Projector Reviews

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality 1

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality 1: Out of the Box Picture Quality, Skin Tones

Out of the Box Picture Quality

Let me start this off with two key statements:

First, there are times the HT9050 looks just downright awesome, both with REC709 color (1080 and lower res content), and BT.2020 (P3) color. With 1080 content, awesome was the rule, although on some very dark scenes, the HT9050’s good-but-not-great black levels could definitely be better.

And second, at other times, I’ve been disappointed due to the lack of HDR when watching 4K content.

Let’s focus on 4K. Let me explain both here, with two examples. Last night I put in the 4K version of RED 2 on Blu-ray UHD that I just bought. Definitely awesome. The picture was extremely bright and dynamic. Dark scenes, which weren’t of the very dark, stunning-type scenes that I love in science fiction flicks, looked just fine.

But I’ve also watched movies like Passengers and Mockingjay Part 1 (The Hunger Games) or even Ghostbusters 2016, and Journey To Space. When those rich dark scenes are up, the HT9050 just doesn’t provide the pop of a good 4K capable projector with HDR. True, those projectors often seem a bit dim. But, when it comes to the space walk scenes in Passengers, and the starship’s pool scenes, the staircase scene in Mockingjay when under attack, and an assortment of scenes from Journey To Space, the blacks aren’t black enough, and the imagery seems overly mid-bright compared to HDR capable projectors.

It’s handling that type of content that left me – the black level fanatic – disappointed.

Well, there are always trade-offs, but it is surprising that the $9K HT9050 lacks HDR.

When it comes to the colors themselves, close inspection shows that the projector does richer colors in 4K (BT.2020) than with the same movie on a standard Blu-ray disk. But, overall, the BenQ’s 4K imagery, despite being BT.2020, tends to look more like REC709 content than BT.2020. This is because the dynamics of the image are, as expected, about the same as 1080p REC709, and very different from HDR dynamics (I hope that makes sense).

OK, back to more general matters. Out of the box, the BenQ’s various color modes performed well in terms of overall color. Cinema, in particular, was very good and well balanced – the basis for our calibration mode. Since Cinema starts out barely dimmer than any mode but the “native” dynamic (with a lot of green-yellow), we didn’t even bother to create a “bright mode” calibration. Thus, Eric’s one calibrated non-4K BT.2020 mode (which was based on Cinema) is labeled Night, although with almost 1300 lumens, it serves well for sports and other “with ambient light” viewing.

Skin Tones

Pre-calibration, they are pretty good. Post calibration – Eric nailed it. I found his saturation settings a touch high, so I lowered them a bit to suit my taste, room, and screen. Overall skin tones were great, sometimes gorgeous. Even on a movie like RED 2, which isn’t the kind of flick one expects really great production qualities out of, things looked really great.

The usual Victoria Secret Swimsuit models – which are great for skin tones, look awesome, in every one I captured. I’m talking calibrated Cinema mode – saved as “Night” mode. I shot those images with very modest ambient light present. In the player, of course, I show many modes of one of the images, all of them but “Night” being uncalibrated.

The customary Daniel Craig as Bond in Casino Royale images – as usual demonstrate that skin tones are what the Director makes them to be. The four Bond images represent sunlight day, fluorescent (airport), night (airport) and filtered sunlight (bar). Each takes on different color balance to reflect the type of light that the scene calls for, and which is often edited in, post shoot.

Skin tones were equally impressive when viewing 4K content, as you can see by the images of Jennifer Lawrence that photograph so well in Passengers (and also in the Hunger Games movies). As usual, there’s a few other assorted skin tone images in this image player.

One downside worth mentioning – as is typical, DLP’s seem to have more motion – mosquito noise than other technologies, and it shows with the BenQ. Mind you, I like to sit closer than most, but I even dialed down some of the sharpness related controls, and still noticed the noise (which looks like film grain) more than I would have liked. Again, this is expected of DLP’s, but perhaps the BenQ, due to its native sharpness, makes it all the more visible.