REVIEW: BENQ X12000 4K UHD LED HOME CINEMA PROJECTOR
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4K UHD LED Home Cinema Projector
Let’s face it, when it comes to new technology, being an early adopter can be tough… Buy the latest piece of tech too early and it can become outdated quickly.
On the other hand, leave it too long to upgrade and you can miss much out on the excitement or OOOOOH factor that comes with owning the latest technology.
In January 2016, the UHD Alliance created a set of standards for the 4K Ultra HD (UHD). Now consumers could buy a new Premium Certified TV without the fear of it becoming outdated too quickly.
While those waiting in the wings to by a UHD TV may have been rejoicing, things weren’t quite as clear in the world of projectors.
Up until recently, Sony has been the only manufacturer building ‘true’ 4K projectors. Most have opted to use ‘pixel shift’ technology to produce 4K images. Granted they do a pretty good job, but they’re still not true 4K projectors.
Taiwanese manufacturer BenQ has long been associated with producing home theatre projectors pitched at the entry level, affordable market. While this is a practice they continue today, last year’s release of their THX Certified W8000 projector marked their entry into the mid-range market.
Seeking to expand their mid-range offerings, BenQ quickly announced the arrival of two new '4K' home theatre projectors. True to form, they broke new price ground with the release of the $7,999 W11000 and $9,999 X12000 home theatre projectors.
The obvious question, is why on earth would you buy the X12000, when the W11000 can be had for $2,000 less? While the W11000 and X12000 both have a native resolution of 3840x2160 (4K), the X12000 has some important features not offered in its cheaper sibling.
Firstly, the X12000 uses an LED light source, with an expected lamp life of 30,000 hours. Secondly, and arguably more important is the X12000 boasts a DCI/P3 colour gamut, whereas the W11000 offers a Rec. 709 colour gamut. If this leaves you scratching your head, compare the Blu-ray and Ultra HD colour diagrams.
The X12000, which is the subject of this review has a native resolution of 3840x2160, and while it may be stamped with '4K', like many others it also uses pixel shift technology to acheive this resolution.
In addition, the X12000 boasts a DCI/P3 colour gamut. If this leaves you scratching your head, compare the Blu-ray and Ultra HD colour diagrams.
Ultra HD discs are capable of producing a greater range of colours than Blu-ray. In fact, the DCI/P3 colour gamut is the very same one that’s used to show movies at your local cinema.
Keen pundits will notice the X12000 doesn’t support High Dynamic Range (HDR). It’s important to understand that Ultra HD Premium Certification was designed for televisions. As it stands today, there is currently no standard set out for home projectors. BenQ have told us the following:
When there is a standard set by the CEA or similar, BenQ will certainly deliver a product to the agreed and unified standard.
What’s in the box
Finished in matt black and dark grey, the X12000 is an attractive unit. Its centrally mounted lens has two rings for manual adjustment of zoom and focus. Likewise, vertical and horizontal lens shift is performed manually via dials located on top of the projector.
At this price-point, motorised lens control would have been a welcome inclusion, however once the X12000 has been set up, these controls will be rarely needed.
All connections, including power are located on the left of the X12000. These include 2 x HDMI inputs (HDMI 1/HDCP 2.2), 1 x USB mini input, LAN input, IR input, PC input, 1 RS232 input and 2 x 12volt triggers. A small cover located next to the connections opens to reveal the menu and navigation buttons.
The remote is finished in the same matt black and dark grey as the X12000’s chassis. With large, easy to read buttons, the remote is easy enough to use and my only criticism is the lack of direct access to picture modes. I’m being picky here, but it would greatly speed up the process of accessing the X12000’s various picture modes.
The overall build quality and design of the X12000 and its accompanying remote was excellent.
Due to its size, the X12000 won’t be able to be mounted as closely to back walls as smaller projectors. This won’t be a problem in most rooms but those with smaller rooms will need to be careful when factoring in throw distances.
While the X12000 doesn’t have the prettiest menu system, it’s quite functional and provides access to all of the controls needed to setup the projector; the one omission being that there is no provision for multiple lens memories.
I found the X12000 to be a little noisy in operation, however, I suspect my main listening position is a lot closer than most to their projectors. Putting the lamp in ECO mode certainly reduced the fan noise, however the ‘Silence’ picture mode was the quietest by far.
As of today, there are only a few projectors and TV’s that can reproduce 100% of the DCI/P3 colour gamut. In fact, to receive the UHD Alliance’s Ultra HD Premium Certification a TV is only required to reproduce just 90% of the DCI/P3 colour gamut.
With my colorimeter profiled against a spectroradiometer to the X12000 it was time to put BenQ’s claim to the test. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised.
My initial round of measurements on the X12000 was completed prior to calibration. In DCI picture mode, the X1200 reproduced 106.3% of the DCI/P3 colour gamut.
Except for the Cinema Picture mode, all of the X12000’s picture modes reproduced the full DCI/P3 colour gamut. Testing the Cinema Picture mode revealed it faithfully reproduced the Rec 709/ Blu-ray colour gamut.
The icing on the cake is a functional Colour Management System, allowing the X12000 to achieve reference DCI/P3 colour accuracy.
Out of the box greyscale performance was excellent. If not for a little black crush and gamma/EOFT a little lower than preferred, the X12000 would have achieved out of the box reference colour accuracy for Blu-ray viewing.
I started my evaluation with both the ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Montage’ test scenes found on the Spears and Munsil HD Benchmark 2 Blu-ray.
My usual battery of test material produced an image that was very natural. While black levels left a little to be desired, the image still portrayed a convincing sense of depth.
With the Blu-ray version of Mad Max Fury Road, the X12000 delivered a bright and punchy image. The 4K upscaling producing a noticeably better image than regular 1080p.
If the Blu-ray of Mad Max Fury Road offers reference quality video and audio, the UHD version is a visual and sonic tour de force. This is where the X12000 really shone.
Whether it was the brass horns on the “Doof Wagon” or the flames that lept from the “Coma Doof Warrior’s” guitar, the X12000 extracted all of the colour the UHD format has to offer.
Not to be outshone, 2016’s The Revenant is another UHD disc with reference quality video. Although the colour palette is often subdued, when used it’s used to great effect.
With the bleak winter setting, the X12000 produced a very natural picture with an excellent sense of depth. While the picture was loaded with detail, it never looked contrived or artificial.
The X12000’s excellent greyscale performance meant it perfectly rendered the dark wood of the trees and the mountain stone without free of any unwelcome colour intrusion.
Reproducing the full DCI/P3 colour gamut means the X12000 has the ability to bring out all of the extra colour the UHD format has to offer. In this regard, the X12000 punches beyond its weight.
My only caveat regarding the X12000’s performance is that its black levels could be improved upon.
There’s just something about the images that a DLP projector produce and overall, the BenQ X12000 simply offers an excellent level of performance.
For more information visit the BenQ brand page.
Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator by day, and an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products by night. Tony has calibrated and worked with some of the best home cinema designers throughout Australia.
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