REVIEW: BENQ W2700 4K UHD PROJECTOR
BenQ's game-changing W5700 projector left us impressed by its abilities when we reviewed it earlier this year. Now it's time to put its little brother, the $2,599 W2700 True 4K DLP Projector through its paces.
True 4K UHD Projector with DCI-P3/Rec.709 and HDR-PRO
It's fair to say that projector specialists BenQ blindsided AV enthusiasts back in 2017. While most of us were dreaming of the day when 4K projectors would drop below $5,000 the Taiwanese manufacturer dropped a bombshell with the announcement of their W1700 4K Projector that would hit the market for just $2,499.
Like many, I was sceptical how BenQ could manage such a feat in a market that at the time, was dominated by $10,000+ 4K projectors. While the W1700 couldn't dethrone the more expensive projectors from Sony and JVC, it did set a new benchmark for what's possible at the price-point.
Not only did BenQ set a new benchmark, but they produced an excellent projector for the money that probably inspired many enthusiasts to step into the 4K market much sooner than they had planned.
BenQ released their next-generation projectors in the form of the W2700 and W5700 at an exclusive event in Sydney this year, and StereoNET was in attendance. What became apparent was how dedicated BenQ had become to the reproduction of accurate colour in the home.
Just like the bigger W5700, each W2700 is hand calibrated in BenQ's Taiwan production facilities to exacting tolerances. To be more specific, the projector in question must accurately produce a D65 white point and have a colour error less than 3 Delta E (anything below 3 Delta E is not visible).
Furthermore, the W2700 can reproduce 100% of the Rec. 709 HD/Blu-ray colour gamut and 95% of the DCI/P3 colour gamut which is used in 4K UHD and commercial cinema.
Another surprise at this price-point was the inclusion of a dynamic iris which is used in conjunction with the W2700's HDR10 Pro technology.
The W2700 uses a lamp-based light source with a quoted life-span of 4,000 hours for normal use, 10,000 hours in Eco and a whopping 15,000 hours in SmartEco mode. Light output is rated at 2,000 ANSI Lumens and a contrast ratio at 30,000:1.
As with all lamp-based projectors, its actual light output will drop over time, so the useable light output of the lamp will vary. Regardless, given a replacement lamp will set you back just $280, it's not a bad value proposition.
As the contrast measurement uses FOFO rather than the ANSI contrast method, I'd advise you to take the numbers with a dash of salt.
As with both the W1700 that came before it and the W5700 which we reviewed a few months back, the W2700 uses Texas Instruments 0.47” DMD chip. The TI chip has a stated resolution of 3840 x 2160, which is just a tad shy of native 4K resolution. It is, however, the resolution commonly used by today's 4K televisions and specified as the 4K standard by the UHD alliance.
Likewise, while the W2700 can display 8.3 million pixels, in actuality, it's a little more complicated than that.
The DLP chipset (referred to as DMD's) within a DLP projector is comprised of thousands of tiny mirrors which reflect light. These mirrors flash in quick succession and depending on the capabilities of the chipset, can flash up to 12,000 times per second.
The native resolution of the W2700's DMD is only 1920 x 1080, making it capable of producing about 2 million pixels, or a quarter of the resolution of native 4K. However, by flashing its mirrors four times in quick succession, it's able to produce 8.3 million pixels.
Call it what you will, but all projectors at this price-point use a form of digital or mechanical manipulation to achieve their quoted '4K' resolution. If you want the bragging rights of being able to own a true native 4K projector without the digital wizardry, be prepared to pay a lot more.
WHAT'S IN THE BOX?
Unlike the W5700 we reviewed in May, which looks quite at home in a dedicated theatre room, the W2700 offers a more décor friendly finish. While the W2700 won't be entirely out of place in a dedicated theatre room, its trendy stylings and smaller footprint mean it's going to be more at home in a lounge-room.
Finished in white, the W2700 features an attractive brushed gunmetal front. Its recessed lens is partially obscured by a hood to help keep dust at bay. At this price point, an automatic lens cover is off the table, but the W2700 has a lens cap which can be manually attached when the projector is not in use.
The bottom (at least when it's ceiling mounted) of the Projector is white with both navigation controls and a pull back flap for manual lens control. It's under the flap that you'll also find the Projector's focus, zoom and lens shift controls.
The W2700 has vents cut into both sides of its enclosure for cooling. The downside of this approach is that there's greater potential for both light spillage and more fan noise. While there was some light-spillage from the unit, it certainly wasn't objectionable.
All of the projector's inputs are at the back of the projector and consist of two HDMI (HDCP 2.2) inputs, two USB A inputs (one of which is reserved for firmware updates), one USB Mini (for firmware updates), one audio out (3.5mm Mini Jack), one RS232 input and a single 12V trigger. The W2700 also has front and top-mounted IR receivers.
The lens assembly consists of a high precision 10-element 8-group all-glass lens array optimised for 4K playback. In addition to supporting HDR10 with BenQ's HDR-PRO technology, the W2700 also supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG).
The projector also shipped with a power cord, user manual, certificate of calibration (quite an achievement in itself), and remote control. The remote is finished in the same white finish as the projector, with large easy to read/find buttons and a dedicated button for the back-light.
Given the W2700's smaller footprint, it affords some flexibility with placement, including the option to place the projector closer to the back wall. The only caveat is you need to allow enough room for cables to squeeze between the projector and the wall.
Capable of throwing a 100” image at 2.5 metres, makes the W2700 a great candidate for smaller spaces. Lens control is strictly manual, with a lever on the outermost ring of the lens barrel for zoom, with the innermost ring controlling focus.
In addition to a vertical lens shift control, the W2700 also offers keystone adjustment. If image fidelity is important, I'd strongly suggest investing a little extra time placing the W2700 correctly, as keystone adjustment on projectors tends to soften images.
Although the on-screen menu looks somewhat dated, it's functional, with a logical layout that's easy enough to navigate. In addition to the basic controls, the W2700 is ISFccc certified, with a suite of calibration controls including 2 point greyscale, user-selectable gamma control and six-point colour management system.
Given the W2700 is a single-chip DLP projector, there's no need for panel alignment. Simply align the image correctly to your screen, focus it using the inbuilt test pattern, and you're done.
MEASURED PERFORMANCE AND CALIBRATION
When it comes to judging the picture quality of a television or projector, the impact of incorrect picture settings cannot be underestimated. Before making any critical observations regarding picture quality, every display we review at StereoNET is professionally calibrated.
Both an x-rite i1Pro 2 spectroradiometer and x-rite i1 Display Pro colourimeter (profiled against the i1Pro 2) were used to take measurements. The meters were tripod mounted, with measurements taken directly from a 100” Severtson CineGray screen.
A mixture of 10%, 15% window and Full-Field patterns were used for measurements. Meter integration times were tested, and final readings were the mean of two readings for increased stability.
The W2700 has seven picture modes, consisting of Cinema, D Cinema, User, Vivid TV, Bright, Silence and HDR10, the latter of which is automatically engaged with an HDR signal.
BenQ recommends using the D.Cinema picture for accurate colour reproduction (100% of Rec.709) of SDR material. In this mode, the W2700 achieved 102.9% of Rec. 709 with a mean Delta E of 4.1. While the primary colour accuracy was excellent, secondaries left a little to be desired.
The greyscale performance was reasonable, but not accurate with the W2700 having a max Delta E of 8.2 at 100%, with most points hovering between 3-5 Delta E. It may be tempting to lambast BenQ for there claimed colour accuracy, but I strongly suspect most of the error was due to the colour of the screen material.
Ultimately, the D.Cinema picture mode mustered a light output of 34 nits, which was a little on the dim side for my tastes. With no way of disengaging the WCG control to increase light output, I settled on the W2700's Cinema mode for SDR viewing and calibration. In Cinema mode, the projector produced a more reasonable 75 nits with the lamp in ECO mode.
Apart from ECO being able to offer enough light output in Cinema mode, I also found the fan noise from the W2700 a little overbearing in any other mode. In fairness, my viewing position is rather close to the projector.
In Cinema mode the W2700 was able to achieve 96.5% of Rec 709 with a mean Delta E of 5.5 after calibration. Greyscale accuracy after calibration was superb, the W2700 achieving a Mean Delta E of 1.7. Gamma tracking was between 2.2 to 2.48 with the grey screen pushing the numbers a little higher.
With the W2700 calibrated for SDR viewing, I turned my attention towards calibrating for 4K Ultra HD content. For 4K material, BenQ recommends the HDR10 picture mode for HDR encoded content and the User picture mode for 4K SDR material with a P3/DCI colour gamut.
In HDR10 mode, the W2700 produced 42 nits and 96.3 of P3/DCI with the WCG (Wide Colour Gamut) engaged and 73 nits when turned off. While the grey screen I used accounts for a small drop in light, the majority of light loss is due to the filter which is introduced into the light path when the WCG is engaged.
As 42 nits is nowhere near enough light output to enjoy HDR viewing, I opted to turn the WCG off and make do with the smaller Rec. 709 colour gamut. On the surface of things, this may seem like a drawback, but all projectors face a struggle of being bright enough for HDR content. Adding wide colour gamut makes it harder by further taxing a the projectors light reserves.
Likewise, with WCG engaged, greyscale tracking was messy, to say the least, with the W2700 exhibiting a mean Delta E of 20.7. Disengaging the WCG control resulted in a colour gamut a little wider than Rec. 709 and a greyscale tracking with a mean Delta E of 2.4 after calibration.
In the User picture mode, the W2700's peak light output was 46 nits with the WCG engaged. Out of the box, greyscale tracking had a mean Delta E of 7.8, which was reduced to 2.8 with calibration. Gamma tracking was also improved from an average of 2.09 to 2.19 with calibration.
Wanting to see just how bright the W2700 could be, all picture modes were tested. Here, the W2700 topped out at 117 nits in its Bright picture mode with a 100% window. Colour accuracy took a severe hit in Bright mode, with the W2700 exhibiting a strong blue push.
ACTUAL PICTURE PERFORMANCE
I started by evaluating the SDR performance of the W2700 with The Wolverine on Blu-ray. If you've read any of my reviews, you'd know that that it's a favourite for not only evaluating sound but also picture quality.
With a mostly neutral colour palette and a wide variety of colours and skin-tones, it's a superb disc to evaluate a display's colour accuracy. The first thing I noticed was that rather than producing the squeaky clean images I'm accustomed to with LCD projectors, the W2700's image is more film-like.
While the difference between DLP and LCD is going to come down to personal preference, there is something quite compelling about the film-like images the W2700 produced.
Just like the W5700 which we reviewed earlier this year, the W2700 throws a sharp, detailed image. The W2700 couldn't muster the same level of detail as my own Sony VLP-VW270ES, but let's keep in mind that the BenQ comes in a little under a third of the price of the Sony.
Although the W2700's black levels aren't anything to brag about, they're on par for the price point. However, with gamma post-calibration gamma tracking near 2.3 and the dynamic iris set to high, they were sufficient enough to give the image a pleasing sense of dimensionality.
I did notice a little image pumping with the dynamic iris at its highest setting. Once again, this is par for the course when using a dynamic iris, particularly at its most aggressive setting.
Although the W2700 needed a little help getting there, colour reproduction in Cinema mode was excellent, with colours often exhibiting a bit of pop, yet never being overdone and skin tones rendered naturally.
A newer addition to my review viewing material is How To Train Your Dragon - The Hidden World on 4K Ultra HD. In addition to being a great watch, the film has an outstanding HDR transfer. With spectral highlights, deep-dark blacks and a colour gamut which takes advantage of the format's capability, there's more than enough to test the HDR mettle of a display.
Again, the W2700 couldn't muster the same sense of pop or contrast I'm familiar with from the Sony VPL-VW270ES in its HDR10 picture mode. This was mainly due to both the W2700's black levels, which couldn't compete with the more expensive Sony, and the limited light output of the projector with the WCG engaged.
Forgoing the WCG, the W2700 was able to produce enough light in HDR10 mode for an enjoyable HDR viewing experience. Despite not using the WCG, images were colourful and an improvement over their SDR counterpart.
The W2700 had a convincing handle on the film's frequent use of spectral highlights, though detail could get a little lost in spectral highlights.
While the W2700 produced a very watchable picture in HDR10 mode, I found myself gravitating towards the User Picture mode for HDR viewing. While this approach results in an HDR-SDR conversion, the benefits of the W2700's wide colour gamut can be realised while retaining a high enough light output for SDR viewing.
Revisiting How To Train Your Dragon - The Hidden World with the W2700's colour filter engaged, the benefits of its subsequent wider colour gamut became apparent. The warm reddish hues of the setting sun appeared both richer and warmer. As the dragons and their riders return to their village after a rescue mission, the colours of the village's various huts and banners stand out boldly.
The opening scenes of Sicario - Day of the Soldado found in both the SDR and HDR versions of the film are a great way to test the near-black capability of a projector. I've seen many projectors turn the opening scenes of this movie into barely recognisable mush.
The W2700, however, put in an excellent performance, even outdoing some more expensive offerings. Although, images did appear a little noisy at times, particularly in the desert scenes. As it turns out this was easily fixed by revisiting both the 4K pixel enhancer and the main sharpness control.
During my time with the W2700, I didn't notice any rainbow effect (RBE). Try as I might, it's an effect I don't seem to be prone to so I would encourage you to make your own observations before purchasing. This applies to not only the W2700 but any brand of DLP projector you may be considering.
The 4K Ultra HD disc of The Greatest Showman is another very demo-worthy disc. Images often appear as though they have jumped straight off a Broadway musical onto the big screen, with a beautiful range of colours to show off the wider colour gamut capabilities of a display.
Just like the bigger W5700, BenQ's W2700 laps this type of material up. Granted, The Greatest Showman has a broad colour palette that looks great on any display, but the W2700 takes it to a new level. Primaries looked both deeper and brighter, and the hues used in outdoor scenes made the images look more like theatre set pieces; a deliberate design choice of the film's creators I'm sure.
A LITTLE PERSPECTIVE
You've got to hand it to BenQ. The W2700 is one gutsy endeavour. The feature list includes wide colour gamut capabilities, 4K Ultra HD resolution, HDR and a dynamic iris, all for the rather unprincely sum of $2,599 RRP.
Sure, there's a bit of a juggling act taking place, as it can't quite pull off all these things at once. However, this is par for the course when it comes to HDR and projection, and I have several different calibrated viewing modes on my own projector for this very reason.
Sharp, colourful images are the forte of the W2700, and unless you want to spend more chasing better black levels, you're going to be hard-pressed to beat it for the money. The W2700 wins hands down for outstanding value and earns itself a very well deserved Applause Award.
For more information, visit BenQ.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.
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