BenQ W20000 Home Theater Projector: Summary, Pros and Cons
The recent price drop to $3999 street (MAP) price makes the BenQ W20000 a highly competitive projector. Overall, it is not the best projector for purists, but for those not overly worried about the last 3-5% of performance (relative to other under $10,000 projectors), it is an excellent value proposition. It's got a lot going for it, and not a major flaw.
To me the W20000 is most similar, in many ways, to the more expensive InFocus IN83, one of my favorite projectors. I give the edge to the InFocus in overall picture quality, primarily for being just a little bit better in color accuracy. But we will get into that comparison, further down.
The "guys" were over for college football this past weekend. They are used to watching on different projectors almost every weekend. One of them asked what projector I was using this weekend, he actually noticed, and said it looked really good. Now the guys really don't pay any attention to the picture, they come to watch football. It's a compliment that a couple of them noticed the W20000. No wonder, it's not about individual aspects of performance, but the final picture. Think of audio. Most people will pick one pair of speakers over another roughly equal quality pair, if the first pair is played just 2 or 3 db louder. Brightness tends to work like that. No doubt the guys liked the brightness as a major factor, but then, you probably would as well.
The trick is to choose a projector that best meets your needs, that does very well, all the things that are most important to you, without having any serious flaws that annoy you. The BenQ W20000 is one of those. Very good to excellent at many things, and no major flaws.
Time to map out those strengths and weaknesses, and then see how the W20000 stacks up against the competition.
BenQ W20000 Projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
BenQ W20000 Projector: Pros
- Very bright 1080p projector - one of the brightest available, and significantly brighter than most in "best mode". The same is true for brightest modes.
- Extraordinary shadow detail
- Very good black levels, thanks combining a Darkchip3 with a dynamic iris
- Very sharp and crisp image, with good "depth"
- Very good color accuracy after calibration, not the best, but very good!
- Dynamic Black iris produces better black levels than most Darkchip3 DLP projectors can deliver
- Manual iris allows further improved black levels, when you don't need maximum lumens
- ISF certified for calibrators, with ISF Day and Night protected memories
- Two HDMI inputs with support for 24fps
- Support for an anamorphic lens
- Very good remote control
- Good selection of inputs
- Image noise not a problem
- One of the few DLP projectors with vertical lens shift, allows for shelf mounting
- Longer than average throw distance 1.2:1 zoom lens suitable for shelf mounting from rear shelf in most peoples' room
- Excellent 3 year warranty with first year replacement program
BenQ W20000 Projector: Cons
- 1.2:1 zoom is more limiting than the typical 1.6:1 up to 2.1:1 zoom ratios found on most 3LCD and LCoS projectors
- A few projectors can beat the W20000 in terms of black levels
- HDMI 1.2 compatibility, not 1.3 - the W20000 is not upgradeable, and therefore will not be able to support Deep Color, when such content hits on Blu-ray, etc.
- Physically large projector
- User memory positions use a soft save - make changes and the BenQ uses them as your new settings. Write down your post calibration settings, so you can go back to them, if you have changed them for a specific movie or show
BenQ W20000 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp Life (2000 hours at full power, 3000 in eco-mode (low lamp power)
- Overall image noise
- Overall color accuracy
- Audible noise levels, just a little noisier than average, but lower than most DLP home theater projectors
BenQ W20000 Projector: Competitive Aspects
With a whole new crop of 1080p projectors hitting the market over the next few weeks to three months, it doesn't make sense to do a lot of comparing with many projectors we've reviewed, that will be replaced over the next couple of months. Here's how the W20000 home theater projector stacks up against some of the tougher competition:
BenQ W20000 vs. InFocus IN83
The InFocus IN83 is the projector I have mentioned most in this review, as competition for the W20000. When we reviewed the IN83 a few months ago, I literally raved about its performance. The InFocus has a small advantage in brightness in best modes, and an even slighter one in brightest mode. In addition, the IN83's color accuracy is about as good as it gets. The difference is very slight in best mode, but a bit greater in brightest modes. Still the W20000 is more than acceptable at both.
The W20000, comes very close to the IN83 in black levels, and actually can match, and perhaps slightly beat the IN83 in this regard, when viewing very dark scenes with no really bright areas, thanks to the BenQ's dynamic iris.
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When it comes to shadow detail in dark areas, I haven't seen any projector yet (under $10,000) that can beat the W20000. It may well be the very best on the market in this regard.
While both projectors have 1.2:1 zoom lenses, the addition of vertical lens shift, makes the W20000 far more versatile in terms of placement in your room. The IN83 has more vertical offset, requiring it to be mounted above the top of the screen surface, which can be a real problem if you have low ceilings - 8 feet or under with a large screen (120" or larger), if you have a beam in your room that requires you to mount the projector lower to pass under the beam. If you have a 7 foot ceiling (basements, attic conversions), even a 100" diagonal screen is a challenge for the IN83.
The W20000 also has an extra year of warranty, and that first year replacement program.
Perhaps the best thing about the W20000 compared to the IN83, though, is that it sells for about $4000, which is $2000 less than the IN83. From an overall picture quality standpoint, the IN83, in my opinion, has the slight edge, but "slight" is the operative term. Most folks will be perfectly happy with the W20000, and not feel the need to spend the extra for the IN83. (Or perhaps they/you might put that $2000 to work in other ways, such as investing in a much better sound system.)
BenQ W20000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
The Epson is another favorite of mine, and I have rated it the best of the lower cost projectors. The big news with the Epson is that new models will hit in the Nov/Dec time frame, and Epson has lowered the price through a $300 rebate and a free, spare lamp, for a net value of around $2150. Thus, although "out of pocket", at the time of purchase is still about $2800, in reality, it's not much more than half the price of the BenQ W20000.
The Epson definitely does deeper black levels than the W20000, but as I've pointed out, the W20000 is pretty good in its own right. On the other hand, when it comes to shadow detail, the W20000 has a real advantage, the Epson is only good, while the BenQ is outstanding in this regard.
When it comes to warranties, the Home Cinema 1080 UB has only two years, vs. the W20000's three, but the Epson has two years of replacement program to the BenQ's one.
The W20000 is a bit more film-like, and definitely has the sharper, crisper image. Both are comparable in terms of color accuracy in best mode (the Epson may have a very slight advantage), but in brightest modes where both are about equally bright, the W20000 has the more accurate colors as the Epson is strong on yellows and green. I'd rather watch my football games on the W20000.
A big difference between the two, is in brightness in "best" modes, where the W20000 is roughly 50% (that's a good amount) brighter. That means you can go with a screen a couple of sizes larger. The Epson lacks the muscle to really do a good job on my 128" Firehawk G3, and with typical screens probably tops out at about 110" diagonal, while the W20000 has no problem filling all of the Firehawk's 128" diagonal screen.
The Epson wins the value proposition battle, its low pricing does provide roughly comparable bang, for a lot less bucks. Even with the Epson beating the W20000 handily in black levels, the W20000 has to be considered the better home theater projector overall.
Above, from the DVE-HD test disc! Can you say "rich, saturated colors"?
BenQ W20000 vs BenQ W5000
Well, as you would expect, the W20000 is better than the lower priced W5000. Primarily it's better at black levels, shadow detail, and a bit on brightness. It also has a longer warranty. The W5000 suffers from more image noise than most projectors, and it's definitely enough to bother some folks. Between the two, I favor the W20000, even considering the price difference.
BenQ W20000 vs. JVC DLA-RS1
A very interesting battle between these two (I own the JVC). The JVC RS1's black levels are outstanding, only beat by the RS2 (and, no doubt the just announced DLA-RS20). The difference is rather significant, and those who truly appreciate superb black levels will favor the RS1.
On the other hand, in terms of brightness, the two are about equal in best mode, but the W20000 has almost twice the lumens in brightest mode. From a color accuracy standpoint, I'd say the two are about equal, but different. If I had to pick one over the other in this regard, though, I'd favor the RS1.
The RS1 also wins the placement flexibility battle hands down, with a 2:1 zoom and both vertical and horizontal lens shift. In addition, the RS1's lens shift has more range, allowing a projector to be placed well above the top of your screen surface.
No doubt about it, the W20000 puts a sharper, crisper image on the screen.
The RS1 is no doubt the favored projector for the hard core enthusiast, but the typical buyer in this price range, is likely to favor the BenQ W20000 overall, if placement isn't an issue, mostly thanks to brightness, sharpness and shadow detail, not to mention the extra year of warranty.
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BenQ W20000 vs. Panasonic PT-AE2000U, with some thoughts on new PT-AE3000U
Once again, the W20000 has the advantage in sharpness of the image. In terms of color accuracy, post calibration I'd give the Panasonic the edge, and it has better color out of the box, as well.
Shadow detail is going to favor the BenQ, and the BenQ will also have the advantage in black levels. The PT-AE2000U has all that placement flexibility advantage typical of a 3LCD projector, but loses in the warranty game, with only a single year (promo's with a second year of warranty are typical for this Panasonic, but that still leaves it a year short).
The Panasonic is power everything, a plus, and has at least as good a set of color controls.
In my book, the Panasonic, which is currently about the same price as the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and far less money than the W20000, is not a match for the W20000. Other than placement flexibility, the W20000 has the Panasonic beat in almost every way. If you choose the W20000 over the PT-AE2000U, it's because you are willing to pay for better, brighter, sharper, and you will get a lot of each for the price difference. I'd say they are about equal in terms of the value proposition.
The W20000 is, overall, a real step up, and can justify the price difference.
That brings us to the just announced PT-AE3000U, which I've seen demo'd, but only at the CEDIA show in a pitch black room. The PT-AE3000U will be selling initially for right around $3000 or a little less (my best guess), and it does significantly improve on the PT-AE2000U in terms of black levels. I would guess that it is, in that regard, at least comparable to the W20000. The PT-AE3000U also uses frame interpolation (see article), to reduce motion blur, which was a real plus on demo content where motion blur is obvious. In the real world it's less of an issue. The BenQ will still have the sharpness advantage, and although we haven't got a PT-AE3000U to measure for brightness, considering it's only supposed to be slightly brighter than the PT-AE2000U, the BenQ will also easily win the brightness battle in best, and brightest modes.
BenQ W20000 vs. Optoma HD8000/HD80 and HD81-LV
I really don't think there's much contest between the W20000 and the HD8000 or its almost identical sibling, the HD80. Both are sharp, but I'll give the W20000 the advantage in color accuracy, black levels, shadow detail, brightness, placement flexibility, warranty... You get the picture. The HD8000 is about $1000 less, but the W20000 is the better value. Nothing else needs to be said.
The HD81-LV, on the other hand, is a very serious competitor. First of all, it's the brightest of all the sub-$10,000 home theater projectors we've reviewed, and still significantly brighter than the W20000 (by 40-50%). That's a really big plus for the large screen crowd, especially for those that face a significant amount of ambient light for HDTV and sports viewing.
While the HD81-LV does better than the lowe cost models in black levels, at best (it's been a long time), the HD81-LV is no better than the W20000. Shadow detail, color accuracy, and film-like qualities all favor the BenQ, although color accuracy is going to be more different, than better/worse. The HD81-LV has a slightly hard (less film-like) image than the W20000 projector. The HD81-LV also sells for more. No lens shift, and a lot of lens offset, put the projector well above the top of the screen surface (about 17 inches for a 100" screen), making it very limited for ceilings of 8 feet (ok for average screens, but not enough ceiling height for say, a 120" diagonal screen.
If you need the absolute maximum brightness, the HD81-LV is the way to go, otherwise I favor the BenQ W20000. Remember, it's no slouch either, when it comes to brightness.
Enough! Time to wrap this up. Look for my thoughts on the W20000 as it compares to some of the just announced projectors, in this section in those future reviews.
BenQ W20000 Home Theater Projector: Summary
The W20000 may not be the perfectionist's projector of choice, but its combination of overall very good performance and lots of lumens make it a better choice than some projectors that appeal to the "hard-core", for the average consumer, whose budget can handle the W20000 at its new lower $4000 selling price. Since the out of the box color is good, but not the best, you will want to get the W20000 calibrated. Whether you do it with a disc like AVIA, or DVE-HD, pay a professional to do it, or simply drop in the settings we came up with (remember color will vary slightly from unit to unit, due to the lamp, and lamp hours), from our calibration section, it will make a real difference!
Of the DLP projectors out there to choose from, the BenQ may well be the only high quality/high performance DLP home theater projector that many will be able to make work in their rooms. My main theater would be a good example. The W20000 will sit nicely on my shelf in the rear of my room (20 feet back), where my JVC RS1 currently sits. Other fine DLP projectors like the IN83 and Optoma HD81-LV, can't be shelf mounted, and would have to hang down almost 7 feet from my cathedral ceiling, several feet forward of my shelf (my original setup was done that way, and my wife hated it).
I still am most impressed with the exceptional shadow detail, the black levels are very good, and the image is always sharp!
Image above from Space Cowboys, with a normal exposure. Below, the same image, a bit overexposed to show you the shadow detail my dSLR just can't dig out, at a normal exposure. Most impressive! This will become a standard image in future reviews:
BenQ W20000 Projector: Bottom Line
The BenQ W20000 1080p, home theater projector is a very good one, and a very good value for its current $4000 street price. It has a number of strengths, and not one really significant weakness to spoil your viewing pleasure. While it can be beat in a number of areas (notably black level performance), it's never merely average.
The combination of everything, especially shadow detail, sharpness, and brightness, combine to make it an excellent choice for many. I should also mention that many enthusiasts prefer DLP projectors for their more film-like (a generalization) qualities.
My biggest concern regarding the W20000, before it arrived, was how it would compete against the InFocus IN83. Considering that with the new price point of $4000, that the BenQ is now $2000 less than the IN83, that's no longer an issue. Those with the bucks can always find something better, by throwing more money at it, but as good as the IN83 is, many will not be able to justify the cost differential!
All of this means BenQ's got another good projector solution, priced right, and well balanced performance. This is a home theater projector you can really appreciate.
And, for all of the good reasons above, we are pleased to give the BenQ W20000 home theater projector our Hot Product Award. With many projectors, that decision is a close one. With the BenQ W20000, it wasn't difficult at all!