BenQ W100 Entry Level Home Theater Digital Projector Review

Contrast and Black Levels

Black levels are not the strength of the W100. With a claimed 2500:1 contrast, you would expect very good black levels, but the BenQ W100 delivers black levels that are OK. Although I don’t have the Optoma H27 (reviewed last year), for comparison, from notes and general observations I would give the Optoma a definite advantage in achieving black. Now, part of this may be tied to the BenQ being the slightly brighter of the two projectors, so, when I look at a very dark scene, or the letterbox area, the BenQ will have the lighter “blacks” by virtue of just being brighter overall. Whether due to other aspects of design, or the fact that the H27 also uses “AI” technology to vary the image based on the brightness of the screen (it claims 2500:1 with AI off, and 4000:1 with it on), the Optoma is likely better here. Note, please that we are not talking significant differences, so if there is even a very small amount of light in the room, it will tend to immediately wipe out the differences.

In terms of shadow detail, which ultimately is a combination of how black you can get the blacks, and whether the projector provides detail in the nearest levels above black, or “crushes” blacks because of gamma or other settings, the W100 again performs well. There are two modes optomized for movie watching. The darkest is the Cinema mode, and it does produce the blacker blacks, loses virtually no detail in the near blacks. In viewing images such as outerspace scenes with star fields however, the BenQ did extremely well, showing a tremendous amount of dimmer stars. By comparison, the new InFocus IN72, a direct (although more expensive competitor) definitely had darker blacks, but also less stars were visible. For those with fully darkened rooms, considering that the typical W100 projector buyer is not looking for perfection, but rather a beautiful, highly-watchable image, I suspect some owners will opt to do most of their movie watching in the brighter Movie mode, especially those with screens of 110″ or larger. Those seeking the best and highest impact (if slightly dimmer) image will favor Cinema.

Note: When watching content on my light grey surface high contrast Firehawk screen (128″ diagonal), I found both movie and cinema modes to be very acceptable. When I moved the BenQ W100 to the testing room, with a 1.4 gain white surface Carada “Brilliant White” (106″ diagonal) surface, I definitely found the movie setting to produce “blacks” that were too bright a gray for my tastes, so in my opinion with white surface screens (without High Contrast), the Movie mode was definitely an inferior solution compared to the Cinema mode. This ties back to the fact that the W100 could/should have better blacks. Hopefully some of this issue with black levels relates to being pre-production, but I’m not going to count on it.

Immediately below is the pair of images from Lord of the Rings – the first, normally exposed, the second overexposed. The purpose is to see what details there are in shadow areas. Due to the digital camera’s limitations, the camera cannot capture the full dynamic range of images from the source and projector, so if the medium and bright areas look good on the photo, then the dark areas lose detail. By overexposing, the brighter areas get “blown out”, but we can capture with the camera, what the eye sees in the darker areas when normally viewing the content.

Overall the color dynamics of the W100 were very good. High impact scenes provided that “knock your socks off” impressiveness.

 

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