What is the W1700?
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 Control
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.
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.
Features and Specs
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.
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 Settings
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Review
- 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 Review
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.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
Our Review Ethos
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