2500:1 instead of 2000:1). That will give the more expensive BenQ projector an edge in handling blacks and shadow detail, although a 25% improvement is contrast is detectable, it is not great.

Let’s forget that for the moment, and say that the PE8700+ has a small advantage there. Which to buy?

I suggest you think this way: For today’s DVD’s and much of what is broadcast in HDTV, you are unlikely to be able to detect a difference in resolution between the two projectors.
Quicktip: Even if the resolution broadcast is at the highest level, much of the content being broadcast, was not filmed at resolutions that can rival the broadcast, so your source is only as good as the weakest link.
If, however, you have a first class HDTV broadcast with great hi-def source material, you will be able to see a slight difference in sharpness.
So, if you are going for a relatively large screen for your room, and will sit fairly close, you can justify the more expensive projector, however if you are sitting further back (roughly what would be 2/3 back in a theater) you are not likely to see any difference.

Other thoughts: The PE7800 is 800 lumens compared with the brighter 8700, so if you want to push your image onto a 110” or larger screen, the 8700 will have the advantage.

Instead, think about DVDs – today’s DVD’s can’t match either projector’s resolution, but the next generation will almost certainly be slightly higher resolution than the PE7800, and likely will be 1280×720, the native resolution of the PE8700+. That means no scaling needed with the more expensive projector.

On the other hand, two or three years from now, you will likely be able to buy a projector better than either for perhaps $2500, so – if your budget is tight – consider buying the PE7800 now, which will do a great job, and if not completely satisfied, when the DVDs get better, you can consider a new projector, and yet you will not have spent significantly more than buying the PE8700+ today. (by that time you would also be spending about $400 to replace the lamp in the 8700+….)

Tough call. If the bucks are there, the only excuse for not jumping on the PE7800 today, is the PE8700+.

By the way, while this may be the first public review for the PE7800 (May ’04), the PE8700 has been raved about in virtually every online, and magazine review.

Pro’s

  • Natural image, the projector seems transparent
  • Excellent color
  • Inexpensive for what it delivers
  • Plenty of inputs, including DVI with HDCP
  • Great remote, easy to use, backlit
  • Good menus
  • Great 3 year warranty
  • 3 Stored user settings
  • POP – two images side by side, PIP too.
    Quiet
  • Superb performance for the price.

Con’s

  • Matterhorn chip not quite as hi-res as the 1280×720 Mustang HD2+ used in most, more expensive DLP HT projectors
  • No (adjustable) optical lens shift
  • Zoom lens could have more range (it’s only 1.2:1) but only an issue if it won’t work distance wise, in your room.

Comments

I am so used to watching on the PE8700 that the PE7800 seems almost identical to me. The level of overall performance quality for a projector selling below $4000 (closer to $3000), makes me want to urge people considering buying one of the fine $2000 HT projectors, to find the extra funds for the PE7800. This would be more true for movie watchers, than for sports fans, because the difference is that “transparency”. This projector is not intrusive, you simply don’t notice its contributions, you just enjoy the material you are watching. If the material has faults, you notice them, if the source material is excellent, you are amazed by what you are watching.
By the way, use good cables. If you are considering DVI, officially DVI cables will not run far without problems, (15 feet), however most people ceiling mounting will need 25 feet at least. Some companies claim their DVI’s can stretch to over 65 feet, but I haven’t tested any yet.

Component cables: There is a difference, but mostly between bottom of the line stuff and what I would call good performance cables. You might well consider spending $200-$300 or a bit more for 25 to 50 foot component cables. Whether the “exotic” (high priced spread) cables that sell for $15-$50 a foot will make a real difference, I can’t say, but I can say that you are probably better off NOT spending $1000 for a component cable if the difference between that and a $250 cable gives you significantly more to spend on your projector. (If you are spending tens of thousands of dollars, obviously this advice doesn’t apply. Get the idea? It’s the same reason I can’t recommend Stewart’s excellent screens for people buying $2000 projectors, you can spend too much on one component, at the expense of others.

Bottom Line

The PE7800 is a great projector for your home theater. As it sells for well below $3000, I am not aware of any DLP projector in its price range that can match its overall performance, and I can think of several far more expensive projectors that aren’t significantly better! -art

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