REVIEW: BENQ W1700 4K UHD HOME CINEMA PROJECTOR
BenQ's announcement of a sub-$3000 4K projector certainly got home cinema enthusiasts talking. BenQ then dropped a bomb by announcing that for launch and for a limited time it would be available for just $2,499. We take a closer look at just how good the W1700 is for a very reasonable outlay.
Click below to open the StereoNET Digital Magazine review, otherwise read on.
4K UHD Projector
As a professional ISF Calibrator, I still remember the first 4K projector I calibrated. Coming in at no less than $24,999, Sony’s VPL-VW500 delivered some of the cleanest, sharpest images I had seen.
At that price point, it also had the potential to end otherwise happy marriages.
Within the industry, we speculated about how long it would take for 4K projectors to become more affordable. Now, nearly three years later the 4K projector landscape has changed quite a bit.
You can still easily spend $25,000 or more on a 4K projector, and yes, the images are stunning. However, if your budget is a little more on the modest side, there are now options available.
When StereoNET exclusively broke the news of BenQ’s upcoming W1700 4K projector, forums around the world lit up. BenQ said that they could put a 4K projector in your living for just $2,999. If that wasn’t tempting enough, upon release and at time of writing, the BenQ W1700 can be purchased for just $2,499 for a limited time.
This did leave us wondering just how good a $2,499 4K HDR projector really could be. Well, here you are readers, the first W1700 to hit Australian shores and most certainly one of the first reviews in the world.
To date, Sony is the only player in the Australian market with true 4K projectors sporting a native resolution of 3840 x 2160. Sure, you can find 4K projectors from the likes of Epson and JVC. However, they’re all using ‘pixel shifting’ technology to create what is often referred to as ‘faux 4K’.
So, when BenQ claims they’re producing a 4K HDR projector with UHD 8.3M Pixel resolution at this price, it is a big deal. Of course, many are going to be dubious of such a claim, and we were too, so let’s discover what’s happening underneath the hood of the W1700.
As it turns out, there may not be any smoke in BenQ’s claim, but there are mirrors. And lots of them! If you’re not familiar with how DLP projectors work, the DLP chipset (referred to as DMD’s) within a DLP projector is comprised of thousands of tiny mirrors which reflect light. These mirrors flash in quick succession and depending on the capabilities of the chipset, can flash up to 12,000 times per second.
Now, this is where things get interesting. The W1700 uses Texas Instruments’ new 0.47 DMD, which has a native resolution of 1920 x 1080. In other words, the DMD produces about 2 million pixels or a quarter of the resolution of 4K.
The Texas Instruments DMD augments its 1920 x 1080 by flashing its mirrors four times, to create 8.3 million distinct pixels.
While the W1700 may create 8.3 million distinct pixels, it’s still limited by the 1920 x 1080 DMD. The reason for this all comes down to the size of the pixels. As resolution increases, pixel size decreases, so the pixel created by a 1920 x 1080 DMD is going to be four times the size of the pixel on a true 4K projector.
You could be forgiven at this stage for calling the W1700 another ‘pixel shifter,’ however, that’s not quite correct either. Due to the speed of the mirrors, it’s able to flash four distinct images, negating the need for diagonal offset or overlapping of the pixels. Another way to think of it is the W1700 creates four 1080p images for every frame of picture information found in a UHD source.
Does this make the W1700 a native 4K projector? No. If, however, the X12000 which we reviewed earlier this year is anything to go by, it produced razor sharp images which outclassed its 1080p counterparts.
The W1700 also offers 3D playback. However, it’s limited to 1920 x 1080/HD playback.
What’s in the box?
The W1700 is a lamp based projector, with a lamp life of 10,000 hours in ECO mode, or 4,000 hours in Standard mode. Given the high light output from BenQ’s projectors, ECO mode is going to be more than enough for most rooms.
The W1700 boasts a light output of 2,200 ANSI lumens and a contrast of ratio of 10,000 to 1.
Regarding size, the W1700 is the smallest home theatre projector I have reviewed to date. The front of the projector is dark gray while the chassis is finished in a décor friendly white.
Just above the lens which is mounted to the right, are dials for adjusting zoom and focus. Located below these are the main menu controls. The W1700 doesn’t have motorized lens control or automated lens closing. However, to get these features, you’re going to need to spend more than the asking price here.
For cooling, there’s a small group of grills on the front of the W1700, augmented with more grills on both sides of the unit. The cooling fan which is clearly visible behind the side vents did leave me wondering how noisy the W1700 would be in operation.
All connections are located on the back, the W1700 having: 2 HDMI inputs (HDMI 1: 2.0 and HDCP 2.2), 1 Audio in, 2 USB inputs (type A & mini), 2 mini-jacks (audio in & audio out), RS232 input and 1x 12-volt trigger.
A large backlit remote is also included which is a welcome inclusion, particularly given the W1700’s price-point. Its large buttons are well laid out and easy enough to navigate.
The W1700 doesn’t come with 3D glasses, so these will need to be sourced separately.
The W1700 has a flexible throw ratio of 1.47-1.76 or 100” at 3.25 meters. Connected to a Peerless ceiling mount, I easily filled our 100” Screen Technics screen from 3.75 meters.
Without lens shift installation will be a little more challenging. Particularly for those who have high ceilings or who need to have their projector offset from the screen. It’s worth giving assessing your application before purchasing the W1700.
You may be tempted to use the W1700’s keystone correction to overcome some of these issues, but if it all possible keep to a minimum or better yet, avoid it all together. While a keystoned image will look straighter, the image from the lens is distorted, resulting in reduced resolution and subsequently a slightly softer image.
Being a single chip DLP, there’s no need for panel alignment. Zoom the image to the right size, get the geometry right, focus the image and you’re good to go.
With the W1700 installed and powered on, I measured fan noise at 33db from my primary listening position which is about 2 meters directly below the W1700. This means that the quoted 29db operating noise in ECO mode is pretty much bang on. It was audible and I found it a little noisy in my installation.
Another observation was the amount of light spilling from the grills and around the focus/zoom dials.
Depending on where you locate the W1700 in your room though, these issues may not even present themselves.
Measured Performance and Calibration
Picture settings, particularly incorrect ones, can have a huge impact on the image performance of a projector or television. It’s tempting to dismiss a display’s image quality in such areas as poor shadow detail or colour reproduction when they can often be corrected with the right picture settings.
As an ISF Certified Calibrator, I calibrate each TV or projector we review here at StereoNET. This not only ensures the best picture quality from the display but also makes sure each display is assessed on a level playing field.
BenQ’s projectors have always been well regarded for their high light output. This means that they can cope better with ambient light and the demands of HDR. I tested the light output of the W1700 with a 10% white window. All picture settings were left at their default values.
My i1Pro 2 spectroradiometer measured a healthy 115 nits in the USER 1 picture mode and with the lamp in ECO mode. More than double the needed light output for HD content!
The light output of the W1700 will vary depending on the chosen picture mode, topping out at a whopping 175 nits in Sports or Vivid TV.
The W1700 has a comprehensive range of picture controls, including greyscale, gamma and CMS, which can be used to calibrate the W1700 to a very accurate standard. With the brightness and contrast correctly adjusted in USER 1, I dialed back the W1700’s light output to a more respectable 73 nits.
Greyscale and gamma readings were taken in all picture modes with the W1700’s picture controls left at their default values. USER 1 had an average Delta E (rate of error) reading of 6.5 with the average Delta E reading topping out at 13 in Sports, Bright and Vivid TV.
After calibration the USER 1 picture mode was calibrated to provide an average Delta- E (dE) reading of 0.4, with the often difficult to adjust 10% having an error reading of 5.8 dE. Gamma performance wasn’t as consistent as I have come to expect from BENQ projectors with 10% falling to 2.15 and 90% rising to 2.55.
The amount of colour error varied, depending on the picture mode. Delta E was its worst at 9.5 in Sports, whereas Cinema offered the most accurate colour performance with an average error of 3dE. While BenQ quote that the W1700 produces 96.5% of the Rec. 709 (HD) colour gamut, the unit we reviewed exceeded this.
After calibration, the W1700 reproduced the Rec. 709 colour gamut with an average dE of 0.3-0.8, except for red, which had a dE of 4.2.
All in all, pretty good colour performance from a projector which is only supposed to render 96.5% of the HD colour gamut!
As HD and UHD are calibrated differently, two separate calibrations were completed with USER 1 for HD/SDR and USER 2 for UHD HDR.
The W1700 adhered reasonably well to the HDR EOTF, and while error is visible at the higher end of the EOTF, this is typical for all displays.
Remarkably, I found that the default brightness setting of 50 needed to be lowered substantially to produce an HDR picture that didn’t look washed out. While I was able to correct this simply enough, many users are going to leave the W1700 at its default settings and be none the wiser.
I hadn’t yet watched The Life of Pi, and with a brand new UHD copy of the film on hand, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.
Two things immediately struck me about the picture quality of the W1700. The first was the abundance of detail present. The individual hairs and whiskers of Mr. Parker (the Bengal Tiger) were not only clearly visible but sharply defined.
While the images weren’t as sharp as those of BenQ’s X12000, at a quarter of the price I don’t think anyone’s going to complain!
I was also pleasantly surprised by the W1700’s black level performance. In my experience, BenQ’s projectors don’t offer the deepest and darkest blacks by any means. But with the W1700, they’ve taken the black level performance up a notch. I would even go as for to say the black levels were better than those of the X12000.
In addition to making Mr. Parker’s black stripes look more convincing, they also helped give the picture a beautiful sense of depth. The improvement in contrast ratio making objects look sharper and more clearly defined.
Logan Lucky is a fun little heist flick, which often pokes fun at itself. The Blu-ray transfer has a neutral colour palette, with sometimes striking colours. This is where the extra brightness of the W1700 pays dividends.
The bright, bold colours of the NASCAR cars contrasted beautifully against the dark race track. Colours never looked over cooked though. Flesh tones were also natural, neither appearing too sunburnt or sullen.
In terms of detail, the upscaled Blu-ray image was no doubt superior to its native 1080p counterpart. And while the W1700 couldn’t match the upscaling abilities of my OPPO UDP-203 UHD player, nor should it when it’s nearly half the price of the W1700.
Moving to the Blu-ray transfer of The Wall, the little BenQ did a great job of capturing the muted colour tones of the Iraqi desert. The DLP technology of the W1700 giving The Wall a very film-like appearance and leaving the film’s grain structure perfectly intact.
BenQ’s W1700 is the first of its kind, bringing quality 4K projection to the masses at the wallet-friendly price of just $2,499. Of course, it’s not going to compete with more expensive options, but nor should it at this price-point.
Not only is the BenQ W1700 the best in terms of value for a 4K projector on the market currently, but it also happens to throw a great picture for an entry-level home theatre projector.
Well done BenQ, I think you’ve produced a winner!
For more information visit BenQ.
BenQ W1700 Measurements & Calibration Results
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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