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BenQ HT2550 – A New, Affordable 4K UHD Home Theater Projector Priced Well Under $2000

By Art Feierman

The BenQ HT2550 is the latest member of the fleet of affordable 4K capable home theater and home entertainment projectors to hit the market. Just announced, it has a lot in common with some of its closest competition, but it also has its own uniqueness which may prove the HT2550 to be one of the best, if not the best value out there among the 4K UHD DLP projectors.

Now, all I’ve seen so far is BenQ’s rather skimpy press release, which is fine. But, rather than writing 1000 words, repeating their specs and hype, I decided to go over the features (and benefits), and spend some of your time discussing how it differentiates itself from the competition.

It is starting to look like, from sketchy information that the projector may be sold as both the BenQ W1700 and the BenQ HT2550.  This would not be surprising, several projector companies (and many LCD TV companies) have the same or near identical products sold under different model names for the purpose of selling through different distribution channels.  For example, if this is correct, the W1700 might be sold online, while the HT2550 might be limited to local dealers, and big box houses like Best Buy or Walmart.  Either way, we'll get that sorted out before first shipments.

Overview of the BenQ HT2550

The BenQ HT2550 is a 2,200 lumen affordable 4K UHD projector with a modest amount of lens shift.

Let’s start with the basics! The HT2550 uses a brand new Texas Instruments 4K UHD chip, which handles 4K content thanks to its native resolution 1920 x 1080 x 4 DLP. That's right, it's not the 2716 x 1528 x2 native resolution DLP chip found in other 4K UHD projectors . The x4 expresses that this BenQ is a pixel shifter, but un-like the other 4K UHD DLP projectors, it's shifting a 1920 pixel wide image 4 times, instead of the slightly higher resolution chip's two times.   For clarity, we don’t consider any of these to be true 4K, but on a line between basic 1080p pixel shifters (x2) then the x4, and the 2716x1528x2.  They all ultimately address 8.3 million pixels, but the pixel size and overlap varies.  By our take true 4K projectors (which start at $4,999 list price these days with the Sony VW285ES), need to have at least 3840x2160 pixels without overlapping larger pixels with pixel shifting..

The HT2550 is announced to be “under $2,000,” which we will presume means $1,995 or $1,999 list price – we’ll see which when it starts shipping.

Update 1/5/2018: BenQ has announced the official list price of the HT2550 is $1499!

That definitely makes this the least expensive 4K UHD projector announced to date.  BenQ is accepting pre-orders for the HT2550 prior to 1/15/18 on their website store, and on Amazon.  Best Buy, and I presume others will also be selling the product mid-January!

The BenQ has a basic 1.2:1 zoom lens, and a modest amount of lens shift for placement flexibility. BenQ pretty much pioneered putting modest lens shift in lower cost DLP projectors, although now all the 4K UHD DLPs offer some.

The BenQ HT2550 has all the usual inputs and connectors for home theater, with an added bonus - an audio out! You don't need a splitter or A/V receiver, just regular plug-and-play speakers. Nice.

Brightness is 2,200 lumens. Funny, that’s the same as the $2,495 Vivitek HK2299 and Optoma UHD65. By comparison, those other projectors’ little brothers, the Vivitek HK2288 (our review will be posting any day) and Optoma UHD60 (ditto), for $1,995, claim 3,000 lumens. By the way, 2,200 lumens is a healthy amount – most of today’s “home theater” projectors offer 1,500 to 2,500 lumens in their brightest modes.

Confused that the competition charges less for the brighter, yet similar models? We address the differences in other reviews, such as the upcoming Optoma UHD60 ($1,995) review, where we compare it directly to their UHD65.

And that, folks, brings us to another aspect of this projector that perhaps separates the BenQ from the similarly-priced competition.

The Color Wheel Sets the HT2550 Apart From The Competition

The HT2550 uses a six-segment color wheel – RGBRGB. By comparison, those other under $2K DLPs all have a clear slice on their color wheels for whites, while their $2,495 siblings have RGBRGB like this BenQ.

This is worth a bit of “’splaining.”

Clear slices on a color wheel boost white brightness at the expense of being able to do accurate colors without sacrificing a lot of brightness. In English – more white lumens, less color ones. In other words, having those extra 800 lumens doesn’t mean you end up with any more lumens when calibrated for great color than the 2,200 lumen RGBRGB projectors. With clear slices, we tend to describe projectors as having what should be bright, intensive, pure reds, as something more red-wine colored, and yellows tend to be mustardy and a bit green.

Drop the brightness enough, and those colors clean up. Is there any benefit? Only when you don’t care about having the best color, and need maximum brightness. Thus, we sometimes call the 4K UHD’s with clear slice color wheels home entertainment, while those with RGBRGB are home theater. Makes sense!

And that’s why, in the title, I refer to the HT2550 as a home theater projector, not home entertainment. It’s a qualitative difference.

The BenQ HT2550 delivers 2,200 lumens and that RGBRGB, and 4K content with HDR support, for $1,995, while those others charge $500 more for similar.  Now, other features are different, such as lens and detail enhancement, which, of course, is why we do the reviews.

As a side comment, since I haven’t been able to verify it, BenQ’s spec sheet doesn’t mention the color wheel speed. That’s an issue that relates to those of us who see the Rainbow Effect (RBE). The potentially good news – BenQ has a tradition of offering faster color wheels (less RBE) than most of the competition at any given price point. So, I would expect their color wheel speed to be at least as fast as the competitions’.

Speaking of which, BenQ has promised us one of the first review units to land, so we are looking forward to reviewing it, and publishing by mid December, but definitely before Christmas-December at the latest. 

Update 11/18:  I just learned that I may get a first look at an HT2550 due to BenQ folks stopping by around 12/7, but that's not confirmed.

The only downside I see so far, people, is that you won’t be able to have one of these under your Christmas tree, as first shipments are scheduled for January 2018. Still, no reason why you can’t be using a BenQ HT2550 at your upcoming Super Bowl party!

Let’s Talk Tech – HDR, BT.2020/P3, REC709

Let’s talk tech, for a moment: 4K and HDR. Interesting that the HT2550 press release talks about HDR, and stresses how well the projector handles REC709 color space. That’s a bit curious because, the real talk with HDR about color space is usually about supporting BT.2020/P3 color space. Think of P3 as a subset of BT.2020 that isn’t fully attainable (not even in commercial Cinema projectors, I believe). P3 is the subset that the Cinema projectors achieve, and the goal of 4K home theater projectors as well.

Problem is, you can’t get to P3 with lamp-based DLP projectors. Laser light engine projectors (lasers do better) at least get very close, while lamp based ones most likely only achieve about 80% of P3 (which I guess isn’t that much wider color space than full REC709). BenQ also makes a $8,995 LED projector (recently reviewed – the HT9050). That one does tackle the BT.2020 color space, thanks to the advantages of their LED light engine!

As such, BenQ doesn’t claim BT.2020/P3 for the HT2550. So far, only Optoma does, but no reason to believe they are delivering enough extra color space to lay claim to a visual advantage that would make a difference. That’s good conversation for the reviews.

So, all else considered, the BenQ isn’t just “another” 4K UHD projector, but one with a couple of real differences – by offering a color wheel more in line with the $2,500 competition than the similarly priced $1,995 models from Acer, Optoma, Vivitek, etc., and by using the newest UHD chip.   We’ll have to see how it ultimately performs when I review it, but I am encouraged to see a 4K UHD under $2K that doesn’t have a clear slice on the color wheel. Yay!

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