Out of the Box Projector Performance
The Sony was disappointing, with its out of the box color accuracy screaming for a calibration - at least an end user one, using a disc, like the AVIA or DVE discs, is a must. A professional calibrator is highly recommended.
BenQ is definitely better out of the box, in fact very good, except for overly strong green, which is fairly easy to improve on. Of course you still want to at least use a disc, to make things better!
Black Levels and Shadow Details
Click to Enlarge.So close
The W5000 and the VW40 are pretty close to a tie in terms of black levels. Both rely on dynamic irises (the BenQ also has a manual iris, which we normally left pretty wide open for maximum lumens). They will vary more by scene, than overall, as their irises behave differently. If I had to pick a winner, it would be the Sony, but these two are too close for that to be a defining difference.
Click Image to Enlarge
In terms of shadow detail, again, both are excellent. I think the VW40 digs out a little more detail in the darkest shadow areas, but the BenQ, exhibiting a trait that seems more common to DLP's than other technologies, tends to have richer dark colors, so overall, they jump out at you more, making for a more impressive image. Consider the girders in this side by side space image. BenQ W5000 is on the left, Sony VPL-VW40, the right:
You will note, however, that the BenQ image is the brighter of the two. Both were shot in Best Mode, the BenQ lamp on low, to try to achieve balance in brightness, but the BenQ is still probably a good 50-75 lumens brighter.
Overall Picture Quality
Another really tough call. From one standpoint, the Sony has the advantages of, perhaps a touch of an advantage in shadow detail, even though the BenQ's image appears a bit more dynamic. Both once adjusted, do just fine on skin tones and overall color balance.
The BenQ has the advantage on sharpness, and brightness, but is plagued by more image noise than any other projector in this report. Let me put it this way:
The Sony is the more consistent projector, in that it handles most everything very well, but the BenQ, when it looks really good, looks truly great, but at other times, its flaws (image noise in particular), show. The W5000 is more of a Jekyl and Hyde personality.
Other trade-offs are: The BenQ, being a single chip DLP projector means some will be susceptible to the Rainbow effect (which annoys a small percentage of us). Conversely, these projecors are both supporting 1080p/24fps, and no longer need 3:2 pulldown (and the slight jerkiness, known as "judder" that is visible on many scenes). That brings up the issue of motion blur, found on 3LCD and LCoS projectors, but not on the faster DLP technology. My take on that, is most people don't seem to notice, or rather only notice it when looking for it, so I don't consider it a serious problem. Still, with judder out of the way, it replaces judder as something new for perfectionists to agonize over.
Both are selling in the mid-$2000 price range. They are close enough, that which is less, is probably going to be determined by who you buy one from. However, from looking around, the BenQ is probably a bit less at this time - right at $2500!