The Art of Home Theater Projectors

BenQ W7000 Projector Update: New Firmware – Better Black Levels

BenQ W7000 home theater projector

BenQ W7000 Projector

UPDATE: The BenQ W7000 Review has been posted!

Greetings Projector fans,

As usual, I’m a day late and a dollar short, in getting out this blog.  This time I can share the blame with our friends at BenQ.  A promised Wednesday delivery turned into a Thursday afternoon one after they were a little slow getting an upgraded W7000 projector shipped out to me.  Too bad, I could have driven up there on Tuesday… saved a couple days.

No worries though.  I’ve been viewing the W7000 for several hours, primarily concentrating on black level performance and dark shadow detail.  Mind you I’ve only adjusted the contrast and brightness (and color saturation).  This W7000 has not been calibrated, nor have I yet tried dropping in Mike’s calibration settings from the engineering sample.

As a result, colors are not where we would want them to be for a full comparison, but we already know that the BenQ W7000 projector calibrates rather well.   I will try the old settings to see if they do the job.  Quite honestly, my first impression is that the default color tables look at least very similar to what I saw with firmware 0.22.   If I find them to be, however, more different than I anticipate, at that point we’ll decide over here, whether to calibrate this W7000.  Quite honestly, I’d rather not.  It gets expensive paying Mike to calibrate the same model projector several times.

Before I lay the “results” on you, I did want to point out a few things.  First, the BenQ in its “best” mode, even with Brilliant Color turned off, and lamp on economic, it’s still a bit brighter than the Epson it it’s calibrated Natural (“best”) mode, with lamp on full.

Yep, don’t forget:  The BenQ W7000 is a light canon compared to everything else in the field, anywhere near its price, when it comes to “best” mode brightness.

Black Level Performance of the BenQ W7000 projector

Wow, what a difference between the first W7000 projector and this one. “Night and Day” almost comes to mind. Whereas the first W7000 had black level performance that would be just about average for $1000 – $1500 projectors, along the lines of the Epson 8350, and probably without blacks as good as the Acer H9500BD, this one easily is superior.  In other words, the sample W7000 had only decent blacks for a lower priced projector.

But the BenQ W7000 sells for around $2500, making it one of the less expensive 3D capable projectors that should be a step up in performance from those lower cost models.

The older W6000 had excellent blacks for a projector in its class. OK, not as good as the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, but pretty close. (the Epson was the best we had seen a year ago, without spending more than twice its $2000ish street price). Thus the great disappointment when the engineering sample of the W7000 arrived, with black performance obviously inferior to the W6000!

The answer you have been waiting for: The BenQ W7000 projector has extremely good black level performance. I’ve viewed side by side with the Epson Home Cinema 5010, which has the best blacks under $3000. The Epson wins, but not by a whole lot. In fact, it sort of plays out like this:

In “best” mode, on normally bright scenes, the BenQ is brighter than the Epson. On the darkest scenes, it can be even a bit more bright compared to the Epson, as it seems the Epson iris closes down further. When viewing side by side, the Epson appears, overall, about 20-30% less bright, and the blacks definitely seem darker by at least that much.

I’d have to say that the W7000 definitely is still a bit short of the Epson in black level performance. On the other hand, I seriously doubt that the Panasonic PT-AE7000, the Sony VPL-HW30 or the Optoma HD8300 can match/beat the W7000′s black level performance. Now I haven’t had a Panasonic PT-AE7000 here for quite a while, but applying memory (or what’s left of mine), I’d put the BenQ and the Panasonic to be about tie, with the W7000 having the slightest edge. The W7000, though, in terms of blacks is a lot closer to the PT-AE7000 than the Epson. Funny about that, I do believe that was about the same pecking order last year, with the Epson 8700UB, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 and the BenQ W6000.

So, where does that leave you? Probably with the BenQ W7000 being one of the best projector choices available. If you want a big screen for 2D, you can’t beat this projector – 140″ diagonal – not a problem, the W7000 won’t even break a sweat.

In 3D, the W7000 does very well, but really is not significantly less bright than the Epson or Panasonic, despite the 3D mode measuring far less. BenQ’s 3D brightness is still pretty good, but not the brightest out there. It shouldn’t have a problem leaving the JVC RS45, or the Sony HW30, for example, in the dust on 3D viewing brightness. Of course glasses and other factors come into play.

That’s it folks, if the black level issue was preventing you to make a decision, you are now free to make your call.  I’ve only really looked at this just arrived W7000 for black level performance so far, but that was the primary question mark remaining in our review.  On a related note, the BenQ and the Epson are pretty similar when it comes to dark shadow detail.  I mean almost identical.  In my side by side viewing today, the Epson had the slightest advantage, but I had to really look hard.  I have to call them a tie.

In the next 24 hours the full review will be updated. Included in that update will be some side by side images, including the Bond night train scene, comparing the W7000 to the Epson Home Cinema 5010 that I have here.

No doubt about it, the W7000 is now my favorite DLP home theater projector dollar for dollar, under $5K! In fact I can’t really think of any of the DLP’s under that price that I’d pay more for, than this $2500ish BenQ, if I want 3D as well as 2D.   There are certainly other big time competitors out there within $1000 more than the W7000′s price, but this BenQ is capable of competing with any of them. You’ll have to weigh the trade-offs compared to other projectors, to figure out if this one’s for you. -art

PS.  Later today, I’ll be exploring shadow detail a bit more, and will post those comments in the full review.

News And Comments

  • John

    Art, will you please redo lumen measurements and all to see how the new firmware affects the whole projector. I would like to know exactly what changes have been made over the last projector you had if you don’t mind. Thanks

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi John,
      Sorry, not likely to happen. The W7000 is now on its way to Texas, where Pete’s going to test and review it for gaming. Then it’s going back to BenQ. I’m going to try to get another one in a couple of months, but have too much else going on. Pete’s a gamer – no light meter, etc. I can tell you the projector was still a light cannon. Firmware changes to get better blacks would be dealing with the iris, so should not impact brightness measurements. I had to do everything I could – Brilliant Color off, lamp on “economic” (as BenQ calls it), etc. to try to get the “new” BenQ (using the old “calibration settings”- which worked pretty darn good), to be as “dim” as a calibrated Epson 5010, which still managed 830 lumens!

      I am going to publish our usual calibration settings page for the BenQ, probably tonight. With the Cyan issue in the CMS addressed, it seems the old measurements serve this new one rather well. Probably could use a fresh calibration, but not by much. Those “old” settings plugged into User 1, produce a dramatically improved image from the default… regardless as to whether a recalibration might provide an extra minor improvement. (Remember, lamp characteristics change over time, calibrate at 100 hours, and by 500 hours, a perfectionist could rationalize a new calibration. -art

  • Todd P

    Art,

    Thank you for the update. There were many of us waiting anxiously for this. Will you be receiving the Sharp xz-v30000 to review?

    http://files.sharpusa.com/Email/AQUOS_Advantage/Winter2012/home_theater_news.htm

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Todd,

      I emailed recently. I haven’t heard a word yet. I’ll post as soon as I hear anything positive regarding getting one in. -art

  • Phil Dent

    Hi Art,
    I read your reviews allot. I have been sticking with my BENQ PE8720 Bought 2005, until something spectacular came along. On the weekend of the 4th Feb, I was lucky enough to be given a loan of the W7000 with the latest firmware. To say it “blew my socks off”, is an understatement. I played a couple of your old favorites, including Fifth Element and also Avatar. The blacks, as you have just noted, were very impressive, and the shadow detail also as good as anybody could want. (Assuming they are movie watchers, and not pain in the neck nitpickers.)
    Anyway, the short and tall of my opinion is, I will be replacing old faithful with a W7000 as soon as they start retailing here in a week or two. They have to be the best bang for buck on the market.
    Regards
    Phil Dent.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Phil, Always nice to chat with another PE8720 owner (well, it’s been a long time since I sold mine). Yes, the W7000 certainly should have rock’d your socks. I think it’s a great projector, The W7000 now comes close enough, to make it a serious contender for this year’s Best of . Boy, you must be loving the lumens, even with a brand new bulb, the 8720 “might be” half as bright, even forgetting everything else… -art

  • PatB

    I’m surprised that you pay money to others for calibration – probably because I don’t really know what it takes to do a calibration. Do you need special training? Do you need years of experience? Are their licenses?

    If I just fiddle with the controls until I like how the picture looks, I guess I’m not a “real” calibrator. But if I advertised on Craigslist I’ll bet I could get some customers. Or could I?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Pat,

      I used to calibrate the projectors myself. Mike, who does our calibrations now, was the guy who taught me – maybe 7 years ago. He’s THX certified…
      But, the thing is, I never enjoyed it. Oh I love eyeballing the color, etc. But I find calibration frustrating, in that it’s imprecise to a certain extent, projectors have lots of quirks, sometimes adjusting this, affects that… so often going back and forth. But I think mostly, three reasons, really:
      1) I keep real busy, I’d rather be doing other stuff
      2) Just because the numbers all look good, doesn’t mean the image look as one would expect. ie. I invariably start tweeking (just slightly) Mike’s calibration by “eyeball”, and I’ll bet, if we measure what I end up watching, it’s probably not as “correct” as his work, but looks a touch better…
      3) I’ve been moving further and further away of technology chores – I now avoid dealing with networking beyond my home router, calibrating, setting up my computers, etc. I just got back from the Apple store, where, at the Genius bar, they essentially got my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook all up on iCloud, talking to each other, etc. By comparison, 34 years ago, I managed the first computer store in PA – I even sold a few of those famous original 4K IMSAI kit computers, and the first Apples – the II and II+, etc., Back then I loved installing boards, etc… I just got tired of doing that part, and instead enjoy things less techie, like just helping people figure out which projector works best for them.
      As to advertising on Craigslist, of course you could. What will you charge, though. Not an easy way to make a living – as I suspect most calibrators will tell you. A lot of folks with LCDTV’s could use someone to come in and make them look better. I can’t help myself, I do a quick adjustment to just about every friends new LCDTV when they get them. Just changing the settings not calibrating (beyond brightness, contrast and saturation, all very doable by eye). Really calibrating a projector or LCDTV is a process, it can be mostly done with a good $30 or so test disc (like DVE-HD), and the provided color filters, a little patience, etc. Professional and certified calibrators will normally have their light probes meters…. -art

  • Peter Orrick

    Art-

    Sorry, not sure how else to contact you.

    Off topic and probably been asked before- I, like many, don’t care about 3D but very much care about 30,000 hour lumen life LED bulb projectors- what is happening in this category for home theater projectors?

    Peter Orrick
    Vero Beach, FL

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Other than the pocket and pico projectors, not much of late in terms of LED powered projectors for the home. We reviewed the Vivitek way back, nice, not very bright, and bright has been the primary problem it seems. On the biz pj side, again other than pocket projectors (now up to 500 lumens), not much. Casio and others are using hybrids – LED and Laser together, to get more lumens out… I guess a couple few more years before they take over – if they do. -art

  • mike

    Art,

    I was hoping you could assist me in understanding all I’ve heard hear and around. I am considering the BenQ7000 and the Epson5010. I am a plasma man right now and appreciate vivid color and great blacks. I am considering a 100′-110-0′ (max) screen right now and would appreciate your take on these two great options. I have read so much i am starting to get confused as to which is best, your advice would be greatly appreciated!

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Mike, sorry I overlooked your comment. Tough call between these two. I tend to lean Epson for the greater versatility, but I could own and be happy with either. The Epson is still the best blacks near the price, but the W7000 is damn good. For 3D Epson is the brighter of the two, a plus. Long term, the Epson costs less – uses a much lower wattage lamp, and the lamp life is rated almost double. Of course the Epson usually sells for more. -art

  • Al conrad

    What is the latest firmware update for the benq w7000? I just installed mine and it has version 1.0. Also, how so you install a new firmware software? Plug a cord into tge back if the projector to log onto internet?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Any one? Who’s got something newer than 1.0 (I started reviewing with 0.22). -art

  • JAY

    I’ve been reading alot about projectors and I do seem to lean towards the benq w7000 my question is, I could only throw a 96″ screen on my wall, will this projector be to bright for this size of screen.
    I ask because at costco they have a $400 rebate on this projector costing $1800 also since its from costco you get an extra year warranty.
    I do hope it fits my requirements as this would be my first projector not knowing to much about projectors in general, I would think a 96″ screen would be a huge difference compared to my 50″plasma.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Jay, Well, for starters, a 96″ screen is going to be almost 4 times the size of your 50 in sq feet.. Too bright is an occurrence that tends to only happen in the dark. For example, is your plasma too bright? Probably not, in any mode, unless you turn off all the lights. The more ambient, the brighter the image we like.

      That said, the rainbow effect comes into play, for those of us who are sensitive. My understanding is, people sensitive tend to notice it more if the picture is brighter. Overall, the W7000 is a very good value, and you seem to have found the right price. -art

  • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

    Cleon, you sound like one of the very few who really find DLP to be hands down better than LCD, and I should probably say at the same time, LCoS as well. If it’s that DLP “look and feel” I’d say the Epson and Panny are probably more DLP-like than the LCoS projectors, at least in the way you are “thinking”.

    I’m one of the many, who – when “all else is equal” would prefer the DLP (but as one small advantage, not a great one), but I find black level performance and some other things, keep causing me to end up using Epson’s and JVCs myself.

    So, to answer your question, I doubt the JVC X30 will do much for you either (although I’ve been wrong before). That brings us to the W7000.

    My guess is that’s probably your ticket. It’s iris action is better than Optoma’s and I’d say pretty good. It may not be quite as smooth as the Epson, but I can assure you, Optoma has driven me crazy, model after model, when I watch them. My point being I don’t like obvious irises – I have a low threshold, and the W7000′s fine by me, after about 10 hours of movies in a 4 day period. Not perfect but fine.

    Myself, I’ve been debating which I would own, the W7000 or the Epson. I’d probably buy the Epson, for the black levels primarily (the W7000′s blacks are pretty good, though, now, with the new firmware), but the W7000 is awfully tempting. If BenQ upped the color wheel one more speed, though, that might just be the thing to make me go W7000. I am rainbow sensitive, and while I don’t see a whole lot of rainbows, just the occasional flash on the right content, once in a while, I’d rather not. I’ve reviewed a number of other DLP’s with faster wheels where I will rarely be reminded that I’m watching a DLP, maybe one or two small flashes a movie. The BenQ’s wheel isn’t that good.
    You can give the X30 a shot, if convenient, but, from emailing, etc. with a few others, here and there, there are definitely folks just like you, who just go for that DLP “look and feel”. Have fun, let us know how it turns out. -art