Projector Review: A First Look – BenQ W600 projector

BenQ W600 entry level home entertainment projector
BenQ W600 – 720p, DLP and 3D ready projector!

Greetings sportfans!

What have we here?

The BenQ W600 (which they sent me despite my best efforts to obtain the W1000 that everyone has been asking for), is a 720p projector that is 3D capable.  It’s also incredibly bright!

It’s the first BenQ marketed as ready for 3D. Yep, 3D, and 3DTV is the big buzzword for 2010. Look for 3D content from ESPN and othernetworks to start showing 3D content, later this year, with ESPN, I think running their first 3D content in Q2 of 2010!

Before I go further, a couple of quick comments about projectors like the BenQ W600 and 3D. Like most of us, I’m learning as I go.  There are already several 3D ready projectors being marketed, and more coming. So far, it’s essentially a single chip DLP projector game, as doing 3D with 3 chip devices, like LCD and LCoS projectors (and also 3 chip DLPs) gets more complicated.  By fall, though, we’ll likely see 3D ready projectors using all three major technologies at the CEDIA, or so I think.

But what does 3D ready, or compliant, or compatible, or capable mean?  Does it mean you will be able to watch Avatar when it comes out (eventually) in 3D on Blu-ray?

Maybe, but don’t bet on it.  Most of the 3D standards relating to consumer access, are pretty new, or not even set yet. In the last two months, for example, both HDMI and Blu-ray groups have come out with their standards.  As an example, the HDMI folks are building most of the 3D capability into the HDMI 1.4 spec, so, it’s quite possible that much of the 3D content (like Avatar…) even when shipped, may not be 3D’able, if your projector has HDMI 1.3, not the new HDMI 1.4.  I haven’t yet seen a projector with HDMI 1.4.  Maybe soon?  I don’t know if some devices with HDMI 1.3 can actually be firmware upgraded to 1.4 or whether it calls for more hardware.

If you are interested in 3D now, realize these first 3D projectors may only be able to handle some of the 3D currently out there (such as some K-12 programs, and some of those used for medical imaging).

Gaming, however, may prove to be different. There’s already some 3D content out there, driven, I believe mostly by PC gamers.

I will ultimately attempt to describe any 3D capable projector by what level of 3D capability and range of content it can support.  At this point, though, I’m still pretty much hunting for any 3D content. I’ve been in contact with several developers, and, of course the DLP.com folks, and the projector manufacturers.  I hope to land something, I can use, by end of next week.  I’m trying first for something run from a Mac, since that’s my most powerful computer.  Failing that, I may need to upgrade the graphics cards in my PCs…

But, back to the W600.

Let’s consider it, right now, as a regular projector, then talk a bit more 3D way down below.

The BenQ W600 is a light canon.  I do believe it is the brightest home projector we’ve measured, bu then, it really is a crossover type projector.  I say that, because one way to get more lumens out, is to use a slower speed color wheel, and the W600’s is a 2x I believe, as slow as it gets.  That means more people will be rainbow sensitive.  I know from my watching it, (I am moderately rainbow sensitive), I’m seeing far more rainbow action than say on any of the 5x or 6x color wheel DLP HT projectors.

Also, I should note, that 3D is a lumen killer.  Since you are using glasses and feeding one eye, at a time, basically, bye bye, half of your lumens.  Then there’s the inherent fact that the glasses themselves may block additional light, etc.  Some say, only about 40% makes it back to your eyeball, compared to a similar projector doing normal “2D”. When I get some content, and a proper setup, we’ll get some measurements.

So, lots of lumens would be a very good thing!  How many?  Mike measured a “dazzling” 2954 lumens in dynamic mode and 1522 in Cinema mode.

The W600 doesn’t have color temp adjustment controls, but there are several to choose from.  None is perfectly ideal, with the closest to 6500K that he found,  sporting color temps ranging from mid 6600K in the darker ranges, rising to the mid 6900K range for white and near white.

Overall, color was pretty good looking in Cinema mode, once we had it all set up, just keep in mind this is one of the lowest cost entry level projectors on the market.  Overall, the color in Cinema mode ended up still probably being better than the default setups on most LCDTVs being sold.  Getting into the brightest mode, as expected, color quality does deteriorate a bit. While the color temp readings aren’t really bad for a dynamic mode, the color balance is off.  There’s a yellow/greenish cast to dynamic, which is fairly common.

Mike says, out of the box, the best of the picture modes is Standard. (Cinema is very warm – red). Our final “best mode” consisted of setting up User 1 with Cinema as reference, Brilliant Color off, and Color Temp at T1.  Despite the lack of Color Temp controls the BenQ W600 projector does have a color management system for adjusting the individual colors something we normally do not get involved with.  The best “brightest” mode we put in User 2, using Standard as the Reference, and Brilliant Color on.

The W600 projector has the usual inputs, including HDMI and analog computer, component, etc. It as a very limited range zoom a mere 1.15 to one.  A small, low cost, DLP projector, the W600 lacks lens shift.  It’s remotes range isn’t bad, not overly long though.

I’m watching some of the pre-Olympics programming, have the lights up pretty high in my great room here (main theater), and the projectors doing a very respectable job of dealing with a healthy amount of evening ambient light (no sunlight just room lighting).

Kicking it up to User 2 – based on Standard, and with Brilliant Color on, and it’s even brighter.

If ever there was a family room projector, this BenQ is it.  It’s not afraid of some ambient light nor, I assume white walls.

Blacks are exactly what you would expect – this is your basic DLP projector, and basic DLP projectors several years ago, pretty much set the standard for acceptable black levels.  So, not great, but then, in a not fully darkened room, these black levels are certainly good enough!

So far, I’m rather impressed.  Not the highly tuned color I’m used to, but, last night 20+, mostly high school musical theatre kids sat around and watch Oklahoma on it.  They are normally used to my JVC or one of the other 1080p projectors that’s hooked up.  No one complained, hey, I doubt more than a few even noticed.

Did I mention it has a small, somewhat (as expected since it’s small) tinny sounding speaker.  Handy though if you just want to temporarily plop the projector down on the table and not have to hook up to a sound system, you’re covered. Having that speaker also helps make it a cross-over projector for business or education use.

I plan to do some side by side against the recently reviewed Epson 705HD.  I expect the BenQ to best the Epson at black levels, and be a bit brighter. I also suspect, though that the Epson is capable of slightly better color accuracy, and especially skin tones.  We shall see.  Oh, I almost forgot the Epson isn’t 3D anything ready.

OK, sorry folks, that’s all you get on the $799 BenQ W600, until I lay my hands on some 3D content.  Meantime I sit here, ready, my shutter glasses by my side…  Hopefully I’ll have more for you by the end of next week. -art

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