Projector Reviews

BenQ HT2550 Low Cost 4K UHD Projector Review – Special Features 2

BenQ HT2550 Low Cost 4K UHD Projector Review – Special Features 2: Two User Modes, Using 3D, Cinema Master and Brilliant Color, Audio, HDMI CEC

Two User Modes

When it comes to having user modes, the more the merrier. BenQ is offering two on the HT2550. Either can be based on your choice of the preset modes. When you save in the User modes, you’ll always get what you saved, when you bring them up. With projectors lacking, usually, they will hold your settings, but, let’s say you are watching a movie, and it seems too dark so you decide to pick up the remote and change the Gamma setting. Great. But, now there’s no “memory” of what the previous setting was. In other words, you make changes, if you don’t have a user memory to save them in, you better start writing down those changes – or at least all your preferred settings.

Thanks to the two modes, this BenQ basically avoids that. I would have liked to see three modes, as we like to set up one mode for “bright” situations, one for “best” performance, and these days, we often set up a 3rd for HDR modes. Well, two out of three is way better than none!

But wait!  There are two more modes – ISF modes.  ISF is Imaging Science Foundation, an organization that trains and certifies Calibrators.  When a projector is ISF certified, it indicates that the color controls are well done enough to do a respectable calibration, but it also means two extra savable modes are provided.  But:  They are not User modes. They are password protected, so that a calibrator can drop in calibration settings, and you, the end User, can’t accidentally wipe them out.

In theory, unless you pay an ISF calibrator to calibrate your projector (a rare thing for a $1500 projector since calibrators can charge from about $300 to $750 for a calibration,) so most people in this price range, count on good out of the box color, or trying our published calibration settings for “a few bucks.”

Ours settings can’t take into account variations in lamp color, or the shift in color as thousands of hours are put on the lamp, but more often than not, the feedback is that our settings provide a visible improvement. Just remember that without ISF, you only have two modes that you can save settings on, that you can recall later, after making other changes.

Using 3D

3D works – just add 3D DLP-Link type glasses. These days they are inexpensive – you can find them from under $20 a pair (when 3D first hit about 10 years ago, older versions were $150+ per pair).

The odd aspect of 3D, in terms of this BenQ, is unlike most projectors that support 3D, this BenQ doesn’t auto-sense it. You will have to manually select 3D On from the menu, and then turn it off to watch regular, non-3D content. A minor nuisance for those that watch 3D.

Hey! If you have never owned a projector before, for home, a quick comment on 3D. 3D popularity is waning, and it’s hard to find a 3D channel on cable or satellite these days. Many new LCD TVs aren’t supporting 3D, either. But, you are in the world of projectors where many of us like or love 3D (I’m fanatical). Fortunately, we’re still seeing plenty of 3D movies in the theaters and most will get to disc in 3D (or so it still seems).

Projectors are what you want for 3D, just like at your Cineplex. You see – the reason we all love the large screen (in theaters) and at home (just us projector users), is that the large screen, taking up a large chunk of your view, is fun, and great, and BETTER, because you become more immersed in the content, less aware of your surroundings.

3D is the same way. Sitting 12 feet from my 124” screen, watching Avatar, Ghostbusters 2016, or Passengers, in 3D, further immerses you. Unfortunately, watching 3D on a 65” TV at 15 feet, though, just “ain’t gonna cut it.” In that scenario, the relative screen size is way too small to get you the immersion 3D offers, it’s the combination of large viewing area and 3D that really rocks! I’m often torn between watching a movie like Passengers in 4K, or in 3D. Each has its strengths.

Cinema Master and Brilliant Color

Most projectors offer a suite of image processing solutions to enhance the content.  Often, a manufacturer will give a name to a group of them. BenQ calls theirs Cinema Master (there is other image processing not part of that). Cinema Master offers these types of processing:

  • Color Enhancer – uses fancy (they say “complex) algorithms, to increase saturation and gradients and hues
  • Flesh Tone – is geared specifically to adjusting skin tones. Oh, it will affect other colors, but it works in a color range where it can correct a bit for less than great skin tones.
  • Pixel Enhancer 4K – This works with standard 1080p content (not 4K), and allows you to dial in the amount of sharpness/detail. I tend to go a little on the heavy side, and found 8 worked great, it definitely added visible improvement over the lower default setting. Choose a setting that works best for you. 8 does add a touch of hardness to the image (I’ve described other projectors enhancements that way too), such as a close up of a face, but as long as you don’t go to far, it’s a very good trade-off.

Audio

There’s a single 5-watt speaker with some audio processing options to deal with getting a spread out sound in mono, from a single speaker and a stereo source, under the Sound menu. Hey, it’s one speaker, in a small box. It’s fine for an outdoor movie night, but geez, if you went to the trouble of buying a 4K capable projector, get a good sound system to go with it. The speaker is fine, for built-in (and a plus, should you want to double this projector for some business use), but sound quality will pretty much suck, compared to even a basic HTIB (home theater in a box), even those starting under $200. So, if you don’t have a sound system, get one![

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BenQ’s options in the sound menu, help, there’s even a 5 band equalizer, but still there’s no stereo and no real serious bass, nor is there any serious bass on any other projector I can think of.

You do have an audio out, unfortunately, that too, is mono, even if the source is stereo or even more channels. Remember, normally your sources will be going through that AV receiver (the key component of an HTIB), so you won’t be using the audio in or out. There might be exceptions for odd and ends, such as a presentation with audio, from a PC. Note that, generally, “true” home theater projectors have no speakers, while lower cost “home entertainment” projectors almost always do. I guess, in this regard, that makes the HT2550 “home entertainment.”

HDMI CEC

Control your HDMI CEC compatible device, such as a Blu-ray or Blu-ray UHD player, with the BenQ’s remote, or vice versa. There are menu options to set this feature up the way you like. A quick look at the BenQ’s remote, and you’ll find the usual navigation controls found on video players, etc., such as play, pause, FF, RW, chapter advance.  Remember, to do this you need a compatible device – many blu-ray players, and TVs support some form of CEC or another.

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Close-up of the BenQ HT2550’s HDMI CEC section of its backlit remote control

Sometimes HDMI CEC is called HDMI-link.  Projector manufacturers often like to give it trademarked names.  For example, Panasonic calls theirs Viera-Link.

I use the feature regularly with my default projector, the Epson 5040UB.  Why, because it has a great backlight, and the remotes for my Samsung, Philips and Sony players aren’t backlit!  It’s a huge improvement, especially if the player has a small, crappy remote. The Samsung 8500 is a good example of that type of remote!

Remember we’re talking basic control here.  You can’t navigate the player’s menus just do things like control power, and play.

Smart ECO Mode

Smart ECO Mode – smart, but not behaving like a dynamic iris. Basically, Smart ECO lets the lamp get as bright as it needs to. On bright scenes, it will use full lamp power, but feed it a really dark scene, it will provide the proper brightness while reducing the lamp power. This differs from using lamp dimming to enhance black levels, and so, in that regard, really isn’t effective. Even on competing products that do have lamp dimming (Optoma offers on some of theirs), the end result fails compared to a good dynamic iris, which can do so much more to improve the overall picture on dark scenes.

Note there’s also the regular Economic mode claiming even more than the 8,000 hour lamp life that Smart ECO claims. That’s because it will never pull full power, even on the brightest scenes, so power consumption is lower overall.

Speaking of dynamic irises, the BenQ remote has a button labeled Dynamic Iris, but it doesn’t do anything with this projector. Darn! BenQ has had some excellent dynamic iris designs in their projectors over the years (all three I owned, included). Would have been great here. Sad thing is, not one of these 4K UHD projectors under $5K (no matter which resolution) that I’ve seen so far has anything but basic (entry level / near entry level) black level performance, so they could all use a dynamic iris. Alas!

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