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...)

JUST $2499 FOR A UHD PROJECTOR
Let's celebrate the pricing first. Every so often consumers enjoy a radical price adjustment for AV projectors. Today the impressive-enough 1920 x 1080 performance that used to cost $10,000 in a projector just a decade ago is now available in the $1000-$2000 area.

But Ultra-HD projection at 3840 x 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 x 2160, which those using '4K' as interchangeable with 'UHD' instead now call 'DCI 4K'.)

The W1700 brings UHD down to under $2500, when rivals are still crowing about busting the $5000 barrier.

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-optimized 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.

W1700

FOUR FLASHES FOR UHD
So, how is it achieving that 3840 x 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 x 1528 pixels. That’s around 4.15 megapixels, half the number required for Ultra High Definition. So the Texas Instruments DMD device uses the tiny micromirrors on the DMD to make two flashes, shifting the pixels between the two 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 our test patterns at UHD showed that each pixel was indeed individually rendered correctly, albeit with slight inconsistencies in some line widths, presumably caused by the overlaps.

Now in this W1700, the Texas Instruments DMD is smaller, just 0.47-inch, and (we await confirmation on this, but it seems the only possible option) it has a resolution of only 1920 x 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 to our 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.    

AND THERE’S MORE
In addition to the UHD resolution, BenQ’s CinematicColor technology delivers Rec.709 HDTV colour accuracy using an RGBRGB colour wheeland 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-puruity 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 to project richer blacks and increase contrast for image details. ‘LampSave Mode’ further extends projector lamp life up to 15,000 hours, minimising replacements and maintenance.

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 the banding effect often seen on skies and other wide areas of gradual colour change.

BenQ W1700

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 shlves, described as "be available for pre-order at selected retail stores in December 2017". 

More info: BenQ Australia