Small, handsomely designed and selling for just over a grand, BenQ’s latest Full HD projector is aimed at the ‘home projection’ market – and that means photos and gaming as well as home cinema.
The W1200, you see, has something that virtually all serious’ home cinema projectors lack: built-in speakers. It’s a nice addition that makes setting up a projection system a lot easier, though there’s no mistaking that this is still primarily a machine for a home cinema.
For starters, it uses DLP rather than LCD projection tech. DLP is traditionally the preferred choice of home cinema aficionado – and though that received wisdom has been in flux for the past few years as LCD projection technology has achieved higher contrast levels, that mostly applies to the high-end market.
On safe ground image-wise, this 3.6kg, 339x260x139mm (wdh) projector adds just enough versatility in terms of connections at the rear. You’ll find a pair of HDMI inputs alongside component video, S-video, audio ins and outs, a D-sub 15-pin input to connect a PC (the 1920×1080 pixel-endowed W1200 supports auto image resizing for VGA and WUXGA resolutions from a PC) and a USB (type B) port. There’s also a RS-232 port to allow the W1200 to be combined in a home cinema control system.
Sound or silence?
Though adequate, the 10W stereo speakers fail at both extremes, and deliver a muffled sound (especially with SRS WOW HD technology engaged). Although just about acceptable for dialogue-heavy TV or non-demanding gaming (perhaps some simple strategy or sport-based games, or possibly late night movies), they’re not able to produce the fine detailing a movie demands. That’s probably for the best since despite the fact that the built-in speakers go to impressively loud volumes, a major problem with the W1200 is the noise its cooling fan makes during operation. Measured at around 28 decibels, any semblance of intricate sound from those built-in speakers is mostly drowned-out if you sit close to the machine, while high-octane movie soundtracks aren’t the W1200′s strongpoint, either.
So despite the integrated speakers proving useful in some circumstances, we recommend using the W1200 with a separate sound system.
What we like most about the W1200 is its high brightness. Measuring 1800 ANSI Lumens, it proved bright enough to project a perfectly watchable image with a lot of ambient light in the room. Now that’s impressive.
Setup was also relatively easy. Its 1.4-2.1 throw ratio produces a 65-inch image at two metres from a screen (maximum size is 300-inches), and though it really could do with a manual lens shift lever, the provided zoom and focus dials were just enough for us to get an image on our reference Beamax projection screen without moving too much gear around. That said, similarly priced models from Epson almost always have vertical lens shift levers and can thus be used practically anywhere in a room. Not so the W1200, though it’s easier to place than most home cinema-centric models.
On pure picture quality the W1200 does an admirable job after calibration (its Colour Management system is endlessly tweakable, including adjustments for skins tones and gamma levels). If there’s any ambient light at all there’s obviously a huge drop in contrast, though even in a blackout some dark areas of the image aren’t as convincing as they could be. That’s being harsh on a projector of this price – and elsewhere the W1200′s vivid colours provide enough evidence that BenQ’s own Color Management technology is earning its corn (thanks in part to its 10-bit colour processing). Another noticeable strength of the W1200 is its extraordinary hi-def sharpness while playing Blu-ray discs.
It’s also a remarkably smooth picture that lacks much in the way of motion blur or judder, though whether the frame interpolation feature (circuitry that physically inserts frames of video to lessen blur) is successful is down to personal preference. It makes Blu-ray appear a lot more fluid at first glance, but to our eyes it just doesn’t look very Hollywood’. If you do use it, leave it on its lowest setting to prevent any fizzing edges and stepped movement of very fast-moving objects.
This projector’s native smoothness (with frame interpolation switched-off) is significant though, not least because judged purely on image, the W1200 outdoes our reference LCD projector on three counts; colour, brightness and smoothness. All three advantages are noticeable in Blu-ray, but absolutely eye-poppingly obvious when we used the W1200 with an Xbox360. On contrast, which BenQ here quotes at 5,000:1, we call a draw.
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- Superb image quality for HD content.
- Noisy fan and lacklustre built-in speakers.
Ultra-clean and reference-level HD detail - together with startlingly bright and well-saturated colours - suggest that BenQ has developed a good value projector for all occasions that's capable of consistently incredible pictures from HD sources. We're not convinced about the on-board speakers, but there's no need to use them. Brilliant with Blu-ray and HD gaming, it's only the W1200's noisy fan and slight lack of setup versatility that would make us wary of recommending it universally; used in a permanent position this will hugely impress anyone with a separate home cinema sound system and a penchant for pin-sharp high-octane movie soundtracks that drown-out that fan.