Rich tones like those in animated films, meanwhile, really leap off the screen, while also being able to draw from a wider palette than is common with a budget projector. This makes bright, colourful material look dynamic and bold yet also credible. Even colours during dark scenes hold up well, thanks to the BenQ W703D’s relative lack of the grey or blue undertones you usually get with budget projectors.
The BenQ W703D even surprises us with its sharpness. For despite its 720p resolution it does a perfectly solid job of shifting 1080p sources down to 720p. Detail levels still look high, and there isn’t that sense of softness and shimmering edge noise you commonly get with budget downscaling systems. Certainly you’re never in doubt that you’re watching a HD source rather than a standard definition one.
For all their excellence versus any other similarly cheap projector pictures, the BenQ W703D’s images inevitably aren’t perfect. Skin tones can look plasticky at times, especially when you’re watching standard definition. Very bright elements of the picture can look rather bleached out too, as the projector fails to delineate subtle greyscale shifts at the white end of the spectrum.
As is usually the case with cheap single-chip DLP projectors, meanwhile, there are a couple of motion problems. First, 24p sources exhibit a degree of judder during camera pans, and second, flesh tones occasionally exhibit signs of dotting noise caused by the DLP colour wheel - though this latter problem in particular is not as intrusive as might have been anticipated.
Next, the use of a 720p DLP system means that if you’re using a relatively large screen you’re more likely to notice the grid-like pixel structure that makes up the pictures - especially if you’re also sat relatively close to your screen. This visible pixel structure can also cause minor jaggies around curved edges.
While colours are impressively dynamic and natural for much of the time, meanwhile, they do lack finesse, resulting in some striping and blocking artefacts at times as the projector fails to resolve every tonal shift subtlety. If you try and push the projector’s brightness and especially contrast levels too high, moreover, pictures can start to exhibit colour noise and break up.
The BenQ W703D’s most disappointing weakness, though, is 3D. When in 3D mode the picture seems to lose pretty much all contrast and black level response, causing dark 3D scenes to look painfully washed out, short of background detail and, as a result, flatter than they do in 2D. What's more, 3D viewing also uncovered one or two rather nasty colour glitches as the projector worked harder to combat the dimming effect of the active shutter glasses.
The BenQ W703D’s 3D pictures do contain a decent amount of detail and avoid pretty much all crosstalk ghosting noise. But still, if you’re a serious 3D fan, the BenQ W703D is not going to scratch your 3D itch.
Let’s finish on the positive note, the W703D overall comfortably deserves, though, by saying that considering how bright and punchy it is, it really doesn’t put out much running noise at all - especially if you can live with the Eco lamp mode.
The BenQ W703D has come out of nowhere to become one of our favourite AV products of the year. It completely rewrites the budget projector rulebook, delivering some genuine AV picture thrills - in 2D mode, at any rate - at a far lower price than such quality has ever been seen at before.
Finally we have a convincing answer to give to all those people who regularly ask us if there’s a good movie projector around for less than £500.