Entry Level – Best Performance: BenQ HT3050

BenQ has been dominating our reports for YEARS in winning the Best In Class: Best Sub-$1000 (Entry) Level Performance Award.

I consider it a direct descendant of the almost legendary BenQ W1070, which in one form or another, has never wanted to go away. BenQ seems to keep reincarnating that one, because of its reputation. But, the HT3050 is definitely the model to go with under $1000 if you want a low-cost home theater projector that looks great, rather than a “home entertainment projector” that can’t match this projector’s picture quality!

BenQ HT3050 Projector Front
BenQ’s HT3050 – a worthy, improved replacement for previous BenQ models including the original W1070 and HT1075 – “Film-like” picture.

BenQ Home Theater 3050 Overview

2017 award ENTRY LEVEL BEST IN CLASS PERFORMANCEFor the second year in a row, I’m using this same statement: The HT3050 just squeezes into the under $1000 price category by virtue of significant online discounting. What I mean is, this guy’s street prices today is just pennies below $1000. $999 is the selling price at the two largest online AV resellers.

As a single chip DLP projector, it doesn’t sport as many color lumens as it claims in terms of white lumens, but it comes a lot closer than most competing DLP projectors, including the others mentioned in this report. That comes into play when comparing brightness, and dealing with ambient light, richness of colors, etc.

BenQ advertises 2000 white lumens – expect only about 2/3 as many color lumens. Many DLP projectors come in at 50% to 70%. The bottom line there is that it can produce a healthy amount of lumens with excellent color. But, there are a number of brighter projectors in the price range. If you really have a bright room, you’ll probably want to look for a brighter alternative.

One real plus is that the HT3050 has at least a tad better than entry level black level performance and it’s got that DLP look and feel. This has always been a strength of earlier BenQ projectors, and applies to the HT3050 as well. I definitely lean toward recommending this projector to budget-challenged movie aficionados for the look and feel of the projected image (and it’s nice and sharp too.)

Downsides are primarily only having a 1-year warranty (like many competitors at the price), and other things that low-cost projectors also suffer from, such as limited lens shift – but, at least the HT3050 has some shift, which is more than most competitors can claim.

Of course, that as a single chip DLP projector, the HT3050 uses a color wheel which affects those of us who are rainbow sensitive (I am!). But in this case, the HT3050 pretty much turns that negative into a neutral, with a 4X color wheel, faster than similarly priced competitors, and resulting in rainbows that I notice less than with almost any other sub $1000 DLP projector.

I’m rainbow sensitive, and I could not live with a DLP with a 2X wheel. This BenQ, by comparison, is far better.

The other downside is the lack of CFI – smooth motion (more below). Very few projectors under $1000 offer it (although, interestingly, the Value winner, the Epson 2040/2045 does have it). I always say that feature is a nice extra, but not critical (I use it only for sports).

I like the remote control. It’s got a back light, good range, and it also supports HDMI-Link, which I can really appreciate now that I have a Samsung Blu-ray UHD player, since that player has a lousy remote. Instead, I can just use the BenQ’s. Nice.

3D is pretty good using DLP-Link. I prefer RF glasses for various reasons.

If you do have an excellent room (home theater or cave), I particularly like this projector for the price. In a family or “other” room environment where you likely have some ambient light to deal with (even at night), you might want to with a brighter projector, although 2000 lumens is certainly respectable. Still, for the home theater environment, I have to consider it my top choice at its price or less, thus this award, again. I’m patiently waiting for another projector at the price to cater to the movie fanatic, to give the HT3050 a run for the money.

The BenQ HT3050: What Makes It a Low-Cost Performance Projector

BenQ has been pounding their chests for two years now about color performance on this HT3050. In the best color modes, it is most certainly deserved. Good brightness, good color, a nice feature set, and, thanks to discounting, is just under $1000. The zoom lens has a reasonable range, and there’s a modest amount of lens shift, which can come in very handy if you are ceiling mounting or placing it on a table and projecting to a screen.

Remember, every projector in the under $1000 is really pretty entry level. The differences between the best of these projectors at this price point is minimal compared to the best projectors under, say, $2000, and way below the better $2000-$3500 projectors.

Again, one missing feature that the competing Epson offers is one rare under $1000, and that’s CFI – smooth motion (Creative Frame Interpolation). That smooths out fast action and is most popular for sports viewing. Funny, it’s the lower end projectors – more mixed use ones – movies, sports, Mr. Robot, Game of Thrones, HGTV, where having CFI is most appreciated, but it tends mostly to show up in $2000+ models.

The color wheel is not only 4X, but it is a six segment color wheel which helps minimize the RBE. If you are RBE sensitive like me, that may well affect your purchase decision. If you’re not sensitive, you only have to worry about family and friends seeing RBE, and they are less critical than you (right?).

Hey, if you buy one and you prove to be sufficiently rainbow sensitive, you’ll know immediately. In that case, you can switch to a non-DLP projector as many others do.

All considered, there are a few trade-offs, as would be expected in the entry level price range. That doesn’t mean that the HT3050 doesn’t put a great picture up on the screen. It’s only the very dark scenes where more expensive projectors have a distinct advantage over this one!

I count the BenQ as more of a one person’s (an enthusiastic one’s) projector while the “Value” projector – the Epson, is more of a built for “the whole family to enjoy.”

If you are serious about the best picture performance in a home theater setting, and under $1000, no need to look further until something new comes along. This is the projector I recommend under $1000 for the hard core enthusiasts like myself.

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