Posted on April 25, 2019 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT3550- The 4K Home Theater Projector – Picture Quality: Out of the box, 4K HDR content, 1080p Movies, Sports and General HDTV/streaming viewing.
The full production HT3550 produces much-improved picture quality “right out of the box” compared to the first sample received. We count the first one has been relatively defective, based on conversations with BenQ.
Fortunately, the production HT3550 performs extremely well, right out of the box.
As with the first unit, 1080p content in Cinema mode looks very good, with very nice skin tones (more on the next page) without any adjustment. In reality, I only did a minor “eyeball” tweak to contrast and brightness settings to maximize detail. I did not adjust the color at all for 1080 content. Sports looked really good, and movies including Casino Royale, had very good looking color, even if a full calibration would make for minor improvements.
In the photo player below, the first six images are from 4K UHD disc, with HDR and P3 color. The last three are 1080 content in SDR and REC709 color space. The first three images were taken of the new production HT3550, while the last six were the “busted” preproduction one.
On HDR content, the first unit was pretty not good! But, it wasn’t a finalized unit in terms of firmware. HDR. On the full production version, the color is very good without adjustment. Since we didn’t calibrate this unit, I can’t tell you how much exactly it is off, but I did shoot one good image for comparison against my aging but calibrated 1500 hours ago) Epson 5040UB, from Passengers. As you can see, the colors are not identical, by any means, but they are close, and similarly good looking.
The bottom line on the BenQ HT3550 right out of the box performance: This is another projector that a hardcore enthusiast looking for near perfect color, will calibrate, but most users will be more than satisfied with the default color settings on Cinema and D. Cinema mode. Well done BenQ!
A bit more on the other modes:
BTW Bright Mode is mostly green – way over the top. It is what we call a “break glass in case of emergency” color mode. That is, if you are being overwhelmed with ambient light, try it, it will be adequate for football games, etc., but you probably will miss having any bright reds, probably you’ll miss them quite a bit.
Vivid mode has a lot of punch. I’m sure it is a bit over the top on a lot of content, if you do not reduce the saturation a bit. But it is great on a lot of sports, and other content where you aren’t looking for perfect color. Vivid is my go to sports mode unless I really darken my theater.
I am trying to “forget” the first pre-production unit, and concentrate on this properly working production HT3550. That would make my life much simpler.
The same Journey to the South Pacific scene of boat and dock and people, had explosively over the top, oversaturated reds and magentas. That was gone on the full production projector!
This player is filled with content, most of which was shot on the first unit after Eric calibrated it. I still had to further reduce the saturation though… The fewer images shot with the new, but uncalibrated unit will be marked. There are a couple of shot with both projectors.
I used 0 or -1 for the HDR setting most of the time. Only a couple of times – and when filling my full 124” widescreen screen, did I give up a bit of HDR by going to the +1, for more mid-range brightness. 0 will be fine for most folks, most of the time.
I’ll discuss black levels in more depth in its own section but wanted to point out here, that on the very dark scenes, the HT3550 is definitely a step up projector in black level performance with HDR compared to entry-level 4K UHD DLP projectors. And that really helps as the dynamic nature of HDR can brighten the blacks and near blacks, so that you can see that in some cases, you get better blacks on non-HR content than HDR.
It’s been a long time since my HT2550 review, but my first impression (either HT3550 I have had here) is that the overall HT3550 picture on 1080p is very similar to the HT2550. The one noticeable difference – if we had one for a side by side — is on very dark scenes, where the HT3550’s superior black levels make a real difference. As a black level fanatic, myself, the difference is enough for me to consider the HT3550 worth the difference in price, if you have a room that can be properly darkened!
As there is still very little 4K with HDR, even on Netflix, I focus my comments about sports and TV viewing around the assumption of either 1080i, 1080p, or 4K without HDR, as the source material. Sure, at some point – a couple/few years, we will probably have many Netflix, Disney, and other non-movie content in 4K with HDR (using HLG), but when that happens, this HT3550 should perform similarly to how it dooes on 4K HDR movies (but more compression), so, while you might be less critical about picture on sports, on other “TV” content, why not have color just as with 4K HDR/P3 movies.
I took plenty of photos of sports and a few other 1080 content shots. Also Blacklist in 4K (but no HDR). The captions provide additional info where needed.
The only downside is overall brightness. Not bad, and more than plenty in a theater/cave type setup, with great lighting control, but it much brighter rooms there are a number of alternatives with 20 to 50% more brightness, for handling those lumens.
Bottom Line on Sports and General HDTV: The combination of excellent sharpness – on 1080 content, and good color works for me. As I mentioned, this is a reasonably bright projector, although BenQ and most others have other 4K UHD and should be fine in most not bright rooms on sizes of 100 inches, perhaps up to 120”, and look killer if the ambient is kept very low.
On 4K content, no HDR, the same applies, but the optics are combining with the “lower resolution” 4K UHD chip so it won’t look as sharp as the other 4K UHDs with the better chip. Still, while the sharpness can be beat, the image is nicely crisp. I should note that there is a touch of softness in the corners and there is a bit of color fringing, but you would have to be very close to the screen to spot that, and at those distances, a competing 3LCD pixel shifter on the same 4K content, will have a nicely visible pixel structure.
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