Projector Reviews

BenQ W1080ST Black Levels & Shadow Detail

BenQ W1080ST Black Levels & Shadow Detail

We start with black level performance as usual.  The BenQ W1080ST is neither a $3000 projector nor can it produce the kind of blacks we expect from those far more expensive (at the very least – twice the price – but typically $2500+).

OK, so now you know this isn’t a great dedicated home theater projector.  Still, some nights you’ll want to turn out all the lights and watch a great movie with the best possible picture.  I’m pleased to report that black levels are very good for the price range.  The W1080ST, not only outperforms a number of similarly priced DLP projectors (2D and 3D ones), but it offers better blacks than the Epson Home Cinema 3020 even with that projector’s dynamic iris engaged.  That projector is half again more expensive.

I’ve watched a few movies in the last month in the theaters.  Most recently Les Miz.  Considering the ambient lighting level in the theater (here in California), I can say that the W1080ST, in a fully dark room, has better blacks than Les Miz did in a large Regal theater.

The W1070 is just about 1/3 stop less exposed, otherwise they should look virtually identical.  (How the W1070 image got stretched, I’m not sure)

Acer H9500BD (below) – this projector shared our Best In Class award last year, with the older HC3010. As was the case last year, the Acer – which had the best black levels in the price range, still does a better job on blacks than the newer W1080ST.

Sony VPL-HW50ES (LCoS projector $3,699):  This is what you want.  A massively overexposed starship, while the letterbox and the black of space is still very dark.

BenQ W7000: This BenQ is really a home theater projector rather than a home entertainment one.  It definitely does better on blacks – it is one of only three under $2000 reviewed projectors so far, that we consider “ultra high contrast.”

BenQ W1080ST
BenQ W1070
Epson Home Cinema 3020e ($1899)
Acer H9500BD
Optoma HD33: (2D, 3D)
Optoma HD23: (Different than the HD33, and 2D only) neither are a match for the BenQ
Panasonic PT-AR100U projector: (2D only, $1199) The BenQ is better at blacks.
Mitsubishi HC4000: An OLD favorite (3 year old projector), that was one of the best at blacks (a bit more expensive)
Sony VPL-HW50ES (LCoS projector $3,699)
Vivitek H1080FD ($899)
BenQ W7000

Shadow Detail Performance

Let’s start with a night scene from The Hunger Games.  This is a scene that looks best with both great black level performance, and great shadow detail: (click for the larger image which is more overexposed to better determine black and dark shadow detail abilities.  Note that much of the dark areas are flat without any detail.  They aren’t that black, which is the black level issue. The detail is reasonably good compared for others, but even there there’s some detail missing, notably detectable in the whole lower left and lower center area.

Below is a favorite image for looking at dark shadow detail. It’s also a good test of black level performance. As already noted, the black levels of the W1080ST are very good for a non “ultra-high-contrast” projector. Dark shadow detail of the W1080ST projector is excellent.

Note the details in the dark of the woods on the right, and easier, look at all those shrubs on the other side of the tracks on the far right.  Wow!  OK, it’s easier to see the darkest shadow detail on projectors that lack super-dark blacks, but this shadow detail is great even for a projector with only good black level performance.

BenQ W1080ST:  Showing a little less detail than the W1070 below it, but that’s due to the also spottable difference in exposure, with the W1080ST slightly less overexposed.

Shadow Detail Performance details slideshow