BenQ W1500 1080p DLP Home Theater Projector

BenQ has been on a roll lately. Their W1070 and W1080ST, reviewed earlier this year, are both excellent projectors for home video and gaming. The BenQ W1500 can be thought of as a bulked-up version of the W1070, with a more flexible zoom lens, improved image quality, stereo speakers, and wireless HDMI.

That last feature is sure to raise a few eyebrows. Wireless HDMI makes ceiling mounting the W1500 a breeze, since the projector only needs a power cable connection and is otherwise cable-free. While the system has some limitations, it adds value to what is already a feature-packed budget powerhouse. The W1500 has an MSRP of $1,999 but is available for $1,599 from authorized resellers.

The Viewing Experience

Just looking at the case, the W1500 looks like a sleek, streamlined version of the W1070. The contrast trim on the top of the projector has been replaced with an all-white panel, while the sliding lens shift door is now a swing-open door with a push latch. The lens shift knob is now larger and easier to turn using just your fingers; the old knob required a screwdriver or a coin for easy adjustment.

The W1500 has a longer zoom range than the W1070 as well. Its 1.6:1 lens will produce a 100″ diagonal image from 7′ 9″ to 12′ 5″ throw distance, while the W1070’s 1.3:1 lens will project an image of the same size from 8′ 4″ to 10′ 11″. This means the W1500 is capable of projecting a larger image from a closer distance, which is useful for small rooms, or a smaller image from a farther distance, which can be helpful for ceiling mounts far from the screen.

The W1500 produces over 1700 lumens in Cinema mode with the lamp at full power. Strictly going by the numbers, that’s enough to light up a 180″ diagonal 1.3 gain screen at 24 foot Lamberts, well above the recommended 16 fL. Realistically, few people will want to use such a massive screen even if they could fit it inside their house, which is where Eco mode comes in. Eco reduces light output by 37%, making for a much more reasonable picture that is still plenty bright enough for big-screen use. Since Eco mode boosts estimated lamp life by 40%, most folks will want to opt for that setting. The projector’s extra brightness can come in handy when watching 3D.

Hooked up to a Blu-ray player, the W1500 produces an image that is clean and sharp, with sparkling highlights and deep, dark shadows. Color saturation is excellent thanks to the projector’s 6X speed, six-segment RGBRGB color wheel — and with no white segment, color brightness and white brightness are perfectly balanced, producing an image that appears natural and life-like.

The W1500 has full HD 3D capabilities, and can accept any of the standard HDMI 1.4 3D signal types. It also reportedly has limited support for frame-sequential 3D, though we did not have the opportunity to test this feature during our review. The W1500 uses DLP Link for synchronization, and it requires faster 144Hz glasses (not included).

Key Features

Image quality. The W1500 creates a great picture, without a doubt. Even straight out of the box, the W1500 produces a sharp, clean home theater image with great shadow detail and well-saturated color. Black levels are very good, and SmartEco lamp mode can make them better in some circumstances, much in the same way an automatic iris can improve on/off contrast. Frame interpolation smooths out motion without making film look like digital video.

WHDI. Wireless Home Digital Interface, or WHDI, is a specification for one version of wireless HDMI connectivity. While external kits are available, the W1500 has a receiver built in to the projector itself, while a transmitter comes in the box. Since you only get one port to work with, the optimal solution is to hook the WHDI transmitter to the video out port of your A/V receiver. The WHDI transmitter will send full 1080p in either 2D or 3D plus sound. As far as image quality over WHDI is concerned, we did see some occasional artifacts when using WHDI. Macroblocking sometimes appears when transmission range is too great or signal strength is otherwise diminished.

Customizable. The W1500 has three User memory settings, which makes it easier to adjust the projector for different types of viewing. The W1500 also has ISF Day and Night settings, though these are only accessible once the projector has been tuned by an ISF-certified calibrator.

Quiet fan. Fan noise on the W1500 is quite low, even with the lamp set at full power. Your perception of fan noise will largely depend on where you are sitting in relation to the W1500’s exhaust vent. Near that quarter of the projector’s front panel, fan noise is slightly louder. Once in Eco mode, though, the W1500 is as close to silent as a projector this bright can get.

SmartEco mode, which cycles lamp power in response to image brightness, is not a new concept; several manufacturers have been including similar features in their projectors for years. However, the SmartEco implementation on the W1500 is among the first to not include audible, distracting fan cycling.

Onboard sound. Dual ten-watt stereo speakers give the W1500 a powerful sound system compared to most other home theater projectors. Of course, this is partly because most home theater projectors over $1500 don’t include speakers at all, instead expecting you to have an external sound system. But the W1500’s speakers are of good quality and get very, very loud, making them an excellent choice for casual or portable use, say in a game room or over at a friend’s place for a sporting event. Our test sample had a volume scale from 0 to 10, and the speakers did not start distorting until level 8.

Good remote. We don’t typically comment on a projector’s remote control, since what we like might be someone else’s pet peeve. But the W1500’s slim, candy-bar style remote is easy to hold, easy to use, and its backlit buttons are easy to read in the dark. The red backlight isn’t obnoxiously bright, either.

Placement flexibility. With a 1.6:1 zoom lens and vertical lens shift, the W1500 has more placement flexibility than many of its DLP competitors. The vertical shift is somewhat constrained, in that it only allows for a 15% to 20% adjustment of the image’s vertical position, but it is better than not having any lens shift at all. The shift allows you to adjust the projector’s throw offset to anywhere between 3% and 14% of the image height above the lens centerline.

Frame interpolation. Frame interpolation, or FI, creates interstitial frames in a video signal to smooth out the judder associated with camera pans and fast motion. The W1500’s FI has three levels. Low is a subtle setting which smooths out motion without any hint of the digital video effect and is a good choice for film purists who still want to reduce judder. Medium shows a bit more digital video effect but has a commensurate increase in the amount of smoothing. High is a good choice when actually watching HD video, but many folks will find it too aggressive for 24p film.

No rainbows. Quite a few people see rainbows when viewing projectors with 2X-speed color wheels; fewer still see them when watching a projector with a 4X-speed wheel. The W1500 has a 6X-speed color wheel — meaning the projector is nearly rainbow-proof. The wheel has six segments: two each of red, green, and blue. This arrangement also ensures 100% color brightness and rich color saturation, both important to a natural home theater picture.

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