BenQ W1700 (HT2550) 4K DLP Projector Review
Affordable 4K Projection... with a catch or two.
What is the W1700?This projector is part of the BenQ CineHome series of single chip 4K Ultra HD DLP projectors and is one of the cheapest examples we have seen so far on the market, retailing for £1,499. The same model in the US market is called the HT2550 for our American readers. It uses a new smaller Texas Instruments 0.47” DMD DLP chip which is 1920 x 1080 in resolution, but it uses an extremely fast mirror flashing technique to move the mirrors four times within a single frame to create an image that has 8.3 million pixels on screen. So whilst it is not a true 4K Ultra HD native resolution chip being used, it does produce the pixel count on the screen. However, as we keep saying here at AVForums, resolution is not the be all and end all, even on a large screen.
As with the entire BenQ projector line-up there is 3D support on board at 1080p, however no glasses were supplied for review and this should give you a clue as to how much importance manufacturers give to this feature nowadays. It also boasts a high lumens output and interestingly it also boasts HDR (High Dynamic Range) compatibility, which we will also test below. So is this the budget Ultra HD projector everyone has been waiting for? Let’s find out…
Design, Connections and ControlLike most of the BenQ range of projectors we have tested here at AVForums, the W1700 is a well-built example that feels sturdy enough to be portable if that is required. It measures in at 353mm x 135mm x 272mm (W x H x D) and weighs 4.2kg. The white chassis is solid plastic and at the front, which is grey in colour, we have the lens offset with a gold ring to the right hand side, with a 4K logo and remote/emitter sensor to the right of that and to the far left is the exhaust port. This expels a lot of hot air from the bulb and there is also a degree of light spillage from here when the projector is running. In a bat cave environment like our testing room this is very obvious and when ceiling mounted it would also present an issue of reflecting off that surface. However in a typical living room environment with white surfaces and some ambient/reflected light we don’t think it would as big an issue for most users.
Above the lens on the top plate we have a recess with the lens focus and zoom controls, which are fully manual. These are easy enough to use but you will need to be very careful when focussing to make sure the entire image is sharp. To the bottom of the front plate is a movable white plastic stand that can raise the front of the projector up when table mounted. There are also two plastic screw feet to the rear of the projector to raise the back up if required. Other notable features of the design are to the top of the unit and controls for entering the menu system and powering the unit should you lose the remote control.
Around the back in a slightly recessed area we have the power socket and connections. The main video inputs are two HDMI connectors and a PC/VGA input. HDMI 1 is HDCP 2.2 and HDMI 2.0 so it will accept a 3840 x 2160 HDR signal. HDMI 2 is 1.4 capable only and there is no MHL support. We also get audio in jacks, and RS232C port and two types of USB, one for power and the other for service use. Finally there is a 12v trigger and the power socket is to the bottom left of the back plate.
The supplied remote control is a decent plastic affair with a nice white finish and a bright backlight for use in a dark room, a must for projectors! Length wise it is just a tad longer than the height of a 4K UHD Blu-ray case and just over a third the width of one. Most of the important keys are large enough to be pressed without accidently hitting the wrong option, with the most important around the directional keys. The remote fits neatly in the hand and has a good enough weight to feel solid and sturdy. We thought it fitted with the type of projector it was operating well enough and we think it would easily stand up to many years of use without any major issues, given the build quality.
There is no doubt that the W1700 is one of the cheapest routes to 4K projection in the home
Features and SpecsAs mentioned in the opening of the review this projector uses the new Texas Instruments 1080p 0.47” DMD chip which creates a 8.3 million pixel image on screen by flashing the mirrors extremely fast four times to create the image. So this is not a native 4K Ultra HD chipset being used like the current Sony projectors, but it is also slightly different to the JVC and Epson pixel shift technologies. What this means is we get a sharp image on screen, which is similar to all the other faux 4K machines and indeed the Sony. At normal viewing distances, and even on a large screen, you would be hard pushed to really notice any real resolution difference between all these technologies for creating a 4K image. As we keep mentioning resolution is also not the only important factor to excellent image quality as that includes superb black levels, shadow detail retrieval just above black, excellent greyscale tracking and accurate colours to the standards (Rec.709 for HD, DCI-P3 within Rec.2020 for UHD). The problem the W1700 has is the lack of wide colour gamut capability and contrast performance. So it is lacking in a few important areas, which we will go through below. The lens on the BenQ has had proprietary low dispersion lens coatings to help minimise chromatic aberration artefacts and given the price point, we had no issues with the image quality from the lens used here.
Of course common sense dictates that a projector will never be able to produce HDR images in the same way as an LCD or OLED TV as there is no way to reach the peak highlights required while maintaining a watchable black level within a projected image. Projectors will never manage the contrast needed to achieve such performance, but that doesn’t mean that projectors can’t still produce dynamic looking images that take advantage of HDR. The BenQ W1700 can accept an image with HDR10 metadata and display that image onscreen within the constraints of the projector. This means that while it can’t display the DCI-P3 gamut as it is not capable of doing so; it does map colours to the Rec.709 standard keeping things looking natural. It will also tone map the image to the EOTF and there are added controls to manipulate the image brightness and curve within the menus. There are also added picture processing controls under the Cinema Master menu for items such as Flesh tone, colour enhancer and 4K pixel enhancer (which is a motion adaptive edge enhancement tool) which should be left to the lowest settings for the most natural looking image quality.
While this projector is a native 16:9 model it also exhibits a light border around the image being displayed on screen. It is best explained as an area of the image outside the 16:9 area that is the same brightness of black as the actual video signal, and light is being projected on screen within this area the same as the actual video area. So almost like the video signal is not filling out the entire projected area, or filling the raster as we used to say back in the CRT days. This could be a side effect of the new chip doing it 8.3 million-pixel thing and not using the entire projected area, but we haven’t been able to find any information to back up that theory. If you are using a 16:9 projection screen with black borders you can zoom the image out to avoid seeing this light border to the image. We found it somewhat distracting in dark scenes on our 2.38:1 screen without side masking when viewing 16:9 images. If you are still struggling to picture what this issue is, have a look at the video review where we try to capture the problem. This is certainly not a deal breaker given the price point of the projector and is not an issue if you zoom out on a 16:9 screen, but it is worth mentioning within the context of a review.
As with most budget BenQ DLP projectors the lens is manual for the zoom and focus. There is no lens shift on the W1700 so proper set up on the screen is vital so you are not forced to use keystone correction. You should always avoid using the keystone as it might straighten edges, but it destroys fine detail in the image. The zoom ratio is 1.2X and the throw ratio is 1.47 – 1.76 so you should get a 100” image from 3.25m away according to the specs. Using the manual zoom is easy enough but we did find the focus takes some work to get the image sharp across the majority of the screen. We also found focus shift when the projector was switched on again after a period of time, so that was a little annoying trying to fix the issue every time the unit was switched on. It may have been an issue with this particular test unit. Image colour uniformity was good with no obvious colour shift to any corners or sides of the image, which is good for a budget model. BenQ rates the lumens output in the brightest modes as 2,200lms and a hopeful 10,000:1 on/off contrast ratio. This is also a noisy projector and the pitch of the fans was also at a frequency that I personally found distracting, but this will obviously vary from person to person. Noise in the EcoSmart mode was recorded on our sound meter at 1m away from the front of the projector as 30db. You could mask this with an audio system and placing the unit as far away from the listening position as possible, just be aware that placing the unit next to flat surfaces, such as a ceiling, may actually amplify the issue. If you are using the BenQ in a dedicated bat cave environment you should also be aware that there is light spill from the air exhaust and lens control areas that could be distracting depending on where the unit is installed. Finally the BenQ has a RGBRGB colour wheel, which is pretty silent in operation, and we didn’t notice any obvious rainbow effect (bright stripes of colour flashing against high contrast areas of the image) during our time testing the projector.
Out of the Box SettingsI think it is important now and again to remind readers of how much importance we place on objective testing and data in making our final assessments on image quality with all display products we test. All our display reviewers have over a decade of experience in product reviewing and were trained and qualified by the ISF and THX many years ago. The reason this kind of approach is important is that as we enter the HDR and 4K future, some standards are still in flux and lots of products make claims of being compatible with the newest technologies, but are they actually capable of performing correctly? A good example of what we mean is this BenQ projector. Like all the 4K DLP machines we have reviewed so far, all of them have been restricted to native colour spaces that are well short of the DCI-P3 standard within Rec.2020. Instead they are capable, in most cases, of reproducing the HD Rec.709 standard and map their colours to that. So while they are 4K projectors and can accept HDR signals you need to be aware that you are not getting the full benefits of HDR and wide colour gamuts available with UHD Blu-ray and other materials mastered as such. Many of the subjective reviewers out there who do not measure the actual image performance may not be giving out the best possible advice when subjectively assessing image quality and not realising the shortcomings of the devices, such as this BenQ, to the standards that do exist. Readers should bear this in mind when researching their next display purchase.
We set about measuring the various presets and white balance settings on the BenQ W1700 using our trusted Klein K10-A meter, Fresco Six-G Generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. We decided to go with User 1 for the picture mode as we would be modifying the image settings from the Cinema present, so we may as well start in User 1. We switched off all the unnecessary image processing features apart from brilliant colour which we left on. There are a few options for colour temperature including, native lamp, normal, warm and cool. Normally warm is too warm as is the case here, but normal was also warm in its results with a lack of blue energy so we went with cool which you can see below is very close to the standards. We also set brightness and contrast for the room and a gamma to 2.5, which was closest to our dark room target of 2.4.
As you can see in the greyscale graph (top left) the cool preset had very good tracking with a lack of red energy from 40ire onwards and a slight rise in green, but overall it was fairly accurate for an out of the box preset. DeltaE errors were also reasonable and all under 4 with gamma tracking fairly close to 2.4 across the board. Gamma was lighter in the black areas of the scale and darker towards 80% white, but this was far from an obvious error with onscreen viewing materials. Overall the out of the box greyscale is good.
Looking at the colour gamut (top right) the projector is limited to a Rec.709 gamut (the triangle) but has some severe tracking issues with 75% saturation points. These are too bright and end up tracking the same as the 100% points and this suggests in the BenQ pushing luminance to make colours look brighter on this 4K projector, because it cannot reach the wide colour gamut of DCI-P3. This is a shame as an accurate Rec.709 gamut and tracking is more preferable than this attempt to artificially boost colour luminance. The other tracking points are reasonable and with a CMS on board we may be able to fix these issues and get an accurate Rec.709 gamut performance.
Calibrated SettingsOnce we found the best out of the box settings we then set about using the controls available on the BenQ W1700 to calibrate the image to the industry standard of D65 white and Rec.709 colour for HD material.
The two point colour temperature controls worked well and we managed to correct the greyscale tracking (top left) to achieve DeltaE errors under 2 with just 100% not playing ball due to the contrast just between 90% and 100% in the projector. Gamma tracking was as good as we could get it without a gamma editor on board and overall the onscreen performance with normal viewing material didn’t show up any issues with colour casts or tints in the image.
Thankfully we were also able to use the Colour Management System (CMS) to correct the issues we identified with the out of the box results and the tracking is now perfect including the 75% points where luminance was also now correct and to the standard. The slight hue errors were harder to fix and at 100% not as important as 75% and below. So overall we were happy with the calibrated image that looked much more accurate and less garish with HD material.
HDR SettingsWe fed the BenQ W1700 a series of HDR signals at 4K resolution via the Fresco Six-G generator to see just how well it could tone map and display colours with UHD Blu-ray and other material.
Looking at the EOTF, Greyscale and mapping performance first of all (top left) and we were pleasantly surprised to see that within the native capabilities of the projector, it was able to tone map HDR content properly. We did find that it clipped in the highlights and lowering the contrast did significantly improve the clipping, but at the expense of the EOTF tracking, so it’s a compromise, like just about every other display that cannot reach 1,000nits natively. This is nothing to worry about at all with this projector and with an accurate greyscale and good DeltaE errors the BenQ handles itself well within the limitation of performance the projector has with HDR images.
As expected with the colour gamut (top right) the BenQ is restricted natively to close to Rec.709 in terms of gamut and manages less than 50% of the Rec.2020 colour space coverage, which is no surprise at all. In regards to DCI-P3 within Rec.2020 you can see (top right) this is restricted to close to Rec.709 tracking as expected, but there are no over the top errors or luminance pumped up to try and look wider, so at least in calibrated modes it is accurate to HD colour.
HDR is not visible on the BenQ at all and it also doesn’t get anywhere close to the suggested 10,000:1 on/off contrast. We measured the peak white on a 10% window to be 185.1 nits and full black was 0.2401 nits which gives us a contrast of 770:1. The ANSI contrast result was 563:1, which is decent. As we said above HDR on projectors is a lost cause for the most part if the dynamic range is limited, like it is here with the BenQ. It’s great that the projector accepts a 4K HDR signal and displays it as best it can at the price point, but it can’t give a standout HDR dynamic range image or reach the wide colours required to be a true 4K all rounder, like the slightly more expensive Epson EH-TW7300 for example. But if you are happy with those limitations for the entry price point and all round nature of the W1700, then it is a capable budget machine within the limitations.
PerformanceAs always with DLP projectors we will get the black levels and lack of shadow detail dealt with first of all. As you can see above in the results the contrast is slightly lacking and blacks are a dark grey and not an inky black. This is a weak point with DLP projectors in dedicated home cinema rooms with complete light control. This is the same at this price point all the way up to the far more expensive single chip DLP models. Shadow details just above black are also lacking and with tricky material, like Bram Stoker’s Dracula on UHD Blu-ray, the lower light areas of the image just become one large area of dark grey with no details at all. In fact the BenQ really struggled with low light or mixed contrast scenes a bit more than the previously reviewed Optoma UHD65 4K DLP projector, which in all fairness is more expensive than the BenQ. The light edge around the image can also be distracting on certain types of screens like our scope ratio model, but with a 16:9 screen with velvet edges you should be able to zoom to these and hide the issue.
Out of the box picture quality in the best settings is reasonable but colours are a little too hot and skin tones can look a little on the red side. We didn’t see any colour cast to the image so the decent greyscale tracking holds up well when viewing material and with the majority of bright scenes, like those found on the Planet Earth II UHD Blu-ray, they can look very good indeed with just the odd occasion where the colour luminance was too hot and pushing primaries, especially reds. Skin tones could also be a distraction with other material such as Star Trek: Discovery on Netflix. If BenQ can implement a fix to correct the 75% saturation push that would resolve a lot of the issues we have with the out of the box results.
Moving to calibrated picture settings and things really do improve with skin tones now looking natural and detail lost within bright areas of the image due to the saturation push, is back again. Black levels and shadow details cannot be fixed with calibration as they are inherent to the technology's lack of capabilities. HDR material is not night and day different from any other material viewed on the BenQ, as expected, but resolution is there on screen and it can look extremely sharp and detailed. There is an advantage to having just the one panel as opposed to a three-chip device as you don’t get fringing to the edges of objects close up to the screen. Material such as Planet Earth II can look extremely good in the bright savannah scenes, with nice yellow hues and lush greens where required. It might not be wide colour DCI-P3, but there is also nothing wrong with accurate Rec.709 colours and that is the case here.
It is when we switched back to Dracula that the issues started to pile up for the BenQ with the lack of blacks and shadow details robbing the image of any depth and texture in the lower light areas of the image. This is not a problem for just this W1700 projector, it affects all the DLP machines at this level of the market and even the more expensive models are still weak in this area. However, we have to keep in mind that this is within a dedicated home cinema with bat cave conditions, which is probably not the best environment for this type of projector. Indeed add in white surfaces and some ambient or reflected light and the washed out blacks are no longer the major issue as you raise the black floor of the viewing environment. In such conditions it is possible to start enjoying the image far more as it levels the playing field. Brightness is strong with the BenQ W1700, which helps it to look punchy in such surroundings. This is where this projector starts to make more sense and in a typical light coloured living room, used to watch 4K content along with gaming and big screen sports, the BenQ is certainly worthy of consideration over just a 1080p model. If BenQ reels in the 75% saturation issue we could see it become more of a recommendation in those circumstances.
BenQ W1700 Video ReviewIn the right environment the W1700 can look very good with bright colourful images, such as Planet Earth II
- Offers 8.3 million pixels on screen
- Image is sharp when set up correctly with difficult focus control
- Tracks Rec.709 colour well in calibrated mode
- Decent greyscale and gamma out of the box
- Good motion
- Decent input lag for gaming
- Mediocre black levels
- Lighter edge surrounding the image
- Doesn't cover the wide colour gamut
- Colour performance poor out of the box to Rec.709
- HDR performance offers no visible step up on normal modes
- Noisy even in SmartEco mode
BenQ W1700 (HT2550) 4K DLP Projector ReviewThere is no such thing as the perfect display and this will always be true when talking about consumer devices. Each different technology has its pros and cons, from OLED to LCD TVs and from LCD, LCOS and DLP projectors, it is the same. You then have to consider the viewing environment, the content you are watching and the budget you have at your disposal. Using all the information at hand you can then see which type of display will fit with what you want to achieve in your home. The BenQ behaves in exactly the way we expect it to for a single chip 4K DLP projector having reviewed a number of these now. It has a number of positives and some negatives as we would expect and it is best suited to certain viewing conditions, which would be found in a normal living room, and not quite the light controlled home cinema environment for critical movie viewing. Just like the other 4K DLP projectors we have tested, it can do the resolution but struggles with the other aspects of the format such as wider colours and HDR. How important that is to you will depend on a number of factors. If you want a dedicated cinematic home cinema projector with wide colour gamut, decent HDR and good black levels and shadow detail you need to look elsewhere and at a much higher price point.
On the other hand if you want a DLP projector for use in a normal light coloured living room where you can’t black out the walls and ceiling, or there is some ambient light, the BenQ makes much more sense. In such an environment the weaker black levels and missing shadow details are no longer a major issue as the brightness and pop from accurate Rec.709 colours make up for it. Add in the 4K resolution for Sky Q football on a big screen, or Netflix movies with your mates, or even some 3D (we couldn’t test the 3D due to a lack of glasses), then at its price point this BenQ really does start to make sense and is a bargain for such use. Think of it more as an all rounder for your living room and not the critical viewing machine for your black home cinema room, and you have a good quality projector for the demo list if that’s what you’re looking for.
What are my Alternatives?If you are looking at the 4K DLP market then the Optoma UHD65 is a step up in terms of colour accuracy and slightly better black levels, but it is quite a jump up in price. So as it stands, the BenQ is the best value 4K DLP on the market right now, obviously with the caveats we raise within the review.
If you want a dedicated home cinema 4K projector that can do wide colour gamut along with great black levels, shadow detail and some HDR punch, you are again looking at £2K and over in terms of price. You should consider the Epson EH-TW7300 and EH-TW9300 and if you can push a little more in terms of budget you have the JVC DLA-X5900. Just like the BenQ and other DLP models which are best suited to normal living rooms with some ambient lighting, to get the best out of the Epson and JVC home cinema models you really need a light controlled, dark coloured room to get the absolute best out of them contrast wise.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,499.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels6
2D Picture Quality7
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
Our Review Ethos
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