Four Home Theater Projector Comparison

Tough call between these two.  Pricing is similar.  The Sony VPL-HW40ES is $2499 less any promotions, and the online price of the BenQ W7500 is about the same or $100 higher at this time.  The BenQ comes with one pair of 3D glasses, the Sony with none. Both have 3 year parts and labor warranties without replacement programs.

The Sony VPL-HW40ES is an LCoS projector with three panels, vs. the W7500 which is a single chip DLP projector.  Both are very similarly equipped.  The BenQ has a 1.5:1 zoom lens, and lens shift while the BenQ W7500 has slightly more zoom range at 1.6:1, but also has slightly less lens shift range.  Call it a tie, but what matters is will it place the way you want it in your room.  For a 100” screen size, for example, the Sony can be placed about 8 inches higher up above the screen than the BenQ, which would tend to be an esthetic advantage if you have higher than usual ceilings.

Speaking of esthetics, the Sony is relatively sleek looking, controls are hidden, case has smooth curves.  The BenQ takes a different approach with its bright, large silver lens hood, it shouts “high tech, look at me!”

Brightness

Now to more serious matters.  Brightness first.  For once, in one of these six head to head comparisons, I can deal quickly with Brightness.

These are the two brightest projectors calibrated, and both are only slightly brighter in their brightest un-calibrated modes.

The Sony measures in calibrated right around 1500 lumens at mid point on the zoom while the BenQ is 250 lumens brighter, which is only about 16% more. For those of you already owning a projector, the difference in most projectors between full power an eco mode is usually 25-35%, so the brightness difference is going to be about half of that, which is to say: “Subtle!”

NOTE: In the image on the right, the BenQ image is on the left, and the Sony is on the right.

Click Image to Enlarge

At maximum lumens, the two projectors differ a bit more.  The BenQ definitely extends it’s advantage, but the color of the BenQ, full out, is no match for the Sony, who’s color is pretty good, without the heavy green that afflicts the BenQ (and most other projectors in their Dynamic modes).  With the Sony, there’s only about another 220 lumens under the hood if you go to Game which is the brightest Mike measured.

It should be noted that when comparing the calibrated modes shown in the video clip, that the BenQ does seem to benefit some extra at brightness because of the different gammas.  The measured gamma of the BenQ is 2.15, compared to 2.30 for the Sony.  That means that all the content except for that closest to brightest and to darkest, gets a boost, making mid-tones, such as the secretary’s face looking  lighter than on the Sony.  In fairness, I probably should have used Sony’s 2.2 gamma setting, which measured 2.1, which would have reversed the effect.

With the BenQ, Mike looked at improving Dynamic which measures 2200 lumens at mid-zoom vs. the Sony’s 1720.  Mike looked into improving Dynamic with a “quick-cal”, but reported that by the time he knocked down green enough to have some respectable (but not calibrated) color, it was barely 200 lumens brighter than calibrated.  So, unless you need every last lumen to fight ambient light, and willing to tolerate some heavy green color, both projectors again stay within 250 lumens of each other.  Score one very small point for the BenQ for being the slightly brighter of the two, but from a practical standpoint, these two are about as close to tie when considering brightness, as comparisons tend to get.

Black Level Performance

Black level performance – my favorite thing – when compared, was very interesting.

The BenQ W7500 has a dynamic iris (which like the Epson projector can softly rumble a bit), while the Sony has none.  (Sony’s more expensive HW55ES has a dynamic iris).

Since a dynamic iris lowers the entire picture in terms of brightness, for comparing black levels I tried to balance the image brightness with a dim scene (starship).  That makes the BenQ a bit brighter on bright scenes, as its iris opens up.

These two are close.  In our starship image comparison from The Fifth element they look very close to being equal – I’ll call them a tie.  But when viewing the Bond night train scene, which is darker overall, the BenQ picks up an advantage, as you can see in these still comparison images.

On brighter scenes, the blacks are likely a touch blacker on the Sony, since the BenQ iris would be wide open. But we consider black level performance on bright scenes less critical than on dark ones.  Bottom line on black level performance – they are close, but the Sony can’t do quite as well as the BenQ on the darkest of scenes, where there’s the most benefit.

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