BenQ W7000 Projector Update: New Firmware – Better Black Levels Posted on February 18, 2012 By Lisa Feierman 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.