BenQ W1200 DLP Projector Review

ISF certified, full calibration controls, anamorphic ready and yet only £1200 - what's wrong?

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

10

Best Buy
BenQ W1200 DLP Projector Review
SRP: £1,200.00

Introduction

What we have for review today is one of those products which comes along once in a while that defies all logic given its price point. The BenQ W1200 is a projector clearly classed as an entry level product and the build quality also points to this being the case. But what is astonishing is what is built into this projector and the resulting performance. We have recently reviewed two similar but far more expensive DLP projectors which share the same software and parts, albeit the W1200 has a smaller chassis.

The BenQ, however, offers some features that are truly exceptional when compared to these more expensive models. BenQ claims that the W1200 is an enthusiast's projector and that is certainly the case when you see that it has been certified by ISF and has full calibration controls. When you compare that to the InFocus SP8604 we reviewed last week, you have to ask some questions as to why the £2500 model didn't even have a white balance control; a serious omission in today's market. The BenQ, on paper, does look very promising but does it live up to the promise or is it firmly an entry level projector?

Design and Connections

When taking your first look at the W1200 you would be forgiven for thinking it was a business model designed for PowerPoint presentations. The chassis is certainly the traditional business design and it even has a speaker on board. However, don’t let the looks fool you into believing that this projector is not capable of producing images that would grace most living room home cinemas. BenQ tell us that this is a home cinema enthusiast’s model and, as such, it has many features that enthusiasts will be looking for. For a start it is a DLP single chip design featuring a 6 segment colour wheel which boasts a proprietary coating that - the company claims - improves the colour gamut range producing a wider than normal gamut performance. Thankfully this is allied with a colour management system for dialling in Rec.709 for Blu-ray. In terms of build quality, you soon realise that the price point has resulted in a plastic body which doesn’t weigh as much as you would expect but, again, don’t let that put you off straight away.

Like every DLP design, at this price point, there is no lens shift available which means that set up to get the picture level with the screen is vital. As I always state in any projector review, the set-up of the projector in relation to your screen is paramount for the best results and never EVER touch the keystone correction tools unless you want an image that adds in artefacts. Once you have the positioning correct, the zoom and focus controls are a manual affair. The lens glass may be cost effective but the image produced does have exceptionally good sharpness.

BenQ W1200

Moving around the rear of the chassis we also get a very good selection of video inputs. Two HDMI slots are available along with VGA/PC, component, s-video, composite and a VGA output. There is even a RS232 control port and audio inputs and outputs. The USB connection like most other DLP models is for firmware updates.

Perhaps the most unusual feature to find on the W1200 is the speaker system which uses SRS wow technology. Obviously this is a carry-over from the obvious business projector design the W1200 chassis is based on and every home cinema enthusiast is going to ignore this.

The remote control supplied with the W1200 is a nice touch with well-proportioned buttons that are well placed and easy to find. At this price point you do expect the plastic finish but it also has a solid feel to the build and it sits in the hand with ease. It has a backlight and all the controls you would expect for easy access to the most used features and picture parameters. I actually found the remote to be of better quality than some more expensive models provided by other manufacturers. So overall the set-up of the W1200 needs some degree of care given the fixed lens shift but it should not cause too many problems for the vast majority of rooms.

Menus

The menu software used in the W1200 is identical to the Optoma, Infocus and Vivitek models and it is obvious that all these models are based on an OEM design where the manufacturer can choose which features they will switch on with their given models and perhaps change the menu design background. Here the menus look the same as the previously reviewed InFocus but it looks like BenQ have switched on all the options as the menus are far more advanced in what they allow the user to do when compared to the InFocus.

BenQ W1200
BenQ W1200

The most startling option here that sets the BenQ apart from the models above is that the W1200 is ISFccc certified and includes a locked menu for ISF professionals to calibrate the image and then lock the settings so they can’t be wiped. There are two ISF lock out menus that show as ISF Day and ISF Night. Going further, the end user accessible areas of the menus also include all the picture parameters that the ISF menu has, such as full white balance controls for two point (i.e. 30% and 80%) greyscale correction as well as a full 18 point control 3D Colour Management System (CMS). Within the ISF menu the CMS is the DLP CCA version where you can input the corrections as co-ordinates for the Rec.709 points against measured out of the box readings. However, the end user version is the more traditional Hue, Saturation and Gain slider set up. Both work as they should and don’t add in any errors which, again, at the price point is exceptional.

BenQ W1200
BenQ W1200

Other menu controls cover things like noise reduction, frame interpolation, gamma and lamp settings to name but a few. To be honest the menu system provided here is comprehensive and most of the settings will be set once and forget in nature. So well done to BenQ on an exceptional display of knowing what the consumer expects these days in their menus, and the addition of ISFccc is just another huge bonus at the price point. Are you taking notes Optoma and InFocus? So once set up and run in for around 50 hours we set about testing the image quality and, of course, measuring just how good the W1200 performed.

Measured Results out of the box

In this section of the review we measure all the possible picture selections to find those which are closest to the industry standards for film and TV playback. These standards are Rec.709 for the colour gamut and the most important being D65 for the white balance. If the projector is capable of getting close to these measurable standards it should mean that the film and TV material you watch should be close to how they were intended to look in terms of the colour of white and the primary and secondary colours. With the W1200 we found the cinema picture profile and warm colour temperature with gamma set at 2.4 we got the following results.

BenQ W1200

Looking at the greyscale first we can see that it is red dominant with a higher than 10% result and blue and green tracking around 5% low of our desired mix point. The aim here is for all three colours to mix at the 100% line in the RGB balance graph to create the correct colour of white (and grey as we remove luminance to black). Gamma also tracks a little high against our reference point of 2.2 but as a front projector (and when used in a bat cave theatre room) we perhaps would aim for this type of result in those circumstances. Our major graph here to keep an eye on is the DeltaE results. These determine what errors will be visible to the eye and with greyscale this is usually under 3 for best results. As you can see we have steady errors and at the bright end of the scale these are more visible. This was confirmed with onscreen material. In terms of using this mode, without calibration, the images on screen do have a yellow cast caused by the greyscale tracking which gives a warm picture. We have seen better results for out of the box results.

BenQ W1200

Moving to the colour gamut we are looking at the triangle which represents the Rec.709 points for HDTV viewing (and PAL) and the points which we measured from the W1200. As you can see the out of the box gamut, even in cinema mode, is wide with over-saturation and hue errors. As mentioned in the opening of the review, BenQ have used propriety technology here with the colour wheel to produce a wider gamut and that is certainly the result we see here. What is worrying is the luminance of green and blue, in particular, which are far too high and are introducing very obvious errors on-screen. The secondary colours all have hue and saturation errors, but these should fall back towards the desired points which a correct white balance. In terms of watching this preset out of the box, the colours are inaccurate and oversaturated and in some cases - such as green - clipping due to high luminance (tested with test patterns from our generator). So images certainly look warm (thanks to the greyscale results) and oversaturated and in your face for colour. However, we do have access to some pretty comprehensive calibration controls on the W1200 and should be aiming for far better results.

Calibrated Performance

Being honest and in most cases displays carrying the ISFccc certificate only have to offer the most basic of controls and pay for the license to show the logo, but in the case of the W1200, even at its budget price bracket, the calibration controls on offer are at the reference end of the scale, and best of all, they actually work!

BenQ W1200

Looking at the corrected greyscale results first we can see that with just a few minutes of back and forth adjustment we can hit reference level results for the colour of white. Our deltaE results are well under 1 across the board which means that any error that might exist is not perceivable to the human eye. Gamma is higher than our reference of 2.2, but this is not an error we are that concerned about as with front projection we normally look to have slightly higher gamma in light controlled environments. So reference level results here on the graphs and, more importantly, on screen with actual video material.

BenQ W1200

With the wide colour gamut out of the box and large errors in luminance in particular it is a god send that we have a fully functioning CMS system with the W1200. The one area we knew would give us the most problems was blue because of the way the DLP system on budget projectors work as blue is extremely hard to get correct and that proved to be the case here. There is not a lot we can do about that but, at the same time, our eyes are far more forgiving of blue error so it doesn’t overly affect our results here in any detrimental fashion. Even with a CMS we were not able to hit a reference level result and looking at the graphs only tells you half the story, the other half being what is on screen. After a couple of hours of trial and error we managed to get the most important areas looking good on screen and in the graphs. Luminance errors were the first to be tamed and corrected and with luminance at the desired levels, this made further adjustment of the colour gamut easier and more accurate. In the end the majority of our errors were unseen by the naked eye, with primary and secondary colours looking natural and as close to accurate as possible. The results really were first class and certainly a vast improvement on the out of the box results. So the advice here is that you certainly get even more value out of the W1200 by having it professionally calibrated.

Video Processing

Moving on to video processing performance threw up some interesting results with the W1200. Starting with SD material, the scaling and de-interlacing was very good with no obvious ringing or halos with scaling and only a few instances of slight jaggies with the de-interlacing performance. Motion resolution was also acceptable with around 500 visible lines on fast moving plates.

With HD material, and especially 24p material, it was a little hit and miss in terms of sync handshake signals switching the projector to 24p mode which resulted in some cases of the projector switching to 60Hz playback with 24p material. This seems to be a common problem with the last few DLP models I have reviewed, at this price range, and it seems to be a software issue. Pressing the HDMI input button on the remote triggered a resync of the handshake and in most cases resulted in it correctly displaying 24p material. Other than this slight bug the 24p playback is very good with no obvious signs of projector induced judder.

One of the main selling points of the W1200 is the frame interpolation features which provide a few selections from low to high and, of course, off. Unless you are going to be watching fast moving sports on the W1200 we would suggest that that you have a quick look at what it does to the image and then switch it off. We used our Casino Royale demo clip with Bond running down a corridor during the building site chase and in high mode the wall he runs past follows him. This is just one example of the type of artefacts you will see when using the interpolation features. It really is a personal preference thing and if you want accuracy in the image it means switching it off.
The use of 10bit processing within the W1200 does have some effect on colour banding in bright scenes like sunrises or sunsets where various gradations of the same colour are handled well, but still not perfectly.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of video processing power in the W1200 and, apart from the bugs I have mentioned here, it performs admirably.

Picture Quality

Starting with the out of the box selections we used above for the measurements results in an image that has a yellow cast and over-saturated colours with green looking very strong indeed. The image is warm but colour accuracy is poor. Added to this is a black level that is more dark grey than black and on your first viewing you may very well think the W1200 is nothing special at the price. It is a shame that BenQ didn’t add a more accurate out of the box colour gamut as the initial picture doesn’t really inspire confidence. Of course if you are coming from an LCD TV and you like bright and colourful images - and not necessarily accurate colour - you may very well enjoy the out of the box performance. But as this projector is aimed at the home cinema enthusiast we felt the out of the box performance could do with some factory tweaks for those not looking at a professional calibration.

It is with calibration and correct set up that the W1200 suddenly shines and produces some of the best images we have seen at this price level, even with the slightly grey backs. This really is a budget projector where spending the extra £300 for a pro calibration (or learning yourself) really pays off and just adds even more value to this projector. With a reference greyscale that gives you the perfect canvas for your overall image the corrected colour gamut really does add an excellent level of accuracy to colours and skin tones. The W1200 also manages to produce extremely sharp looking images and, with around 500 lines of motion resolution, we find it very hard to be negative against this projectors calibrated performance. The weak link is certainly the black level response and overall dynamic range which means that shadow detailing is reduced when compared to the likes of our reference PTAE4000 at this price level. But the W1200 is also brighter than the Panasonic and in less than perfect surroundings like the average living room with the curtains pulled, the W1200 again offers an excellent image where the lack of blacks don’t hold back a very watchable image.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Good lumens output at price point
  • Sharp images
  • Excellent calibration controls
  • ISF certified
  • Excellent accurate images at the price point
  • Good video processing

Cons

  • Blacks are grey
  • Fixed lens shift
  • Requires careful set up
  • Lack of overall shadow detailing
  • Noisy if placed near seating position
  • Slight instances of rainbow effect

BenQ W1200 DLP Projector Review

At the price point the W1200 really does add in features that far more expensive DLP projectors simply don't offer. The inclusion of ISFccc controls is an important step because the W1200 really does benefit from a full calibration over its out of the box image quality. This is the first projector at this price point where we would recommend spending £300 more to have it calibrated, because the results of doing so are staggering.

There is no doubting that, at the price, corners have been cut in the design and build quality of the chassis and when you first pick up the body, the lack of weight seems worrying. Even switching the projector into its out of the box presets might disappoint the home cinema enthusiast that the projector is aimed at. The out of the box image has a yellow cast and the colour gamut is far from accurate with over-saturated and off hue colours that are impacted further with luminance of green and blue pushing towards clipping. For some who are perhaps used to an inaccurate TV, and who like vivid colours, this might not be a deal breaker. However, it is fortunate that we can calibrate as that is where the W1200 suddenly makes sense. Blacks and dynamic range are also weaknesses that we expected at the price point, but with around 1000 lumens of calibrated brightness available, it also means that the W1200 will be suited to the average living room where the light can be controled by pulling the curtain's closed. In such environments, the W1200's lack of dynamic range doesn't hold it back. In terms of rainbow effect I found the W1200 was well behaved. I usually suffer from seeing it on most DLP models but here it wasn't a regular distraction. However, this does come down to how each individual responds and some see it more than others, so a demo is a must if you think it might be an issue.

Overall, with a price point this low, the W1200 in calibrated picture modes defies its budget roots and gives us a performance it has no right to at this market position. It certainly out classes the more expensive InFocus SP8604 in features and calibrated image accuracy. It's not perfect out of the box and the black levels are a little light grey rather than black, but the W1200 is a bargain at its price point even with the added cost of professional calibration. Following calibration, the W1200 offers colour accuracy and reference greyscale results with good quality video processing and generous lumens output. It's a best buy!

Best Buy

Scores

3D Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

10

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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