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High Performance Home Theater Projectors: Summary

Posted on October 22, 2005 by Art Feierman

High Performance Home Theater Projectors: BenQ's long awaited PE8720 darkchip3 Projector

This summary is an update based on receiving a new PE8720 to review at the end of Dec (2005). It's performance is much better in Cinema and Home Theater modes (with better gamma and color handling), than the original pre-production unit I reviewed over 3 months ago. The pre-production PE8720 projector, caused initial frustration with the dark mid-ranges and forced me to switch to the Family Room mode and then adjust- and watch - everything from that mode. Despite that problem with the pre-production unit I still reported that: " I can say that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching everything on this projector. When I took the projector back to the dual wide screen, and watched some DVD and Hi-Def, side by side against the H78DC3 and the Marantz VP-12S4, I came away even more impressed."

That said, the final production projector performs beautifully in all three modes, with virtually no adjustment from the out of box settings. The flesh tones are excellent (variations from ideal are related to the source material, not the projector). Overall, from using my test equipment, there is the slightest shift to blue (and a touch to green). However, for a projector out of the box, this variation is as small as any I have seen. In other words, excellent color. The high gamma problem on the original unit has been effectively eliminated. (I used the Avia Pro calibration software, and the Optic One light meter to verify what I was seeing).

BTW, HDTV viewing of sports is spectacular!

The BenQ PE-8720 is loaded with features, has a good number of inputs, and it works smoothly. I like the remote. I do suspect, though, that most owners of a projector in this price range, will, like me, use a 3rd party remote or room control system, to control all their theater equipment.

The last DLP Darkchip3 projector I reviewed was the popular Optoma H78DC3, which definitely exceeded the performance of any other projector near its price.

That said, I find the PE8720 to be, overall, a better projector than the H78DC3 (it should be - it costs a fair amount more), and (of special interest to me) a brighter one (remember that 128" screen I use).

The BenQ also offers Picture on Picture,(displaying two side by side images - I have used this to put up both a DVD and HDTV at the same time, and plan to get a second cable HD box, so I can put up two sporting events simultaneously)..

Mind you, I still think the H78DC3 is a REALLY great value, and with a street price under $4,000, it is likely to sell for at least $2000 less than the BenQ PE8720. But I find the BenQ projector to be worth the difference in price. Even forgetting brightness, and the color accuracy, what blows me away is the image sharpness. This is the sharpest projector I have worked with (with the possible exception of the Marantz VP12S4, which is many thousands more.

As much as I have liked the Marantz VP12S4, I don't think that I could rationalize paying almost twice as much, even if I felt I could afford the difference.

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