BenQ W500 Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
9-11-2007 - Art Feierman
BenQ W500 Projector Highlights:
- Good "out of the box" image quality, requiring minor adjustment, but problems with red shift in dark areas
- Very good brightness in "best" (Cinema) mode
- Good black levels, dynamic iris provides significant improvement
- Offers vertical and horizontal lens shift for placement flexibility
- Uses HQV (Hollywood Quality Video) circuitry for rich color handling
- Shadow detail is very limited
- Color uneven across image
- Good color management system
- MAP (minimum advertised price) of $999
Update: 10/5/07: We requested a 2nd W500 projector, based on some concerns. The initial W500 provided had a strong shift to red in the lower IRE ranges (darkest areas), and "crushed" a goody amount of very dark shadow detail. (It still looked pretty good, don't let me scare you). A second projector arrived. The red problem was no longer there, or rather, I should say, is the more usual slight shift, but this W500 is still crushing the darkest shadow detail. Is that important to you? I've added a paragraph on it on the summary page that should answer that question. -art
Of late, the entry level (MAP price under $1000) 720p front projector market seems to be dominated by Optoma's and Mitsubishi's DLP home theater projectors, so I was pleased to take a close look at the BenQ W500, a third low cost home theater projector (this one uses 3LCD technology, for buyers to choose from. I was shocked to learn that the W500 is an LCD projector. It should be noted, that this is BenQ's first LCD home theater projector, from a company that has always offered only DLP technology until this time.
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The biggest single difference (besides the technology inside), between the BenQ W500, and the Mitsubishi HC1500, and Optoma HD70, is BenQ's adjustable vertical and horizontal lens shift, which allows the projector to be placed vertically, anywhere from 55% (of screen height) above, to 55% below, the center of the screen. The other two competitors offer fixed lens shift, with a large offset, so they need to be positioned either above the top of the screen, or below the bottom. This gives the BenQ an advantage in flexibility, especially for shelf mounting. Also, the large lens offset of the other two, tend to be a serious problem for those wanting to ceiling mount in a room with low ceilings - rooms with less than 8 feet from floor to ceiling.
BenQ W500 Projector: Basic Specs
MSRP: $1499 MAP (Minimum Advertised Price): $999
Technology: 3LCD front projector
Native Resolution: 720p (1280x720)
Brightness: 1100 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.2:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 2000 hours full power, 3000 lumens eco-mode
Weight: 8.6 lbs.
Warranty: 1 year Parts and Labor
Full specifiactions, and brochure click: W500
BenQ W500 Home Theater Projector: Physical Tour
Let's start, facing the front of the W500 projector. The zoom lens is recessed (except for the trim ring), and mounted to the right of center. It offers a 1.2:1 zoom ratio, which is fairly limited, but typical of projectors priced around $1000. If you need more zoom range, you need to look to more expensive models such as the Panasonic PT-AX100U, and the Sanyo PLV-Z5 home theater projectors.
To give you an idea of placement range, for a 100" diagonal, 16:9 screen, the front of the lens can be as close as 10 feet, 10 inches, and as far back as 13 feet one inch, which is similar to competing projectors.
In the center of the front of the W500 projector, is the front infra-red sensor for the remote control. On the other side of the lens is a joystick for adjusting the vertical and horizontal lens shift. As is typical, you get the maximum adjustment range for vertical lens shift, if you do not use any horizontal lens shift.
On the front bottom, (left and right sides) are the two, screw thread adjustable, front feet.
Moving to the top, is the control panel shown here. The power switch is located to the left of the main panel. To it's right is a centered, Enter button, surrounded by four arrow keys for navigation, and four additional "L" shaped buttons. The front left button engages the Menu, and the top right button is Exit, and moves you back, up, one level in the menus. The back left "L" shaped button, is labeled Mode, and let's you select from preset modes, including Cinema, Dynamic and Standard. The back right button is labeled Source, and lets you choose from the various inputs.
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Moving to the back input panel, from left to right: First is the rear infra-red sensor for the remote, then a USB port. The single HDMI input is next, followed by a standard HD15 connector for the traditional analog computer input. Further to the right (one above the other), are two component video inputs. (We would have preferred to see two HDMI's and one component, but we can hardly complain.) Then come the two "lower resolution" video inputs - composite (NTSC/PAL/SECAM), and S-Video. Lastly, and furthest to the right, is a 12 volt trigger for controlling properly equipped, motorized screens. Below all this is the AC power recepticle, and a Kennsington lock slot.
The W500 does not vent hot air out the back, so the projector is suitable for shelf mounting, if that works best in your room. As is typical of 3LCD projectors, the BenQ does have a filter to clean/replace. It is housed on the bottom of the projector, along with the lamp door (for replacing the lamp), and a fixed, rear foot, to complement the two adjustable front feet, and provide a solid 3 point stance for those placing the W500 home theater projector on a table.
On the downside, if you ceiling mount, you will need to unmount the projector to change the lamp, however, the filter slides out to the front, and can be removed without unmounting the projector (at least, with most mounts).
That concludes our physical tour of the W500. The remote control (along with the menu options) will be addressed in the General Performance section.
Time to consider how well BenQ's newest home theater projector performs, in terms of image quality, our next section.