Austerity cinema

How low can you go and still get a great cinematic experience? Steve May finds out, as he counts his change from a grand...

BenQ’s W1100 projector delivers large scale, vibrant images without obvious compromise, and its a full HD flag-waver for AV in our straitened times.

Despite the budget price tag, this model is undeniably cute. Should you be a fair-weather projectionist, it is small enough to store in a draw, but it’s also smart enough, with its contemporary white finish, to leave out when guests drop by.Its distinctly upmarket remote also helps. Backlit and comfortably moulded, it feels good in the hand.

There are generous connections on the back, comprising two HDMIs, component and S-Video inputs, phono AV and a 12V trigger. The latter allows the projector to automatically sync with an electric screen or lighting system – a pleasingly professional AV embellishment for such an affordable model.

Other connection options include a PC D-Sub input, Type B USB ‘upscreen’ connector, RS232 port and PC monitor output.

It doesn’t take long to have the W1100 up and running. While there is no vertical lens shift, the projector sports auto keystone correction which works surprisingly well.

There’s also a manual option, should you need to fiddle further. BenQ is rightly proud of the 12-element optical system used on this model. Straight out of the box, the W1100’s image is preternaturally sharp and bright. The picture pings like buttons off a fat man’s waistcoat and I soon had this PJ a-popping.

Image controls are extensive. There are three user-definable presets allied to a trio of picture settings (Standard, Cinema, Dynamic). All the expected picture parameter controls are here and can be saved to the individual user preset.

As with all small projectors, fan noise is an issue. Large vents pull air in on one side and expel it on the other, cooling the DLP chipset in the process. There is none of the sophisticated noise management seen on more costly models. You are given a modicum of control, though. You can dive into the lamp menu and adjust the lamp setting from Normal to Economic. This reduces power consumption by 20 per cent, but more importantly, knocks back fan noise from 27dB to a low 22dB thrum.

When you’re on a tight budget, you can’t expect extravagances. So I can’t complain about the lack of fast framerate technology on this model. That particular feature is reserved for BenQ’s step-up W1200 model (around £200 more). However, motion resolution is limited as a consequence. The W1100 tops out at a measured 650lines.

But what this PJ lacks in fast moving detail, it gains in cinematic swagger. Image dynamics and colour fidelity are very impressive. With TI’s Brilliant Colour mode engaged, hues are striking without becoming seriously overcranked. I found yellows in particular tended to zing. Through the W1100, the vibrant hues of 1940s Havana (Chico & Rita, Blu-ray) are utterly entrancing. Rita’s rosy-red lipstick mesmerises Chico (and us) when they first meet, yet never dominates the colour palette.

The machine brings enough light to spare and there’s a crisp bite to static detail. The black level is good; the W1200 tracked a 20/20 B&W greyscale with only minor pinching at each end of the scale.

It’s easy to overdo the sharpness settings though. I’d argue the main Sharpness control should not be eased past 4 on the numerical scale. This is optimum to bring out believable detail and delineation, as is evident in Chico and Rita’s rotoscoped animation. Once I’d started watching, I just didn’t want to turn it off.

Motion slickness

The projector does suffer from horizontal panning judder, but this is to be expected given the lack of glacial frame interpolation. On the upside, there’s no motion artefacts to contend with either.

Although this is a single-chip DLP model, I wasn’t disturbed by colour fringing or rainbows from the six-segment colour wheel. Even high contrast images barely registered a flash. It’s very impressive. Like so many tabletop projectors, the W1100 includes a modest amp and speaker. BenQ rates the output at 2 x 10W, although it certainly doesn’t sound that loud. To make the most of its sound box, the projector employs SRS Wow HD sound processing. This aspires to boost bass response, raise the soundstage and widen the sound field. Make of those claims what you will.

For a full HD projector, the W1100 is an unqualified steal. I love the Lasik sharpness of its images and the striking colour fidelity. This model definitely punches above its weight. Budget home cinema builders have never had it so good.


HCC VERDICT

BenQ W1100
Price:
£900 Approx

Highs: Rich, cinematic images; little DLP Rainbow colour fringing, extensive parameter control
Lows: Low motion resolution; fan noise; no vertical lens shift

Performance: 5/5
Design:  4/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

3D ready: no
Full HD: yes 1080p24
Component video: yes 1 set of inputs
HDMI: yes 1 v1.3 PC input: yes D-Sub 15 Pin
12V trigger: yes 1 output
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Brightness (claimed): 2,000 ANSI Lumens
Contrast ratio (claimed): 4,500:1
Dimensions: 339(w) x 139(h) x 267(d)mm
Weight: 3.6kg
Features: One-chip DLP imaging system; 230W lamp; backlit remote control; Auto keystone correction; ƒ=20.72 to 31mm lens; manual zoom and focus; manual keystone control; projection picture size up to 200in from a distance of 3.01m; 2 x 10W sound system; video formats supported – 480/60i, 576/50i, 480/60p, 576/50p, 720/60p, 720/50p, 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/24p (HDMI input only); 22dB fan noise quoted in Eco mode; 2,500 hours lamp life