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Peer Reviewer:
Art Feierman, vice president, Alliant Solutions Inc., San Clemente, CA. Alliant Solutions AV Integration Division focuses on custom AV systems design, integration, and installation. Feierman is also the owner and chief reviewer of www.ProjectorReviews.com.

My Pick:
BenQ PE8720 home theater projector, $7,999 MSRP

What I Like About It:
First of all, this BenQ projector has exceptional sharpness — better than any other projector I’ve worked with that’s anywhere near this unit’s selling price. Color accuracy is extremely good out of the box with flesh tones that always look very good.

There are also several preset modes, such as Cinema, Home Theater, Family Room, and Photo. Contrast and shadow detail are excellent, as the PE8720 starts with a DarkChip3 DLP. It also has an adjustable iris, which is normally only found on LCD projectors to improve handling of dark scenes. The PE8720’s combination of DarkChip3 and iris achieve exceptional results.

The BenQ is notably quiet — something serious home theater projector buyers demand. The remote control is very impressive, although I — like many buyers of home theater projectors in this price range — use a third-party programmable remote to run my entire system. Venting allows for shelf mounting in the back of the room, which is where my unit is installed. Lastly, there’s a cable cover for the back of the projector to keep things neat, which is another feature I really appreciate.

I Would Change:
Adding a couple of additional preset modes would be helpful. Even though the PE8720 has five presets, it could offer more choices for using the projector with different ambient light levels. For example, a “vivid” or “brilliant” mode, which best handles a lot of ambient light (at the expense of accurate color), would be nice. Also, while three savable settings is a respectable number, those users who have the projector fully calibrated for different sources and room lighting levels would appreciate another two or three.

Although the projector offers vertical lens shift, the range is a little limited. For example, when the unit is ceiling mounted, the shift range requires that the center of the lens be no higher than a few inches above the screen top (the projector can be placed vertically, anywhere between the top and bottom of the screen surface). Those with high ceilings would appreciate a bit more range. That said, the PE8720’s lens shift is typical for most home theater projectors that offer it.

Where I Used It:
This projector is shelf-mounted in the back of a 21- by 15-foot home theater, located 21 feet from my 128-inch Stewart Firehawk screen and roughly 9 feet above floor level.

My Results:
My initial PE8720 was one of the first pre-production units, which BenQ provided for evaluation purposes. That unit had some issues with color handling — notably Gamma, but BenQ replaced my pre-production unit with the latest version in December. Based on the first unit, I was sufficiently impressed with the potential, but wanted to see if BenQ took care of the issues I raised regarding Gamma, etc., which left the Cinema and Home Theater modes wanting.

The current version actually far exceeded my expectations. The Gamma settings in Home Theater mode are now extremely close to the ideal 2.2 for movie watching. Color balance as measured with Avia Pro software and a light meter is very consistent across the IRE range, with only the slightest shift toward blue (confirmed by a color temperature slightly higher than the ideal 6,500 Kelvin). Shadow detail and black levels are excellent. Even more importantly, flesh tones are gorgeous. High-definition or DVD, flesh tones are almost always natural looking, with any flaws primarily attributed to the source material, not the projector.

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