Projector Reviews

BenQ HT3550 4K UHD Home Theater Projector Review – Summary 2

BenQ HT3550 Summary: Competition continued, The Bottom Line and Recommendations, Pros, and Cons

4K capable Non-DLP competition.

This type of projectors are 1080p pixel shifters, similar (in pixel shifting) to the HT3550 except the BenQ hits the screen firing each pixel 4 times (with slightly different data) whereas these only hit the screen twice (with different data). Still, they have the same sized pixels, (4X the size of a native 4K projector).

All of the projectors in this section are endowed with far, far more features than the HT3550 or its DLP competition.  Placement advantages are massive, with typically 2.1:1 zoom lenses (instead of 1.3:1), and tons of lens shift (vertical and horizontal) vs minimal vertical shift only.  And the lenses are fully motorized – zoom, focus, and shift, allowing them to support widescreen viewing as I do, with a 2.35:1 or 2.40: “Cinemascope” type screen. For example on the Epson’s with the touch of a button the zoom and shift change from HDTV’s 16:9 (1.78:1), to whatever aspect ratio widescreen you choose.  For many of us, that’s a huge difference.

Epson and Sony are the dominant home projector manufacturers using 3LCD and LCoS tech, instead of DLP.  JVC too, but as their least expensive LCoS projector is $4K, it is not direct competition.

Sony 4K capable projectors start with a native 4K VW295ES at $4999.99 list price, so definitely not competition – on several levels.  Their least expensive is an excellent projector at $1999.99 but it has no 4K capabilities at all.

That leaves a pair of Epsons. There are far more DLP manufacturers using TI chips, than there are folks using 3LCD or LCoS tech. But 3LCD generally has about half of the US market in projector unit sales.

Epson launched their HC4010 last fall.  This is a totally different animal compared to the HT3550, as is the HC5050UB just launched (and my next review to publish).

The Epson Home Cinema 4010 is $1999 list price, so definitely more expensive.  It is also brighter overall.  And like the BenQ uses a Cinema filter. Epson’s Home Cinema 5050UB also uses a cinema filter but has LCD panels with much better native contrast than those in the 4010.  As mentioned, it is loaded with lots of placement flexibility and a number of other features the HT3550 lacks, but it lacks a speaker system, isn’t quite as sharp (but can look as sharp).

I think these two are comparable in picture quality although the BenQ has the sharpness, edge, the HC4010 is overall brighter – both with cinema filters in place, compared, and without them.  That makes the HC4010 better in less than great light controlled rooms.

Now that brings us to another favorite (even if I haven’t published the review yet) – the new HC5050UB – but it is twice the price.  It is the same as the HC4010 but for significantly better black levels than the 4010 or the BenQ (the BenQ is a bit better than the HC4010).

Gamers: Unlike the BenQ HT2550 (lots of input lag) or the Epson HC4010 (can’t do 60fps 4K with HDR, but can do everything else), the HC5050UB is a solid gaming projector with input lag less than half of the BenQ, and unlike the HC4010 (which is also fast) it supports gaming all the way up to 4K HDR 60fps, 12 bit color.

The BenQ serves up some vibrant colors. This is from 1080i satellite
The BenQ serves up some vibrant colors. This is from 1080i satellite

The HC5050UB at twice the price is hardly a direct competitor, but if you discover a horde of money – that’s your next step-up projector.

exceptionally clear

JVC’s entry level LCoS has even better black levels than the UB, but starts at $3999.  So almost no one will be choosing between the two.

Bottom line vs. the non DLP projectors: The more expensive Epson HC4010 is an excellent projector with a massive feature set, but $500 more, slightly brighter, but the BenQ will deliver slightly better black level performance.  The Epson 5050UB is the go to projector because it is a major step up between brightness, flexibility, especially black levels…  (Both Epsons lack speakers, and are larger projectors so less mobile).

More Expensive 4K UHD DLP projectors vs HT3550

These really consist of two groups.  Lamp based projectors slightly more expensive but relying on the older, higher resolution 2716x1528x2 DLP chips, and those with laser engines (with either chip set).

Lamp based models that cost more tend to be older as most new models are using the smaller (and I assume, less expensive chip set).  Since many of these companies don’t even tell you what the native resolution is (1920×1080 or 2716×1528), I expect the smaller chipset to dominate going forward.

There are projectors like Optoma’s UHD65 (the first of the 4K UHDs to ship), and the HE version with the business color wheel, the UHD60.  The UHD60 is down near the price of the HT3550, but the HT3550 is so much better handling HDR than the UHD60 or UHD65 could do.

There are other older models, with the better chip but I really can’t think of one with great HDR.

That takes us to the 4K UHD laser projectors. Problem is, you are looking at at least $2500 so far, so they really aren’t competitors. If you are interested, here are some thoughts.  , That $2.5K  would get you the smartest projector around – LG’s HU80KA, a very cool, and unique home entertainment projector.  That LG is fun, but for pure picture quality, it is no match on black levels, nor did we get as good color.  The LG may be a lot of fun, and having the smarts of an LG smart TV, is awesome, but if you are serious about better picture, the lower cost HT3550 is the better choice.

I’ve dismissed a Dell laser projector and others, as good for biz but not for home. The one much more expensive exception is the Acer VL7860, which uses a laser, and lets’ it double as a fast dynamic iris (something lamp  projectors just can’t do.)  The Acer has better black levels for sure, but at twice the price, it is more competition for that Epson HC5050UB than this rbargain-pricedain priced projector with a dynamic iris.

That’s pretty much all the relatively direct competition, except for a lot of projectors that do not support 4K.  There are a number of good ones but the assumption is that you probably do want 4K capability or you wouldn’t still be reading this.

Pros

  • 4K UHD using 1920x1080x4 pixel shifting DLP chipset
  • Got close to its 2000 lumen claim
  • Short throw design – favored by some
  • Better than most color, right out of the box
  • Dynamic iris enhances black level performance
  • Choose HDR options
    • Use D. Cinema mode, less bright, but P3 color
    • Use Cinema mode, 40% brighter, REC709 color
  • Supports both HDR10 and HLG
  • ISF Certified
  • HDMI with 18Ghz speed
  • CFI works well
  • Very good remote – good range, and backlight
  • Media Player on board
  • Relatively portable (under 10 lbs) and compact
  • Lens is nicely recessed
  • All three feet are adjustable

Cons

  • No Wired or Wireless Networking
  • Limited Placement Flexibility (though typical among DLPs)
    • Lens shift very limited
    • Zoom lens is only 1.3:1
  • No Lens memory for working with wide screens
  • Short throw design – not favored by others
  • Black levels could be better
    • Even if better than similarly priced projectors
  • A bit noisy at full power
  • USB media player is typically impractical if ceiling mounting
  • 63ms input lag makes it a slow gamer.  Not a good choice for serious gamers
  • Less than 1000 lumens in best mode for HDR with P3 color