Projector Reviews

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features 1

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Special Features 1: LED Light Engine, Fast Color Wheel

LED Light Engine

Generally, when we hear about LED light engines, we tend to think of smaller pico and pocket projectors who count LED as the way to build really small projectors. When it comes to more expensive solid state light engine projectors, however, most use laser. There are, no doubt, some minor trade-offs, but a key reason why we are seeing lasers and not LED engines in this kind of price range has been due to LED projectors not being especially bright.  That hurts in the business and education world, but not so much with projectors geared for a home theater.

The BenQ HT9050 claims a 20,000-hour rated life on the LED light engine (that’s to half brightness, not until “failure”). Lamp, laser, and LED light engines are rated to half brightness, not to be confused with how long they are supposed to last. Some projectors’ lamps/LEDs/lasers will fail well before that number, while others might last far longer (but dimming further).

No matter, the projector will be way obsolete long before it gets close to those total hours. Think 20,000 hours is about 4 hours a day, 7 days a week for 15 years. Now, let’s travel back in time. 15 years ago, HDTV was just about brand new, and we still didn’t have Blu-ray discs (or the HD-DVD standard that didn’t make it). 15 years from now?  Entry level will, no doubt, be at least 8K resolution, and most likely some massive changes to displays by then. Perhaps we’ll be using a 16K resolution, 15-foot-wide (if you have the room) OLED display that is super thin, and rolls up for transport so it can be carried upstairs and through doorways.

With technology changing faster every year, we might see as much change in displays and content resolution as we’ve seen in the last 30+ years. 35 years ago, we old folks remember, were the pre-DVD days of Betamax and VHS tape, and resolutions barely 1/32 of today’s 4K (in other words, those weren’t “the good old days”).

Well, that’s definitely not a problem for the HT9050, which, at its brightest mode, topped out slightly over 2600 lumens. That is about as bright as serious “Home Theater” projectors get (OK, Sony’s got a 5000 lumen laser HT projector, but then it’s over six times the price of this BenQ). Even in modes with better color, the BenQ measured almost 1700 lumens in its “best” modes, right out of the box, and about 1400 lumens fully calibrated.

That’s enough to allow the BenQ to perform well when matched with the right screen in respectable, non-home theater environments. I still wouldn’t put it in a really bright room, but it will be fine in one with reasonable ambient light in the daytime, and pretty darn dark at night! That the LED engine will dim only slightly over its first few years, which also definitely helps in less than dedicated “caves.”

football image - with ambient light
Football game, taken with moderate ambient light present, 100" diagonal image, 1080i content.

The LED light engine, as mentioned on the first page, is also superior to lamps when it comes to tackling the larger color spaces we call P3 and BT.2020. The thanks goes to that engine for richer, more intense colors than lamp based projectors can produce. Consider this: While the HT9050 tackles P3 / BT.2020 rather successfully, the lower cost HT8050 doesn’t even try – rather, it sticks to the traditional REC709 color space that we’ve lived with for HDTV and Blu-ray discs, for almost two decades now. Thank the LED light engine for the overall very quiet operation, too.

Fast Color Wheel for Virtually No RBE (RainBow Effect)

When watching the HT9050 and its fast 5X Color wheel, after almost 100 hours of assorted viewing, I basically never spotted rainbows (RBE) unless I was trying to see them intentionally – by shaking my head. Well done BenQ!

I can’t say the same for the lower cost Optoma and Vivitek models I’ve been working with.

Even on BenQ’s most entry level HT projectors, they normally use a 3X wheel when the competition uses a 2X. As a typically rainbow sensitive person, I just can’t really watch HT projectors with a 2X wheel – too distracting. Please note, only a small percentage of people are rainbow sensitive – my best guess is 5+%. However, between you, family and friends, there’s probably someone in your circle that is at least somewhat RBE sensitive.