First Look Review: BenQ HT8050 – A DLP, 4K UHD Home Theater Projector

The BenQ HT8050 is a $7999 home theater projector, that uses TI’s new 4K UHD DLP chip.  It claims 2200 lumens.  It’s on the large size – for those of you familiar, not to different than the JVC projectors, or some of the Sonys.  It will primarily be sold through local installing dealers here in the US.

benq-ht8050

The BenQ HT8050 is a pixel shifting home theater projector with 2516×1528 x2 native resolution, which allows it to claim 4K UHD status.

The BenQ is a lamp based projector.  There’s a companion solid state projector – the HT9050 coming out shortly, I’m not certain about the price of that one, but I’m pretty certain, under $10,000.  I’ll update this when I confirm.

BTW I just shot my first batch of photos of the HT8050 in action.  As you can see, I dropped a few in here.

I’ll get into some more details but first I must address resolution.

To paraphrase Shakespeare:  4K or Faux-K, that is the question.

Here’s a link to another blog I just wrote discussing the credibility of treating 4K UHD the same as true 4K, without clarifying.  I think the oft used term of Faux-K is the term that applies.  Oh, and while I’m at it, Ron, our most technical reviewer, just put up another blog, relating to 4K viewing, this one on HDR, which he’s blogged about before.

So, short version, I don’t count the BenQ HT8050 or other new 4K UHD projectors to be any more true 4K than those 1080p pixel shifting projectors from Epson and JVC.  Higher resolution than those others, absolutely: 2716×1528 is higher res than 1920×1080.  Period.  And it’s lower than 3840×2160.  Explanation points!!!

Hmm, perhaps I should call these new DLPs Faux-K, and the lower resolution 1080p pixel shifters Faux-K Lite?  I like that.

So, bottom line on that is this:  The BenQ HT8050 is an extremely sharp projector, one of the sharpest I’ve ever seen.  

BenQ, which going way back, typically have put high quality lenses on the higher end projectors.  The good optics, but more so, the nature of single chip DLPs, and the overall resolution yields an extremely sharp projector.  I’m talking about accomplishing extremely sharp, without a lot of advanced processing that creates what I’ve always called perceived sharpness and perceived detail.  The HT8050 does just that. It’s not just the higher res DLP chip, but also that it’s a single chip device, not a 3 chipper, so there’s no panel mis-alignment (aka 3 chip LCD, 3 chip DLP, or 3 chip LCoS projectors) to have to compensate for with fancy processing.

The native resolution may not be as high as the 4K Sony I had here for the last month, the VZ1000ES, but the impression is that the BenQ is that sharp.  (Technically, I’d say that pixel shifting is in part, advanced processing).

HT8050_ghostbusters-4K_lab-credits

The HT8050 is very sharp looking while showing Ghostbusters in 4K – here’s a highly detailed scene in the lab during the credits

I would immediately state that I found the BenQ to be sharper than either the Epson 5040UB or the Epson LS10500 I have here at the moment.  It’s not only sharper, but you will perceive it to be so, I expect the exact same if compared to the JVC projectors (which I have always found a touch softer than the Epsons, at least with 4K content).

HT8050_ghostbusters-4K_lab-credits_close-up

Zooming in on the same frame as above. This close-up of the HT8050 is saved at 2000 wide, and reveals the projector’s really excellent sharpness.

It’s sort of off season for me in terms of my sports viewing.  March Madness is a memory, and college and NFL football are still (so sad!) almost three months away.  I’m primarily used to watching my football, especially GameMix with 8 games on screen at once, on an Epson UB, or whatever the best projector sitting here to review is.  I would love to see the BenQ’s sharpness on GameMix.  Of course I have 8 game, and 4 game broadcasts on my DVR, so I’ll get to viewing them soon enough, and report back in the full review!

If that were the only criteria for a home theater projector the BenQ would be a truly great projector, but, of course, that’s just one – although important – aspect of the HT8050.

How the HT8050 handles 4K content in terms of Picture Quality

I think of sharpness as a performance feature, a bit separate from picture quality in our reviews, although obviously it impacts the picture quality.

Now let’s move to the first real issue: The HT8050 does not support HDR, and they do not support the expanded color space of BT2020..  Instead, with the BenQ you still end up using the same old REC709 spec that goes back to the beginning of HDTV – you know – when your parents were only slightly older than you are now.

If you were to buy a Blu-ray UHD disc, one of the things you will notice is that just about all of the Blu-ray UHD movies and other content being released provide the 4K content, with the  wider color gamut – BT2020, and the more dynamic HDR – High Dynamic Range.  The combination should give any content more pop, punch, more wow, more life – whatever you want to call it!  That’s due  to really bright objects being significantly brighter than mid brightness objects, would be the case without HDR. The reds, yellows, teals and the rest of the color spectrum will all lack the intensity and range of BT2020 (or as close as those projectors supporting it, can currently achieve..

HT8050_ghostbusters-4K_plasma-credits_Dan-Aykroyd_color

Here’s a look at how some very dynamic content from the credits in the last Ghostbusters movie, looks on the HT8050, which lacks HDR and BT2020 support.

In the image directly above, look at the richness and dynamics between the colors, and also the background.  We’ll be using this image (and others) for comparisons, including competition that does support HDR and BT2020 color space.  (Expect the reds to be richer, more color in the wide plasma beam, and probably a more intense blue as well.

I’ll discuss all this in detail, with some images for demonstration, but, let’s put it this way:  In theory, from a Blu-ray UHD disc, the highest quality picture offered will have both BT2020 and HDR.  Oh, the BenQ will have no problem with playing the material, but it will end up no HDR, and no BT2020.  That said, post calibration, the color looks really good, including skin tones.

A quick note about BT2020.  Most projectors can’t fully achieve BT2020 (not sure any can), but some come a lot closer than others.  For example, Between Optoma and BenQ both launching projectors with this 4K UHD chip, one company says so far, their designs gets them to just over 70% of the full BT2020 range, an the other said 82%.  I have no idea what the Epsons, JVCs or Sonys, achieve in this area, but I suspect they are a lot closer to achieving full BT2020 color space.)

HT8050 projector showing James Bond

BenQ HT8050 projector handling skin tones: Bond, from Casino Royale, using 1080p resolution Blu-ray.

Black levels:  With the dynamic iris on, the HT8050 produces some very respectable black levels.  Overall, I’d say similar, but just not quite as good as Epson’s UB projectors (better than the Epson 4040, the lowest cost pixel shifter).  More to the point, it’s definitely a step down from the Epson LS10500, and even more so compared to the JVCs.  That’s how it stacks up against the pixel shifters we’ve reviewed over the past five or six years.  Wait for the pictures in the full review.

That brings us to the dynamic iris.  Folks it clicks or clacks.  Definitely noticeable when it does, on very quiet scenes, or with no sound.  That makes me think of the Epson UBs (except the BenQ is definitely more noticeable!)  The older Epsons had rumbly dynamic iris, while the newest ones still do, but those are a good step quieter due to the larger cabinet.

There have always been people who are what I refer to as “noise adverse.”  Many won’t use high power on the lamps, if the resulting noise is over 30 db (give or take), and some of those noise adverse, have complained about those older Epsons iris rumble. In this case, I fear a good number of people (but not the majority) might find the BenQ’s dynamic iris noise to be annoying at times, and choose not to use it.  Unfortunately, not using it really downgrades the projector’s overall picture quality on dark scenes, as you will see in photos  It definitely doesn’t help.  There are some scenes where the iris pumps a bit, including a lot of normal type scenes.  Only on occasion is the pumping a noticeable issue (no dynamic iris is perfect), but the clack, or clack, clack, clack, clack.. it makes, will definitely be audible if things are quiet.  (It makes a short racket when switching sources, etc., as do many irises as they reset, as players switch to menus (at a different resolution), etc., but I don’t count that as an issue, because there’s no content on the screen.)

The Optoma UHD65 – with the same 2718×1528 chip – is in house, but I haven’t played with it but for a few minutes, so not prepared to compare them in terms of blacks.  I will have logged significant time on the Optoma by the time the HT8050 full online review goes live, so I’ll have more info comparing the two.

In the BenQ’s full review, or in a separate article or blog, I’m planning to serve up  a few scenes from movies (probably 1 or 2 1080p, and 2 or 3 4K scenes), with this BenQ HT8050, the Optoma UHD65, the Epson 5040UB, and the Epson LS10500.  Sadly, the big Sony is gone, but I do have similar scenes for a couple of them that I’ll also include.  All of that should be revealing.  When the next true 4K projector shows up, I’ll try again.  BTW, the two scenes above, from Ghostbusters will be part of that series.

Re: Calibration

Eric calibrated the HT8050.  The result is really good color.  From the calibration standpoint, Eric has some mild complaints – he can’t get it as dead on the money as some, but from watching it, I’d certainly say it calibrates nicely, and produces, very impressive skin tones, as well as rich colors in its best modes.  He’ll explain in our calibration section of our full length review when it goes live (along with the settings he came up with).

Observations:

  • The new remote control from BenQ.  Love it.  Oh, the layout is very good, typical of BenQ remotes going way back to when I owned BenQ’s about a decade ago, but the feel of the BenQ remote control is downright excellent!
  • No 3D!  That’s a first class bummer for those, like me, that enjoy/like/ or love 3D, for its great immersion. I think a lot of folks who feel about 3D the way I do –  who probably have already bought 20-30-40+ 3D Blu-ray movies in their collections, will pass on this BenQ for that reason alone.   Even if you aren’t into 3D, if you have small children, Disney and others put out great content in 3D for them.

Despite the noisy iris, and the lack of HDR and the expanded color space, the BenQ looks pretty darn good. You certainly will get a visibly sharper image (on 4K content, for sure), than the lower res pixel shifters.  The only true 4K projector, at the price point -the Sony VW365ES – is in the same league in terms of sharpness, but has, by comparison, weaker black level performance, in part due to no dynamic iris..

Casino Royale, HT8050 image

The lake scene from Casino Royale, 1080p content projected by the HT8050

The number of 4K and Faux-K projectors is going to be grow nicely over the next year or two, so the biggest question for those considering the HT8050 is can you live without HDR and BT2020, or whether you should go with something not quite as sharp, that supports both standards, or jump up to about $15K for the next Sony up – the VW665ES which should have comparable black levels, and have all that support. I’ll continue to provide my two cents of free advice, as we review more of these projectors and others, on our way to this  year’s annual Best Home Theater report, which will come out at the end of the summer.

Bottom line:  The HT8050 is priced to do battle with lower res pixel shifters, and the lowest cost true 4K projectors, but also with other projectors using the same 2516×1528 chipset.  We’ll be reviewing the others.  And, expect more models at CEDIA in the US, and IFA in Europe, this September, just to further confuse all of us with more competing projectors to choose from.

If this helps, I’ve spent a good deal of time comparing the BenQ with the Epson 5040UB.  I miss the HDR and BT2020 on the BenQ.  That said, the experience with the BenQ, thanks to sharpness (and that “mystical” look and feel of DLP), I found superior to the lower cost Epson.

That’s it, a much longer “first look” than I intended.  Hopefully this will tied you over for a couple of weeks until the full review publishes,   thanks!  -art

News And Comments

  • Now, am I right in thinking that this particular DLP chip is in fact capable of resolving 3840×2160 individual pixels on screen? Although it may not have a native 4k chip, the fact that it can resolve the full resolution of 4k puts it ahead of the Epson pixel shift, which doesn’t actually resolve the full resolution.
    In this regard, the fact that the DMD is of lower resolution is essentially irrelevant, correct?

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      It comes down to this. True 4K is either 3840 (or 4096) across. If there are two vertical lines, each one is a perfect 1/3840th of a screen wide, and one is blue and the other yellow, side by side, the true 4K projector will be able to show two adjacent lines – one blue, one yellow.
      With a 2516×1528 pixel design, when it tries to do the blue line, it’s too thick. blue will spill into the area that should be yellow. Conversely, the yellow pixel will be too big for the 1/3840th of the width, it should be part blue, part yellow. And the next pixel over should be part yellow and part of what color is specified for the third /13840th of the screen (say red) so we’ll get some orange.

      The point being, the DLP chip with pixel shifting will resolve more detail than a 1080p pixel shifter, but still less than using pixels that are the correct 1/3840th of the screen’s width. Mind you pixel shifting provides some benefits, but it’s still now as good. Technically we could pixel shift huge pixels – 1/853rd of the screen width (old DVD resolution) but shift in something like 9 increments and we’ll manage to get up to the same 8.3 megapixels, but as you can imagine, esch of those overlapping pixels will be about the size of a basketball compared to a baseball. The smaller the pixels the finer the detail. -art

      • Ah, ok, the fog is starting to clear. My understanding of the Texas Instruments chip was that it had pixels the same size as a native 4k chip, and that it sequentially projected alternating pixels, thereby making up a proper 4k image, with the correct number of pixels in both directions. Another review of the Optoma UHD60 that I read on another site stated that it was indeed capable of projecting 3840 discrete pixels….

      • Art, I have done some further research with TI and they state categorically that their chip will resolve 8.3 million individual pixels, without overlap. If this is indeed true then you would be able to alternate blue and yellow pixels right the way across the 3840 pixel wide screen. Have you actually tried a test like this to see what happens? TI seem adamant that the chip is full 4K resolution.

    • gh23455

      I couldn’t agree more.

  • Jonas

    Looking forward to this review! I’m currently torn between the JVC RS520 and this BenQ HT8050. I really like the DLP-colors and they “mystical” look and feel but I’m afraid regarding it’s contract and motion.

  • gh23455

    The question is whether is a new Texas Instrument 4K UHD DLP chip really a genuine native 4K chip? The answer is yes and no. BenQ HT 8050 or W11000 in Europe / Australia has this new Texas Instrument chip built in.

    Sony Product marketing manager for home theatre projectors, stated that he doesn’t like how Texas Instruments called their new so-called 4K chip a “4K Chip”. Texas Instruments, TI-powered projectors fulfil the definition of 4K if it’s viewed more flexibly than Sony views it. They may squeeze more flashes into a single frame but they do ultimately deliver enough pixels for what could be called 4K UHD at 3840 x 2160 pixels. The total number of addressable pixels in this process is (2716×1528) x 2 = 8.3 million, or the same as a native 4K signal. This is the explanation for the razor sharp picture from BenQ HT 8050.

    Other so-called Faux 4K projectors on the other hand don’t even pull this off. In the JVC models, the technology is called e-shift and in the Epson projectors it goes by the name of 4K Enhancement or 4Ke but in both cases, what is actually being done is a 2 million pixel Full HD 1080p sensor getting flashed twice per frame but with the pixels shifting. Thus, with the JVC and Epson projectors, even the use of this 4K upscaling technology produces nothing more than 2K resolution.The total number of addressable pixels in this process is (1920×1080) x 2 = 4.15 million, which is half of the 8.3 million in a native 4K signal.

    I hope I clarified further the confusion between 4K and Faux – 4K .