Out of the Box Color and Picture
As is typical of good home theater projectors these days, the HT6050 has multiple picture modes, and one of them produces some very respectable color right out of the box without adjustment. In the case of the HT6050, the best looking mode, not surprisingly is the one labeled THX mode!
Vivid comes across as a good deal brighter with more punch, designed to cut through some ambient light, but still looks pretty good with very respectable, if not as accurate color. I’ve been using Vivid regularly when watching football, and also when I’m watching other content when I have ambient light coming in through my shutters in the daytime, or lights on at night.
Olympics image captured from HT6050 in Vivid mode, with default "out of the box" settings - Impressive blend of brightness and good color
Most projectors have an Ugly mode. The HT6050 is no exception. And as is normal, that ugly mode is the brightest mode, and typically labeled by manufacturers as “Dynamic.” In BenQ’s case, though, their ugly mode is called, instead: Bright. (Well, I'd say they are more creative than some other manufacturers, but how creative is coming up with "Bright" as a name?) As one would normally expect that Bright mode is rather heavy on the greens. I recommend using BenQ’s Bright mode only as a “break glass in case of emergency” mode, that is, only use it when the ambient light is too much, even for Vivid mode to deal with. I sure wouldn't want to watch a movie in that mode, but again, that's true of most home theater projectors. If I had to pick one exception, it would be some Sony models, which, most likely are limiting the brightness of their "brightest" mode, in the interest of muting some of the excess greens.
No matter. There are two very good modes to work with, without further adjustment. Of course, our calibration information should provide at least a visible improvement to the best mode - THX.
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HT6050 - Handling Skin Tones
THX is definitely the mode with the best skin tones. Minor calibration changes to grayscale balance and color management, further improved color accuracy, but the starting picture looks really good, so I wouldn’t be concerned, if you have no intention of calibrating the projector. The info posted on our performance and calibration pages will show you the numbers.
Vivid has Brilliant Color engaged, so it, by comparison looks just a bit over the top – over saturated, perhaps more contrasty looking, etc. That’s OK, as it’s your “brightest mode” and saturation gets diminished by ambient light. I did a demonstration between a good bright mode and a better best mode recently in another review. When I compared the “best mode” skin tones with the brightest mode’s both images taken in a fully dark room, you can see how the “bright mode” seemed over the top. But when I put on a bit of ambient light (more than minimal) and reshot the “bright” mode, it was almost surprising that the brighter mode no longer looked over the top, or over saturated (or at least just barely). So remember – use the right mode for the situation. In the player above there are two photos of the same VS model. One in Vivid, one in THX. The Vivid was shot with a modest amount of ambient light present. Can you tell which is which? Hmm! Exactly!
HT6050 Black Levels and Dark Shadow Detail
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Here lurks both good news and bad news. The good news is good DLP projectors inherently have some very respectable black levels, thanks to the design of the DLP chip itself. While not a match of the better 3LCD and LCoS projectors that also have dynamic irises, not bad.
The older W6000/W7000/W7500, like this projector, and unlike most DLPs, have dynamic irises.
I've provided two comparison images of the Bond night train scene we always use. One from the Sony HW45ES, the other from the Epson Pro Cinema 6040UB. The Sony does better blacks, the Epson far better. Again, black levels are the weakness, color is the strength of this projector.
But, for some unfathomable reason, BenQ has not implemented the iris in what I would think is a common sense way. While the pre-production unit I started with had a dynamic iris, I quickly determined that there was a defect with it. Hey, stuff like that happens, especially with engineering samples such the one I worked with. While the iris worked, (but not well), it cast uneven shadows, indicating that the iris itself was defective. The replacement HT6050, though, has a different problem. BenQ only lets you engage it when in Bright mode, which is where it serves the least use. First of all, Bright mode is one of those – as I like to call them – “break glass in case of emergency” modes.
That is, color, as pointed out is heavy greens, etc. You would only use that mode when facing way too much ambient light. And that is exactly when you are unlikely to even be able to tell the iris is there, let alone accomplishing something useful.
We want a dynamic iris to work in “best” modes, where there is little or no ambient light.
So, with that in mind, I had expected the HT6050 to be better at darker scenes than it turned out to be. Black levels are still not bad, above entry level, but for comparison more along the lines of Sony’s HW45ES (and not quite that good) than an Epson UB projector or the lowest cost of the JVCs (that last one is $4K).
Bottom Line on Black Levels: Count black level performance for a projector in this price range to be a weakness, definitely not competitive with the best. In fairness, those older W series BenQ’s still couldn’t do blacks as well as the older Epson UB, for example, but would do blacker blacks than this newer BenQ on those dark scenes where a dynamic iris is most effective.
Dark Shadow Detail
Dark shadow detail, is rather excellent. A strong showing. As you can see in some of our favorite images,
There’s a lot of detail in the shrubs on the right side and behind the tracks in our Casino Royale night train scene. Looking at the sleeping seen from the hunger games, the same is true. This BenQ isn’t the absolute best we’ve seen, But it is missing almost no detail in the darkest areas. Well done.
Our images are intentionally overexposed, so that the camera can capture blacks and make them fairly easy to see as dark grays. More to the point, that, in turn, allows the darkest near black detail to come out medium dark gray, making that detail easy to spot. We always overexpose and convert to gray scale, images for comparing dark shadow detail performance.
Bottom line: Dark shadow detail is better than most. Very competitive for the price range.