BenQ W20000 DLP Projector

Price: $7,999 Highlights: Excellent HD video processing • Impressive calibration options and color management • Middling dynamic-iris implementation • Inconvenient onscreen menus for calibration.

BenQ’s New Flagship Arrives

I had the chance to review and live with BenQ’s spectacular 1080p DLP projector, the W10000. I became a big fan of that design. It was sharp, provided excellent contrast, and the design was quiet and simple to use. I still consider it to be one of the most underrated 1080p values on the market today. I was excited when I saw that BenQ was quietly showing its follow-up, the W20000, at the 2007 CEDIA Expo. BenQ said it would include some significant improvements, such as a new menu system, a dynamic iris, and a video processor from Silicon Optix. The W20000 has now arrived.

Although the W20000 shares its main case design with the previous model, there are some changes. The W10000 offered powered zoom, focus, and lens shift, but the zoom and focus operate manually in the W20000. The lens shift is limited to the vertical direction only, and the lens is center mounted, so it’s fairly easy to install. I don’t know why BenQ omitted the powered controls this time, but I missed the powered focus. There’s nothing better than being able to stand right at the screen and focus a projector in to perfection. I could still dial this one in tight, but I missed the convenience.

When you look at the front of the projector, the lens appears to be huge. It really isn’t. BenQ created a large aperture around the lens, but the glass itself is on the small side. I was extremely impressed with the quality of the W10000’s optics. I could get the projector focused down tight enough to resolve the dimples on the DLP chip’s micromirrors onscreen. This also made chromatic aberration a non-issue. The W20000 continues that tradition. Its focus uniformity is superb; I could focus down just as tight as the previous design. This is one of the sharpest projectors I’ve used. In fact, the only sharper projectors I’ve seen cost twice as much and feature custom optics.

The back panel looks like the W10000’s, but BenQ included dual HDMI 1.3a inputs this time around. You’ll also find BNC connections for RGB+ sources, along with standard component and analog video connections. The W20000 also includes a 12-volt trigger output and an RS-232 interface for control systems and firmware updates.

Ventilation flows through two panels on the front of the projector on either side of the lens. One side is an inlet, and the other is an exhaust. The design’s downside is that it causes light leakage, which is quite evident from the exhaust side. When I had the W20000 ceiling mounted, there were times when stray light leaked from the vents and lit up some of my ceiling. It closes down a bit depending on the signal, but it’s still a factor. However, I didn’t notice any issues with the active image from the heat output.

The top panel provides some interface with the projector. You can adjust the lens shift, navigate menus, and adjust the keystone if you need to. You can also select your input source here.

The W20000 is large for a DLP projector, but thankfully, it is fairly light. My biggest complaint from the aesthetic side is the glossy white case. I feel that projectors should be black or nearly black since most rooms with a projector are fairly light controlled with darker décor.

It’s What’s Inside That Counts
While the outside of the projector may not have changed a whole lot, the inside sure did. Although BenQ built the W10000 and W20000 around the same Texas Instruments DarkChip 3 DMD, the similarities end there. The previous design used a dual-iris system, and you can manually control one of those irises from the remote. This new design also utilizes two irises but adds some changes. You still get a manual iris that you can control from the remote, but the second iris is a dynamic/auto design based on Texas Instruments’ DynamicBlack. Planar also designed the auto iris in its PD8150 projector (reviewed in the July issue of Home Theater) with DynamicBlack. In the W20000, the dynamic iris is in the lens, and the manual one is near the lamp.

BenQ’s implementation of DynamicBlack has its drawbacks. To get the best performance, you’ll need patience. You’ll also need to invest a lot of time in going back and forth in the settings. BenQ labeled the manual iris in a backwards fashion. The number 0 identifies the tightest position. It provides the most contrast and darkest blacks but the least amount of light output. As you increase the number, the iris opens up and brightens the image at the expense of contrast. You can set the dynamic iris either on or off. When I set the manual iris at or near 0 and turned on the dynamic iris for the highest contrast performance, the image pumping was extremely noticeable and distracting. (With image pumping, you can see the average picture level change often during normal viewing.) The result was quite distracting, even for casual viewing. When I opened the manual iris up to about 3 to 5, the image pumping significantly decreased. The W20000 still maintained very good subjective contrast as well. But mixed scenes (those with both light and dark material on the screen simultaneously) didn’t benefit nearly as much from the dynamic iris. It fell short of my JVC DLA-RS2’s performance in terms of perceived contrast and black level.

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