Last year we reviewed another BenQ projector, the PE5120, which was a decent DLP model at a previously unprecedented £500. Now it has done it again. The W100 is the replacement for the PE5120, and although it has many things in common, and has an identical selling price, it has been improved significantly in various ways.
Like its predecessor, the W100 is compact and lightweight, which makes it easy to accommodate and is also a standard definition projector (854 x 480 pixels), which is the same as standard NTSC DVD ( though PAL material must be scaled down a little to fit). The design has also been enhanced by including a new lamp, which offers a longer life and costs less to replace, as well as a brighter picture. It's up by 200 ANSI Lumens to a very respectable 1300 ANSI Lumens. An improved colour wheel, now with a seventh clear segment, also helps generate a brighter picture on screen with less 'rainbow', and contrast ratio has been upped from 2000:1 to 2500:1.
The other major change is that the new model has two sets of component inputs. Why not HDMI? Because the W100 makes no pretence of being HD ready. But it can cope with virtually all good DVD players, which these days are invariably equipped with component outputs, as are most games console. In any case there is an encrypted DVI output which can talk happily to displays with HDMI inputs, with the video signal remaining in digital form.
The W100 looks brighter, clearer and more colourful on screen. Blacks are surprisingly deep, though there is some loss of differentiation in the near blacks. But, of course, there are limits to what you can reasonably ask of any projector at this price.
A key reason why it performs better than you might expect is that it is a DLP projector, with very narrow dark lines between rows and columns of pixels, especially compared to a typical LCD grid.
Picture quality is clearly brighter and more contrasty than the old model, and it's colourful too - almost too bold and vivid at times, but without an obvious colour cast at the default settings, just a generalised lack of subtlety, which ensures that skin tones are not quite real. The lens is not as even in its ability from corner to corner as some, but over, say, 85 per cent of the picture area, the BenQ looks genuinely crisp on screen, with signs of slightly over-sharpened edges between areas of different colour.
There is some dot crawl and 'churn' in areas, that shows motion thanks to video processing not quite in the top class. Scrolling text in particular can look a little jerky. Remaining issues concern the cooling system, which is subject to some high pitched whine from the colour wheel.
But these things barely register with a projector that happily demonstrates an ability to deliver the goods way beyond its class and price tag. Alvin Gold