BenQ W100 Digital Projector Review - Image Quality
The vast majority of buyers of the W100 are likely looking for an easy to use projector. They'll want to set it up on a table permanently, or maybe occasionally. Some will, however, want to ceiling mount it permanently.
What the vast majority of buyers of entry level home theater projectors seem to want to avoid, is spending time fiddling with the projector. This is more of a home appliance. It should be a product that you hook up and enjoy, and not have to spend hours tweaking, or visiting technical forums on how to milk the last bit of performance out of it.
In other words - it should be about affordably getting a huge image on a huge screen, with enjoyable colors and that big screen WOW factor.
It would seem that BenQ has built to that goal.
Out of the box, colors are extremely good. Flesh tones are very pleasing to the eye, and with the Color Temperature set for T4, the projector's color balance is about as close to dead on 6500K (for DVD movies) as any projector we have tested. The results appear in our General Performance section. This is fine because, when movie watching, it's not hard to notice that color is not consistent from one movie to another. One of the reasons most reviewers have several favorite DVDs to use, is that they pick ones that have superior production qualities... so if the projector handles them well, then its a good projector. If the production qualities are poor, flesh tones too reddish or yellowish on the DVD, well then, you might want to make a quick adjust to the projector to compensate, but most DVD movies should look very good, if the best ones are "on the money".
Overall, I could occasionally detect a slight shift toward purple (or lack of green). My actual measurements barely indicated that, so again, I point out that the color is excellent out of the box!
As you can see from this grouping of the "usual" images that I use for looking at flesh tones, the colors are realistic. Images include Arwen and Gandalf from Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, LeeLoo and also Bruce Willis, from The 5th Element...
Click on the image above for a larger image.
Click on the above image of Gandalf, for a larger image.
I should point out now, that when feeding the W100 with a digital (DVI) source, besides the color temperature control (T1,2,3,4), you only have control of Brightness and Contrast. Color Saturation and Tint are not active with a digital source.
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.
W100 High Definition Performance
When I hook up the W100 like most other low resolution display devices, my D-VHS deck outputs a 480 resolution signal that matches the projector. Obviously, the projector's resolution is much lower than the maximum HD signals of 1080i or 1080p, and even the lower resolution HD - 720p. Still, the better the image you feed your W100, the better the output. Below are several images from my D-VHS HD deck:
Click on the image above for a larger image.
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I found that the W100 generally looked great from a color/image standpoint, on all the HD info I sent it, whether bright scenes like the boathouse above, dark scenes like the Chrysler Building at dusk, and everything in the middle.
I should note that if you saw the image above of the waterfall on a nice large screen, like the Carada 106 I used for this shoot, you too would be extremely impressed with this new BenQ projector.
As they say about the Grand Canyon (above) it never dissapoints, nor did the BenQ's rendering of it!
Handling Ambient Light
I mentioned that overall, the BenQ W100 appears to be pretty bright. Here are few images shot in the testing room, the first small image shows the window with the projector on in front, putting a light source exactly where you don't want it.
In the images here - first the small one shows light coming in from behind the projector from the window.
The following image also shows that the ceiling lights are on full. The image is washed out a significant amount, and although I wouldn't watch a movie this way even though (it is on full power and set for Family Room for the shot below), it does indicate that by further moderating the light in the room the BenQ can do really well.
You'll note that this nighttime party is fairly dark. The first of the two images is designed to show you the room lighting itself, which overeposes the image on the screen.
Simply said, the room is too bright for movies with dark scenes, with some light coming in from outside behind the projector, combined with 4 recessed ceiling lights. On the other hand, it should do a respectable (not great) job, even with this much light on something like a basketball game, which is all bright scenes.
Here's what the scene looks like on the BenQ W100 in the same room, but fully darkened!
In fact, the first image is shot in "best" (Cinema) mode, while the second one using the exact same exposure is phototgraphed in Movie Mode, you can see that Cinema is a bit darker, but also more dramatic:
OK, here are a couple more images to convince you that the W100 is truly capable and worthy of our Hot Product Award.
Time to explore more of the capabilities, including menus, remotes,and noise levels, as well as considerations such as what type of projector screens might work best in your home theater or family room. Click here for the Performance section.