BenQ PE8700 £4000
1st Mar 2005 | 00:00
Can the BenQ deliver a weighty performance?
Surprisingly often, the weight of home cinema kit is directly proportional to how good it is. Essentially, the heavier it is, the better it is. Which bodes well for BenQ's PE8700 - it weighs an absolute ton.
As well as being hefty, the PE8700 is also big. But at least it wears its bulk pretty well, thanks to its robust silver bodywork and bold blue lens and control button cover.
Connectivity is pretty good. The star of the show is a DVI input - and yes, this does have HDCP readiness, so it will be able to take Sky high definition broadcasts and digital outputs from some of today's more advanced DVD players.
For people still in the analogue world, there are component video inputs, an S-video input, a composite video input, a 12V trigger output, and five BNC inputs for H/V-synced component/RGB signals.
Bend at the knees
Providing your back survives lifting it out of its box, the PE8700 is pretty easy to set up. All the familiar touches are there for helping you fit the picture perfectly to your screen, with our only slight concern being the relatively long-throw lens arrangement. For instance, to enjoy even an 80in image from the PE8700, you'll need at least 13ft between the projector and your screen.
The PE8700 isn't exactly awash with features; only a picture in picture mode (available during PC use) and 3-2 pulldown mode catch our eye.
There's far more to like about the PE8700's specifications, though. For starters, the native DLP chipset ratio is a healthy 1,280 x 720, making it able to take unscaled 720p high definition. What's more, this resolution indicates that the chipset adopts a movie-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio. The claimed 2,500:1 contrast ratio floats our boat too, especially when partnered with the very respectable 1,000 ANSI Lumens brightness estimate.
All these impressive specifications undoubtedly play a part in the generally likeable picture performance. Particularly outstanding is the PE8700's black level response. There's no greying over of dark scenes, which allows the PE8700 to paint even Star Wars' tricky battle scenes with impeccable authenticity, texture and depth. Squinting through a low-contrast space murk becomes a thing of the past!
What's more, this impeccable contrast performance is achieved without, it seems, compromising brightness. As well as helping bright, sunlit scenes like the ones on Tatooine, this vitality ensures that even bright elements within dark scenes receive their proper emphasis.
The well balanced contrast and brightness also play a big part in helping serve up sumptuously rich, solid colours. For instance, the neon lights in and around cantina bar stand out like lightsabers from their surroundings. The Tatooine scenes do occasionally catch the tone of the PE8700's colours out a touch, with faces adopting a slightly greenish tinge, but this is small beer.
The PE8700 has plenty of fine detail to offer, too. As we look down on Bud on the floor after being bitten by a snake with money lying all around him, the picture is so sharp you'd swear you can almost read the numbers on the dollar bills.
With so much good stuff going on, it's a huge pity that a couple of surprisingly old-school problems let the PE8700 down. The most troublesome is the appearance of dotty noise over horizontal motion - particularly where it's someone's skin that's moving. But there's also quite a bit of green dot crawl in the picture during dark scenes that leaves them looking distractingly 'alive'.
To be fair, these common DLP issues are found to a greater or lesser extent on most mainstream DLP projectors. But their appearance here leans more toward the 'greater' end of the scale - and in doing so reminds us that even one or two budget projectors actually control such weaknesses better. A fact which ultimately leads us to feel that the PE8700's price is almost as hefty as it is...