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HTF Hardware Review: BenQ W500, a work in progress!


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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 20 2008 - 08:16 AM

Welcome to my first official HTF Hardware Review, BenQ's W500, a 3LCD 720P HD Projector. This thread is a working review in progress as I kick the tires and see what I like and dont like about this unit, especially as it compares to my current PJ, the Panasonic AE-900u, which coincidentally is ALSO a 3LCD 720p HD Projector.

First, you can find the running Flickr Stream for this review here:
08-BenQ-W500 Reveiw - a set on Flickr

The embedded images I'm putting in from Flickr are getting cached and resized by HTF, so not sure how to turn that off. I will put direct links below some of them so you can see the originals.

You should note a few things about those photos. First, I am a double color blind person, which means Reds/Greens and Blues/browns tend to merge together. So if the colors seem a bit 'off', its probably my eye rather than the PJ. Second, please dont mind the dust =p Yes I know I should dust my PJ more and clean the fans a bit =)

More as I get it typed up, but my initial impressions are as follows:
- The chassis is significantly similar to my AE900U. In fact, its the closest I've seen to that model not made by Panasonic.
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- The image it throws, out of the box direct, is a heck of a lot sharper and more contrasty. If those were the ONLY considerations I had, I'd immediately want to upgrade, but there are a lot more factors than IQ that come into play.

- There is some screen dooring if you get in close to it, but at normal viewing distances you never see them at all. I like to play videogames in close on my screen so I prefer the 'smoothscreening' of the Pannys, but the Panny loses sharpness to get that effect. Smoothscreening also seems to reduce Edge Enhancement and EE shows more vividly on the W-500. Garbage in Garbage out or so they say!
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http://farm4.static.....76fc88bc_b.jpg

- MOST IMPORTANTLY, I failed to follow rule #1 when buying a PJ when signing up for this one to review: Make DAMN sure that the zoom range of the PJ is within range of where you intend to place the PJ. If you see this picture, you will see that at the distance my existing setup is set up at, the minimum screen real estate needed is waaaaay too big for my screen and even for my wall. I have had to temporarily set up this PJ on box tops in the middle of my room. What this means is that even if I loved this PJ more than anything, there is no way I could make it permanently work in my room, so measure carefully and make sure it fits in with YOURs if you plan on putting one in yourself! The zoom range on this PJ is probably the biggest dissappointment, the 900U's range smokes that of this unit.

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To make absolutely sure this doesnt happen to you, use BenQ's PJ calculator or one of the many available on the web:
http://www.benq.com/...tor/calculator/

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#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 20 2008 - 08:42 AM

OK, first the tech specs. You can find BenQ's tech spec page for this unit at:
BenQ USA - Consumer Electronics

Not coincidentally, BenQ also sells these units direct, at a pretty damn good price. Currently they have it for $849 which is below a lot of the other vendors on Pricegrabber, tho the old reliable B&H has it at an even greater discount.

This is $1100 cheaper than what I bought my AE900U for!!!! At that time, the AE900u was considered the most amazing bang for the buck PJ that had ever come on the market. Amazing how much can change in as little as two years.


You can peruse the manual here:
http://www.benq.us/s...s...2 den%2epdf

And take a look at the warrantee here:
http://www.benq.us/s......52d1yr%2epdf

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#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 20 2008 - 08:56 AM

OK so lets list the Pros and Cons that i have found on this unit: Pros -Amazingly sharp and detailed image quality. IQ wise it is as good or better than my 900u if you don't mind screen door up close. -Decent color right out of the box using the 'dynamic' preset, which engages the auto-iris built into the lens to maximize contrast ratio -It's BRIGHT, tho this may be more noticeable due to the awesome contrast. -Easy to use menu system for fine adjustments using DVD essentials or AVIA. -Menu allows you to create your own custom splash screen, what a great way to customize your HT and impress folks seeing your PJ for the first time =) -Small and lightweight -1 HDMI input and 2 Component-ins gives great flexibility, 15pin VGA input is great for hooking up laptops or Mac Minis or a HTPC. -The remote is light, lights up, well laid out and very descriptive -THE PRICE is great. If you are considering your first PJ, this is a terrific way to get into front projection! -High Portability: This unit would also be great for events where you need to hook up a PJ to an Xbox360, PS3 or HTPC and then bring it on home. 1 power cable and 1 HDMI, component or VGA cable and you are good to go! For under $800 you could be up and running in 20 minutes with your first PJ, and for those who need an HD PJ on the go this would be a good inexpensive unit to consider. Cons: -The Zoom range on the lens is TINY. You absolutely have to make certain that this unit will fit the screen size you expect to project from the distance you expect to have your PJ situated in. My two year old unit has a lot more flexibility in this area. -It's LOUD. You of course can build your own baffles and other solutions, but right out of the box this unit is a lot louder than my AE900u. Even in Econo-mode, which saves on lamp life, the fan is on constantly and it overwhelms the silent parts of movies. This wouldnt be a consideration during videogames or presentations, but for dramatic films it would be an issue. -Screendoor up close / No Smoothscreen. Depending on how close you sit this might not be a problem. -Only one HDMI input. We are still transitioning to HDMI and you can solve this with a selector box, but remember that Component cables cannot carry 1080P. Of course this unit will turn 1080P into 720p and cannot display it natively so that may not be a consideration. -A little orangey out of the box. YMMV, and a quick dose of DVD essentials will cure. None should be considered outright deal breakers, and all have solutions. All are what you would expect from a unit in this price range too, but you cannot ignore them!

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#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 22 2008 - 12:38 PM

Any questions on this unit before I pack it up and send it back? Will do final thoughts tomorrow!

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#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Parker Clack

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Posted July 24 2008 - 01:09 AM

Sam: Great job on the review. This projector looks like a buy for those that are looking for a low priced option to get into front projection.

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#6 of 10 OFFLINE   CRyan

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Posted July 24 2008 - 04:26 AM

I am looking forward to more hardware reviews here for sure. I hope you can get a hold of some of the more reasonably priced 1080p projectors soon and let us know what you think.

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 25 2008 - 12:53 AM

You and me both CRyan!

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#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 25 2008 - 03:54 AM

Final thoughts:

Have had this unit for about a week now and have thrown everything I have at it with very satisfying results. The bottom line is that Packy is 100% correct: This is a terrific unit for someone looking to get into REAL HD at an attractive price. On image quality alone I'm sure that most people will be more than satisfied.

There are however a number of caveats that have to be figured in when deciding if this unit is right for you, chief among them being making sure you can position the PJ in the slim range of distances for the size screen you want. If you have a blank wall you are likely good to go, but if you have a pre-fab screen you need to be very cautious. Also you need to make sure the noise level will not be too distracting, on a table top this may not be the way to go but if you are going to cieling mount you are probably OK.

In closing I would like to sincerely thank BenQ for the loan of the unit and I truly look forward to doing more of these hardware reviews. Since BenQ has a full line of HD PJs I'd love to get a crack at putting one of their more full featured ones against my trusty Panny, and would be especially keen to give a full workout to one that has a native 1080P resolution, hint hint! =)

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#9 of 10 OFFLINE   CRyan

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Posted July 25 2008 - 11:21 AM

There are always those new to the arena of front projection, however, I cant help but think most here are more interested in upgrading from a 720p projector or even a 1080i/720p TV and would find more interest in a higher resolution unit. I might be wrong - but that is certainly the case for me! Posted Image

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   weishen

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Posted September 15 2008 - 01:03 PM

Thanks for the good review! For people who might be intereted getting this projector you can buy from BenQ @ $764 after using thankyou10 promo code (10% off $849). This is really a sweet price.




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