If you want a big screen image for watching movies and TV at home, and don’t want to spend a small fortune on a 90-inch TV, the DLP-based BenQ W1500 may be what you’re looking for. As a home entertainment projector, it’s bright enough by definition to stand up to moderate light in a family room, but it offers features, most notably frame interpolation for smoothing on-screen motion, that are more often found in projectors meant for home theater. The result is a surprisingly capable 1080p 3D home entertainment projector at a moderate price.
The essential difference between a home theater projector and a home entertainment projector like the W1500 or the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD is in how they’re meant to be used. Home theater projectors are designed for traditional home theaters with theater-dark lighting. Home entertainment projectors are designed to substitute for or supplement a TV. That means they have to be bright enough to stand up to the ambient light in a family room, and they almost always include a sound system. The W1500 qualifies as a home entertainment projector on both counts, with two 10-watt speakers and a 2,200 lumen brightness rating.
Basics and Setup
Although BenQ ships the W1500 with a soft carrying case, so you can store it away safely when you’re not using it or even carry it to a friend’s house, it’s on the verge of being too big to use that way. At 4.7 by 13.3 by 9.8 inches (HWD), and 8 pounds 9 ounces, it’s more likely that you’ll want to set it up once permanently and leave it in place.
Setup is mostly standard, with the 1.6x manual zoom giving you good flexibility in how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image. One other convenience is vertical lens shift, which lets you move the image up or down by about four percent of a screen height in either direction from the center position.
Image inputs on the back panel include two HDMI ports plus S-video and composite video, a set of three RCA connectors for component video, and a VGA port. Both HDMI ports are 1.4a, which means they support 3D as well 2D for connections to Blu-ray players, cable and FIOS boxes, and the like.
One notable extra is support for Wireless Home Digital Interface (WHDI). This gives you a third connection for 1080p, or, alternatively, if you have only one HDMI source, a way to connect without having to run a cable from the source to the projector. Simply plug the WHDI dongle that comes with W1500 into an HDMI output on the video source, plug in the dongle’s power cord, and then pick Wireless as the connection choice at the projector. BenQ says the dongle will work from up to about 65 feet away.
An important limitation for the W1500′s wireless HD capability is that it allows easy connection to only a single source. That puts it a step behind the second-generation equivalent in the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e. The Epson version includes a wireless HD transmitter that can accept HDMI input from up to five video sources with easy switching from one to another. However, the W1500 is still ahead of most projectors, which don’t support even one wireless HD connection.
Note that the WHDI setup instructions say that using a wireless source will lock you out of the projector’s menu system. However, that turns out not to be true.
Brightness, Image Quality, and Rainbows
As you would expect from its 2,200-lumen rating, the W1500 is easily bright enough to throw a large image that can stand up to moderate ambient light. By choosing the right settings to boost or lower the brightness as needed, I found it equally suitable for a 90-inch diagonal image both in theater dark lighting with a 1.0 gain screen and, at night at least, in a well-lit family room with a 2.4 gain screen. The image was even watchable, although a little washed out, in daytime with bright light streaming through the windows.
At least as important is that the W1500 delivers more than acceptable image quality. I saw a hint of posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) but only in scenes that tend to cause the problem. I also saw some noise in solid areas on screen (like an expanse of wall or sky), but it rose to the level of being annoyingly obvious in only one clip in our tests. Beyond that, the projector did a good job with skin tones and shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), and I didn’t see any motion artifacts or other issues worth mention.
The W1500 also does better than most single-chip DLP projectors with rainbow artifacts, the tendency for light areas to break up into little flashes of red, green, and blue. I see these artifacts easily, but saw them only occasionally with the W1500. If you’re not sensitive to them, you might not see them at all. Few people, if any, are likely to see them often enough to consider them annoying.
3D and Other Issues
Like most recent 3D home entertainment projectors, the W1500 can plug into a Blu-ray player, cable box, or the equivalent directly to show 3D images. However, it doesn’t ship with any DLP-Link glasses, which means you have buy the glasses separately ($99 direct from BenQ). One bit of good news if you already have 120Hz glasses is that, unlike many newer models, the W1500 will work with both 120HZ and 144Hz 3D glasses with Blu-ray 3D movies.
The projector generally scored well on 3D image quality. I didn’t see any crosstalk, and I saw only the slightest hint of 3D-related motion artifacts. However, I found it difficult to focus my eyes in one scene in our test clips. Note that how comfortable you are watching stereoscopic 3D varies from one person to the next, so you may not have the same experience. On the other hand, I’ve never had this problem with any other 3D projector I’ve tested, so there is something specific to the W1500 that caused the problem.
Very much on the plus side are some features that don’t usually show up in home entertainment projectors. High on the list is frame interpolation, which adds extra frames to smooth out the judder that’s inherent in filmed content.
One issue for frame interpolation is that it also creates what’s called the digital video effect, making filmed material look like live TV. If you find that bothersome, you won’t want to use this feature with film. Also, as with most projectors with frame interpolation, the highest setting adds motion artifacts, so you may want to stay with the medium or low setting in any case. Other advanced features in the W1500 include picture-in-picture mode, 2D to 3D conversion, and color management options that let you adjust hue, gain, and saturation for each primary and secondary color.
The stereo sound system in the W1500, with two 10-watt speakers, delivers acceptable—but not impressive—sound quality. It’s roughly in the range you would expect from a large-screen TV, and it is certainly loud enough to fill a typical family room. If you want high-quality sound or a more convincing stereo effect, however, plan on using an external sound system.
If you can’t stand seeing any rainbow artifacts, ever, you’ll need to ignore this—and virtually every other—DLP projector in favor of LCD models like the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD or Epson 3020e. If you, and no one you watch with, sees the rainbow effect easily, however, or at least doesn’t mind seeing it occasionally, the BenQ W1500 has a lot to recommend it, from it’ image quality to advanced features like frame interpolation. If you’re looking for a home entertainment projector, this all adds up to making the BenQ W1500 a more than reasonable choice.
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||10000|
|Rated Brightness||2200 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc