Projector Reviews

BenQ TK800 Bargain 4K UHD Home Entertainment Projector Review – Summary

BenQ TK800 – Affordable 4K UHD Projector – Review Summary: The Big Picture, 4K HDR, Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

The Big Picture

This BenQ TK800 offers a whole lot of value, and at the moment, may well be the least expensive 4K content capable projector on the market.  Well, of course price wise, it is tied with its not quite identical twin, the HT2550.

What we really have here, is a very nicely done home entertainment projector, at a very affordable price, considering it is 4K UHD.  Consider it very similar to the traditional and dominant 1080p home projectors list pricing around the $800 price range, but for the $500 list price difference you are getting a healthy jump in capability.

First of course is that it is 4K capable. As explained in Special features, there are four levels of resolution/projector design that can handle 4K at this time.  Still there’s little difference in viewable (perceived) sharpness and detail between most of them in the under $10K price range.  The far more noticeable difference compared to the less expensive projectors is the HDR – high dynamic range – that comes with almost all 4K capable higher resolution projectors, regardless of true resolution. Then there is also a color improvement, which tends to be slight with most of these projectors but greater on those laser projectors that tend to cost an extra couple of thousand dollars, or more.  I am starting to review the $2999 LG HU80K, which is the lowest cost 4K capable projector with laser engine I’m aware of at this time. But, I digress.

tk800 passengers
4K movies like Passengers are fun on the TK800 but if anything, the TK800 stands out handling sports programming

The TK800 is built for “brighter rooms” which means not designed for a dedicated home theater. Its simple, if you have that man cave that you can keep really dark whenever you want to, then for the same money, it is logical to choose the HT2550 of the two.  It’s that simple:  Brighter room:  TK800, Theater/Cave: HT2550.   What could be easier?

Assuming your room has more than minimal ambient light, you’ll want shades to block most light from any windows, and/OR, a special kind of optical, light absorbing screen referred to usually as an ALR screen.  Go that route and you should be all set.

Since both BenQ and I envision the TK800 as a “brighter room” projector, I figure it will have a lot of appeal to sports fans.  That reminds me that one of my minor complaints is no “smooth motion” option a.k.a. CFI.   I’ve long said that belongs on home entertainment type projectors more than it does for serious movie ones.  Lacking it is pretty minor, so don’t lose sleep over it.

Placement flexibility is modest – a 1.2:1 zoom provides basic front to back flexibility over a 2-3 foot range for most screen sizes.  That’s enough in most homes. Still it’s a lot less than some.  Also it lacks any lens shift at all. This time BenQ disappointed me.  But that’s because for years (they pretty much pioneered lens shift on affordable DLP home projectors), BenQ’s equivalent 1080p home  projector – several starting with the legendary W1070, offered a modest amount of lens shift.

If you plan to mount, you will either need to use keystone correction (that’s the alternative to lens shift to keep the image rectangular, but it impacts sharpness, lens shift has no real effect), or you will have to mount at the correct height without keystone correction to keep that image rectangular.  Again, a minor thing, but, in one sense, you are spending extra for that 4K sharpness, so you really don’t want to use a control that will negate some of the difference over 1080p sharpness.

Audio: The speaker’s not bad, but this is a small box. Get a respectable sound system.  And, with a new AV receiver, it can switch all your sources, very handy if you are not just a cable/satellite box, but also plus disc, plus Netflix, plus game console, etc. Besides, who wants to listen to a music video, or an action flick on what is essentially a very small boom box?  You want big quality sound to go with your huge, immersive, projector image. Got it?

Color:  No complaints at all about color. The projector calibrates very well, but it also has a whole bunch of modes, even separate Sports and Football mode, plus Vivid TV…  Plenty to choose from.  Any of those three modes, (or our tweaked Bright mode settings), can cut through a fair amount of ambient light, and produce a football game, baseball game, the Olympics, etc., with rich vibrant colors!   Sweet!

Noise:  One thing I’m not overly happy about is the audible noise.  Like other 4K UHD projectors using the 1920x1080x4 DLP chip it has a humming sound, which seems louder, or at least is more obvious than the projector’s fan, and I think all the 4K UHD projectors using this chip are a bit too noisy for my taste, and I am not particularly “noise adverse.”  Still in a brighter room more family type room, I think noise is of less concern. No one watching a sporting event is going to complain. It’s only on a movie when things go pretty silent, that you may notice enough to not be thrilled.

Last Comments Re: 4K HDR

As is the case with all projectors (and most LED TVs (anything that can’t produce at least 1000 NITS of brightness), there has to be a compromise for HDR to be implemented effectively.   In theory, by not having enough maximum brightness, the result is mid-bright and low bright areas are lower brightness than with non HDR. To the point of potentially being dim.

The TK800’s implementation (with the 0 setting for HDR) can look just a little on the dim side (not so much as say and Epson 5040UB with its default settings, but the TK800 definitely “lightens up” by changing the HDR setting to +1.  (Your call.)  I found +1 to be most enjoyable, most of the time. By comparison, the 0 setting will seem to have more punch – more of that “high” dynamic range.  That’s true, but you want to focus on having the most enjoyable picture to watch, no need to suffer in order to achieve some goals that aren’t really applicable to almost all projectors.

The Competition

Below $1000:  Lots of projectors none of which are 4K capable. That’s a basic choice. The future is 4K. As I said, you can get a similar non-4K projector for less.  But, if you have the budget, now is a good time to spend an extra few hundred, for a healthy amount of future proofing.

Around the price: Under $1500

There are some direct competitors, notably the big brother of the Viewsonic PX727-4K which we reviewed, as that one, the PX747-4K has the equivalent brighter color wheel.  And then there’s the fact that the two projectors are almost identical, coming out of the same factory.  More on which of these in a minute.

But first I must restate the obvious:  Yes, in a really dark room, the HT2550s color, will be a little richer, although not necessarily more accurate (calibrated both are very accurate).  In brighter rooms, though, that advantage will mostly be lost, but the extra white lumens will come in very handy with more ambient light.

Optoma’s new HD50 is $1399, and is another direct competitor, we have the fancier version in house for review, the $1699 HD51A which is the same but a smart projector, with Alexa, and the same kind of features found on smart TVs.  I haven’t started on the Optoma yet, but typically, I expect a slower color wheel, (too bad for us rainbow sensitive types), but also it has CFI for smooth motion.  I’m not prepared to say much more until I start working with the Optoma, so expect my comments comparing the Optoma to the BenQ, to be found in the Optoma HD51A review.  I have one projector to review between this TK800 and the HD51A.

Vivitek’s entries so far, are using the higher resolution 4K UHD chipset, for a slight advantage in sharpness, and in audible noise, but the list price is a lot higher. Still Vivitek pricing is aggressive so we’ve seen online for more than a few dollars under $1500.

Other 4K capable competition isn’t in the price range:   Optoma reduced their higher resolution HD60, to $1799, but that’s a real step up in price, with perhaps the biggest advantage being a bit quieter.

And then there’s the 3LCD competition, which still isn’t down to the price point yet.  The Epson Home Cinema 4000 is a $1999 list price projector.  It’s a pixel shifter, 4K capable, but only pixel shifts twice.  It is not quite as sharp, but you’ll need to be sitting pretty close to notice any difference. Where it is strong though, is maximum placement flexibility and feature sets, including the option to go with a wide screen for movies.  And CFI for smooth motion and many other features too. It too looks pretty darn great, right out of the box, and is slightly better at 4K color too, but is only similar in black levels.

Not one of the under $2500 4K UHD projectors has the great black levels you want in a dedicated home theater. But.  Guess what?

Right!  This projector isn’t about that.  It’s for your brighter room where even a very small amount of ambient light destroys great black level performance!   BTW, the least expensive projector that can handle 4K content, so far, and have really impressive black levels is Epson’s 5040UB, which currently sells for almost $1000 more, so it’s definitely a step up product, not a direct competitor.

Comparison Images in the player below:

From the left (1st):  Passengers 4K HDR

TK800, HT2550, Optoma UHD60, UHD60 vs HT2550 (Optoma on bottom), UHD60 vs Vivitek HK2288 (Optoma on bottom), Epson LS100 (1080p laser), BenQ HT9050 (their high end PJ), Epson HC4000, Epson HC5040 vs Acer V7850 (thus 8 projectors in all).

Victoria Secret – 1080i (obviously no HDR)

TK800, HT2550, Vivitek HK2288, Opotma UHD60, Epson LS100, Optoma UHD65, Sony VW285ES ($5K, true 4K), BenQ HT9050, Epson PC4040, HC3700

Of all the projector images  shown, in this player, all are 4K capable projectors of varying native resolutions, with the exception of the Epson LS100 (to include a laser projector), and the Epson HC3700, (costs less than the BenQ), both of which are 1080p and do not support 4K, so are showing 1080p content.

Where we are showing stacked images, for comparison, the HT2550 is on the top as is the HK2288, both compared to the UHD60.  In the last comparison from Passengers, the Acer V7850 is on the bottom, Epson HC5040UB on the top (the Epson shows you what great black levels should look like.)   -art

Pros

  • 4K UHD resolution of 1920x1080x4 with pixel shifting
  • 4K content capable
  • Supports HDR for expanded dynamic range – more “pop”!
  • Picture quality right out of the box, better than most
  • Fastest color wheel – means virtually no RBE – rainbow effect for most of those who are sensitive
  • RGBW color wheel for more white lumens, punching through ambient light
  • 4000 hours lamp life at full power, and 8000 in Eco is a bit better than most
  • 5 watt speaker provides “decent” sound quality when no AV audio system available
  • Can double as a high resolution business/education projector (although not all that bright)
  • Conveniently small and light – suitable for back yard movie parties, vacation, work
  • Excellent remote control – in terms of layout, range and backlight – the Trifecta of remotes
  • MHL on one HDMI – for mobile devices
  • Support for, and very good 3D
  • Reasonably fast input lag for gaming – acceptable to most (48ms)
  • Full color controls, calibrates easily
  • Although they are for different home situations, overall, I consider the TK800 a slightly better value, compared to the HT2550.
  • Makes an excellent first home theater projector with 4K capabilities
  • 3 year parts and labor warranty – better than most
  • Although missing some features, no significant flaws

Cons

  • Could definitely be brighter for handling HDR (like most projectors)
  • Only offers basic placement flexibility, with 1.2:1 zoom and no lens shift
  • No CFI for smooth motion on sports and other HDTV
  • Of course the small 5 watt speaker is no substitute for a real sound system
  • And, 5 watt speaker is side facing, instead of front or back
  • Gaming – Input lag of 48ms is acceptable, but most gamers prefer 33ms of less
  • No support for P3/BT.2020 color space for 4K (projector claims 96% of REC709 the lower existing standard for color space
  • Could be quieter in terms of fan noise at full power and has a sort of hum as part of it.  (That said, it’s typical of this class of projectors.
  • No onboard media player to allow PC free – plugging in a USB or card for photo shows, and more
  • Has audio out, but Bluetooth audio out would be a nice addition a few projectors are now offering
  • The TK800, like the H2550 and 98% of all lamp or laser based home theater/home entertainment projectors, is basically stupid, that is, not smart!  Today’s projector manufacturers need to make these projectors as smart, as today’s LCD TVs.  We do see smarts on some pocket projectors like LGs, but not on mainstream home projectors.  This is a shout out to the whole industry, it sure isn’t just BenQ!  Our next review is the $1699 list price ($200 extra) Optoma HD51A, where you pay $300 more than the HD50, to get all those “smart TV features.”

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