Four Home Theater Projector Comparison

These are two of my favorite projectors, in the price range.  They are similar in a number ways, But there are also some significant differences. Pricewise they are similar the absent and the BenQ street price at this time are selling for just about the same amount.  Street price today seems to be $2499 for the Epson (with 2 pair of 3D glasses) vs. $2599 for the BenQ (with one pair of 3D glasses).  That’s pretty close, and those are approximates, as of today – your mileage may vary!

Below you’ll find a video clip with my thoughts as I shot the side by side images, and some comparative side by side images as well

In addition, our subscribers will have access to three additional video clips with comments, and some additional stills.

3D

Since I just mentioned 3D glasses, let’s start with 3D.  I should note that the Epson glasses are RF (radio frequency), while the BenQ glasses are DLP-Link.  (DLP-Link encodes the sync into the video itself).  We do favor RF technology for several reasons which we will not get into at this time.

Watch the comparison!

In this video, we compare black level performance between the Epson and Sony using our Starship image from The Fifth Element.

For our subscribers only: Click here to view four more videos exclusively for you, which compare shadow detail, black levels, how calibration impacts brightness and color, and detail enhancement solutions.

Brightness and Color

NOTE: In the above images, the Epson image comes first, followed by the BenQ.

Let’s look at some key differences starting with brightness. BenQ is a light canon. We calibrated the projector with Brilliant Color turned on. Now Brilliant Color can have its own issues (on some projectors high BC settings can be “over the top”), but per Mike our calibrator, the BenQ with BC on offered the best color space, etc.  The BenQ measured 1749 lm calibrated! With the Epson projector, We calibrated a “best mode”, THX. That calibrated out to approximately 720 lm.   In both cases the lens was midpoint on the zoom.

The thing to note is this: Epson uses a color filter when in best modes (as does the Panasonic PT-AE8000U, another 3LCD projector). In a brighter mode such as Living Room, the filter is not used, but the image is typically 2x to 3x as bright.   Living room mode will not calibrate quite as well as THX mode, but still will look pretty darn good!  The point is: The Epson’s calibration is more accurate then the BenQ’s when comparing the BenQ to Epson’s THX mode.

Living room mode, by comparison, calibrated, isn’t quite as precisely accurate as the BenQ.  Note though, that a calibrated Living Room mode will only deliver about 1300+ lumens, still below the BenQ’s 1750.  In other words, if you need the best possible picture from a color accuracy standpoint, that would be the Epson in calibrated “best” mode. But if you need a lot of brightness, calibrated, the BenQ has the slight advantage in both color accuracy and brightness, over an Epson with a calibrated Living Room mode.  Got it?

OK, with that aspect out of the way, the next brightness question is how bright, when you need every last lumen.  These two projectors are very close.  At full wide angle on their zoom lenses, BenQ’s brightest measures 2340 lumens!  The picture is heavy green oriented as are many projector’s Dynamic modes.  The Epson manages 2423 lumens.  Folks that difference of 83 lumens is too slight to notice, in fact it’s within the margin of error.  Both are strong on greens, in their Dynamic modes. he BenQ is more so, but not by a great amount.  Untouched Dynamic modes – Use only when needed.  Mike did provide settings for an improved Dynamic for the Epson, but doing the same for the BenQ wasn’t going to be noticeably brighter than calibrated so not worth the effort.  And that “quick-cal” of Epson’s dynamic, at just over 1600 lumens, is still a touch short of the BenQ fully calibrated “best mode.”

At the end of all things brightness (except 3D), the BenQ does have either some advantages, or it’s a tie (pure brightest mode).  Both have tons!  (of brightness)

When it comes to color handling, the Epson 5030UB calibrates about as well as any projector we’ve reviewed, and I’m not just talking around this price point. The end result is great skin tones, very accurate colors… The BenQ does very well, but not as accurate, but it does have that rich DLP look and feel on dark scenes that many appreciate.

So, you’ll get some pretty excellent color from either of these projectors.

Click Image to Enlarge

Black Level Performance

It’s black level performance that is one of the noteworthy differences.  This is the area where Epson’s had an advantage over direct competitors for the UB series for some time (5 years).  None of the other three in this review comes close.  The BenQ W7500, though does have very respectable black level performance, it is definitely what I call an “ultra-high contrast” projector.  Since both of these projectors are happy both in a dedicated theater, but also in suitable media, bonus, living, family rooms, where there’s often some ambient light, figure that with anything more than the most modest amount of ambient light present, the black level advantage is diminished.

That said, on those very dark scenes, in a fully darkened room, that’s where the Epson has its biggest image advantage over the W7500.

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