Home Theater Projectors: Review of the BenQ W5000 DLP Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
Update 6-30-11: We recently reviewed the BenQ W6000, the replacement of the W5000. Click here to read the projector review of the new BenQ projector.
Very sharp image, very good out of the box color accuracy, and excellent shadow detail and the combination of "film-like quality, crossed with lots of depth, combine with adjustable lens shift (not common on DLP projectors), to create a really good value proposition. When all is considered together, they earn the BenQ W5000 home theater projector our Hot Product Award.
From a competitive standpoint, the W5000, which seems to sell for around $3000, has only a couple of serious rivals. Those rivals are the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and the Sony VW40. Each really does have some strengths and weaknesses compared to the others, so there is no one projector that is dramatically better than the other two. That said, I give the BenQ the overall advantage compared to more than a half dozen other 1080p projectors I've reviewed, including all the other DLP projectors.
I'm going to be very brief, in discussing the W5000 compared to the Epson, and the Sony. After all, approximately 2 weeks from this being published, I will publish the full 2008 1080p Home Theater Projector Comparison Report. (How's that for a long name?).
BenQ W5000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
The BenQ definitely has the advantage in brightness in best mode (even with Brilliant Color off). Actually turning Brilliant Color on, to me means the projector is no longer in its very "best" mode. The BenQ also has a very slight advantage in dark shadow details. With both running with lamps on brightest, the BenQ is also the quieter of the two. Lastly, I find the BenQ to appear slightly sharper than the Epson, but the difference is very small. The W5000 supports an optional 3rd party anamorphic lens for true 2.35:1 aspect ratio (no letter box), which the Epson does not, without an expensive outboard processor.
On the other hand, the Epson easily produces blacker blacks, better than any projector I have tested short of the JVC RS1 and RS2, both significantly more expensive. This really can make a difference on certain dark scenes, where the Epson I clearly favored, even if a tiny amount more shadow detail is lost by it. The Epson supports HDMI 1.3 and Deep Color, while the W5000 only supports HDMI 1.2.1, and therefore no Deep Color.
The Epson has three other big advantages. If you really need the lumens for dealing with ambient light, the BenQ with Brilliant Color on, musters up in brightest mode, about 1270 lumens, while the Epson can crank out over 1800, and when tuned off, still over 1500, which produces a superior image to the BenQ at 300 lumens less. Next, the Epson has more placement flexibility, by virtue of a 2.1:1 zoom instead of 1.2:1, and more lens shift as well. In fairness, though, a good number of people will be able to shelf mount the W5000 if desired in their rooms, while the Epson should be able to shelf mount in just about everyone's room. (Shelf mounting traditionally is easier, and less expensive, with less wiring, than ceiling mounting.) Lastly, there's Epson's 2 year warranty with overnight replacement both years, vs. the BenQ's basic 1 year warranty.
I'm torn between these two. The Sony VW40, once again, has the placement flexibility, but in this case, the BenQ is both brighter in best mode, and in brightest, although not by really dramatic amounts. The Sony we reviewed had a problem with evenness of the background, with blue hotspots in two corners. We are awaiting a replacement for testing. This makes it hard to pick the black level winner, but it's going to be close to a tie, either way. The Epson easily has them both beat, even as these two have advantages over the rest of the competition.
Both BenQ and Sony are very sharp, although on some scenes I think the BenQ is sharper, on others the same, and still others favor the Sony. This leads me to think that one or both, are using some sharpening algorithms, which means that they are more effective on some scenes than others. If you aren't into calibrating projectors, the BenQ has the distinct advantage. Both also perform very well in terms of shadow detail. One area where the Sony has a real advantage is in image noise, perhaps the W5000's biggest weakness. I pretty much consider these two about a tie, with people choosing one over the other, based on their rooms, type of content they view, placement flexibility and other preferences. Note, the BenQ W5000 only supports HDMI 1.2.1, which means no support for Deep Color. By comparison, the Sony VW40 supports HDMI 1.3, but for some reason still doesn't support Deep Color, so, effectively, there is little difference, in that regard.
Time to summarize the strengths and weaknesses of the BenQ W5000 1080p DLP projector.
BenQ W5000 projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
BenQ W5000 Projector: Pros
- Very sharp image
- Very good out-of-the-box color accuracy in Cinema mode (better than most)
- Brighter than most, in best mode
- Brighter than most, in brightest mode
- Excellent shadow detail
- Very good black levels
- Fairly quiet
- Image has good depth
- Support for 1080p/24fps
- 3 User savable color modes, and 3 user savable color temperature modes
- ISF Certified, with ISF Day and ISF Night modes for programming by a calibrator
- Sealed light path (keeps dust from marring the image)
- Lens shift (rare on affordable DLP projectors)
- 12 volt screen trigger
- Support for 3rd party anamorphic lens for Cinemascope movies (most) with no letter boxing (you need the lens, motorized sled, and a 2.35:1 screen)
- Good remote with bright backlight, well spaced buttons, and good range
- Overall, excellent price/performance value
BenQ W5000 Projector: Cons
- Image noise is significantly worse than most other competing projectors
- Limited range on the zoom lens, hinders placement flexibility
- A rather large projector, but that won't bother most folks
- Only 2 HDMI inputs (I still think 3 should be standard, even though it is uncommon), Unfortunately, the W5000 only supports the older HDMI 1.2.1 protocol, not the newer HDMI 1.3 (which supports Deep Color)
- Brilliant Color On, can be a little "over the top", too much for some content. BenQ needs to add one or two additional Brilliant Color levels, that are less dramatic than the one provided.
BenQ W5000 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Documentation - not bad, but more explanation of many options would be a real improvement
- Average lamp life (2000 hours in full power, 3000 hours in low lamp mode)
- Typical control panel on the unit, with all the usual amenities
- The number and types of inputs
BenQ W5000 Summary: The Bottom Line
If you favor DLP projectors in general for their depth and film-like qualities, then the BenQ has to be at the top of your shopping list, if your budget is around $3000 or less.
The only significant flaw seems to be the amount of image noise. I'm still working with BenQ to find out if there is a solution, since the controls are grayed out when feeding hi-def sources.
Like the Epson, the BenQ has much to offer. They are the two, that if I had to give up my JVC, and spend around $3000, would be the ones I would really consider. Let me put it this way, I watched the Epson extensively for a month, it seems, and only occasionally used my JVC. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The same is true of the BenQ W5000. Those are the only two less expensive projectors that I would pick as a temporary replacement for my RS1, as both have a different flavor to their images than my RS1. The BenQ has definite strengths, especially sharpness, that, at least in part, offset the JVC's unbeatable black level performance.
The BenQ W5000 is, but for the image noise issue, a projector that certainly "coulda been a contender", for best $3000ish projector. Even so, it is a serious competitor, with few equals at that price.