Without question, to produce the visual experience of a real movie theatre at home you will need a great projector. BenQ’s solution to producing a high quality picture is their luxury PE8720 projector, loaded with some of the latest technology and features available in a projector today. With this projector, BenQ hopes to change the meaning of the phrase “going to the movies”. But is the PE8720’s performance convincing enough to keep me at home the next time I feel like “going to the movies”? Well, there was only one way to find out. I reached for a few DVDs and a bag of microwavable popcorn.
The BenQ PE8720 is based on a Texas Instruments DarkChip3 DLP chip with a resolution of 720 by 1280 (720p). It has a contrast ratio rated at 10,000:1 and a brightness of 1000 ANSI lumens. This impressive contrast ratio is achieved thanks to an electronic iris that utilizes a variable lens aperture. The result is an optimized light intensity for bright and dark scenes. The projector uses a 5-speed, 8-segment colour wheel which helps to eliminate the infamous DLP rainbow artifact. The colour wheel also contains an NDG filter which minimizes green dot noise which commonly appears in dark picture scenes on DLP displays. 10-bit image processing combined with a specialized coating on the colour wheel promises realistic colour reproduction with over 16.7 million colours. The projector offers a 1.35:1 motorized zoom as well as a motorized focus. The PE8720 also promises a quiet operation, producing only 23 dB of noise in its appropriately named “whisper mode”. The PE8720 contains plenty of video inputs including: 1 composite video, 1 S-video, 2 component (1 RCA, 1 BNC), analogue RGB (BNB/VGA) and 1 HDMI.
The PE8720 is a large, heavy projector but its glossy white styling makes it pleasing to the eye. The large design of the enclosure helps to reduce the noise generated by the projector. The supplied remote has a very clean, straight forward design that makes it pleasant to use. Many buttons that allow access directly to the important functions are right on the remote, reducing the number of times that you’ll have to access the on-screen menu. All buttons are backlit in bright orange which makes this remote very user friendly in a darkened atmosphere.
I used a Pioneer Elite DV-46AV universal player as the source and projected the image on to an Elite Electric Home Series 100IWH screen (94″). The on-screen menu of the PE8720 is very well laid out and easy to navigate. This together with the powered lens and focus made the initial projector setup a snap. The projector comes with 5 picture presets from the factory: Cinema, Home Theater, Family Room, Photo and Gaming. But the picture settings can also be tweaked to your heart’s content. The presets will work fine for users who don’t want to play with the projector settings but enthusiasts will likely want to make some adjustments. Picture settings allow you to adjust the saturation and hue of each colour, the white balance as well as the colour temperature. I used the Digital Video Essentials disc to tweak the picture and found that with the iris about 70 percent closed, the PE8720 produced a good balance between brightness and contrast. Hardcore tweakers will appreciate just how precisely you can adjust the colours of this projector. The PE8720 allows independent six-color adjustment of primary (RGB) and secondary (CMY) colours. Changing one colour does not affect any of the other colours.
With the projector adjusted, I proceeded to watch a selection of scenes from The Island, V for Vendetta and Black Hawk Down. I also watched scenes from The Phantom of the Opera and The Last Samurai (HD DVDs) using our Toshiba HD-A1 player.
A contrast ratio rated at 10,000:1, isn’t that ludicrous? I started by watching V for Vendetta because it contains numerous dark scenes. It took only a couple of chapters for me to realize that the PE8720’s black levels were in fact very black and shadow details were astonishing. The contrast of this projector was equally incredible. I could easily see all the minute details in the darkest, most demanding scenes. High contrast scenes (dark shots with very bright areas) also displayed an incredible amount of detail. Dark clothed characters that walked in front of bright windows retained all the details in their clothing.
The colour reproduction of the PE8720 was nothing short of spectacular. The characters in Black Hawk Down had natural looking flesh tones. Fields of grass appeared naturally green and lifelike. Other colours were vivid and rich. This remained true with all the movies that I watched on this projector.
To test the video processing of the PE8720, I sent it a low resolution picture from my Starchoice satellite box. The 480i/p (4:3) picture was scaled to fit the large 16:9 widescreen and actually looked pretty good considering that it was blown up to 94 inches. Of course it was a much softer picture compared to the other sources that I tested, but it was still easily enjoyable.
High definition signals allowed the PE8720 to show its highest level performance. I caught a couple of shows in HD during my tests: an episode of CSI (on A&E HD) and We Built This City: London (on Discovery HD). Both shows looked absolutely fantastic whether I output them in 720p or 1080i from my Starchoice box. The PE8720 produced a super sharp picture with details that almost jumped out from the screen at times. The details of historic and modern London buildings were phenomenal. I could see the most subtle architectural elements. CSI uses various colour filters in their show so the colours were not true to life. However the colours in We Built This City: London looked vivid and natural. The high definition picture from the Toshiba HD-A1 player pushed the projector the extra distance. The Phantom of the Opera presented even more details than I saw in the shows from my satellite box. The motion artifacts associated with compression in the satellite signal were completely gone in the HD DVD movies. The PE8720 had the ability to make this picture look very multi-dimensional thanks to its superb colour reproduction.
The lamp of the PE8720 is rated for 2000 hours in full power mode and 3000 hours in power saving mode. I was perfectly happy with the picture in the power saving mode on my 94 inch screen. I suspect that you could go up to at least 110 inches before you need to use the full power mode, if you want to prolong the life of the lamp.
During my evaluation of the BenQ PE8720 I tried to find something that this projector didn’t do a good job with, but I couldn’t. The PE8720 exceeded my expectations in all areas. It was incredibly easy to set up because of its powered zoom, focus and lens shift – all accessible from the remote. It produced a flawless picture that was sharp as a blade and full of true-to-life colours. I was also impressed by its very quiet operation. However due to its $6499 price tag, it may be a bit of a stretch for the average consumer. But as we all know, it’s only a matter of time before this kind of performance will trickle down to models affordable to most of us.
$6499 MSRP (Canadian)
BenQ PE8720 DLP Projector
• Texas Instruments DarkChip3 DLP chip
• Native resolution: 1280 x 720 (720p), 16:9
• Brightness: 1000 ANSI lumens
• Contrast ratio: 10,000:1
• Noise level: 26 dB (normal mode), 23 dB (whisper mode)
• Image size: 23.5”~300”
• Throw ratio: 100” @4m (100”@13.12 feet)
• Zoom ratio: motorized zoom, 1.35:1
• Projection position: Front/Rear, Table/Ceiling
• Video inputs: analog RGB :BNC x 3 (BNC to VGA adapter included in box), composite x 1, S-video x 1, component x 2 (BNC x 5, RCA), HDMI x 1
• Dimensions (WxDxH): 19 x 7.6 x 15.4 inches (492 x 195 x 393 mm)
• Weight: 20 lbs (9 kg)