BenQ PE7700 - Image Quality
This section will be expanded over the next couple of weeks (I'm leaving on vacation in two days).
The first thing to say, is that it seems that the BenQ PE7700 projector builds on the great performance that the PE8700+ already is known for.
The first, most evident thing is that the PE7700 plus appears to be a brighter projector. At 1100 lumens, it is rated 100 lumens brighter than the 8700+, but seems to do better than that. I will try to get measurements in the update, but I would guess that it is about 20% brighter than the 8700+ projector I used. The images here are filling my 140" matte white screen. The BenQ projector was set to HT mode for the left image, and to Family Room on the one on the right. The images are under exposed in terms of showing off the room lighting because the screen is very bright.
When you consider again, the size of this screen, you begin to realize how capable the PE7700 will be at handling moderate ambient light on, say, a 92" or 100" screen. I used for the side by side shots, or the one mounted in my ceiling. Certainly it is light years brighter than say, a Panasonic AE700u with the Panasonic in its best (dimmest) mode. The PE7700 projector handles my 140" screen better than the Panasonic does on a 106", and that's a big difference. So if you like particularly bright, and/or a really large screen, or need to fight more than the tiniest amount of ambient light, this has got to be a top choice. I know of no other HT projector with 720 native resolution that is brighter, without spending at least a thousand more (Sanyo PLV70 - an LCD widescreen projector).
The PE7700 has a low lamp mode (advanced menu), which will extend your lamp life from 2000 to 3000 hours. If you are using a 100" or smaller screen, and have a dedicated, dark room, you should be able to take advantage of the savings. Of course this is a lot of personal preference.
Of the 5 preset color modes, 3 are of interest for normal HT. Cinema (the default), is the darkest and probably provides the highest contrast ratio. The first DVD I watched on it was Star Wars II, and I found the Cinema setting to be very faithful, even before any calibration.
Next is Home Theater, which on first glance was my preferred choice on HDTV content including Jay Leno, some travelogs, and hi-def sports. The color balance was a bit different, and an overall higher gamma was apparent. I was really impressed with this mode. I also viewed some of Star Wars II in HT, and I found something extraordinary:
First, when I compared the PE7700 side by side with the PE8700+, I paused at the very opening where there is nothing but a scene of stars.
Before I go on, remember that the PE7700 is brighter, so the images of the 7700 in the side by side seem brighter, and lacking blacks. This is just the result of the automatic metering. Either one looks overexposed, or the other, underexposed. In cinema mode, both projectors were almost identical - you could see the same number of stars. When I switched to Home Theater mode, the number of stars must have tripled. (PE7700 is on the right on both star scenes), yet the overall darkest areas seemed to be the same. Nothing I could do with the PE8700+ could accomplish what I saw here. I could get more stars, but my "blacks" ended up much lighter gray, and I lost the feeling of stars on a "black" backdrop. I suspect that this enhanced performance is the result of the "Sense-Eye" technology BenQ claims for the PE7700 but hasn't yet divulged what it really does, other than marketing hype, as the settings in terms of color, brightness, contrast, etc. change very slightly between the two modes.
The next setting is Family Room, and this setting is obviously designed to combat having a significant amount of ambient light. In fact among other things, this setting shows color boosted to +9, which is a significant change for this projector. I found the Family Room setting to be "a little too much". It will definitely help a lot with the ambient light but flesh tones and other subtle colors are definitely, and obviously less natural.
The other two modes: Photo mode, which is more contrasty, and Gaming, which is very dynamic (and far, far, from natural flesh tones.)
Very Natural Colors
As mentioned above, both Cinema and HT modes produce excellent color balance. I made only minor adjustments with the Avia disk. In general the adjustments were less than the differences between most content and sources. You can see a couple of comparison images between Cinema and Home Theater modes. They are close, but the Home Theater mode on the right, in reality is a little "lighter" in terms of gamma. (Of course my digital camera adjusts for slight differences in overall brightness, tending to minimize the actual difference you see when switching back and forth. Both look good.
Night scenes on the BenQ PE7700 projector were especially dynamic looking. To a degree they remind me of the Panasonic AE700u which stretches the dynamic range by darkening dark areas, while brightening very light areas (without blowing out detail). The effect isn't as dramatic on the PE7700, but that's probably good, as the Panasonic can deviate noticeably from the true image (although people like it). The enhancement here is more subtle, but every bit as pleasing.
Notes on Sense-Eye
BenQ tauts Sense-Eye but doesn't provide much in details. Let's say that Sense-Eye, is really a collection of seven functions including scaling, deinterlacing, contrast enhancement, color enhancement, etc. Now variations of many of these technologies are found in competing products, with such circuitry from the likes of Faroudja, and others. The real question is how well does the BenQ's Sense-Eye do compared to what's in the competition. Considering there is no direct competition at the price (for a 720p DLP projector), they are off to a good start. I have noticed that noise seems to be a touch less than the older BenQ. Truth is, DLP competition at this resolution mostly sells for $500 to $10000 more (mostly several thousand more).
I have just received a Powerpoint presentation on Sense-Eye, which I will look over and post more info for those who are "into" the technoogy.
In the past, when comparing the BenQ PE8700+ with other projectors - especially, JVC's HD2K and HX2, one thing I noticed, is that my old BenQ couldn't really do a really bright clear sunny day well. You know those days, shadows are razor sharp and dark, contrast is high and sun glows off of faces and objects. Well my BenQ tends to take those scenes and instead, they look like a slightly hazy day, you don't feel that sun drenched warmth. The new PE7700 definitely has a sunnier disposition. I don't have the JVC, or Marantz 12S4 for comparison at this time, and I don't think this new BenQ projector has completely eliminated the difference, but I find the PE7700 much more pleasing in this regard than my older BenQ. This is a subtle but important improvement worth mentioning.
So, in summary, the BenQ offers excellent color rendition in both Cinema and Home Theater modes, and pumps out a lot more color and can better fight ambient light in Family Room mode, but color accuracy falls off a bit. In addition dark scenes - especially those which have some bright areas are enhanced very nicely, adding more punch to the image, without any obvious distortion of the original content.
Motion artifacts, which I haven't discussed, are awefully hard to spot on this projector, I definitely noticed on one scene that the new PE7700 projector was cleaner, in this regard, than my own PE8700+.
Out of the box performance was excellent, with the AVIA disk calling only for the most minor change in tint and brightness (none to contrast).
Bottom line, my PE8700 was great for the money, and this new BenQ projector is even better, for less money. Evolutionary, not revolutionary.