BenQ W20000 Home Cinema Projector Review: General Performance
There's plenty to cover in this section. These links will allow you to quickly get to any topics of interest to you.
BenQ W20000 Menus
BenQ W20000 User Memory Settings
W20000 Remote Control
Lens Throw and Lens Shift, Pixel Structure...
SDE and Rainbow Effect
BenQ W20000 Projector Brightness
BenQ W20000 Light Leakage
BenQ W20000 Audible Noise Levels
W20000 Projector Screen Recommendations
Nothing overly exciting here, as the menus on the W20000 are almost identical to BenQ home theater projectors three and four years old. The overall layout is very good.
I better point out now, that on one of the menus not shown, the Display menu (aspect ratio, and more), there is also a PIP - Picture In Picture feature. This can be accessed directly from the remote control as well. The BenQ W20000 is one of the very few projectors that can do Picture in Picture to view two sources at once.
The Lamp power is still isolated from the image settings, but that is the way most companies do it. I prefer to see lamp power on the primary menu, as it is one of those things that many will adjust at least occasionally, just as they will often adjust image settings, such as changing the preset from Cinema to Dynamic or Standard, as they switch from movie watching to HDTV and sports.
Shown to the right is the First - Basic - Picture menu. It starts with selecting one of the picture modes (Cinema, Dynamic, the User saved modes, etc.) There's the usual brightness contrast and more.
The more complex goodies are on the second main menu, the Picture Advanced menu. From this menu, you can set the RGB color temperature, from the standard settings (Warm, Cool...) You'll also find gamma controls, and individual color controls (color management).
Then there are the two controls for the irises. Dynamic Black, engages the dynamic iris, while IRIS lets you control the regular iris. Closing it down will lower brightness, but also slightly increase contrast.
The next image shows the RGB controls (color temp) menu.
The last menu I'll show you is the Advanced Setup menu. It provides access to the Lamp controls, and also has reset for the filter counter, as well. There's password control for security, and finally password access to the ISF service menu, reserved for ISF certified projector calibrators, and, of course hard core enthusiasts, who manage to find their way in, and can't resist.
There's also an Information menu that shows current source signal (such as1080p 24fps), preset mode, lamp hours, and more.
W20000 User Memory Settings
Over the last year, they have made one change with their menus, that's really not for the better. But, let me start at the beginning. The BenQ W20000 projector is ISF certified, which means it's got 2 memory slots; one for ISF Day, and one for ISF Night. There are three User Memory settings, but if you have your projector professionally calibrated by an ISF calibrator, they will be using two of them.
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Where my complaint lies, is that in the past, most BenQ home theater projectors not only had the three user memory spots, but you could officially save them. With the W20000, instead, you can put your settings into any one of the three, (they will be saved, even after you power down), but if you decide to adjust any settings in the user memory you are using, those become the new saved settings. That means if you have User 1 set up for movies, after, say, a basic calibration, and everything normally looks great, the time will come when you put on something that doesn't look right - it might be a standard DVD. You might find that the overall color for that movie is way oversaturated, or has too much red, or, well, anything that you don't like, and can quickly correct away most of the problem.
And there's the problem. Now that you have, say, reduced the color saturation of User 1, it's going to remember that adjustment, and the next time you use User 1, for better content, it will be under saturated. Hopefully, they will go back to the "hard" user save ability, from older models. Of course, if that is the biggest issue I have, then we have a great projector. The ultimate cure for this is to be sure to right down your settings, just in case.
W20000 Projector - Remote Control
Talk about "same old, same old", when you have something that works well, stick to it. I have owned several BenQ home projectors, going back 4+ years, and always liked the remote. Other than a couple of minor changes to adapt to each new projector, it looks, and cooks, like the same one I used way back when, and that's a good thing. It's a pretty long remote, though not very wide, it's thin, lightweight, and has very well spaced buttons, using different sizes and shapes to easily differentiate without having to turn on the really nice, bright orange backlight.
From the top, on the left, is a big red Power button, all by itself. Press once for On, and twice to shut down. The next two rows of three buttons each, are for the seven input sources. One button handles two, and that's HDMI1/HDMI2. Being picky, I would have favored those two sources to have their own buttons, and doubling up the S-video and composite video, as very few people are likely to be using those, except perhaps gamers.
Next comes two rows with five buttons total. Those buttons handle the different aspect ratios. Right below them, in the center, is a single button that lets you toggle through the different color presets. In a slight arc, below that, are four buttons relating to the user memories. From the left, User 1, User 2 (or ISF Night), User 3 (or ISF Day), and finally Default which brings back the factory default settings.
Right below, in the middle of the remote (top to bottom) are the four arrow keys for menu navigation in a curved "diamond" layout, with a large Enter button in the center. Immediately below, on the left, is the Menu button, and across from it, the Exit button.
The next row is four round buttons across. These provide direct access to key image controls: Brightness, Contrast, Color (saturation) and Temperature (color temp).
Next comes two more rows of three, with slightly larger round buttons, which control features including Picture in Picture, Size, Position, then Active, Iris, and Lens (vertical lens shift).
W20000 Lens Throw and Lens Shift
As mentioned previously, the BenQ W20000 (and the less expensive Darkchip1 W5000), have vertical lens shift, something very rare in under $10,000 DLP home theater projectors, but very much standard fare for 3LCD and LCoS projectors.
Draw an imaginary line parallel to the floor from the top of your screen's surface (not the frame), and another, from the bottom of the screen surface. The BenQ W20000 can be placed at any height between those two points. The center of the lens, not the top or the bottom of the projector, is the exact point on the projector that needs to be somewhere at or between those two points. That's a good amount of lens shift, although many 3LCD and LCoS projectors can go a bit higher or lower. The only real drawback to not having more range, is for folks that will ceiling mount in a room with very high ceilings. With more lens shift, the projector can be placed higher - on a shorter pole. Since no one is likely to use a projector this good on a table top, pretty much everyone will ceiling mount or shelf mount on their back wall.
And that takes us to the throw distance range of the W20000. Measured from the front of the lens, to fill a 100" diagonal screen, this BenQ projector can be as close as 13.4 feet, and as far back as almost 16.1 feet. That's a limited amount of range (20% - 1.2:1 zoom ratio), but typical of DLP projectors. Thanks to the relatively long throw of the zoom, the projector can sit further back from a given sized screen, than most DLP projectors. This means that many, but not all, will be able to shelf mount the projector if desired.
Bottom Line: From a placement standpoint, the W20000 stands out among the DLP competition, as it, along with the W5000 can be shelf mounted. I can't think of any other DLP's in the price range, which can be shelf mounted. Beyond that, basically every 3LCD and LCoS projector has more zoom range, and at least as much lens shift. Still, it's great to see a DLP that can be on a shelf. (My old BenQ PE8720 - in the same basic box, was shelf mounted in my room, when I owned it.)
W20000 SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
The W20000 is a typical DLP home theater projector with a 5x color wheel. That means a very small percentage of the population will notice those flashes of rainbow, as fast moving white (or near white) objects move across a dark background (or the other way around). I'm a bit rainbow sensitive, and spot the rainbow effect occasionally in many movies with nighttime scenes, etc. I managed to live with RBE (rainbow effect) for 4 consecutive years of owning a DLP. I'd rather not notice them, but the effect, for me, at least is very minor, and infrequent.
As to Screen Door Effect, welcome to the world of 1080p projectors. You really need to be significantly closer than normal seating distance for a screen door effect to materialize (yes, it looks like looking through a screen door). One can still make out faint pixel structure, without being close enough for the distorted screen door effect. The combination of being a DLP projector, and being 1080p resolution, means that you will only likely spot any pixel visibility on things like movie credits, and signage found on programming, such as the boxes with stats on sports events, or boxes housing scrolling text on a news channel.
Bottom line, if you are sensitive to the rainbow effect, you'll have to weigh that into your decision to go DLP projector or stick to 3LCD and LCoS projectors - neither of which can cause rainbows, because they are 3 chip devices, and don't need, or have, a spinning color wheel. As to both Screen Door Effect, and Pixel Visibility, consider them non-issues. Oh there may be a few fanatics who would only buy an LCoS projector (they have by far, the least visible pixels), or the Panasonic 1080p projector - a 3LCD projector, but one that has their SmoothScreen technology, which makes the pixel structure completely invisible unless you are only a couple of feet from the screen.
W20000 Projector Brightness
Very nice! Not the brightest home theater projector around, but it is definitely significantly brighter than most of the competition. Off the top, there are a few that are brighter still: InFocus IN83 and IN82, and the Optoma HD81-LV come to mind. There are several much more expensive projectors as well (most over $10,000).
The W20000 is brighter than most, in both its best movie watching mode, and also in its brightest mode. There are so many options that we did a lot of measurements on the W20000. Here's what we found:
First, the W20000, when set for Cinema mode (best pre-calibration mode), automatically closes the iris almost all the way down, that improves black levels slightly at the expense of brightness. You can, however open the iris as much as you want, getting a brighter image without fundamentally changing black level performance.
With Cinema, and Color Temp set to warm, lamp on full power, iris on 2, and the second iris - dynamic black off, along with TI's Brilliant Color off, the W20000 measured an impressive 660 lumens. It drops about 15% if you kick the lamp setting down to low (eco-mode) power.
Better still, if you open the iris all the way up to its maximum (19), lumens jump to 774. Simply stated, 774 lumens in best mode, is very bright, and perfect for those who like big screens like my 128" Firehawk, which it handles with ease.
Engaging Brilliant Color significantly jumps the lumens up, but the picture is less acceptable to the purist, and I wouldn't call any setup of the W20000 to be a "best" mode. It's not bad, but, just not "best". Brilliant Color affects many aspects of the image quality, including a shift in the color balance.
Engaging Dynamic Black (the dynamic iris) seems to add a little brightness when measuring, but, by its nature, it's really there to lower overall brightness on dark scenes, to further improve black levels. Mike did nor run full testing with dynamic black engaged (normally you don't want any dynamic iris on, for measurements).
That takes us to brightest mode. There are several combinations, but, there are two keys: To get a whole lot more lumens out of the W20000, the color temp setting to use is Native Lamp. Unfortunately that creates a very cool color output, over 9000K, through most of its range. You get a picture with extremely weak reds.
But, it just goes to show you: Turn on Brilliant Color, when you need the brightness. The minor issues I have with BenQ's implementation (and most others aren't any better), in terms of image noise, artifacts, etc., are, to me, non-issues when you need lots of lumens to cut through ambient light. Turning on Brilliant Color, with Native Lamp, however dramatically lowers the overall color temp, to create a far better looking image from a color standpoint, and it makes the projector brighter still.
For your consideration, here are two photos. Both are post calibration. Both are shot at the same exposure. The one on the left is with Brilliant Color off, the one on the right, with it turned on. Note the brightness difference and the noticeable shift (towards red) in color:
I have two sets of pre-calibration numbers to offer, for when you need "brightest":
Cinema mode, Native Lamp, and Brilliant Color Off: 821 lumens. On: 1481 lumens
Dynamic mode, Native Lamp, and Brilliant Color Off: 952 lumens. On: 1730.
With Brilliant Color on, that's a whole lot of lumens!
With Brilliant On, the white color temp drops from about 9200K to about 7750K, a major viewing improvement. I would not suggest using Native lamp without Brilliant Color on.
I should note, that the BenQ tends to be a touch cooler at 100 IRE (white) than through the rest of its range. This remained true, even with Mike's best calibration efforts. This also seems to hold relating to Brilliant Color, as various gray levels are closer to the ideal 6500K.
You will find more information, regarding all of this, and our post calibration settings, in the calibration section below.
Final number. After calibration, brightness for best movie viewing dropped slightly to 616 lumens (that's still with the iris on 2, not 19). Figure without Brilliant Color, but with iris opened, you will still have more than 700 perfectly good lumens to work with in "best" mode. Sweet!
W20000 Projector - Light Leakage
Any light leakage is purely insignificant.
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W20000 Audible Noise Levels
I just don't know, the W20000 seems quieter than older BenQ projectors. True, they have also lowered the claimed noise level to a respectable 28 db at full power, and 25 db at low power. In most environments below 30 db is a non-issue, you might barely notice it during a dead quiet scene, depending how close you sit. I acknowledge that there are some folks who really do not want to ever hear their projector. Even for them 25 db should do the trick. I don't measure noise levels (it's complicated, multiple points), so I'm going on published specs and being in the room with the projectors. The noisiest home theater projectors tend to claim 31 to 34 db at full power.
Even in full power, the W20000 is reasonably quiet. A very tiny few might take exception. I'd say that the W20000 is a little quieter than average. Generally DLP projectors are the noisier ones, and none of the DLP's can match the quietest 3LCD (in one or two cases, full power at 20db or below).
For perspective, if I have the projector on, and the sound all the way down, when the air conditioning kicks on, it is at least a magnitude louder, completely, and easily drowning out the projector. The projector currently is sitting less than 4 feet behind me on an angle, and I'm sitting in a leather captain's chair, so not very sound absorbing, but blocking direct "line of sound".
W20000 Projector Screen Recommendations
With all those lumens to spare, I can't help but recommending a high contrast gray screen surface as my first choice. I favored the W20000 projector, when watching on my Firehawk, over using my Carada Brilliant white screen (claimed gain 1.4).
A high contrast gray surface will lower black levels slightly, and also reject some side ambient light (a plus for many). With my 106" Carada, for serious watching, I'd close down the iris a bit, because those letter boxes are a bit bright, due to those roughly 700 lumens, in best mode. With my slightly larger Firehawk (from where I position the test projectors in that room, I could only get about 115" diagonal maximum).
The thing is, when you have a really good projector, almost any screen will do, but pairing the projector with the best screen for your type of viewing and your room conditions will further improve your viewing experience.
Bottom line: First choice a high contrast gray screen such as the Firehawk G3, the Grayhawk RS, Da-lite HC Da-Mat and HC CinemaVision, Elite High Contrast Gray, Carada Hi-Contrast Gray, and equivalent screens from Draper, Grandview and others.
W20000 Projector Measurements and Calibration
First, the "best" mode color measurements before calibration: Cinema, Normal color temp, Brilliant Color off, lamp on full power.
White (100 IRE): 6926K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6941K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6902K
Low gray (30 IRE): 6908K
That's very tight color, although about 400K too cool
In setting up User 1 color temp for our best color, the following settings resulted:
Gain: R=52, G=48, B=45
Offset: R=50, G=50, B=49
Contrast was adjusted to 49
Color (saturation) 46
Defaults for all but tint, are 50. Tint default is 0.
Note, based on Mike's measurements and calibration, he came up with a Tint setting of -19, using filters. After much watching, and most of the photo shoot, I came to feel that skin tones were just a tiny bit too pink for my taste. I played around and found that to my eye, the tint setting was better in the 13-16 range. I settled on a recommendation of -15. A change of 1 number is barely perceptable to the eye, and even the full range from 0 to -20 is not a major shift in the tint of the image. This is definitely a fine-tuning control.
The end result proved to be an improved set of numbers, and corresponding color accuracy for movie watching. The only real problem is that while the grays adjust easily, white - 100 IRE tends to not want to change:
White (100 IRE): 6942K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6525K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6442K
Low gray (30 IRE): 6514K
The result is pure whites and near whites remain just a touch too cool (blue). Still a deviation of 400 odd lumens, only at the top of the range, is very minor. It is, enough though, that, for example, I'll definitely give the InFocus IN83 a slight advantage in overall color accuracy, by comparison. In the low ranges, below 20 IRE, the opposite occurs, with a small shift to warm (red). Again, these have only slight impact on the overall color balance. Most projectors tend to shift color balance a bit in the low registers (20 IRE and under), although we are working with the extremely dark grays, and there are limits to our equipment's accuracy down there. (That's one reason why I cut off our measurements at 30 IRE, and don't show numbers below that.
Gamma defaults to the normal 2.2 setting. Based on Mike's measurements he's recommending 2.4. I viewed content with both 2.2 and 2.4 settings. With 2.2 setting the W20000 had the best black levels I've seen on any recent projector, including the IN83. I did not find the 2.2 setting to be noticeably off, in any way, but no doubt, the 2.4 setting is a little closer to technical perfection, since it measured out to just over 2.2. Using the setting of 2.2, the average gamma was about 2.05.
Bottom line: Not the absolute best color accuracy after calibration, and in a side by side with the IN83, you can see the slight difference, but without a side by side, let's just say that any "error" on the part of the W20000, is notably less than the normal variation in color (based on the director's intent, and the colorist's implementation on the disc), from one movie to the next.
In other words, it looked great. Not quite as perfect as it could be, but it should be close enough to please most of the serious enthusiasts.
W20000 Image Noise
Wow, I was concerned that the W20000 would share their lower priced W5000's rather noisier than most, image noise problem, but, that's not the case. The standard background noise is there, but at very normal (acceptable) levels. The BenQ passed the HQV jaggies and motion tests without any real trouble, as you can see from the US flag image below (flags waving are great ways to spot jaggie problems):
For the vast majority noise at this level is not an issue in any way. Such things can always be improved on, but compared to so many more important things, performance at this quality level should not be of concern.