BenQ W1200 Home Theater Projector Review

How does the BenQ W1200 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?

BenQ W1200 vs. Epson Home Cinema 8350

I decided to start out with a challenge for the BenQ W1200. These are two very different home theater projectors. The BenQ W1200, of course is a single chip DLP, while the Epson 8350 is 3LCD. Both are 1080p projectors. The feature sets are a good deal different.

When it comes to horsepower – brightness, the BenQ wins hands down for a bright best mode, with its roughly 750 calibrated lumens being a good 50% more than the Epson. When it comes to brightest mode performance, however, lets call these two comparable.

Epson offers up a dynamic iris and it will definitely win the battle of blacks on darker scenes. Shadow detail should be similar, though again, I suspect the Epson would come out on top.

If you want to go large screen, then the brighter best mode is a real advantage for the BenQ projector.

Placement flexibility is all Epson – 2.1:1 zoom vs. a still healthy 1.5:1 for the W1200, but after that, it’s all Epson: The Epson though has lens shift – lots of it, it is about the most flexible projector you can find for the home.

From a picture quality standpoint, for movie watching, the W1200 has that great DLP look. I still appreciate that, even though its been more than 3 years since I personally have owned a DLP home theater projector (I owned three old BenQ’s in a row, and was always pleased.) When it comes to sports and HDTV, the W1200 also brings a sharper image to the party than the Epson.

On the other hand, the Epson costs less, its lamp lasts much longer (5000 hours in any mode), and it has a far, far, superior warranty – 2 years parts and labor with an (essentially) overnight replacement program for both years (compared to the basic 1 year warranty). The Epson is also, at the time of this review selling for about $150 – $300 less.

The thing for me, is this – if I’m watching a dark scene, the Epson does have a real advantage. Better blacks – at least until we’re well into those ultra-high contrast projectors (whose blacks are well beyond the Epson Home Cinema 8350, let alone the BenQ W1200). Ultimately, between the price differential, and the cost of operation/warranty issues, the BenQ is definitely a more expensive projector. But for the blacks, and placement, the BenQ would likely come out on top, if they were the same price and have similar warranty and operational costs. In reality though, the BenQ is almost a step up, in overall price.

Still, in that room with light walls, etc. where black level advantages are to a noticeable degree, mitigated, the W1200 is a strong competitor, and with built in sound, it’s easier to move from room to room.

BenQ W1200 vs. Mitsubishi HC4000

I have to go for the Mitsubishi primarily for its blacks and slightly lower price from the perspective of a serious movie watcher. On the other hand, the BenQ W1200 easily out muscles the HC4000. From a placement standpoint they are essentially identical, both with 1.5:1 zooms and about 16.5 inches of offset for a 100″ screen (center of the lens would be that far below the bottom of the screen if placing on a table or floor).

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The Mitsubishi has a not great, but noticeable advantage in blacks. It also does a bit better in terms of dark shadow detail. In running them side by side, dark scenes like the Bond night train scene (in this case without train), or Gandalf on the balcony in Gondor (at night) the HC4000 just pops compared to the W1200. The HC4000 also gets my vote for warranty, and cost of operation, with 2 years, and a 3000/5000 hour lamp spec compared to 2500/4000 for the W1200 projector. Here’s a side by side, very dark scene – overexposed intentionally, – Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys. The Mitsubishi on the left:

It’s scenes like the one above where the HC4000 would have more punch, due to the blacks being blacker.

I don’t open projectors up, and I wouldn’t be a good judge necessarily of build quality, but the BenQ has the better feel. The zoom and focus are smooth and don’t affect each other, just feels like more money.

The BenQ W1200 has a lot more lumens for movie watching, and perhaps that’s another reason why this mostly white bodied projector belongs in a family room more so than a dedicated home theater. Or for that matter any bedroom or bonus room that will let you cast a large image. All that considered, the Mitsubishi at the moment, seems to be a good $200 less. If it weren’t for the pricing differential I’d probably say they are two different home theater projectors -a bit different but comparable in value. With the price difference, the value proposition goes to the Mitsubishi HC4000

W1200 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700

This is another case of the BenQ W1200 taking on a low cost 3LCD projector. In this case I had written in late 2008 when the Z700 hit the market – that at the time it was the least expensive 1080p at the time. Since then the price has come down about 40% in the two and a half years since. It’s one of only a very few low cost projectors that has lasted that long.

The Sanyo PLV-Z700  has the placement flexibility advantage and a three year warranty! It’s quiet by comparison. Back then I said it calibrated very nicely for very good color. While Sanyo’s true “best mode” is far less bright than the W1200, its Brilliant Cinema is about the equivalent of turning Brilliant Color on on a DLP like the BenQ. That is to say, still very good. In brightest modes, the two are roughly equal, with the BenQ at its very brightest measured had about 100 lumens more, but the Sanyo’s brightest has a bit better color.

The Sanyo, overall should have a black level advantage. This is more due to its having a dynamic iris, than having any native advantage, but it should do better on very dark scenes.

There’s the overall richness associated with a DLP, and also the BenQ’s really sharp image that favor the BenQ W1200. The Sanyo PLV-Z700, being an older projector can be expected to go through lamps faster. Sanyo never published a spec and in such cases we expect it to most likely behave as the old average – 2000 hours at full, 3000 in low, therefore we would expect the Sanyo to cost more to operate, over its life. Still, the Sanyo currently sells for a good $200-$250 less at the time of this review’s publishing.

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