BenQ W500 Home Theater Projector Review

BenQ W500 Screen Door and Rainbow Effects

OK, the W500 is a 3LCD projector, so there is no spinning color wheel, and therefore no rainbow effect. As is typical of LCD projectors, with 720p resolution, pixel structure tends to be more visible than competing DLP projectors. Still, the BenQ W500 projector performs better than expected, in terms of Screen Door Effect, and pixel visibility, something which no doubt is the result of using a new generation of 0.6″ diagonal LCD chips. When most (about 120″ diagonal) of my 128″ diagonal screen, and viewing from 11.5 feet back, I almost forgot this was an LCD projector.

Click to enlarge.  So close at the DTS logo, and you can make out the pixel structure.

That said, for most, you’ll want to sit at least 1.5 times screen width, back, for pixels to be just about completely invisible, only showing up on things like movie credits, and on screen signage (such as the various stats and scoreboards on sports events), where you would just be able to make out the pixel structure.

Click Image to Enlarge

BenQ W500 Home Theater Projector: Light Leakage

The W500 projector is pretty clean when it comes to light leakage. Under normal viewing conditions, I never noticed any light leakage on or around the screen, unless, the image is completely dark (a black screen) in which case a little is visible. Some very minor leakage comes out of a couple of the fan vents, but, again, it is not an issue. Overall, the W500 is very good in this regard.

BenQ W500 Audible Noise Levels

Typically, LCD home theater projectors are quieter than DLP models, and the W500 is no exception. Although the W500 is not particularly quiet, it is slightly quieter than the DLP competition from both Optoma and Mitsubishi, but noisier than the more expensive LCD models – the Sanyo PLV-Z5 and Panasonic PT-AX100U. Even with the lamp set to full brightness, the BenQ has noise levels that should be acceptable to most. With the lamp set to eco-mode, BenQ claims 28db noise, and 32, in full power. Since most of the DLP competition tend to also claim about 32-33db in full power, I think, in this case, that BenQ might be conservative. I definitely have the feeling that the W500 is at least a couple db quieter than either the HC1500 or the HD70.

BenQ W500 Brightness - Measured Lumens

Claiming 1100 lumens, the BenQ W500 surprised me. Most LCD home theater projectors produce less than half of claimed, when in their “best” (least bright) mode. Not so, the W500 projector, which managed to measure out to 870 lumens in the Cinema setting, with lamp in full power. Dropping to Eco-mode, brightness dropped to 725 lumens a 17% difference. That 17% difference should be fairly consistant, for the eco-mode vs. full power, for each preset mode.

A warning here. Best viewing in Cinema mode, is with the Auto Iris engaged. Since the BenQ only offers two options – Auto Iris: On, and Off, with no ability to do a manual partial closing of the iris, this basically means there is no way to measure maximum brightness in Auto Iris, or should I say, the results will be the same, with it On or Off. However, in real usage, the average brightness will be a bit lower, although on very bright scenes, it should remain the same as mentioned above (870 lumens).

Interestingly, Standard mode, was the least bright, measuring a still very respectable 602 lumens with lamp on high.

Dynamic measured only about 100 lumens better than Cinema mode – most surprising for an LCD projector, and clocked in at 972 lumens, 11% below BenQ’s claimed 1100 lumens. I made no attempt to push the dynamic mode further to see the maximum lumens it would output. At the same time, the overall quality for their Dynamic mode was pretty good, definitely watchable, especially with a little adjustment. Many projectors can crank out more lumens by pushing out so much green to get the lumen count up, that the picture is downright unwatchable. The W500 did just fine in Dynamic, for my sports viewing with too much ambient light. Still it isn’t as bright as the Epson Cinema 400 or Panasonic PT-AX100U (or the new PT-AX200U).

So, while the W500 is particularly bright, in best mode, it is about average when you need maximum lumens. At least no one will call this a dim projector, and in that regard, it crushes some other competition, such as Sony’s AW15, and the Sanyo PLV-Z5, when in best (Cinema) modes.

BenQ W500 Lamp Life and Replacement

A classic: 2000 hours in full power mode, and 3000 hours rated for low power. That is the most common lamp life rating found on today’s projectors, so the bottom line – the W500 projector’s lamp life is “typical.” One nice touch, the lamp life tracking counts hours separately for full power, and eco-mode, so it should really know exactly when to start warning you that it’s time to replace the lamp. Few projectors in the past, have tracked both separately, at least where you can see it.

When it comes to replacing the lamp, the lamp door is on the bottom of the projector. That means you are going to have to unmount a celing mounted projector to change the lamp. That’s a pain, but typical of most projectors.

Since the W500 is particularly bright, many will choose to run the W500 projector in Eco-mode, and enjoy the longer lamp life and lower operational cost.

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