2019 Holiday Guide To Five Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000 – Part 2

We have two very different projectors at different price points on this page, as we start with my favorite under $5,000 DLP projector, the BenQ HT5550 (at half that price), and one of the hot new laser TVs – a smart ultra short throw projector from LG, which we also reviewed.

Both of these won one of our Hot Product Awards, and both also won additional awards in our 2019 – 2020 Best Home Theater Projectors Report. That is to say, two excellent options! Let’s take a look, see which works for you.

The BenQ HT5550

Let’s start off with BenQ’s HT5550. At $2,499, it may be the best home theater projector at or below its price. One reason is this:

4K UHD Projectors Can Have Both Good Color & Very Good Black Levels!

The HT5550 is one excellent projector, and an even a better value. For 2-3 years now, many of us home theater enthusiasts have longed for a solid DLP projector that is capable of some respectable black level performance. Short of some far more expensive projectors, this is the first 4K UHD projector with a dynamic iris that produces “ultra-high contrast” performance.

BenQ always was the pioneer of using dynamic irises in DLP projectors. I know, I owned three different ones back about a decade or so ago. They were all great in their day!

BenQ HT5550

Yes, there are other DLPs with dynamic irises (they are relatively rare), but, nothing near this price that can do as well on dark scenes – even including the less expensive iris equipped HT3550 featured in our Under $2000 Holiday Guide for projector shopping.

BenQ has long focused on color performance. No question, of the usual suspects on the DLP side, I would say BenQ projectors tend to have the best “right out the box” color. The HT5550 proves no exception. The HT5550 delivers on really good color, and even better with calibration (or use our published settings).

HT5550_4K_south_pacific_canoes

Speaking of calibration – remember, we publish our calibration settings on our site, in our reviews. “Help yourself.” Score that BenQ HT5550, set it up, then go to our calibration pages, drop in our numbers into your new projector and enjoy even more. True, the BenQ starts with some really good color, so the improvement isn’t really huge like it is on some projectors, but, hey, the calibration settings are free. If you find them to work great, drop a comment back in the review so others will know.

BenQ HT5550: 4K/HDR/P3 scene from The Black Panther, rich colors, dynamic, accurate!
BenQ HT5550: 4K/HDR/P3 scene from The Black Panther, rich colors, dynamic, accurate!

The HT5550 not only has the color and the deep blacks that really improve any dark scene, but it also has an impressive feature set, with more zoom lens range and more lens shift (way more) than almost any other DLP projectors without spending more than twice as much!

Speaking of spending more than twice as much, if you have the budget and want to move up your performance a whole other level, check the next page where we feature BenQ’s HT9060. Yes, it’s pricey, but has a compelling story.

BenQ HT5550 doing 1080i from DirectTV, in my theater, with modest ambient light. Sharp and bright.
BenQ HT5550 doing 1080i from DirectTV, in my theater, with modest ambient light. Sharp and bright.

Meanwhile, back at the HT5550, this $2,499 projector delivers the picture. Its black levels give it a definite advantage over the competing 3LCD projectors at its price, notably the Epson PC4050. And, it has most of the flexibility those 3LCD direct competitors.

Note: On 4K HDR content, the black level performance produces deeper blacks than expected relative to other good projectors. At the same time mid-tones tend to be brighter!
Note: On 4K HDR content, the black level performance produces deeper blacks than expected relative to other good projectors. At the same time mid-tones tend to be brighter!

These assorted photos from 4K movies and other content, should convince you that the HT5550 should be on your short list, if I haven’t already convinced you, here’s a link to my full review!

The LG HU85LA Laser TV

LG-HU85LA-Beauty-Shot-2

Prior to about a year and change ago, there were only a couple of “Laser TVs” on the market, from about $10K to Sony’s $30K UST. At the 2019 CES show, though, we saw a number of brands announcing UST projectors for “later this year.” Well, the LG HU85LA is one of the first of those new ones to ship, several months ahead of models from Optoma (just starting to ship), VAVA (see our new review), and Epson (the Epson is on the next page, but that projector isn’t expected to ship until sometime Q1 2020).

Passengers 4K/HDR… Spectacular CGI image of flyby of the star Antares. Wow!
Passengers 4K/HDR… Spectacular CGI image of flyby of the star Antares. Wow!

Before I tell you more – back in 2018, we reviewed LG’s first laser projector, which was purely home entertainment – lots of cool design features, and fun to watch, and versatile, but picture quality wasn’t serious home theater, the HU80KA.

This LG HU85LA is serious home theater. What a difference a year (and a couple of thousand dollars) makes. The list price is $5,999, so this is not only a serious projector, but it’s at a serious price point. Let’s start with the basics – this is an ultra short throw projector (UST). It sits only inches below and back from your screen or viewing surface. Note: For a projector at this price point and quality you do want the proper screen, not a wall!

The HU85LA claims 2,700 lumens, which isn’t as much some UST projectors, but the LG delivers on lumens, not only beating its claim, but producing over 1,700 calibrated lumens. Not many projectors can claim that. That gives it the muscle to work in brighter rooms. Warranty is two years.

HU85LA: Hunger Games 4K, HDR, on 128” non-ALR screen in dedicated (dark) theater
HU85LA: Hunger Games 4K, HDR, on 128” non-ALR screen in dedicated (dark) theater

The HU85LA is more fun, as it is also about as smart a projector as exists. That should be no surprise, since it has essentially all the same smarts of an LG OLED TV. Pick up the remote and hit the mic (or use other Google Assistant, Alexa etc. devices to control your laser TV). Change channels, inputs, power, and plenty more control, far more than most “smart” projectors, as very few projectors (other than LG’s) have been at all smart before 2018). The HU85LA has far more smarts than any other projector we’ve tested so far.

A bright vibrant sports viewing experience, in this room with large glass sliders (back left), windows (back right) skylight (above to the rear), and my football games still looked great!
A bright vibrant sports viewing experience, in this room with large glass sliders (back left), windows (back right) skylight (above to the rear), and my football games still looked great!

I had the use of the HU85LA for over two months, and used it in a total of two houses, three rooms total.

I got to use it in the dark in my old theater with a Studiotek 130 (matte screen, not ALR), with low, and no ambient light.

With medium and high ambient light, as you can see in the sports images, the LG still manages to do great on sports despite all that room lighting (the screen is a key component).

The screen, I should note, for most of the LG photos, is the Screen Innovations Black Diamond Ultra Short Throw, ALR-type (light rejecting) screen. More on choosing ALR screens for brighter rooms, on the next page.

Another sports image, but with the Home menu engaged. This with plenty of sun light entering the room from the big glass doors to the left.
Another sports image, but with the Home menu engaged. This with plenty of sun light entering the room from the big glass doors to the left.

Moderate ambient light – large, wide picture window shade open about 10 inches plus bright light entering from door on the right. Light grey walls. Rich colors! Image pops!
Moderate ambient light – large, wide picture window shade open about 10 inches plus bright light entering from door on the right. Light grey walls. Rich colors! Image pops!

There’s rather excellent color, as you can see from the movie photos here, to go along with all that brightness, and the convenience of ultra short throw – like not walking through the beam of light, and having the internal speakers facing you…

The LG is rather unique – three separate lasers. The lower cost competition from Optoma and  VAVA, for  example, are single laser  units.  No time to point out the advantages here, but let’s just say – it maintains more brightness when producing its best color, and that is one, very noteworthy advantage.

HU85LA_ghostbusters_city_ghosts

I am really starting to enjoy these UST projectors. So much so, that now that I’ve moved myself, the wife, the dog, and Projector Reviews Inc. to Florida, I’ve decided to put in a 120” ALR screen in the living room with a UST projector. It looks like I’ll go with this LG HU85LA (the current front runner), or possibly the similarly expensive Epson LS500, but the LG has been shipping for a while, whereas the Epson won’t be shipping until “sometime” Q1 2020. I can just picture my first Florida Superbowl party (I had 25 in a row in California). Looks like we all might be enjoying the Superbowl on an HU85LA, filling a full 120” screen! Sweet!!!

Bottom Line on the HU85LA: It’s bright, it has rather good color right out of the box (and calibrates even better), and it really works – not just the hardware, but all those smarts. It won’t win any black level awards but the black levels are pretty good for a DLP (the laser engine helps). Oh, and I forgot to repeat – it does 4K HDR content just great! Short list, for non-home  theaters, and very viable in home theaters as well. Just don’t forget that ALR type screen if putting it in a room with more than minimal ambient lighting!

Short of spending $20K – $30K for a Sony or SIM2, this is the best 4K capable UST home projector that shipping this holiday season, at least as far as I am aware. Definitely check it out!

The 2019 Holiday Guide to Five Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000 – page 3:

Including: BenQ HT9060, Epson (UST projector): Pro Cinema LS500, and ALR Screens Feature

Also Check Out Our Under $2000 Holiday Guide

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