Sharp and crisp; balanced colour range
Last year, our favourite projector for less than £2000 had a 1080p resolution and could manage only standard dynamic range. This year, in a similar price range, there are a smattering of projectors claiming both 4K resolutions and support for high dynamic range. How quickly things change.
The first to come through our testing room is Benq’s W1700. While it’s not as spellbinding as we might hope, it still gives a strong performance.
At just over 4kg, this feels as though it has a good solidity to it. The lamp has a claimed 2200 lumens output and 4000 hours of life, while Benq says that the W1700 has a 10,000:1 contrast ratio.
It also has two HDMI ports and a PC input, as well as its USB Type A port for powering streaming devices.
On the whole, the projector is relatively easy to use and quick to set up. Navigating through its menus is simple and the remote responds well. The W1700 isn’t quick off the mark to start up and, like many projectors, there’s a degree of noise from the fan, but these certainly aren’t deal breakers in our eyes.
The projector’s 4K resolution comes from a single 12mm DLP (Digital Light Processing) chip that, while not native 4K, can be used in conjunction with fast-switching mirrors that deliver multiple pixels per frame to the screen. It’s similar technology to other 4K projectors from last year, including the Award-winning Optoma UHD65, and is enough to get certification from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in the USA.
Similarly, the projector’s HDR capabilities also come with some caveats: the company says the W1700 is ‘supercharged by HDR10 support’ – HDR10 being most common form of HDR. In order for a product to meet that standard it must have a BT.2020 colour space; however, the W1700 isn’t able Not as punchy as we would like
fully to reproduce that colour spectrum. While this projector will take an HDR10 signal from your Ultra HD Blu-rays or streaming services, you won’t get the full range of colours.
On the sonic side, there’s a built-in 5W speaker, but we’d always recommend pairing any projector with some suitable speakers and a good amplifier.
Once we have optimised the image to our test room settings, and punched up the sharpness a little, we play Baby Driver on Ultra HD Blu-ray. The W1700 brings up an insightful image with lots of detail. The wisps of Baby’s brown fringe stand out against his pale face, and gems on his sparkly pink ipod glint nicely.
However, we would like a more bombastic approach. There are occasions when we are left yearning for blue skies to pop a little more, or for the red of Bats’ jacket to shimmer. The picture doesn’t quite live up to Benq’s claims of ‘supercharged HDR’. But it is still an enjoyable watch.
Switching down to a Blu-ray of Thor: Ragnarok, much of the character we like in the Ultra HD picture is brought to lower-definition content. Colours still come across well in the light – you can see the shades of white in the lightning as it crashes down from the sky – but like most rivals, the W1700 falters a little in the darkness. The browns, blacks and blues of the occult house of Doctor Strange all merge a little in the murk.
The W1700’s upscaler does a commendable job recreating the absent pixels, though. It’s not quite as crisp and clear as native 4K content, but it’s good by class standards.
Going through the motion
“One area that lets this projector down is the way it handles motion. There is a slight lack of image stability during busy scenes”
Most affordable projectors struggle with motion, and the Benq is no different. There is a slight lack of image stability during busy scenes. Watching waves breaking on a beach or the movement of a tusk fish in Blue Planet II makes your brain work just a bit harder. For most motion you won’t notice it, but during scenes where many of the pixels are moving, it can be a bit of a distraction.
This is still a good projector for the money. There are a few aspects we’d like to see improved, but for anyone looking for a projector at a reasonable price that’s still packed with features, the W1700 should be seriously considered.
The remote has a handy backlight button for use in a darkened room