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BenQ W1200 - Impressive Picture, Plus Some Niggles
Look deeper than the W1200's strident colours and you come across something arguably even more impressive: a remarkable combination of exceptional sharpness/detail with an almost complete lack of video noise. This combi is hard even for DLP projectors twice as expensive to pull off thanks to the technology's tendency to suffer fizzing noise over moving objects or subtle dotting in dark areas when used in affordable implementations. So for the W1200 to have employed good enough lens optics, a sophisticated enough DLP chipset array and a good enough colour wheel arrangement to avoid such noise problems is a real game-changer for this level of the DLP market.
The quality of the W1200's colour wheel is underlined, moreover, by surprisingly little evidence of that classic single-chip DLP problem, the rainbow effect. In fact, we struggled to detect the tell-tale red, green and blue stripes at all, even if we sat too close to the screen, flitted our eyes over the image or waved our fingers in front of our eyes. (The latter being a sure-fire way of detecting rainbowing - we haven't just gone mad. Honest!).
The lack of rainbow noise is all the more impressive given how bright and punchy the W1200's pictures are.
Also far better than expected for the W1200's money is its motion handling. If you hate the very idea of frame interpolation, then rest assured that the W1200's images don't suffer as badly with judder as many cheap DLP projectors do. It helps, too, that motion problems aren't exaggerated by significant DLP fizzing noise.
However, if you do fancy a go with the Frame Interpolation system, you'll find that it's remarkably good for the W1200's money. So long as you leave it on a restrained setting, it does a great job of reducing judder without either making films look unduly 'video like' or, even more unexpectedly, generating much at all in the way of nasty side effects.
There are a couple of performance shortcomings with the W1200. First, while the punchy look to bright picture elements creates a good illusion of contrast, in truth dark areas of the picture look a touch washed out and a little short of shadow detail. What's more, reducing the brightness setting to combat the slight greyness actually just crushes out more detail rather than producing an improved white/black balance.
To be fair, this issue probably reflects the fact that BenQ was thinking that the W1200 might often be used in a fairly casual environment, with a degree of ambient light to contend with. But if you're able to use it in a completely blacked out room, we'd recommend even more than usual that you use it with a proper screen to give you a degree of control over the W1200's light rather than just using a white wall. In fact, adding a curtaining system to cover the black bars when watching 21:9 films also considerably boosts the W1200's perceived performance.
Our other issue with the W1200 concerns its fan noise. For while this is continually quite loud with the lamp set to normal, during our tests the fans also repeatedly shifted - for no obvious reason - in and out of their highest gear with the lamp set to Eco. And of course, a changing fan is potentially more distracting than even a quite loud but constant one. We guess this issue is a price to pay for the image's impressive dynamism.
One final thing to say is that as with many other casual projectors, the W1200 has a built in sound system. Unlike most other projectors, though, the W1200's sound system is surprisingly decent, equipped as it is with an unprecedentedly powerful 2 x 10W speaker array. Of course, this doesn't alter the fact that using the projector for audio results in sound that doesn't seem to be coming from anywhere near your screen, but we guess it could still be useful for watching sports or maybe gaming.
The W1200 does its best to turn us against it with its uneven fan noise, slightly flimsy build quality and worst of all its missing vertical image shift. But ultimately, no matter how much we tried to stay upset with it, the exceptional sharpness, purity, colour richness and motion clarity of its pictures just kept putting a big stupid grin across our budget-conscious faces. And if that isn't a good reason to recommend a product, we don't know what is.