BenQ W1200 - Competitors
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).
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.
BenQ W1200 vs. BenQ W6000
For your extra $500 or so, you can move up to the W6000 one of my favorite projectors. The W6000 offers a dynamic iris and is that magnitude better on blacks, one of the projectors I refer to to as being ultra high contrast. I don't have a W6000 here, but my money says that it provides better blacks than the W1200 even if you turn off the dynamic iris. From a claims standpoint the W1200 contrast spec is 5000:1, compared to 50,000:1. The W6000 is ISF certified.
The W6000 is also brighter, in both "best" and "brightest" modes. In most cases the W6000 musters 20-35 percent more brightness with comparable color and picture quality. That's not to say that the W6000 picture isn't better - it is. I'm saying comparable modes.
Placement flexibility is also a plus for the W6000, as it offers adjustable lens shfit (vertical and horizontal). If you are rooting for the lower cost W1200, it has a speaker! Let's face it, the W6000 is the step up projector. My own thoughts are that the W6000 is an excellent value, if you can afford the difference, go W6000, you won't be sorry (though you may be broke).
BenQ W1200 vs. Vivitek H1080
Here the W1200 takes on one of the least expensive entry level 1080p home theater projectors. There's a solid $500 difference on the street at this time between the W1200 and the Vivitek H1080. Overall the W1200 has to be considered the better projector for a number of reasons. The question for most will be are you getting enough extra for all that money.
Favoring the Vivitek H1080 FD Projector:
Very low price; under $900.
Slightly brighter than the W1200 in both "best" and "brightest" modes
Favoring the BenQ W1200 Projector:
More placement flexibility - due to more range of its zoom lens
Slightly better color overall and on skin tones
Less rainbows - for those of us sensitive
Longer rating in terms of lamp life for lower operational cost
Both have speakers, a one year warranty, and have other similarities (we liked both remotes). The Vivitek gets you started at a rock bottom price. The BenQ W1200 will deliver more for about half again the price of the Vivitek H1080FD
Optoma HD20 vs. BenQ W1200
In this case the Optoma HD20 one of the most popular home theater projectors of all time, does battle with the BenQ W1200. The sub $1000 HD20 was the first under $1000 1080p projector to ship, and is now in its second year. Like the Vivitek, the HD20 is "entry level" but it's still more good enough to impress first time viewers. No problem. The Optoma has about the same lens offset as the BenQ W1200, but the BenQ has a 1.5:1 zoom vs. 1.2:1 for a good deal more placement flexibility. Color wise, right out of the box, the BenQ is the better of the two.
The HD20 and W1200 are about equally bright in "best" mode but the BenQ has perhaps 200 lumens extra when comparing brightest modes. Both have your standard one year limited warranty, which is typical for lower cost projectors, though a few projectors in the range have much better warranties. The HD20 has the slight edge in lamp life.
When it comes to picture, both calibrate well, though I'll take the W1200. It may be a touch oversaturated but it has a rich look to the picture, that impresses.
The BenQ gives you CFI as well for smooth motion on sports and whatever else you like it on. The frame interpolation offerings are by my taste definitely too severe for watching a movie, if you want any hint of the movie look and feel. I believe I was seeing more rainbows based on what I wrote back then.
Viewsonic Pro8200 vs. BenQ W1200
The Viewsonic Pro8200 was reviewed earlier this year.. Here's a projector that costs less than the BenQ and is significantly brighter. It's a single chip DLP projector like the W1200. The Pro8200 will simply light up that family room better. That said, the picture quality really favors the BenQ. If you aren't calibrating, the Pro8200 is not particularly good looking right out of the box. Even calibrated, its not up to the BenQ, In the Pro8200's review I commented in the Viewsonic's review that skin tones still weren't great even after calibration.
Both have speakers, both have picture in picture, but the BenQ does better dark scenes due to better black level performance. The Viewsonic, though, has an exceptionally long lamp life to keep costs down 4000/6000 hours compared to 2500/4000 for the BenQ. The Pro8200 has a 3 year warranty compared to the BenQ's one, so overall, you can expect the Viewsonic to cost a lot less once you own it. Both projectors have 1.5:1 zoom lenses are are about the same overall in where they can be placed, relative to your screen.
The BenQ, for your extra money, gives you the better picture. It's that simple. The Viewsonic is brighter, and less to own and operate, but, just can't match the picture, and lacks creative frame interpolation.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 and Epson Home Cinema 8700UB compared to the BenQ W1200
First of all, price wise, the W6000 BenQ is the more direct competitor to the Panasonic and Epson, than BenQ's W1200 is. The more expensive W6000 is about the same price as the Epson and a couple hundred more than the Panasonic, it seems at this time.
But, like the W6000, these two top rated projectors (by us and others), would be two of the most logical projectors to consider if you are looking at the W1200 but have an extra $400 - $650 you could spend (6/11). Both are 3LCD projectors. Both offer less brightness in their "best" modes, but the Epson will be a bit brighter in "brightest" mode, and the Panasonic a bit dimmer than the W1200.
Both 3LCD projectors have much better placement flexibility with 2:1 range on the zooms, and more importantly plenty of vertical lens shift (horizontal too). Those two can both be easily placed on a high shelf on a rear wall (as I did for many years). Without lens shift, and a shorter throw zoom, the BenQ isn't designed for same.
The real difference is in image performance. The BenQ is certainly capable of really good color, and can rival the other two, but difference in dark scenes - thanks to the huge difference between either of these ultra-high contrast projectors and the W1200 is often dramatic. That's not to say that the BenQ can't look good on dark scenes. The other two will just look better. Car analogy: The Ford Focus gives a perfectly fine ride. The Cadillac CTS and a top of the line Lexus, though will do better. Same idea. On dark scenes, the difference will be the difference in two of the projectors looking really dynamic - a lot of pop to the image, and one looking relatively dull and flat. That folks is what your extra money is primarily buying. While we've mentioned several other projectors above with better blacks (including the Mitsuibishi HC4000), these two projectors are dramatically better than all the others mentioned above, except for BenQ's own W6000.
And that folks translates mostly into you spending $500 or so more for a projector that offers a whole different class of performance on dark scenes. Life and movies are just filled with dark scenes. Point made. That also means if you are looking for a projector primarily for watching sports - which are virtually never really dark scenes, black level performance isn't that critical.
The rest of the differences are relatively secondary. Both 3LCDs support using an anamorphic lens, the Panasonic can even emulate having one. All of these three have creative frame interpolation, although in terms of best designed CFI, I'd rank the Panasonic the best, Epson second and BenQ last. Not big differences, but if I had to watch a movie with motion smoothing engaged, the Panasonic least gives you that soap opera - or live digital video look, the W1200 the most.
That's it. Of course, our friendly reminder. Don't worry about what is the best home theater projector out there in your price range. You should be picking your projector to match the type of content you plan to watch, budget, room conditions (wall colors, ambient light), desired screen size, and features. Each of us have widely varying requirements even those with dedicated rooms.
NEXT: BenQ W1200 warranty