Posted on April 25, 2019 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT3550- The 4K Home Theater Projector – Performance: Brightness, Affect of Zoom Lens on Brightness, Difference In Brightness and Behavior of Light Modes, Image Noise, Sharpness
The BenQ HT3550 claims 2000 lumens but came up short. In Fact, at 1811 lumens measured in Bright mode (which is its brightest mode) with the zoom set to wide angle for maximum brightness, that’s down almost 10% from their claim, which is about typical for projectors we measure.
We cringe when a projector measures 25% less bright than it claims (or worse), and cheer any projector that beats their rated brightness.
Despite delivering only about 900 lumens in D. Cinema mode – which is our go-to mode for 4K with HDR and P3 color, the HT3550 provides sufficient brightness do a really nice job at 100” diagonal, and I found it to be fine at 120” diagonal too, if slightly less bright.
At either size, that’s on my StewartFilm Screen StudioTek 130 screen (gain 1.3). When in that mode, with HDR, the Picture mode changes its name to HDR10 or HLG, depending on which HDR type it is receiving. (HLG is for broadcast and streaming HDR).
No matter, it seems that we can avoid dim these days on HDR content, with today’s newer projectors even with only around 1000 lumens. This is true of other projectors as well, such as well, as the manufacturers are really getting a handle on doing tone mapping properly. My next review, the 2X as expensive HC5050UB is slightly brighter, and also doesn’t have a problem filling my screen, (which the older HC5040UB definitely had more trouble with. I would definitely say the HT3550 does a better job on not being dim than that older (close-out) Epson.
Our measurements found a drop of about 27% going from full power (labeled Normal), down to Economic mode. That is about what we expect. Most projectors drop 25% to 35% when switching into their “eco” mode.
This BenQ has a third mode, Smart-Eco, which is a dynamic mode, but as such, will measure the same as Normal mode, when we feed it the usual 100 IRE white for measurement.
The HT3550 uses TI’s Dynamic Black, I believe, to do a bit of lamp dimming (to accomplish the same as a dynamic iris. That’s a plus, but lamp dimming is always very minor, because lamps dim, and brighten too slowly to get much “dynamic” range out of them without visible pumping (the image lightening and darkening a bit when it shouldn’t).
Yes, this is the same 3 slide sequence relating to perceived sharpness, as discussed on the Special Features page! (I thought it important!)
HT3550 Sharpness and Clarity
No issues with the sharpness that are significant. Like most lower cost projectors (and even some more expensive ones, there’s a little bit of softness in the corners, if you focus it in the dead center. I recommend focusing using their menus but go for best focus about 1/3 out from dead-center. That should provide a very sharp looking image overall.
Let’s look at the images above. All but the football images at the end (full screen and close-up are 4K UHD images. The first pair from Ghostbusters gives you a pretty good idea on 4K UHD sharpness.
The images though of particular interest, relate to my comments, that there’s a difference between real, and perceived sharpness. After the dock image, are two close-ups of the upper right side of the image. The first of those is the HT3550, the second, is the Epson HC5050UB.
For several reasons, the BenQ is technically sharper – pixel shifting 4x instead of 2x total, but also because there is at least a little inherent misalignment in the Epson’s 3LCD panels (all 3 “chip” projectors). Turn off all the special processing and the BenQ looks sharper. But turn that stuff on, and you get what you see here. Look at the words on the sign. They come out more contrasty (due to processing) on the Epson. T/hat tends to make you shout – it looks sharper. It does! It just really isn’t any sharper or detailed, and in reality is a little less sharp. That is our learning moment today. That Epson delivers a little “hardness” to the image as part of all that processing, but you are only likely to notice that at all, perhaps, on some facial close-ups while viewing. Remember too, motion softens the look, so sharpness differences on these stills seem a bit greater than when watching the projectors live!
I spotted some de-focusing on the first (pre-production unit), but any de-focusing as the projector fully warmed up, on the production unit was barely detectable, and a non-issue. If we look hard enough we can find some de-focusing upon full warm up, on many projectors, but it is usually very slight.
4K UHD DLP projectors, whether they use the 1920x1080x4 DLP chipset (0.47”) or the larger 2716x1528x2) should appear a little sharper than any of the 1920x1080x2 pixel shifters. It is less because of the extra pixel shifting, and more because 3LCD and LCoS projectors use three separate chips (red, green, blue), that they have to converge. That creates some mis-convergence. The overall trade-off, of course, is that these DLPs use a color filter wheel which can cause some of us to see rainbows – RBE. Ah, there are always trade-offs.
This player has some comparison images and some close-ups. Perhaps the most important images though are the close-ups from Journey to the South Pacific!
The thing to consider, as I like to point out – today’s projectors have so much assorted image processing that you can make even a 1080p pixel shifter 3LCD, on 4K content eem sharper than a 4K UHD, or even a lower price native 4K projector. A touch more smart contrast applied makes things stand out better, so you think sharper, or more detailed.
So check out the big sign on both the HT3550 and the accompanying same image on the new Epson 5050UB (my new reference projector for the next year). Interesting that the words are darker, and stand out better, making them more readable, on the Epson.
That doesn’t mean better. I’ve long said that Epson’s have great image processing, but the end result not only makes you think it is sharper/more detailed but also that the image seems a bit hard by comparison. You might not notice that in this close-up but it sometimes is slightly noticeable on close-ups of faces.
OK, that’s a lot of “too much info,” so let’s wrap it up, but first, a word about clarity. I learned long ago, better lenses (can make an image be more clear). I’ve seen this with camera lenses I’ve owned (I’ve owned first SLRs, then DSLRs for over 50 years now, and many lenses).
I raved about the clarity of Sony’s new $40K VW995ES how it seems markedly superior to even Sony’s next model down, and certainly almost every other projector that costs far less.
And long ago, the same for the top of the line JVC which mostly had lenses with much higher quality control, than the next most expensive model in their lineup.
This BenQ seems to be better than average in terms of that clarity if no match at all for those far more expensive projectors I just mentioned. I believe it slighly better than average, simply because I noticed it seemed so. I wasn’t looking for anything.
Consider this: Differences between most of the 4K capable pixel shifting projectors can be very significant.
That said, these projectors are all pretty similar in sharpness. It is highly likely that your decisions should, and will be based on other factors, perhaps black levels, brightness, input lag, color accuracy, or even having onboard speakers, etc.
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)