BenQ’s four-flash W1700 hits Ultra High Def at just $2499

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There’s a lot more than meets the eye to BenQ’s new price-slash­ing Ultra-HD pro­jec­tor, the CineHome W1700 DLP 4K HDR. Most early re­ports have been firmly fo­cused on the price — and rea­son­ably enough, since the W1700 de­liv­ers Ultra High Def­i­ni­tion pixel counts and sup­port for HDR10 High Dy­namic Range at just $2499.

But just as in­ter­est­ingly, the W1700 in­tro­duces to the mar­ket a new Texas In­stru­ments technology which wasn’t ex­pected to get into real pro­jec­tors un­til the mid­dle of next year — a four-flash XPD UHD DMD. (Bear with us...)


Let’s cel­e­brate the pric­ing first. Ev­ery so of­ten con­sumers en­joy a rad­i­cal price ad­just­ment for AV pro­jec­tors. To­day the im­pres­sivee­nough 1920 × 1080 per­for­mance that used to cost $10,000 in a pro­jec­tor just a decade ago is now avail­able in the $1000-$2000 area (see p31). But Ultra-HD pro­jec­tion at 3840 × 2160 res­o­lu­tion has re­mained in the pre­mium price cat­e­gories… un­til now! BenQ has an­nounced the W1700 at $2499, smash­ing the prices set even by the few UHD pro­jec­tors that have slipped un­der $5000 in re­cent months. (They’re of­ten called 4K, though true 4K was orig­i­nally a pro-stan­dard 4096 × 2160. Those us­ing ‘4K’ as in­ter­change­able with ‘UHD’ in­stead now call the orig­i­nal 4K ‘DCI 4K’.

BenQ’s three key fea­tures in the W1700 are that 8.3-megapixel “true UHD 4K res­o­lu­tion”, with full sup­port for the lat­est HDCP 2.2 copy pro­tec­tion as used on UHD Blu-ray play­ers, plus BenQ’s ex­clu­sive Cine­mat­icColor ac­cu­racy, and thirdly pro­jec­tion-op­ti­mised High Dy­namic Range. And it achieves these in a light­weight de­sign with easy set-up and a rel­a­tively com­pact foot­print. Plug up your video source or an HDMI don­gle such as Google Chrome­cast and you’re ready to go.


So, how is it achiev­ing that 3840 × 2160 Ultra HD res­o­lu­tion? The pre­vi­ous few pro­jec­tors from BenQ (at sig­nif­i­cantly higher prices) have used an 0.67-inch Dig­i­tal Mi­cromir­ror De­vice (DMD) with 2716 × 1528 pix­els. That’s around 4.15 megapix­els, half the num­ber re­quired for Ultra High Def­i­ni­tion. The Texas In­stru­ments DMD de­vice then uses the tiny mi­cromir­rors on the DMD to make two flashes, shift­ing the pix­els between the flashes to de­liver the full res­o­lu­tion re­quired. This sys­tem was known as XPR (ex­Panded Pixel Res­o­lu­tion). But the ge­om­e­try of this pixel dou­bling was dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand. How do you shift pix­els di­ag­o­nally once with­out over­lap­ping them? We never quite un­der­stood this, but had to eat the proven pud­ding since test pat­terns showed that each pixel was in­deed in­di­vid­u­ally ren­dered cor­rectly, al­beit with slight in­con­sis­ten­cies in some line widths, pre­sum­ably caused by some premap­ping of im­ages to cope for the over­laps.

Now in this W1700, the Texas In­stru­ments DMD is smaller, just 0.47-inch, and has a res­o­lu­tion of only 1920 × 1080 pix­els. This we like far bet­ter, be­cause a new four-flash sys­tem al­lows easy map­ping of the full UHD res­o­lu­tion in four straight hits. We gather the new XPD sys­tem sup­ports both 50Hz and 60Hz, so it must be flash­ing at a min­i­mum of 200 times a se­cond, fill­ing the frame 50 times a se­cond, which should be more than fast enough to over­come any time lag in dis­play, thanks per­sis­tence of vi­sion.

Oddly it still doesn’t sup­port 24Hz, the frame rate at which al­most ev­ery movie ever has been made. This might pos­si­bly be be­cause the slower flash rate wouldn’t fool our brains, though we can’t see why on earth Texas In­stru­ments wouldn’t in­clude a 48Hz mode for smooth 24Hz re­play if it can ac­com­mo­date both 50 and 60Hz. Still, the re­sult here is a win all round. The four-flash DMD is smaller and cheaper, which is how BenQ is of­fer­ing such a com­pet­i­tive pro­jec­tor here.


In ad­di­tion to the UHD res­o­lu­tion, BenQ’s Cine­mat­icColor technology de­liv­ers Rec.709 HDTV colour ac­cu­racy us­ing an RGBRGB colour wheel and high na­tive ANSI con­trast ra­tio. BenQ uses nanome­ter-level ref­er­ences to test com­bi­na­tions of colour-wheel an­gle and coat­ings, with each wheel then care­fully fab­ri­cated with high-pu­rity colour coat­ings to meet Rec. 709 colour gamut re­quire­ments.

As BenQ says, colour ac­cu­racy be­gins with the lamp, and the W1700 prom­ises long lamp-life ex­pectancy through its SmartEco technology which au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs lamp bright­ness based on con­tent. ‘Lam­pSave Mode’ fur­ther ex­tends life up to 15,000 hours, low­er­ing re­place­ment and main­te­nance costs.

High Dy­namic Range is sup­ported un­der the HDR10 open stan­dard, with BenQ’s Auto HDR Nat­u­ral Color Ren­di­tion and Cin­ema-Op­ti­mized technology promis­ing HDR per­for­mance with greater bright­ness, con­trast range and im­age op­ti­mi­sa­tion, along with nat­u­ral por­trayal of colours, rather than a ‘pushed’ ef­fect with over­sat­u­ra­tion. An­other ben­e­fit of HDR and a 10-bit pro­cess­ing ‘pipe’ is the greater grad­u­a­tion of colours, smooth­ing tran­si­tions and re­mov­ing band­ing ef­fects. on skies and other wide ar­eas of colour.

We look for­ward to play­ing with this new and in­no­va­tive UHD pro­jec­tor, and see­ing how suc­cess­fully it de­liv­ers pixel-for-pixel Ultra High Def­i­ni­tion. Since the four-flash tech is so much more eas­ily un­der­stood than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion of XPD, we think BenQ may be on to a win­ner. We do note that the W1700 isn’t yet on the shelves, de­scribed as “be avail­able for pre-or­der at se­lected re­tail stores in De­cem­ber 2017”.

More info:

The W1700 flips four sep­a­rate 1920x1080 im­ages into sep­a­rate quad­rants to de­liver UHD in the blink of an eye.

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