BenQ W700 HD Ready 720p 3D DLP Projector Review

A 3D projector for £400! Can BenQ be serious?

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BenQ W700 HD Ready 720p 3D DLP Projector Review
SRP: £399.00

Introduction

It never ceases to amaze us how far your hard earned money will stretch in terms of consumer electronics these days. It seems the life cycle of a new format lasts a matter of months before finding itself relegated to the status of a standard feature and popping up on ultra-budget products. Witness the fate of 3D - when the format launched just over two years ago the cheapest projector was the JVC X3 at £3,499 but now you can find it on a projector that costs just £400. To put it in perspective, that's not much more than you'd shell out for a replacement bulb on the X3! Of course to hit such a ridiculously low price point, BenQ have done more than just leverage off their inherent economies of scale, so the W700 doesn't come with any glasses and only has a resolution of 1280 x 720. However, resolution isn't everything and if the W700 can deliver a reasonable performance, it might offer a very attractive option of anyone looking to try out big screen 3D on a tight budget. Let's see if BenQ have pulled it off.

Design and Connections

As is the case with many BenQ projectors, the W700 wears its data projector heritage on its sleeve, with a gloss white finish and solid plastic construction. Once again, BenQ have also tried to cater for the home cinema market with a design that combines both angles and curves and, as a result, the W700 would fit nicely into the average living room. Its dimensions are small, measuring 330 x 119.5 x 247mm but it feels well-built and weighs 3.6kgs. There is a large intake vent on the front left, with an exhaust port on the right hand side of the chassis and a built-in speaker on the left, a throw-back to the W700's data grade lineage. On the top of the chassis there are some basic controls in case you lose the remote.

BenQ W700

The lens is offset to the right and appears quite small and cheap and directly above it you'll find the controls which, unsurprisingly for a DLP projector, are fairly limited. There are only controls for zoom and focus, so whilst the diminutive dimensions make installation easy enough, where you position the projector is going to be important. The W700 also has quite a long throw ratio, so to get a big image you will need a reasonably large room. There is a foot at the front that can be used to angle the projector upwards and there are two feet at the rear that can be used angle it down slightly or level the chassis.

BenQ W700

All the connections are at the rear and it's the standard selection you'd expect to find on a recent projector - there are two HDMI inputs, a VGA connector, a component video input, an S-video input and a composite video input. Since there is a built-in speaker you also get 3.5mm audio in and out jacks, along with a L/R stereo input. Finally there is a mini-USB port and an RS232 connector for system control, along with a three-pin power connector.


The W700 comes with a fairly standard white plastic remote control that is quite large and heavy but comfortable to hold and easy to use. The remote includes a backlight and the buttons are sensibly laid out, allowing you to turn the W700 on and off, select inputs, user memories, control basic picture features, select the 3D menu and adjust the volume of the built-in speaker.

BenQ W700

As mentioned in the introduction, the W700 doesn't come with any 3D glasses included but you can buy them easily enough, although it's worth remembering that once you add the cost of two pairs of glasses, the W700 might not seem as cheap as some of the competition. The BenQ glasses are active shutter, rechargeable, use RF to sync with the projector itself and include a carry bag for storage. We found them to be reasonably light and comfortable and big enough to fit over prescription glasses, although whilst the lenses were quite large, they were also quite dark.

Menus and Setup

The W700 has a simple but reasonably informative menu system that is composed of six basic pages - Display, Picture, Inputs, System Setup: Basic, System Setup: Advanced and Information but the screens of interest to us are the first two - Display and Picture.

BenQ W700
BenQ W700

In the Picture menu there are seven predefined Picture Modes in the Basic menu page - Bright, Living Room, Gaming, Cinema and User 1-3. There is also what BenQ call the Reference Mode - Bright, Living Room, Gaming and Cinema - which provide a starting point that can be fine-tuned in the User Picture Modes. There are also all the standard picture controls such as Brightness, Contrast, Colour, Tint and Sharpness. In this page there is also Brilliant Colour, Colour Temperature and a Colour Management System (CMS).

In the Display there is an option to select the Wall Colour, along with the Aspect Ratio selection and, given that the W700 has a 1280 x 720 resolution, it is best just to use the Auto option. There is also the 3D menu, which can be accessed directly from the remote control, and here you will find options for Direct Sync, Format, 2D to 3D and Sync Inversion.

Features

The BenQ W700 uses a single-chip DLP configuration with a 3x colour wheel and a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. The W700 has a bright bulb that is rated at 2,200 ANSI lumens, which is hardly surprising given BenQ's background in data projection and handy for 3D. BenQ also claim a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, although that seems very unlikely given our previous experience with cheap DLP projectors. Thanks to BenQ's cooling technology, the W700 claims a lamp life of 6,000 hours in Eco Mode, which is twice the norm and it is very quick to cool down when turned off. Once again these features stem from BenQ's experience in data projectors, which tend to be left on for long periods of time and get turned on and off a lot. For similar reasons, the W700 is small and easily portable, comes with a carry case and includes a 10W built-in speaker. Obviously the main selling point of the W700 is that it offers a 3D capability at an incredibly low price, although as mentioned previously, 3D glasses are extra.

Out-of-the-Box Measurements

The BenQ W700 has a number of pre-set Picture Modes, of which Cinema is the most accurate. However in these pre-set Picture Modes, you can't change any of the other controls so instead we chose User 3 and selected the Cinema Picture Reference. We then optimised the Brightness and Contrast controls for our viewing environment, left Colour and Tint at their defaults and set Sharpness to zero. Unlike with the W1060, we needed to turn Brilliant Colour off to get the best results and we also chose a Colour Temperature of Normal.

BenQ W700

As the graph above shows, the measurement of the greyscale were excellent for an out-of-the-box setting, with most of the DeltaEs (errors) being below the tolerance threshold of three. As a result the colour temperature was very close to D65, there was no discolouration in a stair step test pattern and a smooth transition from black to white. It's just as well the out-of-the-box performance is so accurate because there is no white balance control to improve it. There is also no Gamma Curve selection but again the W700 actually tracked very close to our target of 2.2, so thankfully there will be no need to calibrate further.

BenQ W700

Unfortunately unlike the greyscale, but just like the W1060, the colour performance was very poor with the overall gamut being under-saturated, that is within the triangle that represents Rec.709. The luminance (or brightness) of the colours were also lower than they should be, so the W700 is in the unusual position of having an under-saturated and rather restrained colour gamut. It does make a change from the over-saturated colours found on some projectors and we assume it's a result of the colour wheel. Green is also skewed heavily towards yellow, giving greens a yellow tinge, which again we assume is a function of the colour wheel. Although the W700 includes a Colour Management System (CMS), since the native colour gamut is under-saturated, you can't really fix this with the CMS because it can't add what isn't already there.

Calibrated Measurements

Since the W700 has no white balance control or gamma selection, there was nothing we could do to further improve the greyscale performance through calibration. However, as we mentioned in the previous section, the greyscale and gamma are surprisingly accurate for out-of-the-box settings, so even if there had been controls available there would be little in the way of improvement needed.

The colour accuracy was nowhere near as good as the greyscale but the W700 does technically have a CMS allowing for calibration of the colour gamut. Unfortunately we experienced two problems, firstly the native colour gamut was under-saturated which meant we couldn't add what wasn't already there. Secondly the CMS didn't actually work, hardly a surprise in a projector this cheap. So ultimately we were unable to improve the colour performance beyond what was already measured in the graph shown above and we left it at that.

Video Processing

Since the W700 is 720p, the video processing is even more important than normal because no matter what you're watching, the projector is almost always either scaling it up (for standard definition content) or scaling down (for high definition content). Thankfully, the video processing in the W700 was reasonably good and we found it correctly scaled the full 576i and 480i test images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. Unfortunately it failed to correctly detect 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence but it had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, which was always clearly readable without any shredding. The W700 also performed well when it came to high definition material, scaling the higher resolution content down to match the projector's 1280 x 720 panel. With the player set to 1080i, the W700 deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests well and displayed a good overall performance with the minimum of processing artefacts. The W700 also had no difficulties showing video text overlaid on high definition film based material and it handled 24p content without any problems.

2D - Picture Performance

The use of a 1280 x 720 resolution panel may surprise some people but it isn't necessarily a show-stopper, especially if you watch a lot of standard definition content. It does mean that you aren't benefitting from the full resolution of higher definition material but as long as the projector is setup correctly and the image isn't too big, the differences are minimal. Of course if you project a very large image or sit very close to the screen, then the lower resolution will become more apparent. However with a smaller screen size or at a sensible viewing distance, then the images produced by the W700 can be very watchable. To a large extent the success of a 720p projector depends on the quality of the video processing, which has to work twice as hard, either scaling SD up or HD down. The W700 actually performed very well in terms of video processing, scaling all the content it received to match the panel without introducing unnecessary artefacts. It also handled motion very well, including 24p, although this is often a strong point of DLP projectors.

Another positive of the W700 is that it's very bright, which means it can be used in less than ideal environments such as the average white-walled living room. The combination of this brightness and DLP's inherent strength when it comes to dealing with dark and light elements in the same image, meant that the W700 managed to mask some rather poor blacks in brighter scenes. However when it came to dark scenes, the poor blacks were immediately obvious and in fact blacks were actually grey. In addition to the poor blacks, shadow detail is also limited and there was some noise in the image when you looked at the picture up close. The use of a single-chip DLP configuration means that the W700 uses a colour wheel, and a rather slow one at that, resulting in plenty of rainbows for those that suffer from them. It also means that between the colour wheel and the extensive cooling, the W700 is quite noisy when in operation, which will be noticeable during quieter moments.

With actual viewing material the W700 could produce passable images, especially when the price is considered but dark scenes suffered from washed out blacks and crushed shadow detail. On the plus side the accurate greyscale certainly helped with the image performance and the colours looked reasonable, if somewhat under-saturated. If you're looking for a projector that will mainly be used for TV viewing and game playing then the W700 is ideal, especially if you're on a tight budget. Under these circumstances, the projector's strengths such as its bright picture and long bulb life are a definite advantage. However if you watch a lot of Blu-rays, then the W700's lower resolution, poor blacks, rainbow artefacts and fan noise will prove a distinct disadvantage and you would be better off looking elsewhere.

3D - Picture Performance

Despite the W700 being limited to 720p, it is still remarkable that a projector this cheap is capable of 3D and what's even more surprising, the 3D is actually quite good. This is a result of a number of factors, the first of which is the inherent advantage of DLP when it comes to 3D. The display technology's fast response times and superior motion handling result in 3D that is almost completely free of crosstalk. Secondly the high powered lamp the W700 uses is also an important factor, resulting in bright 3D images, even with the darker lenses on the glasses, that also helps minimise crosstalk. Finally the video processing again held up to scrutiny, with no unwanted artefacts resulting in an impressive 3D experience.

We've often sung the praises of big screen 3D, feeling that the larger the image, the more immersive and enjoyable the experience. So for anyone wishing to try 3D on a tight budget, the W700 makes an obvious choice. Not only can it deliver a larger image than most TVs but the projector's limitations are less of an issue in 3D. The rainbow artefacts always appear less obvious when watching 3D on a DLP projector and the dimming nature of the glasses improves the poor blacks. When watching 3D content, the W700 delivered detailed and dynamic images that showed an excellent degree of depth. The under-saturated colour gamut was sometimes noticeable but in general we found the images to be very pleasing, never finding ourselves distracted by crosstalk, processing artefacts or the lower resolution.

Although there is a feature in the menu that is supposed to automatically detect the 3D format, this didn't seem to work and we had to manually choose either side-by-side or frame packing. Whilst this isn't a deal breaker, it was a little annoying having to manually select the correct 3D format each time.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Excellent greyscale out-of-the-box
  • Very good motion handling
  • Impressive 3D performance
  • Good video processing
  • Bright images
  • Long bulb life
  • Price

Cons

  • Lower resolution
  • Poor blacks
  • Limited shadow detail
  • Some noise in the image
  • Rainbow artefacts
  • Undersaturated colours
  • Lack of 2:2 cadence detection
  • 3D auto detect didn't appear to work
  • Fans and colour wheel are noisy

BenQ W700 HD Ready 720p 3D DLP Projector Review

The W700 uses the same chassis as BenQ's other projectors aimed at the home cinema market and whilst the angled and curved design certainly wouldn't look out of place in your living room, the white plastic construction does betray its lineage. Lens controls are limited meaning that that careful positioning is essential and the use of a bright bulb and a colour wheel make the W700 noisy when in operation. The menu system is simple and clearly laid out but, strangely, whilst the W700 includes a Colour Management System (CMS), it has no white balance control. At the rear is a standard set of connections and whilst the remote is basic, it's also comfortable to hold, easy to use and has plenty of well positioned buttons. The W700 doesn't come with any 3D glasses included but BenQ's RF design is rechargeable and comfortable to wear.

In terms of 2D, the W700 performed quite well and we found the lower resolution panel to be less of an issue than we first anticipated. Thanks to some rather good video processing, the projector was able to scale up SD content and scale down HD content without creating unwanted artefacts. So as long as you didn't project too big an image and you sat at a sensible viewing distance, the drop in resolution wasn't obvious. The lack of a white balance also didn't prove to be an issue thanks to a very accurate greyscale and gamma but whilst there was a CMS, it didn't really work and we were unable to correct the under-saturated colour gamut. Thanks to a high powered bulb the W700 was capable of some bright images but the black levels were poor and shadow detail was limited. The use of a single-chip DLP configuration means that the W700 uses a colour wheel, resulting in plenty of rainbows for those that suffer from them.

Despite the W700's remarkable price point, the 3D it produced was actually quite good, thanks in a large part to DLP's inherent advantage when it comes to 3D. The fast response times and superior motion handling of DLP result in 3D that is almost completely free of crosstalk, whilst the high powered lamp results in bright and punchy 3D images. As with the 2D image, the video processing delivered the goods, with no unwanted artefacts resulting in an immersive and enjoyable big screen 3D experience. However, not only could the W700 deliver a larger image than most TVs but the projector's limitations were less of an issue in 3D - so the rainbow artefacts appeared less obvious and the dimming nature of the glasses improved the poor blacks. Although the under-saturated colour gamut was sometimes noticeable when watching 3D content, overall the W700 delivered detailed and dynamic images that showed an excellent degree of depth.

If you're looking for a 3D projector and your budget is tight, the BenQ W700 might be of interest, especially if you watch a lot of TV or play a lot of games. The lower resolution is less of an issue than you might expect and the 3D is surprisingly good. However if you like watching Blu-rays the poor blacks, limited shadow detail, under-saturated colours and rainbow artefacts mean there are better alternatives.

Scores

3D Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Features

.
.
.
.
.
5

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
.
6

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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