DLP is making up for lost time. Chip supplier Texas Instruments has apparently decided that it has let its LCD rivals have more than enough time grooming the entry-level 1080p market, and has slashed the price of its own comparable chipsets, allowing DLP vendors to begin their counter-assault.
The campaign effectively started with Optoma's £2,000 HD80, and now it's being continued by BenQ with its Full HD W9000 at the same price point - potentially amazing value for a projector with so many pixel-packed bells and whistles.
Build quality can be considered excellent. As well as feeling reassuringly heavy and sporting an uncompromising 'industrial' design that had our resident fashionistas drooling, the W9000 is physically massive, hinting at superior electronics and advanced heat and noise management - it certainly runs quietly. And I can't help feeling that the centrally-mounted lens assembly looks far more high-spec than its rivals.
Pleasingly, adjustments for zoom and focus are electronic, via the remote, with no need to faff about manually with zoom/focus rings. You can even shift the image vertically via the remote, too.
The only serious setup limitation is the zoom ratio, which I feel is a little limited at just 1.15:1. This means the projector isn't especially flexible when it comes to fitting into different room sizes. To give you some idea of whether it gets anywhere near your requirements, BenQ claims a 100in image from 4m away.
Anamorphic is in
Anamorphic projection is rapidly redefining the high-end of the projection market in the US. By electronically squeezing a 2.35:1 widescreen image so that it uses all the pixels in a projector's 16:9 chipset, and then recorrecting the geometry with an outboard anamorphic lens assembly, an improvement in picture clarity of 30 per cent is possible.
BenQ obviously wants the W9000 to grab itself a slice of this anamorphic action. Indeed, it wants to stress its compatibility with Panamorph anamorphic lens technology so much that it even puts a Panamorph logo on the projector itself.
Typically, anamorphic lenses cost as much as the projectors they're connected with, but the W9000 can be used with Panamorph's P380-2 attachment kit, priced at a very modest $500 in the US. Unfortunately this add-on is not currently available in the UK, so we can't pass judgement on its value.
The projector is cutting-edge in other respects too. The W9000 can take a 1080p/24fps video output for judder-free motion from compatible Blu-ray and HD DVD machines.
As for the BenQ's other key specifications, the projector employs a high-spec eight-segment colour wheel, while the proprietary Senseye image processing system automatically adjusts the bright and dark areas of an image separately.
A dynamic iris filters down the light emitted by the projector during dark scenes. This is a familiar trick to boost black level response.
Senseye also contains plenty of noise reduction processing to clean up weak sources, but BenQ is keen to stress that this is applied only very 'intelligently', so that it never goes too far and causes such problems as over-sharpness or loss of clarity.
Other specifications of interest include 3D colour management; 10bit colour processing to render more than a million hues and improve gradations; and a special coating on the colour wheel designed to produce better saturation for blue and reds than you get with a standard sRGB colour space, without sacrificing green.
One key feature I've deliberately left until now - because it gives me a neat link to the W9000's picture performance - is the Faroudja DCDi adaptive de-interlacing. Personally, I consider the Faroudja chipset a bit long in the tooth.
It tends only to be used on budget video solutions. Silicon Optix has really stolen the lead when it comes to superior picture processing, with its Reon and Realta iterations.
These have effectively set the pace in the world of image processing and don't necessarily come with a high price tag. Mitsubishi's HC5000 is a direct competitor to this BenQ and comes with Reon chippery.
In comparison, DCDi suffers. I found edges in standard-def digital broadcasts actually more exaggerated than usual. Not that great...
Perhaps these standard-def 'jaggies' hoped to hide in a picture that's also surprisingly dull? Once calibrated, we measured the projector's real world contrast range at just a sniff over 400:1. It appears that the bulb itself is struggling to illuminate the two-million pixel image.
Viewed side-by-side with an InFocus IN82, the W9000's images really do lack brightness and 'snap', making the 1200 ANSI Lumens brightness claim look extremely optimistic - even when sacrificing a little black level response by using the 250W lamp output setting rather than the lower 200W option.
As well as making the W9000 practically unwatchable in even the slightest ambient light, this lack of brightness makes colours appear rather muted and the dynamic range limited.
Usually a lack of brightness can at least help a projector deliver more impressive blacks, but here the W9000 isn't as impactful as I'd have hoped, with a touch of greyness over dark areas emphasised by the lack of any seriously bright counterpoints.
I'm not saying that the W9000 is an unmitigated disaster, however. As Anakin and Obi-wan rescue Emperor Palpatine from Count Dooku's ship at the start of the Revenge of the Sith (Sky HD), the picture is engaging. Response time is excellent. DLP clearly has the edge over rival LCD solutions when it comes to motion reproduction. There's no smearing or lag, giving action sequences a sparky clarity that's very cinematic.
One DLP characteristic that readers often ask about is 'rainbow effect'. In truth, this has become far less of an issue in recent years and, even on a relatively inexpensive DLP model like this, it's not particularly intrusive.
Picture noise is also low. A good HD source, such as Transformers on HD DVD, looks delightfully clean. The colour processing is equally good, with gradations appearing smooth and believable.
The W9000's connections are best described as meagre. There's only a single digital HDMI video input. Folk wanting to simultaneously attach, say, a Sky HD box and a Blu-ray/HD DVD player will in all probability need to route their HD via an AV receiver which allows 1080p switching, or through a dedicated switch box. A little more versatility would be appreciated on future models.
You do at least get two analogue HD input options: phono and BNC component video systems, the latter of which doubles up as your means of connecting a PC. Plus there's a 12V trigger output for syncing with electric projection screens, and an RS-232 port via which it's possible for engineers from the Imaging Science Foundation to professionally calibrate your W9000. This means that it can be optimised for both source components and daytime/nighttime conditions.
The BenQ offers a wide range of user adjustments, letting uses further tinker with the image on neatly-presented onscreen menus; these include the 200W and 250W lamp output options, keystone adjustment, some unusual but nonetheless appreciated picture-in-picture options, and a dust filter timer.
An impressive build quality and potentially inexpensive anamorphic add-on will attract some attention to this bold BenQ. However, the W9000 doesn't really deliver on its initial promise. Despite its Full HD status it lacks visual snap, and for a PJ as imposing as this, that's a significant failing.