Posted on April 24, 2019 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT3550- The 4K Home Theater Projector- Special Features: Dynamic Iris, Silence Mode, Resolution and Related Discussion on Manufacturer Transparency
This may be the most significant feature of the HT3550! For years BenQ’s best home theater projectors had always offered dynamic irises for better black levels. That includes all three BenQs I owned back in the last decade: PE8700, PE8720, and PE7700, all had dynamic irises (all were 720p and sold for $4000+ list price! – I mention, just to show you how much things have changed in 10 years.)
The W6000 (and W7000) were the last two to sport irises, until now. Both of those competed with Epson’s UB projectors and the even more expensive JVCs and sold at prices in between the Epsons and the lowest cost JVC LCoS projectors.
That makes the HT3550 noteworthy, as here we have a $1499 4K UHD DLP projector with a dynamic iris for better black levels, while the last time around, we were looking at a $2999 projector as the lowest cost 1080p projector with a dynamic iris.
None of the 4K UHD competition anywhere near the HT3550, offers an iris, in fact, the next least expensive 4K UHD with a dynamic iris is the new BenQ HT5550, which was announced a couple weeks ago (about a month behind the HT3550). We will be reviewing the HT5550 as well. I have very high expectations for that more expensive projector.
Silence Mode is a strange name, but one that must come from TI (Texas Instruments) makers of the DLP chips) When you engage this HT3550 into Silence mode, (or for that matter, many other 4K UHD DLP projectors from various brands), what that does is it turns off pixel shifting, which makes for a quieter projector. It therefore essentially turns it into a basic 1080p projector. The sound of the pixel shifting itself disappears. That reduced noise varies from barely noticeable on some DLPs to very obviously quieter on others, when Silence mode is engaged!
As I was saying on the first page, many projector manufacturers could be more transparent. Consider Epson who uses 1920×1080 x2 pixel shifting. Now, they cannot claim the 4K UHD moniker, because they are only hitting the screen with 4 million overlapping pixels, the trademarked official “4K UHD” requires 8 million, So Epson calls their solution: 4K Pro-UHD. (UHD, it should be noted, is a vague term: “ultra high resolution”, so without the “4K in there somewhere, it doesn’t tell you much. Anyway, Epson’s name sure sounds as impressive as 4K UHD… Let me put it this way. A decade ago, we didn’t call 720p TVs and projectors 1080p, just because they figured out how to take a 1080p signal and show it, and in doing so producing better results than the same display being fed with a 720p source. But today, it seems if you can accept 4K content, you can call your projector 4K something or other. As Dylan long ago wrote: “The times, they are a changin!” Perhaps we should remind shoppers of that formerly popular phrase: “Let the buyer beware.” Hey, it’s my job as a reviewer to play “cop,” pointing these things out to our visitors.
HT3550 image from Journey to the South Pacific - 4K UHD/P3 (and IMAX). BTW this sequence is repeated in the Sharpness section on the Performance page. Check the next 2 images.
HT3550 - close-up, looks nice and sharp. Check out various objects, people, and the text on the sign. Which is sharper, this or the next image? (Color varies, neither were calibrated for this shot.
Sharper, or less sharp than the previous image? Smoother, or Harder looking?
Epson HC5050UB image - technically it's not as sharp, but which do you perceive as sharper?
Manufacturers really should provide transparency, (some do) such as: “We achieve 8 million pixels on the screen by using a 2 megapixel 1920×1080 chip that we shift 3 additional times (by a half pixel), to enhance detail and perceived sharpness”, they should not merely say it is ‘3840×2160 resolution”. 3840×2160 is exactly how a native 4K projector would be accurately described, even though its pixel size is only 25% of this BenQ’s. The smaller the pixels, obviously the more detailed the reproduction.
Back to the projector review at hand. Folks there are native 4K projectors, and there are projectors with larger pixels, and lesser detail. This HT3550 is the latter, but considering the price, that’s not a problem at all!
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)