BenQ W6000 Projector - Image Quality
The BenQ W6000 photos below are from either Blu-ray or HDTV, with the one exception being Lord of the Rings (on standard DVD). Please note, by the time these BenQ W6000 projector images get to your eyeball, through digital SLR, software, browsers, and even your monitor, there are definite color shifts, saturation differences, etc. The images are to support the commentary, but keep in mind the limitations when trying to compare images from the BenQ W6000 with other home theater projectors. Take them all, "with a grain of salt".
Of course, all these home theater projectors, including the BenQ W6000, definitely look much better live, than in even the best images shown in our review.
9/21/2009 - Art Feierman
BenQ W6000 Out of the Box Picture Quality
Pretty good, the BenQ W6000 projector, right out of the box is very watchable, perhaps a touch thin on green, if you have Brilliant Color turned off.
Brilliant Color turned on, though is another matter. With it on, color temp is well off the mark, and very strong on reds, and still thin on greens. No matter, it's very fixable. This is a projector that takes extremely well to a calibration (it's ISF certified, in case I haven't mentioned that previously.)
Out of the box, the W6000 does crush the dark shadow detail, which is fixable with a slight increase in the brightness setting (covered later).
Check out our recommended settings for items like Brightness, Color, etc. on the Calibration page of this review.
BenQ W6000 Projector - Flesh Tones
I slightly preferred the skin tones, post calibration, with Brilliant Color off. Overall skin tones really were impressive. Rich without being over the top, and very natural looking. With Brilliant Color on, the skin tone color wasn't quite as right, but minor tweaking can probably solve that problem. Brilliant Color gives the image some more kick, and with it just a tad less natural looking skin tones, perhaps due to the slightly more dynamic look. Certainly, skin tones look great in the W6000 images below, better than from most photo shoots.
Above and below are images from the standard DVD release of Lord of the Rings, and skin tones of both Gandalf and Arwen appear very natural.
Moving to movies on Blu-ray, below are three images of Daniel Craig, as Bond, in Casino Royale. These were taken under different lighting conditions (on the set, not my theater). As I always point out, skin tones should look different under different lighting conditions. You can expect significantly different looking skin tones, when switching from bright sunlight, to nighttime, fluorescent lighting, incandescent lighting, or even lighting in the shade, or a cloudy day. Consider these three images, the first, in direct sunlight, the second is a scene with fluorescent lighting, and the third, a sunny day, but Bond is sitting in the shade - indirect lighting.
Below are a number of additional images we typically use in reviews, that should give you a good feel for overall skin tone handling.
I particularly like the second image (usually a tough one because the background is so bright), and the night shot of Aeon, right below it.
Three from Aeon Flux:
From The Dark Knight:
Men In Black:
From the DVE-HD calibration disc (digital source material, not film):
and finally one from Quantum of Solace (Bond):
BenQ W6000 Black Levels & Shadow Detail
The W6000 projector's black levels are pretty good, enough to meet my definition of "ultra-high contrast" projector. Not the best in class, but definitely much better at blacks than those projectors I don't consider to be ultra high contrast projectors (most are under $2500 many under $2000.). Due to a lot of range in BenQ's iris, there are some scenes where the iris really can stop way down, and match the best in class (let's say the Epson 6500UB), but on a mix of dark scenes, the BenQ's blacks are not as dark as two or three of the best under $3500 projectors.
Perhaps more significant that slight differences in black levels, in this case, is the visibility of dynamic irises. Some are fast, some are slow, some are obvious a lot of the time, some are rarely visible. In BenQ's case, there are some instances where the BenQ's iris action is more noticeable than some other projectors. In other scenes and transitions, it is just as good as those same other projectors.
11/25/2009 update to the Dynamic iris performance will be found further down in this section on the Iris. (It will be in bold italics.) I had suggested to BenQ, when I first reviewed the W6000, that they needed to improve the iris, and it's nice to know they took me seriously.
It is time to discuss the BenQ's dynamic iris (DI). From extensive viewing, the BenQ DI is not one of the smoother out there on today's projectors. True, it's better than some, but more than a few people will not be satisfied with the iris's action on some types of dark scenes.
For those of you not that familiar with my reviews, this is the type of detail that gets a lot of attention. I don't want to scare folks off. No projector with a dynamic iris is invisible in operation, all the time, and there are other issues (compression), that affect all projectors with dynamic irises. For those really wanting to explore all the trade-offs, this dynamic iris is a real factor, when it comes to determining how REALLY good the W6000 really is, compared to the competition, but it's just one item, and the iris performance certainly is not a disqualifier for most people.
Let me put it this way. The W6000 is brand new. I'd like to see a firmware improvement, in the form of an update, but it's still a pretty great projector as it is. The visibility of the dynamic iris snapping open, to let in more light, or closing down quickly when a scene slowly lightens or darkens, is the only real issue I've found with this projector.
Understand, you aren't going to see this all the time, I was casually watching about half of one movie before, all of a sudden, the iris action jumped out at me. At other times I spot it frequently in certain types of scenes. Either way, I'm not hunting for it, I'm just watching a movie. All projectors with dynamic irises have some issue. With the BenQ I'm making a particularly big thing about it, because I really couldn't find much else to complain about. (Ok black levels could also be improved, of course.)
I've been discussing with BenQ management, and they are discussing with the engineers in Taiwan. I have suggested they figure out how to smooth out the action with a firmware upgrade. If they do, they definitely have one of the premier projectors under $3500. If they go with the existing dynamic iris function, it will turn off a number of serious buyers, but most won't minde. Of course you can always turn it off, but I've also watched the W6000 doing just that, and the black levels are no match (as expected) for having it on. Further, at the W6000's price point, its blacks (with DI off) are not a match for the competition.
I've observed a lot of the same scenes with the BenQ and Epson side-by-side, and also side-by-sides with the BenQ vs. Sony. No doubt about it, both the Sony and Epson have much smoother iris action. In very dark scenes where the BenQ's iris tends to blatantly snap open, the other two projectors handle those scenes just fine by comparison, with the iris action barely detectable. The BenQ as noted isn't the worst out there, but everything else about this projector seems to be first class.
Here's how I can best describe what I'm seeing and objecting to. In the movie Hunt for Red October (I love that flick), there are pretty dark scenes where the sub (or subs) are sort of drifting or moving around slowly. In one case, part of the hull is almost a low medium brightness, and brighter than anything else on the screen. As that part of the sub is slowly moving closer to the camera - taking up more area, bang, all of a sudden, after maybe 5 or 6 seconds, the iris opens significantly, in a snap. You cant miss it if your eyes are open. It's as if, because of the very slow change in light level of the scene, the iris circuitry isn't willing to commit, until it realizes how much the scene has changed, and thinks "gotta catch up" and fixes things in one tiny fraction of a second. The other projectors seem to handle the same scene with apparently a number of smaller steps, but perhaps also longer ones so it almost seems to be slow steady change in the iris aperture, instead of all at once.
Update 11/25/2009: On those same submarine underwater scenes, and others where the change is slow and slight, the new BenQ firmware no longer waits and jumps as reported above. Rather, it's much smoother now. Every scene in Red October, Space Cowboys and those in Star Trek (Search for Spock), where the iris action annoyed me before, are now perfectly fine! I am very satisfied with the firmware upgrade, and that eliminates what has been, by far, my single largest performance complaint. -art
Upon close inspection the Epson and Sony iris action are also quite visible, it's just that they rarely make their action blatant, when you are just watching the content, not the projector. The BenQ's most noticeable is during a scene, while the Epson and Sony iris's are most likely visible right after scene changes. While I haven't done side by sides with the updated BenQ vs. these other projectors, I do believe that the BenQ's dynamic iris action is, overall, comparable to these others at this time.
Back to original review content: I don't recall the older BenQ's having quite so much an issue, so perhaps their new iris setup is trying to cover too much range. I think we are seeing that as a trend. The forthcoming new Epson Home Cinema 8100 claims a doubling of contrast from 18,000:1, to 36,000:1, and they are primarily attributing it to a new iris. I expect that the announced Mitsubishi HC6800, which exactly doubles the contrast of its predecessor (to 30,000:1), is also getting their better contrast with an improved iris that can close down further. It will be interesting to see if those, and other new projectors, will have more visible iris action than the models they replace.
I need to point this out - a doubling of contrast should provide a small, but recognizable improvement in black levels. Thus, you should see about the same improvement going from 2500:1 to 5000:1, as from 30,000:1 to 60,000:1.
To illustrate my point about an iris having more range, here are two pairs of images. Both are overexposed somewhat, so you can see the "blacks". Both are taken with different exposures to better illustrate my point. The first is just a black frame, from between scenes, and the second, seconds later, of bright white text on the black background.
The Epson projector is on the left, BenQ on the right. Allowing the irises to close down to maximum, note that the blacks on the Epson are much brighter. Add some brightness, and now the Epson has the blacker blacks. Relatively the Epson hasn't varied the light through the iris very much, compared to the BenQ where it's almost a night and day difference:
It certainly demonstrates how different two iris design can be.
Immediately below, from Space Cowboys, and directly below it, the same image overexposed so you can see the blacks as dark grays, and see how overexposed the satellite is. If another projector, with the same black level has a much more overexposed satellite, then that other projector has the better black levels:
Immediately below, is a side-by-side image of the same satellite. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB (the reigning under $3000 black level champ) on the left, and the BenQ W6000 on the right (you can, of course, click to enlarge). The Epson was not in its "best" movie mode (because the BenQ is much brighter in "best" movie modes), which has some impact. As it turns out, in this photo, the Epson projector is a bit brighter. When you look at black levels though, and compensate for that brightness difference, you realize that the BenQ is close to the Epson. As noted elsewhere, it just depends on the scene, as the two manufacturer irises work a bit differently.
For general black level performance examples we'll start with my favorite, the Starship image found The Fifth Element. The first is our Sony VPL-HW15. Immediately below it, is the Optoma HD8200, . Unfortunately, brightness varies even more (than with the side by side images) on these photos, making accurate comparisons of black levels a little difficult.
And below is the Panasonic PT-AE3000:
Next is the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB:
Finally, here's the BenQ W5000 (it's an old image and, unforutnately, much darker than the others, so reveals less stars, etc):
Consider two additional (digital) images which are good ones for observing black levels.
The image immediately below is from The Dark Knight. I've intentionally overexposed it to make a point. This is the type of scene where the difference in black level performance makes a huge difference. Because the outside areas of the scene, and for that matter the men's jackets are pretty black, with little detail at all, projectors with just "good" black levels look very flat. Immediately below, is the same scene using the Sony VPL-VW15, which is definitely a direct competitor. Below that one, is a side by side with the Sony on the left, and Epson 6500UB (another direct competitor, although it will soon be replaced by the 8500UB) on the right. Due to the much higher brightness of the BenQ, it wasn't practical to do any side-by-sie comparisons with this scene.
The dynamic iris, with almost all projectors (JVC excepted, as they manage great black levels without a dynamic iris), of course, is a key to excellent black levels. I figure this is as good a time to comment on the iris's impact on viewing. Below are two images from the beginning of one of the Star Trek movies (The Wrath of Kahn) shot at the exact same exposure! Notice how much brighter the background is on the first image, as the iris is forced to open for the bright credit. (Both images are intentionally overexposed.) A few frames before, without the credit, the scene is just stars, and the iris closes down a good amount. You must concede, the difference is significant. Of course, when you have bright areas on an image, you are a little less likely to notice the blacks, but in a case like this, you can easily notice the difference as the iris opens and closes each time a credit appears over the star field.
Shadow Detail Performance
Shadow detail of the W6000 is really very good. I compared against the Epson 6500UB and the Sony VPL-HW15 side by side. The BenQ easily offered a bit more dark shadow detail than the Epson, which isn't surprising, since we've reported that the Epson is a little weaker in that area, than other good projectors. (Epson combines really excellent black levels with "not quite as good as the competition" shadow detail). Side by side, the W6000 had the slightest adantage over the Sony projector as well, but you really had to be studying the projected images to be certain of that, and probably the slightest change to the the Brightness setting might reverse that difference. That said, I will "officially" give the BenQ, that tiny advantage over the Sony.
From LOTR - Lord of the Rings: Left W6000: , Middle: Sharp XV-Z15000, Right: VPL-HW15:
Here's a side-by-side dark scene from The Space Cowboys with the The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB on the left, BenQ W6000 on the right (the Epson you will note, is a again brighter on this photo, the result of the different iris actions, and having to use a mid-brightness mode with the Epson so that the BenQ doesn't appear drastically brighter, and make the comparison useless):
The next set of comparison images, continues with a shot of Clint Eastwood from Space Cowboys. This is a very dark scene with Clint Eastwood, on Blu-ray disc. The photos are intentionally way overexposed. Look for the blacks in the shades, and the details in those shades in the form of the white trim. (At this level of overexposure, don't even worry about the skin tones, as in these type of photos they always look terrible, and way oversaturated/too high contrast).
First image is the BenQ W6000 followed by the VPL-HW15, next are: Sharp XV-Z15000, Optoma HD8200, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, the older Sony VPL-HW10, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
The VPL-HW15 does extremely well in shadow detail on our Clint Eastwood dark scene from Space Cowboys:
The following images are both the same frame, from Space Cowboys. The first one is slightly overexposed, and the second one, dramatically so. Look in the brown area of the satellite on the left (and elsewhere). The VPL-HW15 does a very good job. The third image is the same from on the Sony VPL-HW15.
Note in the images above - W6000 vs. HW15, it appears (look to the brightest parts of the satellite, or the pause button in the lower left) that the Sony a touch more overexposed, yet the blacks are a touch better on the BenQ.
Below is a heavily overexposed scene from Lord of the Rings. The overexposure lets you see all the details in the shed on the right, the structure on the left, and the plants and ground along the lower right. The VPL-HW15U performs very nicely.
Click on left thumbnail image for the BenQ W6000, Sony VPL-HW15 in the center, and the right for the Panasonic PT-AE3000U.
Our last comparison uses the night train scene from Casino Royale. Look to the trees and shrubs on the right, especially just above the tracks. The first image is the BenQ W6000, then the Sony VPL-HW15, followed by the Sharp XV-Z15000, fourth is the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, and the last one is from the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
(Please note, the Panasonic image above is a little blurry, must have bumped the tripod. Sorry! That shouldn't affect your ability to see the shadow details. -art)
BenQ W6000 - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Here's the "crew" image from Space Cowboys - first one is the BenQ, then the Sony:
A mix of additional images to show off the BenQ W6000:
From the DVE-HD test disc:
And here are a few assorted, additional images, some of which can be found on other recent reviews:
BenQ W6000 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
The BenQ W6000 should be very attractive to HD sports fanatics like myself. The combination of an extremely sharp image and lots of lumens, is tough to beat. The only downside comes from the absolute brightest mode, which has the color temp set for Native Lamp, which doesn't have full color controls. With that setup, the W6000 is really strong on greens (and a bit on yellow) so it cranks out the lumens, but leaves a fair amount to be desired from a color accuracy standpoint.
In this regard, it's much like the Epson 6500UB, although with the Epson which also puts out around 1800 lumens at its brightest (mid-zoom on the lens), can get to good color and still have about 1500 lumens. So far, my best attempt at bright and very good color (taming those greens and yellows a bit), is coming up around 1250 lumens.
The thing is, the BenQ can do pretty great color at over 1000 lumens, besting the Epson. I've mostly watched the BenQ W6000 in Standard mode, with Normal color temp, and contrast up a bit. That's giving me that about 1250 lumens, and it really is a great picture for football.
Other HDTV looks equally well, and remember, your "best mode" with Brilliant Color on (I prefer it off, personally), still does about 1050 lumens, so it's bright compared to most other projectors, allowing you to enjoy your HDTV, with lots of lumens, yet the same accurate color of a "best" movie mode.
To the right, a shot of the room lighting when these images were taken. One door's window is open about 20 inches, with sunlight pouring in. In addition, I've got 4 recessed in ceiling halogens on, near full brightness.
Like long time ago, when I owned BenQ 720p projectors, the W6000 really does great on sports. And, as an added bonus, it's even brighter than my old BenQs.
BenQ W6000 Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
No complaint here, at all. The sharpness and power make it an excellent choice for those that want their HDTV, at least some times, with its fair amount of ambient light present. While the absolute brightest doesn't have great color, it will work in a pinch if your lighting is really a problem. It might have been nice if the W6000 had some creative frame interpolation for sports viewing, but, hey, CFI is still pretty new, and will likely get a lot better before everyone starts screaming that they can't live without it (for sports).