BenQ W100 Entry Level Home Theater Digital Projector Review

Overview

It’s always fun working with a prototype of a “soon to be released” projector, because you never know what to expect. Some perform essentially identically to the production units that follow shortly after, while others may exhibit major flaws, or simply not perform as well as the final product.

The BenQ W100 is BenQ’s new entry level (WVGA) DLP based digital home theater projector which should be on the streets in June with an expected sub-$1000 street price. Based on this pre-production projector, the W100 has no trouble picking up our Hot Product Award. It’s notables for winning one are: Extremely good out of the box picture performance, very user friendly, plus an extremely long lamp life. It all translates to excellent price performance. By the way, this is definitely one of the quietest projectors I’ve had a chance to test.

I should note that BenQ also positions this projector for business use as well, but it’s real design purpose is home entertainment. Before we get started on the W100 review, I’ll relate two quick stories about other prototype reviews. One was the BenQ PE8720 I originally reviewed early last fall, and the other was an Optoma H27 projector reviewed by another site, a couple of months before that. With the top of BenQ’s line PE8720, the product was solid, but color accuracy, gamma tables, etc., were way off from what should be acceptable in a $5000 – $10,000 product.

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A full professional calibration would fix all of that, but, at that price, people should expect better, (and I personally felt that higher end dealers would not find it acceptable). After comments from myself, and, of course, other people who had a chance to see the early product, BenQ went back and completely reworked all the color tables, etc. The end result was a projector with excellent attributes out of the box. With the Optoma H27, the colors, etc. of the pre-production unit were pretty consistant with the final production units, but the measured brightness was barely half of what people buying the first production units found. The point – if a pre-production unit really works great – that’s great, but even if there are some flaws – even glaring ones, there’s always the hope that the final product will have fixed them.

OK, with the BenQ W100, I’ll start by saying that this looks like a very finished product from a performance standpoint. I’ll get into the details later, but I was very satisfied with brightness and color accuracy, for a product in its class. Actual physical properties, though, definitely indicated pre-production – the lens focusing and zoom were not smooth, and the finish on the cabinet was definitely not production. The projector also leaked a lot of light from the bottom (which is normally not a problem). I’ll be curious of they work on tha light problem.

I would expect that the BenQ W100 projectors which start shipping next month (in the US, and apparently have already started shipping in Europe), will perform pretty much as this unit does, so this review should serve readers pretty well. I will request a production unit in July, for a quick followup, to see if there are any notable differences.

BenQ apparently designed this projector for dual use – home and business. One easy way to determine this are the image presets – 5 different settings for home entertainment, 5 for business. Also, it has a small speaker – something not normally found on home theater projectors. While I will comment on the W100 as a business projector as well, our primary concentration is how it performs as an entry level home theater – or home entertainment – projector. I will touch on business use in the general performance section.

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