Projector Reviews

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Summary

BenQ HT9050 Home Theater Projector Review – Summary: Overview, The Bottom Line and Competition, The Very Bottom Line, Pros, Cons

Overview

Certainly, the HT9050 4K UHD projector from BenQ is a serious entry. It has some great strengths but also some rough edges, and two missing features of note. That said, it will have a lot of appeal to some folks.

The key strengths of this projector are the razor sharp image – sharpest of any 4K UHD DLP projector I’ve seen, some very impressive color, a healthy set of inputs, extremely quiet operation (especially compared to many other 4K UHD and other pixel shifting projectors) and a very bright picture!

On the downside, there’s a “flashy” problem at power up that goes away in the first seconds or maybe up to minute or so that BenQ probably has already fixed by the time you read this. I have been working with a pre-production version HT9050. I can’t confirm either way.

It also lacks CFI – Creative Frame Interpolation – for “smooth motion.” That’s surprising. As I have written many times, CFI is a nice feature to have, especially for sports viewing, but I recommend not using it for movies, as it “changes the director’s intent.” Still, many folks have it on, on their LCDTVs and just don’t know better. I don’t think any $9000 HT projector should lack CFI, but I don’t see it as a deal breaker.

From the enthusiast’s standpoint, the feature of note that is absent, is HDR – High Dynamic Range. True, the BenQ HT9050 does support the expanded color space for richer and more intense colors, but not the HDR itself. That’s a bit sad, since far lower cost 4K UHD projectors like the Optoma UHD65 and UHD60, the Acer V7850, etc. do offer HDR. Those, and 4K capable 3LCD projectors starting at $2000, offer HDR.

Now, with that out of the way, the question becomes: What is the…

Bottom Line on the BenQ HT9050, Competitive Images

As a projector handling 1080p and lower content, the HT9050 produces a stunning image. Color in all but the brightest mode is really rather good without adjustment, and most modes produce over 1500 lumens before calibration. The two modes we calibrated produced 1319 and 1364 lumens (Cinema and DCI-P3). That was at mid-zoom, so figure those are just below and above 1400 lumens at full wide on the zoom (closest position to fill your screen). Of course, Dynamic has those strong greens and yellows, so use its 2500+ lumens only in case of emergency, such as too much sunlight in your room!

I watched a number of football games on the BenQ and the picture was really great. The various playing fields had vibrant greens (assuming grass), while skin tones, post calibration were essentially right on the money. Note though, that if I used the uncalibrated modes, the skin tones definitely needed a bit of improvement. Again, I must remind you, this is a pre-production HT9050 I have been working with.

Nothing in my home theater has looked sharper than this BenQ HT9050 on sports (1080i or 720p) or typical Blu-ray movies (1080p).

Movie viewing shared that sharpness and great post calibration color accuracy. Black level performance on 1080p movies (and 4K too) was pretty good, but I was hoping for better. This BenQ uses its LED light engine as a dynamic iris, but probably could improve their algorithm to get darker results in the really dark scenes. Overall, their “lamp,” or rather, “LED dimming,” is smooth – only really noticeable in movie credits and the like, and slightly in some mid-dark, indoor scenes as described elsewhere in the review. No dynamic iris is perfect, and, as a rule, lamp dimming performs relatively poorly, while solid state (laser or LED) dimming does much better, but not up to the best dynamic irises. Dark shadow detail is really good. No issue there.

Now let’s talk 4K again. It is near impossible to compare the HT9050 to the other 4K capable projectors we have reviewed, because none of the others supports the wider color space, but not HDR.

That makes comparing the images really frustrating. While I project two images one above the other, from two projectors, I don’t have a way of having one do HDR while the other doesn’t. As soon as a source discovers one device without HDR, no HDR output.

I could have two identical Blu-ray UHD players, etc. and two discs, but considering this should be a rare situation, I can’t rationalize doing that.

So, the question is, how good is the HT9050 projector when watching a Blu-ray UHD movie it compared to the same scenes on other projectors that are doing HDR and BT.2020?

Yes, radically different. First, while the tendency of all the other projectors doing HDR is to be a bit on the dark/dim side on medium and dark content, the BenQ looks vibrantly refreshingly bright. I really like that. But the flip side, is that the really dark scenes don’t look near as good.

I’ll describe two examples – mentioned previously. RED 2 (4K) (no image) – everything looked great, bright, and vibrant. By comparison, the Epson 5040UB has more pop overall, but on dark scenes, will look too dark compared to the BenQ.

But, then there’s Passengers: Every time I view those stunning dark space (and swimming pool scenes on the Epson (or the Sony VW285ES, VZ1000ES, etc.), they look killer. The background sky looks near black but for the stars and nebulas. By comparison, the BenQ just looks too bright – just not dark enough to make me happy. There, I found it disappoints, and that folks, is the result of no HDR. Notice I haven’t mentioned the UHD65 from Optoma. It has HDR, but also disappoints on those Passengers scenes, because its Achilles’ heel is unimpressive black level performance, and is no match for the HT9050, let alone the Epson or the higher end Sonys.

The photo player below let’s you compare some HT9050 4K to other projectors including the lower cost Epson 4000 and 5040UB, the Sony VW285ES, Optoma UHD65 and even one from the BenQ HT8050. Please note, I bracket the exposures when I shoot images.  Unless I specify otherwise (something like “this image slightly under-exposed”, which would indicate I didn’t shoot the ideal image, then assume that I choose the particular exposure that looked most like the projected image. -art

I have to look hard when watching 4K content to notice the improved color afforded by the larger color space, because I normally am comparing against another 4K capable projector that also has HDR, but I have (just a couple of times), viewed the same movie in 1080p and then again, in 4K with BT.2020 / P3. The expanded color is noticeable, even if colors appear brighter and a bit less intense than projectors with both HDR and BT.2020 support.

That folks, is the scoop. The BenQ is less a “me too” projector, than any other 4K capable projector to roll through here (whether FauxK or true 4K). And that makes it harder for you to use this review to make a determination.

I pretty much can guarantee you that many people will love it for its brightness and sharpness, but at the same time, there will be enthusiasts like myself that may not forgive its lack of HDR, and the difference it can make on some scenes. On the other hand, no one will be complaining about scenes looking too dim with this BenQ, a tendency, to some degree, of all HT projectors doing HDR.

I’ll say this much. If the HT9050 had HDR – any respectable implementation – I am rather certain it would have received one of our awards. But, between the lack of HDR and a couple of those other items, no matter how much I liked it some of the time, I couldn’t award it. Close but…

Very Bottom Line

The BenQ HT9050 is being sold by BenQ’s authorized dealer network, which should consist of local installing dealers. This isn’t considered an internet product.

My recommendation if you found this projector interesting: Track down one of those HT9050 dealers, and get a proper demonstration. Perhaps it is just right for you, your room, and what you watch. Until you look, you really won’t know for sure.

The generals in The Great Wall
The Generals - The Great Wall - the HT9050 shows off the rich yet dark colors of their armor in a not bright scene.

Pros

  • Very bright – about 1400 lumens calibrated in best modes
  • Excellent color post calibration – good color out of the box
  • Extremely bright – over 2500 lumens in “break glass in case of emergency mode” (Dynamic)
  • Overall an excellent projector on 1080p content
  • Very good dark shadow detail
  • Very quiet – Quieter at full power than many projectors in Eco
  • A very good 1.5:1 manual lens, for great sharpness
  • Lots of vertical and horizontal lens shift
    • Overall very good placement flexibility
  • Good remote, I like the feel, and the backlight
  • Long life LED light engine will hold color and brightness consistent for years, not months like lamp based projectors, and of course, no lamps to change out
  • Well organized menu
  • Very good warranty!

Cons

  • No HDR when viewing 4K content
  • Start up “flashy” problem
  • Lacks CFI for “smooth motion”
  • Out of the box color good, but could have been better (this could be due to being pre-production)
  • Black level performance definitely could be improved (but it qualifies as “ultra high contrast)
  • BenQ did not design it to turn of LED engine when encountering black frames
  • A bit more background mosquito noise visible than most, primarily on 4K content (that may be the curse of being both DLP and overly sharp)
  • As is typical of projectors – not very smart – should be more like most LCD TVs

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