Rivals win on brightness and HDR, but this is a superb-value home cinema projector
- Brilliant, natural colours
- Strong grasp of detail
- Easy to set up and use
- Limited brightness levels and HDR
- Short on other modes and features
On paper, it’s hard to get too excited about the BenQ W1800. Sure, it’s a 4K projector for around a grand but, between the Optoma UHD38, ViewSonic X10-4K and BenQ’s own excellent TK700, such things no longer seem miraculous.
The W1800 doesn’t have the gaming features of the TK700 or the Optoma and it doesn’t go as bright, and it can’t rival the ViewSonic when it comes to lamp life. In fact, the only hints of its capabilities come in its support for Filmmaker Mode and a claimed 100% coverage of the Rec. 709 colour space, which is itself more integral to the old HDTV standards than it is to current UHD specs.
However, what’s on paper doesn’t always tell the whole story. Up and running the W1800 has its flaws, but what works makes it a great home cinema projector, especially if you don’t have vast amounts of cash to splash around.
BenQ W1800 review: What you need to know
The W1800 is a 4K HDR projector skewed towards home cinema more than all-round entertainment, with Filmmaker Mode to disable any image-compromising, post-processing effects and ensure that the aspect ratio, frame rates and colours you see on your screen are exactly what the film-makers intended. If you’ve seen it at work on a good LCD or OLED TV, you’ll know why this is a good thing.
To help, the projector promises to cover the full Rec. 709 colour standard, while providing optimised HDR10 and HLG support. Like most 4K projectors under £2,000, the 0.47in DLP chip inside the W1800 doesn’t support 4K resolution natively but uses rapid pixel shifting at 240Hz to provide a near-perfect simulation instead.
The projector also has a relatively short throw of 1.3:1 with the zoom control at full, giving you a 100in picture at a distance of only 2.5m. The only worrying spec is a maximum brightness of just 2,000 ANSI lumens.
BenQ W1800 review: Price and competition
It’s on brightness that the W1800’s major competitors win through. The Optoma UHD38 can go up to 4,000 ANSI lumens, while the TK700 reaches 3,200. Even the LED-powered ViewSonic X10-4K can hit 2,400 ANSI lumens. What’s more, the first two projectors have a selection of handy built-in gaming features, while the X10-4K has an incredibly long lamp life of 30,000 hours.
The BenQ W1800 can do up to 15,000 hours in its lamp save mode, but only 8,000 in the most balanced Smart Eco mode and just 4,000 when it’s set to normal. After that, you’re looking at a pricey lamp replacement.
The brightness limitation means the BenQ isn’t the best projector for use in brighter rooms. It is usable with some ambient light but it’s undoubtedly at its best in a darkened room. But there’s more to picture quality than brightness, as I’ll get to in a minute.
BenQ W1800 review: Design
The physical design of the W1800 sits pretty close to BenQ’s established style, with a fairly compact, rectangular unit made of matte white plastics and a bronze-colour faceplate surrounding the lens. There’s easy access to the focus and zoom wheels at the top, plus a set of controls to cover all the basic adjustments should you mislay the remote control in the middle of a Netflix binge. Our model came with a very useful remote with switchable backlighting, which made it a whole lot easier to adjust picture settings and change sources in the dark.
For connectivity you have two HDMI 2.0b sockets, supporting HDCP 2.2, plus a serial connector for control applications, an audio output and a USB port. Our sample also came with a compartment where you could fit BenQ’s QS01 Android TV streaming stick. This is actually one of the best Android TV streaming sticks we’ve looked at and can be found bundled with the W1800 for under £900 in some sales. But as it doesn’t currently support Netflix, we’d still recommend a Fire TV or Roku 4K streaming stick if you have the choice. We used the latter during testing and it worked superbly well.
Setup is fairly painless, partly because BenQ’s 2D keystoning controls make it easy to iron out any issues caused by the positioning or angle of projection. It isn’t automatic, and neither is focus, but it doesn’t take an awful lot of work. The menus aren’t the easiest to understand and you have to enable Advanced mode to unlock a lot of the settings, but one of the beauties of Filmmaker mode, when you use it, is that you can trust it to handle all the tricky stuff.
BenQ W1800 review: Picture quality
The first thing that strikes you with the W1800’s pictures is how smooth and natural they look. The Optoma UHD38 and BenQ TK700 deliver a brighter, slightly crisper image but, for cinematic visuals, the W1800 is in a different league. I tested it on a range of material using the Roku 4K Streaming Stick and 4K Blu-rays, from Marvel and Star Wars blockbusters such as Avengers: Endgame and The Last Jedi to The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Reacher, Only Murders in the Building and Knives Out. The W1800 never faltered when it came to detail, colour, richness or depth. It’s always a good sign when I forget that I’m reviewing and settle in just to watch. With the BenQ W1800, this happened a lot.
Any weaknesses are predictable. The black level is dark but not exactly deep and this, coupled with the low brightness levels (I measured a mere 178cd/m² reflected off the screen) mean this shouldn’t be your first choice of projector if you’re a massive fan of HDR. However, there is a noticeable difference between, say, Thor: Ragnarok with HDR turned on and with HDR turned off, so there’s clearly some degree of optimisation going on.
It’s the colours that swing it for the W1800, though. Not only did this projector slightly exceed Rec.709 in testing but colour accuracy is fantastic by projector standards, with an average Delta E of 2.89. Its only serious rival here is the Viewsonic X10-4K and that’s slightly more expensive.
There aren’t any specific gaming modes here, but the BenQ W1800 can run PC and console games at 1080p with a refresh rate of 120Hz or 240Hz. And while it’s no match for the UHD38 or TK700 on this ground, it’s still great for a spot of Destiny 2 or Elden Ring when you’ve finished watching films. You will need an external sound system, though. While the 5W internal speaker can get loud enough for casual viewing, the sound’s a little too flat and boxy for anything more.
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BenQ W1800 review: Verdict
Rivals have the W1800 beaten when it comes to HDR, brightness and contrast, then, but you’ll struggle to find another 4K projector at this price that delivers a more natural, cinematic image.
Look elsewhere for a gaming projector or a versatile, daylight-friendly all-rounder but, if you’re most concerned with using your projector to watch films and 4K streaming series, this is one of the best options for around £1,000.