Projector Reviews

BenQ HT9060 Projector Review: A 4K UHD Home Theater Projector- Special Features

BenQ HT9060 Projector — Special Features: LED Light Engine, HDR Handling, P3 Color Space, “Going Widescreen” – Anamorphic Lens, The Higher Res DLP chip for 4K UHD, 3D, CFI, 2 x 12 volt Screen Triggers

LED Light Engine

led light engine
Diagram of the HT9060's LED light engine

The first thing that is interesting here, is that BenQ again (as with the earlier model), has gone with an LED light engine instead of a laser light engine. Is that a big deal – not really. Both offer benefits compared to lamps, including much longer life, holding color accuracy longer, maintaining, or rather losing brightness slower.

Understand, when you see a lamp rated 4000 hours, or an LED or Laser light engine rated at 20,000 hours, they aren’t telling you how long before it is likely to break.

Rather, that’s how many hours until the projector has lost 50% of brightness!

BenQ only specifies 20,000 hours, but not at what power level, pointing out that it will vary depending on usage and environment conditions. I would have liked to see something like:
X hours at full power. Or as some folks do, only quote on low power mode (but tell you that). I’m hoping BenQ will clarify.

Still, even if that is low power – that’s 40 hours a week (only 50 weeks a year – so take a vacation) – that’s 10 years! So even if at full power, it is only 12,000 hours (a very low number for LED projectors), that would be 6 years!

Generally speaking LED and Laser engines have a lot of performance in common – both can produce a wider color space than lamps. Also, given the same number of measured lumens, LED and Laser projectors definitely seem brighter. It’s not a massive difference, but it is definitely visible.

Since there aren’t a lot of price points where LED and Laser collide, it’s hard to really confirm how much difference “all else being equal” between LED AND Laser designs, but generally laser is considered to have more punch than LED.

Bottom line on the BenQ LED light engine: It always comes down to the picture. If you are shopping two competing products, with one using one or more lasers, and the other using LED, I can recommend you consider the picture quality and other performance, and not worry about which type of engine.

HDR Handling

4K/HDR – Ready Player One – clean as can be, from Strato S, projected using the BenQ HT9060

The BenQ supports the two main software/firmware based standards: HDR 10 and HLG. I would not be happy if a new projector in this price range only supported the older HDR 10 standard (used by 4K UHD discs, aka 4K Blu-ray). HLG is more for broadcast HDR (and likely also streaming,) although there isn’t a whole lot of HDR content out there for streaming. There is also hardware based HDR – from Dolby, but we really haven’t seen that in projectors, probably due to the costs, as there are far less home projectors sold than TVs.

The original HT9050 lacked HDR. That bummed me out at the time. But at that same time, no one really had HDR figured out to the extent that today’s projectors do. Just 3 years makes a huge difference in the world of 4K with HDR performance.

OK that sounds like I’m giving them a pass, but I’m not. Other companies launched around the same time, tackling HDR, (with less than great success) but at least a couple of them provided firmware updates, as they “figured it out.” The best example is probably Epson who upgraded their first gen projectors, twice. Their “final solution” for that series, however, still doesn’t handle HDR quite as well as their most recent models despite signficant updates. Had BenQ attempted HDR, they could have improved it. BenQ has demonstrated in the past, that when needed they have put out firmware updates.

So, how good is the new HT9060, in handling HDR? To me, it seems especially good. Understand the trade-offs: Most HDR content “assumes” 1000 NITS brightness (I won’t get into that here, we’ve written about this). Few home theater/home entertainment projectors even exceed 300 NITS, so that means to get the best final picture you end up with something that falls between full HDR, and good old SDR (“standard” dynamic range). If projectors don’t use tone mapping or similar to adjust for the brightness shortage, you get a whole lot of “pop” (that’s HDR) for the brightest parts of scenes, then the rest ends up seeming dim. And no one likes that.

1080
Isle of Wight stage 1080 SDR content

 

Some projectors, I believe go a bit too far – end up with less “High” in their Dynamic Range. So less “pop”, but an overall brighter image. Still, good old SDR would have even less “pop”, and seem brighter still. That was a mild criticism I wrote about in that review.

The HT9060, by comparison, looks really good doing HDR, not quite as “SDR-like” as the less expensive BenQ. It is still a little brighter in the mids (so less difference from there to white), than, say the Epson 5050UB, but as I have compared both side by side, both are much closer in HDR handling to each other than The HT9060 is to the HT5550, or the Epson HC5050UB is to the original HC5040UB.

Bottom line on the BenQ HT9060’s HDR: Very competent! Works for me. I am curious though, JVC has just upgraded their HDR processing on their current models. Phil who recently reviewed the similarly priced JVC NX-7, is going to get a “second look” with the new firmware. Will it be no better, or even significantly better than the BenQ’s HDR handling? We’ll let you know.

P3 Color Space

P3 color space example
Close up of 4K HDR scene from Journey to the South Pacific. Rich colors from the expanded P3 color space

In a perfect 4K world we use a picture standard called BT.2020 (which is the standard for movie theaters). The standard, is tough to achieve, so that within it we normally talk about P3 color, a color space or color gamut not quite as large, but the first major color standard for consumers since REC709, which has been in use for decades! Some of the lower cost projectors attempt P3 color, while others just claim REC709 (or close to it).

This BenQ claims 98% of P3 which would be exceptional. Of the lamp based projectors those getting closest are 3LCD models from Epson and LCoS projectors from JVC and Sony. Epson, for example claims 95% of P3 for four of their models. Our calibrator found that Epson got close – with 92% on the weakest of the six primary and secondary colors.  Those others – JVC and Sony, are also in that type of range – approaching P3 color.

Justin our calibrator, was impressed. While the HT9060 didn’t achieve its claimed 98% of P3, it did hit 97%.  That’s color performance well beyond projectors barely doing REC709! And better than any lamp based projector we’ve reviewed to date.