Posted on April 24, 2019 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT3550- The 4K Home Theater Projector – Special Features: P3 Color Filter, Color Wheel, USB Media Player
BenQ doesn’t call it a P3 Color filter, but that is essentially what it is. It slides into the light path when using D Cinema mode. The most obvious effect is a loss of about half of the brightness. The less obvious effect – and the real benefit is that with the filter in place to better “even out” the color space, the HT3550 can now produce the noticeably superior P3 color (same as movie theaters).
Well, they claim 95% of P3. And that’s pretty great. With the HT3550 this allows you an interesting choice. You can watch HDR content with P3 color, in D. Cinema (which becomes HDR10), or watch HDR in Cinema – which doesn’t use the cinema (P3) filter, providing more brightness, but the lesser REC709 color space.
The new, production HT3550 tackles a vivid Ghostbusters 2016 scene. 4K HDR with P3 color!
Pre-production HT3550 tackling a color-rich scene from Journey to the South Pacific, in 4K HDR/P3. Reds and oranges, are "over the top", especially oversaturated. Still, it looks pretty darn good here with overall saturation control reduced.
Despite my complaints about the pre-production unit's P3 color, it did a fine job on skin tones in 1080 with REC 709 color. This is an HDTV image from the Victoria Secret swimsuit special.
Use Cinema mode instead – no color filter, and the picture brightens but the color space is reduced back to 97% of REC709, the multi-decade standard we have long been used to for HDTV and Blu-ray disc.
You get to choose! HDR and P3 Color for Darkened Rooms, HDR and REC709 for rooms with ambient light. Interesting is those are similar to the choices the more expensive Epsons (models starting at $2K), get because they have long relied on a color filter for the best possible color. They too deliver P3 with filter in place and REC709 in modes without the filter.
Note: The two images above are 4K UHD / P3 images, here for your viewing pleasure.
I think both companies have come up with a very practical approach, allowing for a little less color precision in exchange for a real boost in brightness, for dealing with ambient light. And when I say less color precision, I’m talking about still the same level (or really, the size of the color space) we’ve been used to (REC709) as the best available prior to 4K with P3.
The best part of this is that as the owner of the BenQ HT3550, is in control, time of day, what you are watching, how much light you want on in your room when you are watching — it’s your choice – more brightness and REC709, or less brightness and P3. Power to the people! Nice to have the choice.
I found the color wheel speed of the HT3550 to be not as fast as I had hoped. I am rainbow sensitive, and I am seeing more rainbows than I care for. Officially it is a 2X wheel, with the wheel being RGBRGB. I’m seeing more rainbows than I did say on many years of BenQ 1080p projectors. Of course, the rainbow effect only bothers a small percent of people. There are no good numbers, but my best guesstimate is about 5% of the population, so most likely, you aren’t RBE sensitive.
The color wheel speed is something that has an effect on brightness (as does what the color slice configuration looks like – RGBW vs RGBRGB, vs….) BenQ could have gone to a faster wheel, but it would have cost lumens.
It has not been annoying but occasionally distracting. If you know you are RBE sensitive, keep your options open. That the wheel is RGBRGB that is no clear slice to boost the white lumens. You might call this a home theater projector color wheel, vs home entertainment (brighter) which might be RGBW.
Deep down, BenQ thinks the HT3550 is also a “home entertainment” projector, not just a home theater one. I believe they are correct. While the HT3550 has excellent HT bona fides, it also has speakers, which help give it some mobility, such as an outdoor movie night. Also, the HT3550 has a media player, which happens to be a basic one. You really need speakers for a lot of media player use, such as watching videos! I like the HT3550’s flexibility.
To use BenQ’s media player, put the content on a USB stick and put it into the USB slot on the back of the projector.
Obviously, this will be a challenge (or completely impractical) should you be one of many who will ceiling mount this HT3550 projector.
USB 3.0 is blazingly fast. 4K movies should be no problem at all. Just be sure to use USB 3.0 compatible thumb drives and USB sticks. I admit I did not yet procure a 3.0 USB stick so have not tested.
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