The BenQ PE7700 is one of the latest hi-def DLP projectors to hit our shore. At the heart of the video display is the high-performance HD2+ chip -- renowned for its rich colour and deep blacks. To complement the chip, the Taiwanese manufacturer has integrated an HDMI input to support a direct digital interface for optimal picture quality. This projector is a worthy contender for all videophiles poised to jump on the hi-def bandwagon.
The projector and remote caught our attention when we unpacked our review set. Dressed in a glossy white shell with silver panels, the PE7700 scores high in the design department. An embossed BenQ logo on the top-right corner of the chassis adds an extra touch of class. The chassis also features buttons with lighted labels, enhancing their functionality and aesthetic appeal.
The PE7700 is by no means petite with its 380 by 114 by 299mm frame and 5.5kg weight, but its ultra-sleek look more than compensates for its bulk.
BenQ has done a fine job with the remote control. Although it's a tad on the large side, it is nonetheless comfortable to operate. The buttons are unusually well spaced (great news for people with fat thumbs) and feature shortcut keys for selecting specific inputs, aspect ratios and display settings. Backlight is enabled for all buttons but has to be manually activated via a dedicated 'light' button, as opposed to smarter on-demand implementation based on room lighting conditions.
The projector's user interface is a breeze to navigate with its logically grouped menu and structured options. Five sets of video preset modes are included to assist first-time projector owners with the setup process. For the more technically inclined, there are also an array of advanced settings available for tweaking out the last bit of performance.
The PE7700 is HD-ready with its 1,280x720-pixel resolution. Under the hood is a Texas Instruments HD2+ chip partnered with a 5x speed, six-segment colour wheel. The high-speed colour wheel employed in the projector minimises rainbow -- an anomaly inherent in DLP technology.
The BenQ has a short throw capability and can project a 2.5m (100-inch) image from 3m. As a first sign of cost-cutting measures, the lens shift function has been omitted and replaced with a digitally-manipulated keystone control. BenQ's Senseye technology has also found its way into the PE7700. It features advanced image enhancement technology which automatically optimises contrast and sharpness to improve clarity and depth.
A built-in scaler enables the projector to upscale 480p or downscale 1080i materials to its native 720p resolution. This feature will come in handy for non-HD playback devices hooked up to the PE7700. For users with multiple video sources, BenQ has included the Picture-In-Picture (PIP) and Picture-On-Picture functions. The former is similar to the usual PIP function while the latter allows images from two different sources to be displayed side-by-side. The lamp within the PE7700 is rated up to 3,000 hours at economic mode.
Connectivity-wise, the PE7700 has all the necessary inputs for a fairly complex setup, including two component-videos and an HDMI. Both sets of inputs accept progressive scan and 720p/1080i HD signals. While no HDMI cable is included in the package, BenQ has thrown in a pair of VGA-to-component cables for PC/laptop use.
Picture quality from the PE7700 is brilliant, exhibiting a film-like quality to rival the big screen. We are particularly impressed with its high contrast and exceptional black shadow details. In the Blade 2 fight scene, we were able to make out subtle details on Wesley Snipe's leather jacket even though the scene was dark.
The projected image is generally noise-free, with good details and picture uniformity. We did register slight geometry distortion at the four extreme corners of the image but these were well within the industrial limits. For optimum performance, some degree of light control must be observed as the image tends to lose its impact in brighter environments.
Out of the five video preset modes, the Family Room mode, with its high brightness and colour saturation, is ideal for a bright environment. We would choose the Home Theater mode for movie playback, due to its accurate skin tones and deep blacks.
We observed a drop in brightness and sharpness when we switched from HDMI to component video. This was probably a result of the analogue-to-digital conversion engaged by the analogue component-video input as opposed to the full digital HDMI interface.
The built-on scaler performed reasonably well in our test. 1080i downscaled material showed no visible image degrading, while 480p upscaled material looked softer than the original.
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin