Posted on October 23, 2017 By Art Feierman
BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Picture Quality 2: Black Level Performance, Dark Shadow Detail, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality
Whether 1080p or 4K content, I was not thrilled with the black level performance. The “iris action” helps a bit, but not much, which surprised me. For years, BenQ really did great work with their dynamic irises. Of course, with an LED projector some things change, but this is barely what I call an ultra high contrast projector.
That, along with the lack of HDR, left the BenQ looking bright on very dark scenes, but lacking the pop that HDR and BT.2020 together promise us.
The HT9050 good, but not great black levels, but better than the other 4K UHD DLP projectors we've seen.
Sony VPL-VW285ES - their $4995 true 4K projector definitely has better black levels than the HT9050
Optoma's UHD65 is only $2995, but it's black levels are inferior compared to the BenQ
The laser light engine Epson LS10500 is $1000 less, has better black levels, but is a 1080p pixel shifter, slightly lower resolution than the BenQ
Epson's 5040UB has far better black levels than the BenQ HT9050 but costs far less - although not as sharp. It's another 1080p pixel shifter.
JVC has by far the best native contrast and black levels - none of the others come even close (at least under $25K).
This spaceship image from Passengers is brighter, but without as dark blacks as those projectors with better black levels.
This dark scene from Passengers, is overall brighter than other 4K capable projectors - that have HDR, and less pop. Still, the scene looks very good.
This credits image from 4K Ghostbusters 16 looks great - lots of bright colors so that the not exceptionally dark blacks seem pretty dark
If you are coming from life as an LCD TV owner (not OLED with their exceptional blacks), you likely would be very happy, but I do wish the HT9050, considering its price, would have black level performance at least as good as the much lower cost Epson 5040UB, which I use as my example of what kind of black level performance is possible from an affordable projector. At three times the price of the Epson, I really was hoping for the HT9050 to at least slightly exceed the Epson’s black level performance. Now, don’t get me wrong, the BenQ has more native contrast, which is important, but it just can’t lower those blacks and very near blacks as far, so you get medium dark grey on your screen where the best produce blacks as very, very, close to black.
No issues here. The very darkest blacks don’t get all that dark, so that the “almost blacks” have to be slightly brighter still, and it’s easier to see that detail here than on a projector with almost perfect blacks.
The Bond night train scene (above in previous section) is one of the best images for revealing dark shadow detail on a very dark scene. Look to the shrubs behind the tracks on the right, and the larger dark area of the forest center right, for detail! Well done.
OK, no HDR to worry about here. This is a great projector for viewing sports. I watched perhaps 15 hours of football on it, plus some general TV (including Veep, Game of Thrones, CNBC, and Shooter), and an assortment of whatever else caught my fancy, including some movies on HBO. Only Game of Thrones was less than fully impressive, perhaps because they work in a lot of very dark scenes, and those tend to disrupt my focus as my brain switches to “reviewer” mode.
As a 1080p projector, the BenQ HT9050 produces an excellent picture, with two caveats: First, as mentioned, black levels are pretty good, but not first class. Considering that for less, there are two JVCs that are a world better at black levels, and even the Epson 5040UB is superior, that’s too bad. True, the BenQ is a 4K UHD pixel shifter, so its resolution is 2716 x 1528 x2, while those others have half the pixel count: 1920 x 1080 x2. Still, a better dynamic iris, and/or “lamp” (in this case LED laser engine) dimming method, would have been a noteworthy improvement.
Second, the image noise was a little high, but not out of line for most DLP projectors. As mentioned, I think it is simply a bit more noticeable to those who sit close, by virtue of the HT9050’s excellent image sharpness.
Colors were overall rich, and post calibration, very accurate.
Now, let’s talk again about 4K content from Blu-ray UHD disc. The picture (other than the even sharper image thanks to the 4K content), does tend to look more like 1080p content than 4K content viewed with HDR. An HDR image is visibly different – I can best describe it as having a very different gamma curve (if a curve at all), but that’s simplifying.
When I switch from the BenQ to a projector with HDR and BT.2020 color (the Epson 5040UB or the Optoma HD65), those other two projectors on Blu-ray UHD look fairly similar to each other, but very different from the BenQ.
The BenQ has less “High” in its dynamic range, but on the other hand, offers a brighter-seeming image than the HDR projectors.
So, while the projector has expanded color range, it still looks overall like 1080p content with REC709, but with slightly more intense colors.
I love the brightness, especially compared to the Epson 5040UB, but don’t like how it handles those really dark scenes, compared to the HDR models.
As always – trade-offs. I sure would have loved to see this projector if it also had HDR, but no indication from BenQ that it will get such an upgrade, and this BenQ doesn’t seem to be designed to be easily field upgradable by end users. Now that it’s clear that it’s not going to get HDR, you’ll have to weigh the trade-offs, bright, sharp, great color, but no HDR (and the dimmer image that most projectors doing HDR have).
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