BenQ W1070 review:

Big picture, medium quality, little money

BenQ calls its lower-power lamp mode "Economic," and engaging it improves black levels while still keeping plenty of light for a dark room. There's also a Brilliant Color option that we kept engaged because it improved some aspects of the picture.

Connectivity: The BenQ includes both legacy and digital connections, so no matter what boxes you are trying to connect you should be catered for. There's two HDMI ports, component video, composite, and even S-Video -- a rarity these days. Of course there's also a PC input with audio in and and audio out as well if you don't want to use the onboard speaker.

Picture quality
In many of the tests, including black levels, the BenQ and the Epson 3020 were neck-and-neck, with the BenQ losing to the Epson slightly on shadow detail and reproducing more-natural colors, especially in darker areas. I also appreciated that it didn't require a (noisy) iris like the Epson's.

The 3D replay was excellent and better than that on most TVs of any price for both lack of cross-talk and image "pop." It's just a shame that the company expects $99 a "pop" for you to enjoy it.

Comparison models (details)
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020 LCD
Mitsubishi HC7900DW Single-chip DLP
Sony VPL-HW50ES (reference) SXRD

Black and white level: One of the first things for our comparison test was to block the light from the front exhaust port. It did improve black levels a little according to our measurements, but not enough to be easily perceptible to the eye.

While the Epson measured better for black in our tests, this was with the help of the iris. In real-life testing we discerned little difference between them, and indeed the BenQ can often look darker depending on the scene. The W1070's contrast and pop were impressive for its price, albeit nothing like our reference Sony, for example.

However, there is one thing the BenQ doesn't get quite right: it can crush some low-level shadow detail. With the flyby of the Romulan ship in "Star Trek" (Chapter 4, 28:18), the BenQ obscures details on the passing ship that the Epson uncovers, while the surface next to Nero's face (which is a green table on the best displays) is completely missing at the 28:30 mark. Adjusting the controls to reveal these details is possible, but not without sacrificing too much in other areas, like black level.

In terms of light output, the BenQ had plenty for our dark room and 120-inch-diagonal, high-gain StudioTek 130 screen. I measured a maximum light output of 53fL in Dynamic mode, which is good for a budget projector, but the trade-offs of that mode include terrible color. That number beats the light output of the Mitsubishi, but falls a bit short of the Epson.

Color accuracy: Taking the $4,000 Sony VPL-HW50ES as my reference, colors appeared closer to it on the BenQ than the Epson -- yellows in particular. Compared with the Sony, the BenQ was still a bit worse, however, and reds were definitely lacking in saturation.

The BenQ's skin tones are good and again come quite close to the reference. One example came at the 29:51 mark in "Star Trek," where the reddish face of Captain Kirk -- as well as the red Starfleet uniforms, green grass, and blue sky -- looked much more natural than those from the Epson.

As a DLP projector, black areas of the picture were neutral on the BenQ where on the competing Epson they were bluish. This was most obvious during the starkly black scenes of the Creation sequence in "The Tree of Life" (Chapter 4).

Video processing: For so little money, the BenQ does a great job of showing "The Tree of Life" at something approaching true home cinema quality. For instance there was no solarizing on the BenQ at 24:23 during the sunrise over the alien planet. Some plasmas and LCDs don't have the processing or bandwidth to prevent banding in smooth gradations of color like this.

In our synthetic tests, the BenQ was able to parse 1080i film with a stable image whereas the otherwise excellent Epson saw some fluttering in the vertical bars. Blu-ray content in native 24 frames per second was also replayed without any judder.

Bright lighting: While it couldn't get quite as bright as the Epson, it did reasonably well in a dimly lit room, but it's not quite enough to stop light from overhead lights leaking onto your screen. If you want something that will work in a lit room without issue, you need to look at a business projector or pay a lot more.

3D: For a $1,000 projector I was blown away by how good the 3D image was. No TV under $1,000 can give you an image with this much depth and lack of crosstalk. The glasses also helped to enhance contrast giving a higher sense of a "black" background.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0167 Average
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.22 Good
Near-black error (5%) 0.4657 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.3046 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.9187 Good
Avg. color error 2.43178333333333 Good
Red error 0.539 Good
Green error 3.184 Average
Blue error 6.9648 Poor
Cyan error 1.1532 Good
Magenta error 2.2142 Good
Yellow error 0.5355 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 340 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 340 Poor
Input lag (Calibrated mode) 33.7 Good

BenQ W1070 projector report by

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