The PE7800 produces a great image. The image is virtually indistinguishable from the PE8700, which I use as reference, and consider to be the best projector value around.(And one of the best projectors under $10,000 (it typically sells for less than half of that.) This is no surprise, since the slightly lower resolution Matterhorn DLP (1024x576) chip is the only real difference between the two.
Film-like is the way I would describe the 7800. It is so natural, that the first time you see a 7800 showing a DVD, you will think that it appears a little soft, but with natural colors, and little sense that you are watching a projector.
That “softness” illusion vanishes when you feed it a first class HDTV source and content. The HDTV content, if top of the line, (and much isn’t because the footage was shot with cameras with less resolution than HDTV can support), is so much sharper than DVD, that you can’t believe it. You then realize the reason the 7800 appears initially soft on DVD, is that, by comparison, the DVD just can’t provide a sharp enough image to challenge the 7800!
Visibility of Pixels
Pixels are essentially unnoticeable at any reasonable seating distance, and while more noticeable than a 1280x720 res projector, you probably will only detect the pixels on the white text on movie credits. Sitting 12 feet back from a 100” diagonal screen is more than far enough to make pixels a non-issue!
Brightness and Screen Size
The 800 lumen rated PE7800 performs very well, and with normal home theater minimal lighting, the projector has enough muscle to handle 110” diagonal screens without you feeling like you need more lumens. With 90” and 100” screens your images will have plenty of punch. Over 110” diagonal, I think you are pushing your luck, unless, of course, your room is pitch black with very dark walls and ceiling.
First, its all about flesh tones. And the BenQ does a beautiful job, out of the box. You can tweak the projector slightly (you will need a calibration disk to be able to improve on the defaults), one nice feature on the Picture menu, is the offering of separate color adjustments for Red, Green, Blue, AND Yellow. In some cases I found lowering the yellow by two settings (a slight adjustment), to make the image even better. The variations on source content, when it comes to color balance are greater from movie to movie, to HDTV, than any errors in the BenQ’s accuracy.
Back to HDTV
e place where you can tell the difference between the two BenQ projectors is with high quality HDTV content. Here, the naturally higher resolution of PE8700 gives it a visible (but slight) edge, if you are sitting close. By the way, for HDTV feeds, you better be hooked up to component or DVI, because much of the quality, and resolution goes bye-bye, with S-video or composite signals.
Comments from sources viewed
Bulletproof Monk (DVD), color and contrast were excellent, I could not notice any difference between the performance of the PE7800 and my PE8700 during the opening sequence. While its possible that the pixels are more visible, the opening sequence is mostly lots of motion, with nothing to really “holding still” long enough to notice.
The city night scene demonstrated the excellent contrast, with objects definitely showing more shadow detail than any of the LCD projectors I have tested recently, including Panasonic’s L500U with its “AI” technology.
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship – Hobbiton scenes, brilliant, yet not overly done greens, and overall, natural colors, considering the inherent color tweaking of the film. The mountain scenes rendered very good detail in the bright areas (snow, etc.)
Amazing Caves: This DVD of an IMAX movie has stunning colors, great dark scenes, and some challenges when it comes to motion artifacts. I am pleased to report that everything looked great, especially the ice cave scenes, where detail was excellent.
The kayaking scenes – most impressive, seemed to be off a tad, on color, but I’ve found that to be the case with every projector tested, so I have to believe that the slight reddishness is inherent to the DVD. The Tonight Show: Classic HDTV, not as razor sharp as some live sporting and concert events or travelogue type HDTV content, but the network does a good job (do they need better cameras or processing?) Flesh tones were on the money, watching is a pleasure.
Soccer on HDTV
I got to watch part of a Soccer game on one of the INHD channels on cable. The game provided me with the sharpest images I have yet seen on the PE7800, so I quickly switched back to my PE8700, and finally could see a sharpness difference between the 7800’s Matterhorn chip (1024x576) and the Mustang HD2 chip (1280x720). Certainly not a night and day difference, but recognizable even with the delay it takes for me to go from one projector to the other.
More importantly, it makes me realize how badly we need to see the next generation DVDs which should be at least 1280x720 progressive resolution (wouldn’t it be something to get a true 1920x1080 source on DVD?)! I now stare at my 150+ DVD collection wondering how much I will spend replacing many of them in a couple of years!
Since the PE7800 and the PE8700 BenQ perform so similarly, I’ll deal with the big question in the summary section: Is the 8700 worth the extra $1000+?