BenQ W20000 Home Theater Projector Review: Image Quality
BenQ W20000: Image Quality Sections
BenQ W20000 Projector; Out of the Box Picture Quality
Skin Tone Handling
W20000 Black Level Performance and Shadow Detail
W20000 for HDTV and Sports
Overall Image Quality (post Calibration)
Bottom Line Image Quality (and additional images)
Before I get started, a note about the images on this and other pages in this review. Since my last review, I met Michael McNamara, the former, long time editor of Popular Photography. We got into a discussion relating to the problems I have capturing the full dynamic range of the projector during my photo shoots. Thanks to his advice, I am now shooting the photos in RAW file format. These much larger files have a much wider dynamic range than normal jpg images. I immediately found a real improvement. What that means to you, however, is that it will be difficult to compare these images effectively to the same scenes shot previously. I'll give a couple of examples, in the course of completing this page. The good news is that I have already shot, using RAW format, a few images I use for black levels and shadow detail, on a number of projectors, including the InFocus IN83, this BenQ W20000, the InFocus X10, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, the Mitsubishi HC5500, and the Viewsonic Pro8100. I will over the next couple of weeks get all of them published, which should make it easier to see the differences in black level and shadow detail between these 1080p projectors. Of course all future reviews will use this new method.
Enough, time to take a close look at BenQ's W20000, in terms of its image quality.
BenQ W20000 Home Theater Projector: Out of the Box Picture Quality
Not bad at all. Actually, right out of the box, if you select Cinema color preset, and Normal Color Temp, you get a well balanced image in terms of color. As noted in the calibration section on the next page, using these out of the box settings, you get an image that is a little cool, with everything from very dark gray to white, measuring in, right around 6900K, just a little bit higher than the ideal 6500K.
That's best mode. For brightest, things are dicier. After much playing around, we discovered that choosing the Dynamic Preset - along with Color Temp set to Native Lamp, or using the Cinema Preset - also with Native Lamp, is the best way to go. The one with Cinema does a bit better in color accuracy, while using Dynamic instead, gets a few hundred more lumens, but less accurate color.
But wait, there's a catch. With Native Lamp selected, the W20000 produces an image that is way, way, too cool, over 9000K, and that's just not really watchable - unless:
For those modes you really need to turn Brilliant Color on, for whatever reason, that dramatically lowers the color temperature, and gives you a very, very, watchable image, especially since you'll be in those modes when dealing with more than a tiny amount of ambient light.
W20000 Skin Tone Handling
After calibration, Skin Tone handling is very good! Not perfect though, I've seen better, notably the InFocus IN83. When calibrating the projector, Mike found the Tint setting to be useful, and using filters he came up with a setting of -19. That worked very well, and most of the images were shot that way. However, as I continued to also watch various movie content on the W20000, I wasn't quite satisfied with that tint setting. I found that somewhere between about -13 and -16 was a tad more natural. With -19 the skin tones tend to be just a touch too pink. -15, which I'm now using, solves that.
Let's look a few of the "usual images" that relate how well the W20000 does on skin tones. As is normal, we'll start with Gandalf, and Arwen images from Lord of the Rings, Return of the King. The images from Lord of the Rings are all from standard (SD) DVD. All other images in this review are from Blu-ray disc (or HDTV).
From The Fifth Element (Blu-ray):
Next comes some images from Aeon Flux, and they do look good!
OK, now we have images from House of the Flying Daggers, a film known for spectacular color. This is a movie whose colors are not perfect, but rather reflect a certain intent by the director. Skin tones tend to be soft, and a touch rosy, regardless of which good projector I view them on.
Lastly, remember that the director often chooses to modify the color, texture and contrast to his desired goal. Another factor is lighting, when considering skin tones, full sunlight - first image below, fluorescents (second image), incandescent lighting, filtered sunlight (third image), nighttime, will all result in different skin tones. Here are the three images of James Bond, from Casino Royale:
Black Level and Shadow Detail
Black Level Performance
A most pleasant surprise. Ok, I wasn't that surprised, but, as I recently reviewed the InFocus IN83, with its Darkchip4 DLP chip, I was concerned going in, that the BenQ W20000 would not do nearly as well, with its Darkchip3.
Turns out I was wrong. Once again, the use of a dynamic iris really helps. The BenQ W20000 has one, the InFocus does not. As a result, the W20000 came very close to the IN83 in black level performance. As is typical with dynamic irises, they aren't effective if a scene has a fair amount of white, but on those very dark scenes, it really does lower the black levels.
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I should mention, that the BenQ also has a manual iris. On the menus, the manual iris is the one they are talking about, when you see Iris. The dynamic one, is also on the Advanced Picture menu, but is called Dynamic Black. (No mention of the word iris!)
This first Blu-ray image is from Space Cowboys - a nice dynamic, dark scene with a small area of bright white, and also bright red - a challenge for a dynamic iris. Easily handled by the W20000.
Next is the image of the satellite from Space Cowboys. Very good black levels and great shadow detail bring out the stars and the detail in the satellite, even though this image isn't quite as overexposed as the two below it; Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB on the left, and Sony VW40 on the right.
Below is a favorite image of the starship in The Fifth Element. I have intentionally overexposed the image, and I've also left in the letterboxing at the top and the bottom. Note that despite the overexposure visible in the starship, the letterbox areas are still virtually black (as they should be).
Immediately below, is the same frame shot with the InFocus IN83. You can see that the W20000 is a bit more overexposed. Yet the black of space is very close. As I pointed out elsewhere in this review, the W20000 comes very close to the IN83 in black levels, thanks to its dynamic iris. That's especially true on a mostly dark scene like this one, where the BenQ's dynamic iris can really do its thing.
Shadow Detail Performance
The W20000 is superb in terms of shadow detail. It may be related a bit to the gamma, but the bottom line is it really does a great job in resolving detail. I've looked at it compared to the IN83 and the JVC RS1 and I can pick out some additional very dark shadow detail on the W20000. Compared to the Epson Home or Pro Cinema 1080 UB, neither of which can match the InFocus or JVC, it starts beoming a bit noticeable (not that the Epson isn't very good).
We start with this extremely dark image of Clint Eastwood in Space Cowboys. The room is only lit by a desktop lamp. Look for the details in the shades and hanging object. All these images are seriously overexposed. The fact that I've just switched to RAW format when shooting them, may in part explain the better color, which normally is exaggerated when overexposing with long shutter speeds:
This first image is the W20000:
Note, while the exposures vary somewhat, look at the faint images from the outside, through the blinds, just above his hand on the beer.
Below we have six "thumbnails" of this cropped HD scene from Space Cowboys. Click on each for an overexposed version. Look to the satellite on the left for dark shadow details. By row, starting top left:
Next is also from Space Cowboys, the re-entry image. All the thumbnails are the same, but click on them for overexposed images to show off the shadow detail on the right side of the Earth. First is the W20000. To in the middle, the IN83. The Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB is on the right.
Bond, James Bond: Next is the casino image at night from Bond's Casino Royale.
BenQ W20000 projector:
(Note, all five images below are the same. Clicking on each brings up the higher resolution, and overexposed versions that allows you to compare shadow detail abilities in the dark areas. Look to the roof tiles, and the trees on the left.)
InFocus IN83 projector:
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector:
Sony VPL-VW60 projector:
JVC DLA-RS2 projector:
These next two images are found in almost all recent reviews. Click for large and seriously overexposed versions of the thumbnails. You can look to the dark areas of the shed on the right, plants along the bottom, and the wood structure on the left, to compare shadow detail.
Click on left thumbnail image for the BenQ W20000, middle for the Infocus IN82 (a Darkchip3 DLP, like the W20000, and the right for the InFocus IN83.
Here are a few additional images that are good for observing shadow detail and black levels:
First is from the beginning of Casino Royale, in black and white. This is a very dark scene, overexposed so you can see the details in the furniture in the back. This same image can be found on most recent reviews.
Next, from National Treasure. I haven't worked with another projector that does a better job on shadow detail. Note in particular, the wood the upper right hand corner, and other dark areas. I have only recently started using this image in reviews.
From Aeon Flux, look at the texture and shadows on the table. This image is in most reviews:
Finally, here are four side by side images for black level and shadow detail. On the left is the InFocus IN83, and the BenQ W20000 is on the right:
Although the gammas of the two projectors are slightly different (slightly brighter mid-range on the W20000), you want to be looking at the shadow detail in the darkest places. This image is intentionally overexposed. Look at the shrubs and trees, just above the tracks on the right hand side. You can definitely see more detail there on the BenQ.
In this same Clint Eastwood dark scene from Space Cowboys, you can see that the blacks are a little darker on the IN83 (I've left in the letterbox at the top and the bottom, which helps). You can also see true black below the letterbox on the bottom as part of the black velour finish of my Carada Brilliant White screen is visible. As you can see, the difference in black levels is minor.
Next is an image from The Fifth Element - the same, overexposed, starship image as above. Again, the W20000 is on the right.
This scene above has some full intensity whites, so the dynamic iris is somewhat limited in effectiveness. Again, the letterbox, as well as the background behind the stars slightly favors the IN83. On the other hand, look at the fainter stars, they show up much better, as does the nebulous gas in the image. (For the stars, look at the ones near the left side, just below the missle trail.
And last, is the black and white scene at the beginning of Casino Royale. Look at the furniture in the back. The W20000 definitely is resolving more dark detail than the IN83. This image is seriously overexposed to bring out the differences:
As always, BenQ produces projectors with a very sharp image. You can see that several of the other projectors with images below, aren't as sharp, and the W20000 holds its own with the best of them.
Top left: BenQ W20000, Top Center, Sony VPL-VW60, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE2000U
2nd row left: Sanyo PLV-2000, middle: Optoma HD8000, right: InFocus IN83
The monitor image below from Space Cowboys is already cropped. This is a good real world test, and you can see the difference in the readability of the various small text in the monitor.
Left to right: BenQ W20000, IN83, JVC RS2, Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB.
Bottom Line Sharpness: About as good as it gets. Nothing tested yet is noticeably sharper, while a number of highly rated projectors, including the Epson's the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and the JVC's are visibly softer. Mind you, all of these projectors are inherently pretty sharp. Think this way. The differences between the best and worst of the 1080p models is slight enough, that unless you are viewing side by side, you are most unlikely to notice when watching movies, as the film grain adds its own softness to the projected image. On HDTV, however the difference is still slight, but more definitely there. No one is going to walk in and say, "isn't it focused properly?" Still sharper is better. Just keep in mind it is probably one of those minor trade-offs between projectors, not a major one.
BenQ W20000 Performance: HDTV and Sports
Very sharp. I've already watched several football games (HDTV), a couple of music videos (Blu-ray) and a smattering of other HDTV content. The W20000 does extremely well, with lots of lumens, and a great, crisp image. Although I still favor the recently reviewed IN83 by just a little, for both movies and HDTV, the W20000 is one of the best. Considering the IN83 is about $1000 more, for HDTV and sports viewing, it will be hard to rationalize the extra cost of the InFocus.
Images coming soon (as ususal)
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Overall Image Quality
Being a former owner of BenQ home theater projectors, I am pleased to say that the W20000 is very much like the older 720p BenQ's I owned. Of course, it's higher resolution, has better black levels and shadow detail, and is also brighter. Still, when watching content on the W20000, this BenQ "feels" like a BenQ, and that's a good thing. Below are a number of images, from all types of scenes, bright ones, dark ones, etc. The BenQ handles everything at least very well. One note about the photos in this review. I mentioned above, that this is the first photoshoot using the RAW format. I can tell you, that I had "calibrated" my Olympus dSLR previously to get the most neutral color, to accurately reflect what was on the screen. As it turns out, however, there is a definite shift in colors between RAW and JPG formats. It will likely take me a couple more reviews before I have my camera adjusted to do the best possible.
Before we get into a series of general images, here's another side by side with the W20000 on the right, and the IN83 on the left. This image is from Casino Royale, and gives you a good idea about the color handling and general picture quality of these two projectors. Note - both look great:
A variety of other images:
This whole batch of images, definitely adds a slight green/blue cast to the photos. It is most noticeable when viewing grays, but you can also see the shift in some of the images with sky, and also in the background buildings behind Gandalf in the images of him.
As it turns out, when watching the W20000, objects with neutral grays were very, very neutral. I could correct in Photoshop, but I stick to the practice of not altering any of the images (other than cropping and resizing). Once I start editing color... well, best not go there!
Overall Picture Quality: Bottom Line
Overall, the combination of a very sharp image, really very good (but not the absolute best) color accuracy, and brightness that is notably brighter than average, both in its best and brightest modes, produce a most impressive image.
Black levels are very good, but a number of projectors can best the W20000 in this regard. Still, the black levels exhibited are more than sufficient for most potential owners. The W20000 comes very close to the InFocus IN83, and may well be as good as, or better than the Sony VW40. The JVC's, and the Epson UB, do a bit better, with the JVC RS2, still the reigning champ.
Shadow detail, on the other hand may well be the best I've observed to date. I can't think of any projector I've reviewed that can do better, and most will come up short by comparison to the W20000. (That includes those JVC's, and I own one of them).
When it comes to that somewhat subjective term - " film-like", the BenQ is also very good. I find it to be more film-like for example, than my low cost favorite, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, or most of the Optoma's. I should also note that the W20000 provides a feeling of excellent depth to the content.
In a nutshell, a most impressive projector to watch for movies, and thanks to brightness and image sharpness, down right sensational on HDTV.