2019 Holiday Guide To Five Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000 – Part 3

Our final page of the Holiday Guide To Five Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000 features two heavy hitters, and a bit of info on Ambient Light Rejecting Screens for those less-than-perfect, brighter room environments.

The BenQ HT9060 – Serious Home Theater with that DLP “Look and Feel”

With the HT9060 shipment, BenQ is fast re-establishing itself as a real leader in serious performance home theater projectors. This BenQ is geared for that “person-cave” or dedicated home theater. The HT9060 takes its picture quality very seriously. This is a DLP projector built to compete with well-received home theater projectors, such as those from Sony, JVC, and SIM2 – all top quality names. It is definitely a major “cut above” the traditional laser and lamp based DLP projectors that typically sell for under $5K, or even under $1,500 (lamp based), in part due to higher native resolution and great optics.

I’ll tell you a story in a moment, but first: The Basics.

BenQ HT9060 lens

The HT9060 is a 4K UHD DLP projector that uses the higher resolution DLP chips. The HT9060 claims 2,200 lumens and has a MSRP of $8,999.00 (same as the HT9050 it replaces). It uses a solid-state LED light engine (the most serious LED projector I’ve seen to date). Placement flexibility is very good with a 1.50:1 manual zoom lens and a whole lot of lens shift, too!

BenQ has always “focused” on providing very high-quality optics on their top of the line home theater projectors. We found that to be true when we reviewed this projector’s predecessor. We plan to review the HT9060 in the near future, but we can draw a lot of conclusions from our past experiences with BenQ in general, and the older HT9050.

Relating to resolution: Most 4K UHD projectors use 1920 x 1080 chips – and pixel shift hitting the screen 4 times. This BenQ HT9060 uses DLP chips with twice the total resolution: 2716 x 1528, which means much smaller pixels and only the need to pixel shift one time to hit the 4K standard!

This scene from Passengers is being projected by the BenQ HT9050, the HT9060's predecessor - this is without HDR. Imagine the pop and wow this HT9060 will have with its addition of HDR!
This scene from Passengers is being projected by the BenQ HT9050, the HT9060's predecessor - this is without HDR. Imagine the pop and wow this HT9060 will have with its addition of HDR!

The HT9060 supports HDR – both HDR10 and HLG (broadcast, streaming), which together BenQ calls HDR-PRO (seems everyone’s got to trademark this kind of stuff for marketing purposes).

And, this BenQ supports DCI/P3 color, same P3 color as your local high quality 4K digital cinema movie theaters at the mall (and the older HT9050). In fact, other than the lens not being motorized, this BenQ is rather feature-laden.

Now, it’s time for that story! Two years ago, when we reviewed the HT9050, we were impressed, overall, but for one thing. Like a number of the early 4K capable projectors (very true of the early Sony, JVC projectors, and others), the 9050 lacked HDR support. About that time, we started seeing HDR support (first gen – not great) on many projectors, some far less expensive. That older BenQ, though, supported P3 color (one of the best attempts from a DLP), which almost no others did at the time.

Still, the older 9050’s lacking HDR was a serious disappointment!

No longer. The HT9060 has that HDR10 that the older projector lacked, and it adds support for the newer HDR called HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma, for those who care). Excellent. How good the HDR will prove to be, we’ll know for sure when we review this projector. We’ve recently reviewed two less expensive BenQ home theater projectors – both do HDR rather well, as BenQ’s had lots of practice.

HT9050_4K_ghostbusters_city_aerial

I expect great things because – there was a time when BenQ ruled quality home theater (unless you were rich enough to afford a Runco (super-high end company). Runco even used to OEM BenQ models, make some enhancements and sell them as their “entry level” Runco models (for well more than $10,000), when the BenQ’s were selling for about $5,000, because of having optics that are “a cut above” (just like BenQ did 10 or so years ago when 720p resolution ruled the world of projector-based home theaters).

I owned three BenQ projectors in a row back then, simply because they were the best around under $10K, with models like the HT8720 (and HT8700 before it).

Back then, those projectors were the best performance choice without spending at least twice as much! I enjoyed all three immensely at those times. Not too long after the last of those models, I replaced it with a couple of 1080p JVCs and Epsons, until 4K…

So, here comes the HT9060, built with the same high-performance mindset as those older BenQs that I owned –  and back then they were also far more expensive than Optoma’s Epson’s etc.

A richly colored, elegant picture is what you should expect from BenQ’s flagship, the HT9060.  If this projector is in your budget, you’ll definitely want to consider it, as an alternative to those aforementioned Sonys, or JVCs in its price range, one that serves up that excellent DLP “look and feel.”

HT9050 showing space scene from Passengers
The HT9050 projecting a scene from Passengers. Without HDR the image is more "mid-range-ish" without the pop from very dark to bright areas that HDR would create.

The HT9060 should also have better black levels than the lower cost HT5550 (a favorite), which does pretty well in that regard. The solid-state light engine helps!

Perhaps one of the best reasons for considering this BenQ is that famous “look and feel” of DLP projectors vs the other technologies. I’ve long written about that (20 years now), often describing that DLP advantage as being great at reproducing dark scenes with rich, yet not over the top colors, better than 3LCD or LCoS. Long I had considered another DLP, but few had the black level performance I treasure. The BenQ HT9060, however, should provide the quality handling of dark scenes (richness and blacks), that just aren’t there on those many lower-cost DLP home theater projectors.

I seriously doubt there’s a single chip DLP home theater projector under $10,000 that comes close to the HT9060, in terms of performance/picture quality/sharpness. You’ll definitely want to check it out. Being a serious projector for home theater lovers, the HT9060 is sold through trained and authorized local integrators and dealers. Sorry, no Amazon for you DIY types, but you can buy direct from BenQ.

Be excited about the BenQ HT9060.

For those of you pretty new to projectors, understand that there are a lot of enthusiasts who are huge DLP fans, but have long waited for projectors like the HT9060 that can meet their desire for “ultra-high contrast” black levels, in addition to great image processing including HDR/P3, and enough brightness to rock your world on a pretty large screen. 150”diagonal  should not be a problem, but we’ll know when we review this BenQ!

The Epson LS500

With a respectable number of 4K capable ultra short throw DLP projectors, aka Laser TVs, hitting the market over the last couple of months, we also saw the announcement of the first 4K capable 3LCD UST laser TV, the LS500 (available in black or white) at the CEDIA show in September.

Epson LS500 Product Shot

The LS500 is bright. It was dazzling when handling sports and scenery at the CEDIA show – under full trade show floor lighting! Of course, it was paired with an SI ALR screen for UST. Here’s an instance where the right screen is paired with the right projector:

The Epson LS500 laser TV “dazzled” under full trade show floor lighting on this 120” diagonal screen!
The Epson LS500 laser TV “dazzled” under full trade show floor lighting on this 120” diagonal screen!

The Epson LS500 is not yet shipping, so you may be wondering why it’s in our guide. Well, our guides stay available through not just the holidays, and all the way to the Graduation/Father’s Day timeframe. Some of you are in a hurry to score a Laser TV for the holidays. Some of you, though, may not be ready, or choose to wait a bit.

This Epson LS500, along with the LG on the previous page, will be direct competitors. Both are more expensive than new units hitting the market from VAVA, Optoma, and others (most of those less expensive models are single laser designs). The Epson seems to be the brightest of these home UST projectors, boasting 4,000 lumens. It sure looked brighter than the others at the show.

Amazingly, this image was also captured at the Epson booth, on another Epson a few feet away. Stunning color and rich, dark areas.  Scene projected onto a 100” diagonal screen.
Amazingly, this image was also captured at the Epson booth, on another Epson a few feet away. Stunning color and rich, dark areas. Scene projected onto a 100” diagonal screen.

Epson has set the following pricing: LS500 with a 100” ALR (fixed wall) screen is $4,999, or $5,999 with a 120” diagonal ALR screen. I have also learned that dealers can offer the projectors without the screens for appropriately less, for those already having the right screen, or planning to buy a motorized ALR UST screen just like I am planning for my place.

This is definitely a bright room projector. I thought the LG UST was bright until I saw this Epson!

Because it is more “living room” than home theater, Epson uses its standard pixel shifting 1080p 3LCD panels, not the higher contrast ones found in their UBs, but that should be just dandy in brighter rooms, especially if you consider these photos I took.

First shipments are Q1 2020. When in Q1? Hard to say, but I suspect after CES in mid-January, as we are expecting to see Epson rolling out marketing around then.

All considered, the LS500 without screen is likely to price below the LG, but above the others I’ve mentioned. I’m guess-timating about $3,999 without screen!

View from the back – the LS500 sits only inches away from, and inches below your screen!
View from the back – the LS500 sits only inches away from, and inches below your screen!

Personally, I’m excited. Of those I’ve seen so far, for my own living room, I’ve narrowed the choices to the LG HU85LA and this Epson LS500. I have liked the others, but I suspect that the single laser Optoma and VAVA Laser TVs (claiming 2,700 and 3,000 lumens) just aren’t near as bright as this Epson. Warranty, I should note, is 2 years parts and labor! The LS500 has a pair of 10-watt speakers that put out some serious volume, and which face you when watching.

Here’s a link to more info on the LS500 that we put together two months ago when announced, and here’s a link to the video of the LS500s in action at CEDIA

Epson’s LS500 Laser TV – this is one some of you have been waiting for.

ALR – AMBIENT LIGHT REJECTING SCREENS – THE SOLUTION TO ENJOYING THE PROJECTOR EXPERIENCE IN ALMOST ANY ROOM!

The LG HU85LA projecting the Netflix Menu on an ALR screen, up against quite a lot of ambient light!
The LG HU85LA projecting the Netflix Menu on an ALR screen, up against quite a lot of ambient light!

Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Now, Disney+ and other streaming services have given us an abundance of high-quality content to choose from. Gone are the days of “600 channels and nothing to watch” – now, it’s just so darn hard to choose from so many amazing options. We are spoiled, and rightfully so (you work so hard, you deserve it!), so why not add some icing to that cake with a great projector and screen combination?

Until recent years, projectors were meant for the darkest of the dark rooms – dedicated home theaters or media rooms. With the introduction of some truly high-powered projectors and Ambient Light Rejecting Screens, projectors are coming out of the caves and into common rooms like living rooms and family rooms, making the big screen experience more accessible.

ALR screens become more popular by the year, as more people are opting to use projectors outside the traditional home theater, especially with the introduction of the “Laser TVs” like the LG HU85LA and Epson LS500 included in this guide, and Optoma’s P1. Living rooms, family rooms, dens, and spare bedrooms all become potential media rooms capable of having the big screen – we’re talking from 100” to 120” diagonal, which is HUGE.

Ambient Light Rejecting Screens actually absorb light coming from the sides, directly overhead, or from directly below – they ignore all light that isn’t coming from a mounted or tabletop projector. If you’ve got a bright window directly behind your projector, you’re out of luck, but if it’s on a side wall – bingo!

In the past, you could only pair ALR screens with a standard throw projector. That is, a projector that sits around 10 feet back or so from your screen. Now, we are seeing more and more ALR screens specifically designed for ultra short throw projectors – like those Laser TVs – which makes these projectors suitable for those brighter room environments. In the past few years many screen manufacturers have added ALR screens to their line-up, although no one is better known for pioneering them to consumers than Screen Innovations.

You can get an ALR type screen for well under $1,000, and ones that go up into the thousands (especially if they are motorized – fixed wall screens will generally always be your most cost-effective option). Pair one with any projector – a higher-end one like the Sony VPL-VW295ES in this guide, or perhaps the affordable and very bright BenQ TK850 we feature in our other guide, where you can have a 4K capable projector and a 100” screen in your living room for under $2K! Now, that’s pretty awesome.

The Bottom Line: ALR screens tend to be a bit more expensive, but they open up a new world of viewing opportunities where you can fully enjoy being immersed in movies, video games, and other great content – super-sized!

Also Check Out Our Under $2000 Holiday Guide

Folks we hope you found some useful information and hopefully you will soon be enjoying a new home theater or home entertainment projector, whether you are a sports fan, movie lover, gamer, or just regular people. Thanks for checking out this guide.

And please note, here’s a link to our other Holiday Guide – for projectors under $2000 – which includes a wide range of projectors – from a great little stocking stuffer or gift for the kids, such as the ViewSonic M1 Mini ($169 list), to include three very affordable 4K capable projectors including one with a solid state LED light engine… and more. Happy holidays!  -art

The 2019 Holiday Guide to Seven Great Home Theater Projectors Under $2000

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