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BenQ True 4K HDR-PRO Home Entertainment Projector | TK850 | DLP | 3000 Lumens | Rec.709 | 3D projector for binge watchers and sports fans
- Make sure this fits by entering your model number.
- TRUE 4K UHD RESOLUTION: 3840 × 2160 or 8.3 million Individual Pixels give incredible clarity and crisply defined details. NOT double HD or 2K like other manufacturers
- PROJECTOR-OPTIMIZED HDR-PRO(HDR10/HLG): HDR-PRO supercharged by Dynamic Iris with exclusive enhanced contrast and HDR brightness for realistic, detailed images
- CINEMATIC COLOR TECHNOLOGY: Our out-of-the-box factory calibrated color accurate projector with DCI-P3 color space is one of the latest forms of technology When it comes to colors available and exceeds the color spectrum from what you can get with Rec. 709
- IMMERSIVE GAMING/SPORTS EXPERIENCE: Dedicated Sport modes with CinemaMaster Audio+2 make you feel like you’re part of the game
- EASY UPDRAGE FROM BENQ 1080P PROJECTORS: 1.3X big zoom and lens shift increase installation ease and upgrade flexibility from W1070, HT2050,HT2050A and HT3050
- VIVID COLORS IN ANY AMBIENT LIGHTING: Perfectly balanced high visual brightness (>3000lm) and vivid colors (98% Rec.709) for use in well-lit environments
- 10-ELEMENT CRYSTAL LENS ARRAY: specialized all-glass lens grouping provides the right level of light penetration producing best-in-class sharpness, color, Quality and clarity
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From the manufacturer
Never Miss A Moment
TK850 4K Sports Projector
Superb 4K UHD Excitement
Don’t miss a single detail. TK850 vivid 4K projector reduces blur for stunning clarity and defined details. Showcase images with new 0.47” DMD technology, 4K-optimized lens array, and low-dispersion lens coating. Let this BenQ projector make together time more enjoyable in your home.
Immersive Sports Enjoyment
Feel like you’re part of the action! TK850 dedicated 4k projector’s sports picture/sound mode and motion enhancer improve viewing fun.
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BenQ TK850 home entertainment projector.
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Six years ago, BenQ released the critically acclaimed W1070. The W1070 was a first-of-its-kind projector that combined the right ingredients in the right price-package that allowed it to punch well above its weight. It was the first 1080p 3D projector available for under $1,000, and yet , it did not skimp on performance. The combination of brightness, 1080p resolution, sharpness, color accuracy, and a great 3D feature-set at a price below $1,000 led to it becoming one of the best selling home theater projectors of all-time.
WAIT A SECOND… isn’t this a review for the HT3550? Yes, I’ll get to that. But, SPOILER ALERT, the context of what the W1070 was to the 1080p projector market in 2013 foreshadows what the HT3550 is to the emerging 4K projector market.
INTRODUCING THE HT3550
My objective in this review is to give you insight into how your average ‘pro-sumer’ has experienced this projector, especially in a large-format dedicated theater space. My setup consists of a 20’ by 30’ dedicated theater that I built under my suspended-slab garage. I have a large 160” 16:9 1.0 gain acoustically transparent woven screen in a completely light controlled environment.
After more hours with the HT3550 than I care to share here, I do not over-exaggerate when I say that I feel that the HT3550 is a silver bullet category killer. It is to the affordable 4K HDR market that the W1070 was with the 1080p 3D market. While not perfect, you no longer have to compromise in black levels or placement flexibility when you are moving up from solid performers like the W1070 and HT2050.
Enough context. Let’s dig in!
SPECS and HARDWARE
4K HDR DLP
The HT3550 is a DLP (single chip) projector capable of producing a ‘pixel-perfect’ resolution of 3840x2160. This is achieved by shifting a native 1080p DMD 240 times per second to create 8.3 million unique pixels on the screen. This ‘XPR’ technology allows it to achieve the HDMI 2.0a spec of 4K HDR at 60 fps in both of its HDMI inputs. This allows it to be fully compatible with the Xbox One X and PS4 for 8 gbps 4KHDR60 gaming. It also supports 4K60 when connected to a PC.
BenQ is also introducing its new HDR implementation called ‘HDR-Pro’. More on this later, but I will say that this seems to be a happy marriage of software and hardware. Helping out on the hardware side is an all new 10-element glass lens array, dynamic iris, and with the new TI DMD chip; no more gray border. The result is a true impressive HDR image which I touch more upon in reviewing the performance of the HT3550.
BenQ is also one of the first projectors in the world to launch with HLG or ‘Hybrid Log Gamma’ support. HLG is a little known, newly adopted standard for broadcasting HDR over the airwaves and internet. DirecTV, Youtube, and BBC are among the first to adopt the standard.
The HT3550 has 5 standard SDR modes and 1 hidden HDR10 mode that only automatically activates once HDR content is detected.
Bright - As expected, the ‘Bright’ mode is just that, bright. But like every ‘Bright’ mode I’ve seen, it is washed out in green and mostly unusable unless you are projecting data in a brightly lit conference room.
Vivid TV - Vivid TV amps up the color saturation and brightness at the expense of color accuracy. I enjoyed watching TV on my Xfinity DVR and NBA games in this mode.
Cinema - This is my favorite mode for my large screen. With Brilliant Color set to ‘On’ it provides the best brightness, color accuracy, and detail for the most types of content.
D. Cinema - This stands for ‘Digital Cinema’ which leverages the “Wide Color Mode” set to On. More on this later in the "DCI-P3" section.
User - This is a mode based on Cinema and Digital Cinema. Other modes can be imported into this mode and customized.
HDR10 - This mode is automatically engaged when HDR content is detected. While in this mode you can customize it to your liking, but out of the box it is very very good. Any changes you make while in HDR10 mode will be saved and automatically engaged. VERY nice.
The HT3550 has a very pleasant sound profile. Deep and consistent. No off-putting buzzing at start up or when XPR is engaging. It sounds like moving air and is fairly quiet even mounted right above my head.
The item on the spec-list that struck me the most was the inclusion of a dynamic iris on the HT3550. To my knowledge there is not a dynamic iris in any DLP projector at this price point and are typically only found in projectors that cost over $2,000. I will touch on this impressive feature later.
Another impressive item to note is the 95% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space and 100% Rec709 coverage. The 95% DCI-P3 coverage that the HT3550 boasts has never been done by a 4K DLP projector. For context, most other .47” 4K DLP projectors last year tested in the 60%s.
The HT3550 achieves this great DCI-P3 coverage with a setting called “Wide Color Mode” which physically actuates a color filter in the optical assembly. You can hear a little ‘click!’ When it engages for the first time. With the color filter in place, the color is truly impressive. There is a catch, however. This mode reduces light output by about 30-40%. A calibrated image in this mode will be approximately 800-900 lumens. This mode should only be used in a completely dark setup.
CFI / MEMC
An upgrade from last year’s models is smooth CFI/MEMC. Medium was just the right amount to smooth the motion while watching some basketball on my DVR. However, to anyone who enjoys this feature on movies, SHAME! :)
Kudos to BenQ for an admirable job addressing a broader target audience with this multi-use audio feature set. We now have 3.5mm AND an optical out for audio.
The portable entertainment features are expanded even further with the addition of the built in USB media player which can play pretty much anything you throw at it, codec-wise. There is also a dedicated USB power port which allows you to run a dedicated Fire TV or Roku Streaming Stick in either HDMI ports.
This one is big since it impacts so much of the HT3550 can do. BenQ has moved from having multiple less powerful chips on the HT2550/TK800 sharing the processing load from 4K, HDR, 3D, and HD handling. The processing power has been consolidated down to 1-2 SOCs on the HT3550. This is a welcome upgrade as it leads to a number of benefits to the end-user. From first power-on, I noticed the HT3550 was about 15 seconds faster on a cold boot than the TK800 I was upgrading from. That may seem like a small amount but in real life, 15 seconds seems like an eternity the are ready for some ‘me-time’. Source switching, handshaking, switching Picture Modes, 3D detection, menu snappiness and more are vastly improved compared to the HT2550 and TK800. There is no system function that is left untouched by this processor improvement.
USB FIRMWARE UPDATES
Which leads me to USER UPGRADABLE FIRMWARE! The multiple processor chip setup of last year’s models also led to the firmware not being able to be upgraded by the end-user. With BenQ’s very good post launch support of their projectors (I think the W1070 had 14 or 15 firmware revisions?), early adopters can jump in with confidence that any kinks and firmware UI updates will easily taken care of via USB update.
PERFORMANCE AND VIEWING EXPERIENCE
4K HDR CONTENT
I feel like 4K was made for projectors. Projector limitations aside, they allow the resolution and immersion to be appreciated in ways that TVs just can’t. The HT3550 handles the extra resolution nicely, but where it really shines is in its HDR implementation. I referenced BenQ’s new ‘HDR-Pro’ implementation before and I have to say, I’m extremely impressed. The dynamic iris, lens array, new DMD, and software all work together to increase the overall HDR image quality by a large margin compared to SDR content. The details in highlights and shadows are both much more apparent while at the same time the overall image still has punchy contrast to boot. The brightness of 4K HDR content is truly impressive as well. For my 160” screen, I turned the HDR Brightness setting to +1 and was still left with a fantastic image with great contrast and black levels.
The best compliment that I can give this projector’s HDR performance is the admission that my fussing with content from title to title was minimal. My wife HATES what I fiddle with settings. There were only a small handful of scenes across over a dozen titles where the tone mapping in the red spectrum went a bit overboard but that is me being nit-picky.
CONTRAST AND BLACK LEVELS
Contrast and black levels is the area with the most apparent improvement compared to the HT2550, TK800, and every other .47” DLP projector on the market. This is the first projector released using Texas Instruments’ updated .47” 4K DLP DMD which fixes/eliminates the grey border. The grey border on last year’s models wasn’t noticeable to me in every day use but it could be argued that the extra light bouncing around only served to reduce the contrast and raise the gray point. In all honesty, the grey border should never have been a “thing”. With a new DMD, a dynamic iris, a new lens array, and improved tone mapping, black levels have gone from “meh” to “GREAT!” for this price point. This was a huge hurdle to overcome that crippled the perception of last year’s .47” DLP 4K projectors.
Regarding the dynamic iris implementation, it is impressive. My subjective pass/fail rating on dynamic iris implementations is simple. Does the image look better with it on? Can you tell tell it is actuating while watching the image? If the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ respectively, we get the the resulting pass or fail. The HT3550 passes. To what degree? That begs a further discussion.
We love context here. And for more context, here are my hands on impressions with another popular 4K-capable projector with a dynamic iris that I owned, the Epson 4000. On the Epson HC4000, I found that engaging the dynamic iris led to a dimmer image and the actuation on dim scenes were slightly delayed. This pulled me out of the movie and was distracting. It didn’t make the image look subjectively better and I noticed when it would engage and disengage. I have a big screen so I can use all the brightness I can get so I left the feature on the Epson 400 off most of the time.
With the HT3550, I do not notice any ‘dim delay’ with it on. BenQ has gone above and beyond with this dynamic iris implementation with dynamic tone mapping algorithms that adjust the tone mapping on screen depending on the aperture of the iris. What this leads to is higher perceived brightness and better localized black levels.
Light leakage on the HT3550 is also very good for a chassis of this size. The 'ceiling halo' so prevalent in projectors has been completely cured in the HT3550 by a bit of simple ingenuity on BenQ's part; a simple black piece of plastic placed in front of the lens that dually serves as a handsome placard for their '4K' branding. This control of light leakage on front is yet another boon for better contrast.
OUT OF THE BOX COLOR
BenQ has been known for providing ‘better-than-most’ out of box color. Unbox, turn it on, and it just looks good. This was the case on the TK800, HT2550, HT2050a, and W1070 that I’ve unboxed. However, if you have ever read one of my reviews, I always lead out with “MY PREFERRED SETTINGS” and its usually a mix of brightness, contrast, and sharpness plus or minus 5 points on the settings scale, and adjustments to color temperature to get that ‘just right’ look. What can I say…. I’m a tinkerer! With that said, the HT3550 provides the best out-of-the-box color I’ve seen and there is a reason I didn’t lead with My Preferred Settings. They are for the most part, out of the box default settings. Multiple hundreds of hours into this projector, my settings are mostly the same right now as when I opened the box. And trust me, I’ve tried to break them down and change them…. But for most content and most environments, just pop it into Cinema mode and enjoy. BenQ also provides a “Factory Calibration Report” in a nicely embossed envelope for each HT3550. A nice touch to say “Hey. We care about color”. And it shows.
The HT3550 is claiming 2000 lumens, 200 less than then HT2550. However, in my testing, the HT3550 actually seems brighter than the HT2550. I have a feeling that the calibrated color brightness is better. While I felt the HT2550 was just bright enough for my 160” screen, with the HT3550 the perceived brightness is spot on to my eye for this screen size in the default Cinema Mode.
HDR brightness, as stated earlier, is also fantastic.
The HT3550 is vastly improved with 3D content handling and performance. When a 3D Blu Ray is played, the projector will automatically lock on and switch to 3D mode. Nothing needs to be done by the user. I watched Tron:3D from the Blu Ray and it was a treat. I sat 11’ away in my first row from my 160” screen. My 3D glasses FOV was all screen and it was incredibly immersive. With glasses on, the image was just-bright-enough for my 160” screen. I tested my own personal 3D library of titles being streamed on Plex with my Nvidia Shield. It is all SBS content and all I had to do was change the Shield’s resolution to 1080p and change the projector 3D mode to SBS. Everything I threw at it was picked up by the HT3550.
For those that care, 3D is done at 120hz on this projector. The W1070 did 3D at 144hz but the difference is so negligible that I could not see a difference in motion handling between the two.
I’m a casual gamer. Gaming on the HT3550 looks great and it’s a blast to play on. Input lag has not improved over the last gen of BenQ’s, however. Early input lag measurements are pinning this at 50-60ms which equate to two frames of the game. I’m not equipped to measure but what I am equipped with are two eyeballs and two thumbs. Those bio-inputs tell me that, as a casual gamer, the input lag is not noticeable to me and it’s a blast to play on. I’m sure pro-gamers care about 50ms of input lag and if that amount of input lag is unacceptable, I know the HT2050/2050a and a couple of 1080p Optoma projectors achieve input lag close to single digits.
For kicks and giggles, I created a custom 1080p 120hz resolution on my PC and the HT3550 handled its with aplomb. Mouse movements were fluid as you would expect with a high refresh rate monitor. I did notice the input lag on PC more than the Xbox since I am used to my GSync monitor and my mouse movements are more fine than an Xbox controller. However, I still had blast in the couple of League of Legends games I played on it on the big screen.
Placement is key so I want to spend a good section on addressing this. The combination of throw, zoom, and offset is going to determine if and where a projector makes sense in your space.
Throw ratio is the measurement that tells us how large the projected image is relative to the distance you are from the screen. The reason this spec is always a range is because the zoom of the projector allows you to project different image sizes from the same lens location. How large the range is a direct correlation to how large to zoom is. The actual throw ratio calculation is simple. The HT3550 has a ‘throw ratio’ of 1.13-1.47. Let’s use a 100” diagonal 16:9 screen as an example. To determine the minimum distance the projector lens can be from the screen to project a 100” image, you multiply 87” (width of the screen) by the lower number in the throw ratio, 1.13. The product is 98”, or 8’2”. To determine the maximum distance the lens can be at to project a 100” image, you multiply 87” (width of screen) by the larger number in the throw ratio, 1.47. The product is 128” (rounded), or 10’8”. This tells us the range the lens can be from the screen is 8’2” to 10’8” for this projector to squarely place a 100” image on the screen.
Offset is the other key measurement in determining where to place the projector and/or the screen if you are starting from scratch. Offset is the spec that tells the user how much of the projected image is above or below the lens of the projector. A 0% offset would mean the lens would be dead center in the image; not ideal for many ceiling or table mounted locations. Most DLP projectors have an offset of 100% or more meaning that the lens is entirely below/above the projected image. The calculation is another simple and straight forward one. We will use the same 100” image example as throw ratio. The HT3550 has a starting offset of 105%. What that means is that if the HT3550 is ceiling mounted, the entire image will be below the lens with a screen-to-lens distance gap of 5% of the image’s height . A 100” screen has a heigh of 49”. With a 100” image and a 105% offset, the defaults lens position of the HT3550 is approx 2.5” above a squarely placed image.
Lens shift adds another variable to placement, albeit and beneficial one. The HT3550 has a lens shift of +/- 5%. This directly impacts the offset of the image above. There is a dial on the projector that can adjust the offset +/- 5% up or down. This results in additional 2.5” up or down that the image can be adjusted to without resorting to digital keystone. So the lens on the HT3550, when ceiling mounted and with a 100” screen, has the range to be 0”-5” above the projected image.
To determine where the top of your screen needs to be in relation to the ceiling, the additional distance from the lens to the ceiling needs to be calculated. Most mounts place the lens about 7” from the ceiling. What this means is the top of the 100” screen you are projecting to can be anywhere from 7”-12” from the ceiling with a mount that places the center of the lens 7” from the ceiling.
It’s much simpler than I just explained it.. :)
Some projectors have better and worse range. While the HT3550 does not have the legendary placement flexibility afforded by a manufacturer like Epson, I think you’ll find this placement flexibility par for the course in this price range. The addition of a small amount of lens shift is most welcome and was glaringly absent from the HT2550 and TK800.
For owners of the W1070 and HT2050, the throw ratio, offset, and lens shift is nearly identical. This represents a direct upgrade path without changing mounting location or screen size. An easy swap.
The HT3550 is truly impressive piece of kit. To put it lightly, it is the projector I think we all (and BenQ) wanted last year's 4K crop to be. Very high expectations were placed on the HT3550 and I can emphatically say that I believe this is the “silver bullet” for 4K projectors that the W1070 was 6 years ago. As of March of 2019 I don’t know of anything else that cam compete with this projector in the market at its price point. If you are considering a 4K projector under $2,000, heck even under $3,000, the HT3550 should be on your list.
In classic Pro/Meh fashion, here is my official breakdown:
- Good blacks and contrast. Dark letterboxing. Good localized black levels.
- Goodbye grey border!
- Dynamic Iris FTW!
- Welcome back (minor) lens shift
- Very good out of the box image
- 4K image is sharp
- HDR implementation best I’ve seen from projector to date
- Auto HDR10 mode
- Color is very very good
- 3D is handled well
- Quick power-on, menu responsiveness, and handshaking of all source-types
- Good brightness considering color accuracy. 3D and ambient light spaces could benefit from TK equivalent.
- Fan noise is improved from last gen.
- Low light leakage
- Well rounded feature set with HLG and CFI
- Input lag is average, still playable
- My sample unit had slight focus uniformity and aberration issues (improved in production?)
- Outdated user interface
Razer sharp picture and motion clarity
Excellent color with both Rec. 709 and DCI-P3
Superb HDR tone mapping
Good contrast and solid black levels
What Could Be Better:
Fan noise in normal lamp mode
I've spent the last several weeks with the HT3550, putting it through it's paces and viewing a wide variety of content in various room conditions. Amazingly, BenQ has managed to significantly improve image performance while introducing a host of exciting new features while not raising the price. The HT3550 costs just $1499.99-- the same price the HT2550 sold for just one year ago! This is the first projector below $1500 to offer real (95% coverage) DCI-P3 expanded color gamut support and the first in it's class to offer an Active Iris to improve contrast and blacks. BenQ is also introducing it's new HDR-Pro tone mapping technology with the HT3550 and it's the best implementation of HDR I've yet seen on a projector. As if that wasn't enough, BenQ pre-calibrates each HT3550 that leaves the factory. Let's check it out in more detail below.
NOTABLE FEATURES AND PERFORMANCE
True 4K Resolution
The HT3550 utilizes Texas Instrument's XPR pixel shifting technology to achieve a True 4K UHD resolution of 3840x2160-- meaning a full 8 million pixels on-screen. This is distinct from some competing pixel shift technologies that result in a simulated 4K image of around 4 million pixels. The HT3550 actually uses a new version of Texas Instrument's ubiquitous .47" DMD that finally eliminates the grey border that has been a fixture of affordable 4K DLPs for the past year.
The HT3550 is the first 4K DLP in this price range to include an automatic iris that dramatically improves contrast and black levels. Overall I was very satisfied with the iris' performance although the action is not totally invisible especially in bright scenes. BenQ does give you the option of using the iris or using lamp dimming. I found the iris was more effective for film content while the lamp dimming was more preferable for high APL content or when watching with the lights on.
Wide Color Support
In another first for a 4K projector anywhere near this price range: the HT3550 covers 100% of the Rec. 709 color gamut and an amazing 95% of the DCI-P3 wide color gamut! It's even more impressive when you consider you could spend 4 times the price of the BenQ and still not get significant coverage of the DCI-P3 gamut. BenQ calibrates each unit from the factory and includes a rather simplistic calibration report. I'll talk a lot more about the HT3550's color performance further in the review.
BenQ has added some nice touches both cosmetic and functional that help to set the HT3550 apart from it's competition. While the external housing is a matte white that resists reflections and finger prints, the face plate is a handsome dark taupe with a brushed metal look that I was surprised to find is actual metal! The lens sits in a recessed aperture cut into the front faceplate. BenQ includes a lens cap that attaches to the projector with a string and snaps into place with very little effort. In front of the lens sits a black plastic lens guard that is a functional element to block light from leaking onto the ceiling when mounted. Both sides of the projector have large vents cut into them and I can count three fans drawing air through the chassis. In operation, these vents do reveal a fair amount of light from within the projector but, again, BenQ has been careful to ensure that no light is leaking forward. Around back, you'll find possibly the finest looking derriere in all of projector-dom. The entire rear face plate is dominated by a perforated metal speaker grill that matches the color of the front faceplate. BenQ clearly designed the back of the HT3550 with the assumption that it might be used on a coffee table and therefore be visible. The grill hides two 5 watt chamber speakers that do a surprisingly good job of filling a room with sound. All of the HT3550's connections are arranged neatly in a thin strip cut into the center of the grill. Both HDMI inputs are full bandwidth HDMI 2.0A / HDCP 2.2 ports capable of 4K@60Hz.
Short Throw Lens
Fans of the W1070 and later HT2050/HT3050 will be happy to hear that BenQ has equipped the HT3550 with a 'shorter' throw of 1.13 - 1.47. This will allow the HT3550 to target a 120" screen in just under 10 feet. Zoom ratio is 1.3X and the projector features a small amount of vertical lens shift. Overall, I had little issue getting the projector aligned and focused but the focus ring is a bit touchier than I'd prefer. The lens is a new 10 element all glass design that BenQ says helps contribute to improved contrast and black level performance. The lens on my sample is very good but not perfect. Focus is sharp showing only an ever so slight softening at the extreme left/right edges of the screen-- nothing that I would consider objectionable. However, the lens did exhibit what I would consider a higher than expected amount of chromatic aberration. To be fair, I had a very difficult time seeing any evidence of this from my seat and it didn't impact any of my viewing.
Motion Enhancer (MEMC)
A lot of people are fond of this feature and it's one that has been requested for some time. For the record I've never been a fan of motion interpolation (also referred to as motion estimation/motion compensation) but for this review I did test the function and it works surprisingly well. On the two lower settings I found the smoothing effect to work well enough without introducing noticeable artifacts. I could see myself actually using it for streaming content or TV sports-- From me that's high praise. At the higher settings you get the 'soap opera' effect that some people enjoy but I do not.
3D is all but dead but there continues to be a lot of enthusiasm for the format especially among the projector community. Happily, BenQ is still supporting the format with the HT3550. Some readers will remember that I had some difficulty with 3D on BenQ's two prior 4K projectors, the HT2550 and TK800. I had no such issues this time. The HT3550 detects when a 3D source is present and automatically switches into it's 3D picture preset. 3D is displayed in 1080p only. The image is satisfyingly sharp with no hint of crosstalk. All four of my various brand 3D glasses worked without problems. As will any RGBRGB DLP the image brightness in 3D is definitely more suitable for dark room use.
Built in Speakers
I always suggest pairing your projector with a proper surround sound system but if you're in a pinch or maybe using the HT3550 in another room, BenQ has you covered. The HT3550 contains a pair of rear facing 5 watt chamber speakers. While they won't shake your foundation with deep bass they do a surprisingly good job filling a room with sound and dialogue intelligibility is high. Because they face rearward this obviously works better if you have the projector sitting on a table in front of you as opposed to mounted above or behind your seating.
Input Lag and Gaming
Input lag is 63/64ms. To achieve this measurement you have to make sure all extraneous image processing is turned off. That includes the Active Iris, Motion Enhancer, and setting the 4K pixel enhancer to 0. The HT3550 does not feature any game mode or fast mode to improve performance here further. This is a bit disappointing as this is a full frame slower than last years HT2550 (for the record I clocked that projector using the same Bodnar tester at 45/46ms). Although not totally unexpected-- DLPs equipped with the MEMC Motion Enhancer always seem to score slower here than DLPs without even when the feature is turned off. As such, gaming performance is a bit lackluster which is a shame considering the outstanding visuals. Casual gamers might find the input lag here acceptable but competitive gamers will want to look elsewhere.
I was happy to see the HT3550 has improved on it's predecessors when it comes to handling 24fps film content. The HT3550 is the first 4K DLP I'm aware of to not require a 3:2 pull down meaning it can display movies in the correct cadence with no judder. It does this in a rather clever way: by slowing down the color wheel from 120Hz to 96Hz. It is important to mention here that I noticed no ill effects from this process such as increased rainbow effect or image instability. When compared against my reference for 24fps content, the BenQ HT2050a (yes, really), the Ht3550 largely matches it's performance with only scrolling text appearing a hair smoother on the older projector.
I did throw a wide variety of HD (1080p) content at the HT3550 and my takeaway is the up scaling to 4K is superb. The HT3550 displays HD material beautifully and without the addition of unwanted noise reduction that might obscure detail. In truth, I found myself watching a lot more HD material than I had planned simply because it looked so good.
The HT3550 offers a LOT of picture controls. Now, if this sounds daunting to you, don't worry. I understand it's not everyone's idea of a good time to tweak menu settings or to customize picture presets. The good news is BenQ has setup the HT3550 very well to work great out-of-the-box without having to touch a thing besides maybe selecting the right picture mode or maybe the right lamp power for your room/ambient light situation. I'm going to spend the next few paragraphs attempting to explain, as simply as I can, the different options that are available to you. If your eyes have already glassed over I suggest you skip forward to the Viewing Experience section.
The HT3550 comes with 5 selectable SDR picture presets and one HDR preset. The SDR presets are Bright, Vivid, Cinema, D Cinema and User. The HDR10 preset only becomes accessible when feeding the display an HDR10 source. Unlike some projectors the HT3550 will auto-detect HDR content and automatically switch to the HDR mode.
You can break down the different SDR presets by the kind of viewing environment they are intended for. Bright is the requisite high ambient light mode that should only be used as a last resort due to it's strong green tint. Vivid and Cinema are both appropriate for less than ideal rooms or rooms where some ambient light might be present. Both have very good color with Cinema offering a more natural image while Vivid is brighter with enhanced color saturation. D Cinema and User are both appropriate for dark room or theater room viewing. The D Cinema preset is the one that is calibrated from the factory and it's here you'll find the best black levels and color accuracy for SDR content in an appropriately dark cinema environment. All of the modes allow access to adjust basic picture controls such as contrast, brightness, sharpness, etc. as well as access advanced color/gamma controls and customization of the Iris, Brilliant Color setting and lamp power. In addition, BenQ provides a host of other picture enhancements as part of their 'CinemaMaster' suite such color and flesh tone enhancers, 4K pixel enhancer and the motion smoother (MEMC/CFI) feature. There is only one function that is greyed out in the picture menu and that is the Wide Color feature. In Cinema and Vivid is I locked in the off position and in D Cinema and User it is locked in the On position.
As I mentioned, when you feed the HT3550 an HDR10 source it will automatically switch to it's HDR10 picture preset. Out of the box, the HDR10 picture mode is bright and punchy with a more natural image akin to the Cinema setting. There is more than enough output to compete with some ambient light. It should be mentioned here that in this default state, all wide color gamut content will be displayed as Rec. 709. There is only one HDR10 mode so you can't select from different presets like you can with SDR content although you can tailor just about every aspect of the picture as you can with the various SDR modes including the one that was not accessible before: Wide Color.
The Wide Color feature engages and disengages a color filer inside the projector. This filter allows the HT3550 to natively display the DCI-P3 expanded color gamut for richer, truer to life color. I'll get into the effects the filter has more in the Viewing Experience section but in my personal opinion this is a game changer at this price point. However, using the filter does make a significant impact on the HT3550's lumen output. Using a crude lux meter and some calculation it appears the filter costs around 30% of the HT3550's light output. For this reason, use of the filter is recommended only for dark room or theater use.
I started my viewing with the Kingsmen 2: The Golden Circle. This is a fun movie even it misses the mark set by the first film. The UHD Blu-ray is upconverted from a DCI 2K source and yet I wanted to start here for one reason: color. This is a vibrant and colorful movie that I thought should be a good test for the HT3550's DCI-P3 capabilities. Immediately I was struck with just how much better the HT3550 is able to render contrast and blacks than it's predecessor. Early in the film Eggsy confronts Merlin in the bombed out shell of the former Kingsman headquarters. Shadow detail here is excellent and the HT3550 is able to produce a black that actually looks black. Later in the film we're treated to a fly over of the jungle and a pull in on our villain, Julianne Moore's Poppy. Here the advantages of the increased color gamut become obvious. The green of the jungle is lush and much more realistic while the red paint of Poppy's diner gleans in a rich hue simply not possible in Rec 709.
Next I threw on Thor: Ragnarok. I'm going to be honest, at this point I was less interested in viewing serious reference material and more interested in just seeing all the pretty colors the HT3550 is capable of producing. Thor is far from a reference disc but I'm happy I threw it in because it cued me into one of the more massive improvements BenQ has made with this new model. There is a moment early in the film when Thor and Loki attempt to flee their sister Hela by summoning the Bifrost (if you haven't seen the movie the bifrost is a rainbow road in ancient Norse Mythology…anyways) and a fight ensues knocking Thor and Loki into space. While certainly beautiful thanks to the great contrast and color volume, my biggest takeaway was the HT3550's vastly improved motion performance. With all the debris and colors flying past in the background it’s hard for some displays to adequately translate the punching and kicking happening in the foreground. The last time I saw motion clarity like this I was reviewing the HT2050A. With the HT3550, BenQ has reclaimed one of DLPs biggest advantages over competing tech.
At this point it was time to get serious and so I decided to watch the massively underappreciated Bladerunner 2049. Both of the prior discs I watched were upconverted from a DCI 2K source but not this one. Filmed on ARRI Alexa cameras at 3.4K and displaying some of the finest cinematography and lighting in recent memory, this pristine UHD Blu-ray transfer is one of my all time favorite reference discs. My two favorite scenes to reference are the scene where K and Joi are flying over the wasteland in the driving rain and the moment when K and Decker have a drink. The former for the display's ability to render fine detail and the latter to check for proper tone mapping. The TH3550 aced both tests. In the first scene, you can see individual streaks of rain in the sky and water droplets on K's windshield are rendered in precise clarity. In the second, the oppressive orange glow of the irradiated skyline reflects on the actors faces without them appearing too dark while the deep red fabric of the barstools retain their color. This is a testament to BenQ's revised HDR PRO tone mapping. Throughout, contrast and black levels looked great. Even the black bars of the letterbox managed to remain black during scenes of high APL. I should mention here that I had still not seen any pumping artifacts or evidence of the iris in action besides the occasional distant crackle overhead to prove that the iris was indeed working. Really impressive performance here.
Next up was the UHD Blu-ray release of the Dark Crystal. One of my favorite films growing up the Dark Crystal has recently received a brand new digital 4K scan from the original film stock. A lot of people might challenge my assertion that this is reference material simply owing to the fact that this is not always the prettiest movie. In addition the noise present in the original 35mm comes through loud and clear in the transfer. But this is one of the reasons I love 4K. With the extra resolution 4K provides, film can actually look like film. Every detail of the Skeksis puppets, the complexity of Aughra's lab (and her nipples— I never realized she had nipples before— I wish I could go back to a time I didn’t know that) and the texture of Kira's cloak all come through in resounding clarity.
I finished my 4K/HDR testing with the amazing Planet Earth 2 and Blue Planet 2 UHD Blu-ray discs. And, yes, I re-watched all of the episodes. There's not much else I can say about this series that hasn't already been said. The HT3550 handled it with aplomb. I was paying special attention to scenes that had given the prior HT2550 trouble such as the flyover of the icebergs and the scene with the massive waves. These scenes caused the HT2550 to clip detail, washing out the snowy surfaces of the floating ice and obscuring details in the crests of the waves. But the HT3550 never lost track and BenQ's HDR PRO tone mapping proved itself again and again. About mid-way through the Blue Planet series I witnessed my first example of the BenQ struggling with black levels. There is a scene where a mini sub prowls the artic ocean floor with a singular bright spotlight shining in a sea of black. This is a very tough scene and here the HT3550's blacks appeared a bit hazy although they were far from the mushy grey it's predecessor displayed in this same scene.
4K may be all the rage these days but let’s be honest: HD content is ubiquitous and many owners will likely spend just as much time watching 1080p as they will 4K. The HD Blu-ray copy of Oblivion is most certainly reference material and one of the few movies where the HD disc is superior to the UHD disc. Giving the HT3550's calibrated D Cinema mode a spin I can honestly say this is one of the finest experiences I've had watching this film. The HT3550 handles HD up conversion exceedingly well and at several points during the film I was gob smacked by just how much detail I was picking up in 'only' a 1080p release. Color looked spot on and viewed back to back with my THX plasma the HT3550's colors, especially green, appeared a bit more realistic. Contrast sparkled and the black levels were back to looking solidly black.
The BenQ HT3550 True 4K Home Cinema Projector packs a dizzying amount of performance and value into a projector costing just $1499.
It's difficult for me to describe just how much I've enjoyed my time with the BenQ HT3550. If you've been on the fence about upgrading to 4K the HT3550 makes a very strong case. It might just be the model you've been waiting for. The HT3550 represents a comprehensive improvement over last years 4K lineup and offers a level of picture quality and refinement that was simply absent before. The inclusion of DCI-P3 color gives the HT3550 legitimate home cinema cred while it's solid contrast and impressive handling of HDR content makes this a benchmark in the segment. It earns my highest recommendation.
I'm in the process of building a home theater. This will be the first one I've put together and I agonized over which projector I was going to buy for a long time. Lamp or laser? Did I need 4k? What about HDR? Was LG a better choice or Optoma?
Eventually, I read a very detailed review of the upcoming BenQ HT3550 that made it sound really great. It had the specs I wanted and it was right in my price range, so I made the leap and ordered one. It took about 3 weeks to arrive but I finally got it on Friday.
I got it set up fired it up to make sure it works. Everything works great, setup was very easy, and it looks absolutely stunning. The picture is really extraordinary and the colors are fantastic. It's very quiet. And since I didn't have my surround sound system fully set up, I just used the internal speakers and those even sound pretty decent.
All in all, this is a fantastic value for the money and I highly recommend it.
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I returned the product the same day with out any hesitation.
+ Lightweight, portable (needs a carry bag!).
+ Easy to setup.
+ Decent sound (not theatre quality but loud enough for a portable application)
+ Good user interface.
- Not short-throw enough for my use.
- Keystone correction is so-so but you get a large lit up region around the image which is distracting.
- So-so image quality compared with an Optoma Cinemax P1, but this is about half the cost. So take your pick.
For the money I was expecting more. For more money (Cinemax P1) you get a lot more — a true theatrical experience, IMO.
1st unit was ordered Jan. 10, it arrived and had bulb pop and smoke shortly after powering on.. looked great while it worked.
2nd unit has sound but very dim picture. Box had been opened and re-sealed. Hmmm? Could have been someone else's faulty return.
On same timeline, my Elitescreen order arrived after 2 weeks with no hardware to put it together. 2 more weeks to get parts. Amazon hasn't worked for me upgrading my home theater. Maybe just my bad luck. Takes a lot of patience. Hope to have it all working in a couple weeks. I thought I did enough research originally, but have no screen or projector working yet. Now recommend going in store for anyone putting together a home theater.
Final update. Feb. 8th. Elitescreen Aeon 3d grey screen parts arrived yesterday. 3rd Benq ht 3550 projector works great! Benq was from another store, though. Very happy with upgrade!
I am very impressed by the image... it is a lot brighter and sharper than the W1070, even with non-4K sources. Also it is noticeably less noisy, especially in the Eco mode which I use.
Extremely happy so far!
so for me 4.5 stars
Not a short throw!
3D function is not working!
Not bad device but for 2000$ I expect better quality comparing with my old BenQ W1080st which is the best one of it's time.