First Look Review of BenQ TK800 4K UHD Projector – Is Better For You Than The BenQ HT2550?

Today’s short, first look review, tackles two assignments: first of all, telling you about the capabilities of BenQ’s TK800, their newest (and fourth) 4K UHD projector launched in less than a year, and second, to help you choose between this and their own HT2550, a very similar and capable projector. This projector, the TK800, BenQ describes as a bright room projector – one suitable for living rooms, rather than dedicated home theaters.

Meet the TK800 – small, lightweight, 3,000 lumens – a pixel shifting 4K UHD resolution (1920x1080x4) projector, based on a single chip DLP design. It supports HDR, but like most 4K UHD projectors, does not attempt to handle the wider color space called P3/BT.2020, that provides better color like we’re used to with movie theater projectors.

Consider that both the TK800 projector and BenQ’s already-well-recognized HT2550 reviewed here, are both 4K UHD, and sell for the same price – with list prices of $1,499 each. Both use the same single DLP chip that is 1920×1080 x 4 – it pixel shifts three additional times to get up to that 8.3 megapixels which is the 4K UHD standard.

For better or worse, we recognize that there are different abilities when comparing 1080p, 1080p pixel shifters x2, the 4K UHD DLPs which are either 1080p pixel shifters x4  including this BenQ HT2550, and 2716×1528 x2 pixel shifters (like BenQ’s HT8050 and HT9050) – finally, of course, true 4K projectors that achieve at least 3840×2160 resolution without any pixel shifting (mostly Sony. The last group, true 4K projectors (8+ megapixels without pixel shifting – projectors which inherently have the smallest sized pixels.

BenQ TK800 Specs
Price$1,499
TechnologyDLP
Native Resolution1920x1080x4
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)3000
Contrast10,000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio1.20:1
Lens ShiftNo
Lamp Life4,000
Weight9.3
Warranty3 Years Parts and Labor

Like many of the lamp based 4K UHD projectors, the TK800 does do HDR to the best of its ability, but, as stated previously, makes no attempt to tackle BT.2020/P3 expanded color space. So you get half of the “promise” of 4K, but that’s typical. To do a good job with the expanded color space, you basically need a laser light engine (or, next best, an LED light engine).

HDR is a challenge for every projector on the low side of $25K. Projectors, like many 4K LED TVs, really aren’t bright enough to do HDR as intended, so must compromise.

One of these two projectors is going to be the better choice for your room conditions, and type of usage. My job here, after first discussing the TK800 projector on its own, will be to help you determine which of these is right for you.

Comparisons

It’s just like Real Estate – what’s the most important thing in real estate? Location, location, location! Well, when it comes to comparing these two projectors, the key is the location you will be using these projectors in.

If you have the man-cave, the fully (or almost fully) darkened room or home theater, then the HT2550 should work best for you, in that although not quite as bright at maximum, you won’t really need that extra available chunk of white lumens, but you will benefit by the improved color saturation. The HT2550 gets closer to the normal color standard of REC709 (used for Blu-ray, HDTV, etc.), but the TK800 isn’t that far behind (claiming 92% of REC709) I believe the HT2550 claims over 96%.

Of course, you can brighten that home theater, leaving lights on – or light coming in from windows – when you don’t want to be watching a movie in the darkness, but instead are enjoying some sports with friends, or general HDTV with family. No problem.

So, why choose either the HT2550 or the TK800? When:

  • You desire a very sharp image, at a very low cost
  • You want to handle 4K content so as to be future-proofed for a number of years
  • Budget isn’t great enough to get into projectors with really good black level performance – you’ll need almost an extra $1000, and that will be dropping back to a 1080p x 2 pixel shifter, not a 1080p x 4 pixel shifter (4K UHD) like these.

When to Choose the TK800

  • Your room or rooms have less control of lighting, and can get pretty bright
  • You are more into sports viewing than movie viewing, or at the least, you are less critical of picture quality on movies than a home theater enthusiast (you care about the sports being viewed, not the projector)
  • You are the person who has owned several LCD TVs (okay, the world seems to be calling them LED TVs lately), but rarely, if ever, played with picture settings options – that is, rarely attempted to see if you could improve the picture, just happy with what the TV produced “out of the box”
  • You can choose a screen designed to work well with a “bright room” projector in fairly bright rooms

When to Choose the HT2550

  • Your room has better lighting control, and if possible, a darker color for your wall, ceiling and floor surfaces
  • You are looking for the best picture quality when watching movies
  • You want a setup that can handle really dark scenes at least fairly well
  • You are never in a situation where the room is very bright, and there’s nothing you can do about it

TK800 Overview

The TK800 is a physically small home theater/home entertainment projector. In almost all ways, it is identical to their HT2550, but, it is brighter: the TK800 claims 3,000 lumens. 3,000 lumens is a not uncommon number for 4K UHD projectors to claim.

Optoma and other DLP manufacturers, just like BenQ, typically offer two models, typically identical in terms of most things, except for using a different color wheel. (Consider the more expensive Optoma UHD60 and UHD65.) The TK800 uses a RGBW color wheel (red, green, blue, and white slices – white is really a clear slice). This is a typical color wheel configuration found on most business and education DLP projectors.

Traditional home theater projectors avoid using a white/clear slice. The plus side is that with this color wheel, the TK800 gets a big boost in white lumens (although color lumens suffer). Still, when watching something like sports with a lot of amount of ambient light present, that extra boost of white tends to make the image look less washed out, provides more pop to the image, even if colors are a bit more subdued.

sports - football pass
The TK800 just loves sports. You should should certainly love viewing sports on a TK800!

To accomplish this “First Look Review,” which normally requires spending at least a little time with a projector in our own environment (not a fully black room at a trade show), I had an afternoon visit from BenQ. They brought over the TK800, which we fired up. Over a couple of hours, I got a good look at it handling content including (but not limited to) Passengers in 4K, Ghostbusters (4K), and some HDTV content. I also switched over to the Epson 5040UB, which I use as a reference projector – comparing everything that comes through here to that Epson, it helps me figure out how two projectors that were not here at the same time, compare. That should make sense to you.

For most of the viewing, I did have the room fairly dark, but also opened the shutters more to see how much ambient light the TK800 could handle filling about a 100” diagonal for HDTV, and about 116” diagonal on widescreen movies. Unfortunately, as I had other folks here in my theater, I did not have the time take photos of the TK800 projector in action, but I got a good handle on how it performed.

But, let’s say your room is a den or living room with just basic (not black out) shades on the windows. With higher overall ambient light levels (except maybe at night), this is when you want to consider the TK800. And you definitely want to be pairing it in such rooms with a proper screen that helps out dealing with ambient light. I’m talking either those already mentioned (ALR types – ALR = ambient light rejecting), or other screens which aren’t optically absorbing light, but still manage to keep a lot of that side ambient light from bouncing off the screen to your eyes. A screen such as Stewart’s Firehawk (which I used when I had my projector in my old living room). It and some other grey surfaced screens are often good at dealing with side ambient light and are likely to cost less than comparable quality newer ALR screens.

BenQ TK800 Hardware

Before I get into picture quality, let’s talk briefly about hardware. The TK800 is laid out exactly the same way as the virtually-identical-looking HT2550. Both have a pair of HDMIs, two USB inputs, and a 12 volt screen trigger, in addition to stereo audio in, and out, and an analog computer interface (VGA) using the traditional HD15 connector.

Like the HT2550, the TK800 has the same 5-watt speaker system, which, naturally, BenQ hypes, talking about deep bass and “soaring highs.” Hey, this speaker system isn’t bad – for that movie night out in the back yard, or casually watching some HDTV.  And sure, it’s going to serve nicely, with enough volume for sports viewing, but, at the end of the day, it’s still a small 5 watt speaker in a small box, and no matter how fancy the equalization or how well the speaker cabinet design is (the projector in this case), it is not even close to the most inexpensive surround sound system, you can buy for under $200. If you are serious about sound, you’ll want a real sound system to complement this projector.

Picture Quality

The images in the photo player immediately above, were taken using the HT2550 projector.  As I said, I didn’t have time to do a photo shoot during the brief time BenQ was here with the TK800.  For a good look at sharpness and detail capability of either projector, check out the 3rd and fourth images (from Ghostbusters 2016).  The close-up shows the sharpness and detail capabilities of either the TK800 or HT2550, as there should be no sharpness difference between these models.

I got to do this quick “first look” review the TK800 projector in my home theater – daytime only. I have inserts for all my windows to do a great job of blacking out the room, but, as this is a “bright room” projector, I didn’t put them in, instead relying on the shutters on my four windows. They do more than a good enough job on the brightest days to enjoy any good sporting event.

Mind you, I was viewing the TK800 “right out of the box” – all default settings. Color, as I have come to expect from the better modes on a BenQ HT/HE projector, were pretty good – better than most, without any adjustment. I wasn’t really paying close attention to the individual modes other than to point out that the brightest mode wasn’t all that good, which is typical. It actually was a bit less strong green/yellows than most, but still, you’ll use it only as a “break glass in case of emergency” mode for the worst ambient light levels. The other modes were all rather good.

Strangely, this projector has not only a Sports mode – which BenQ says is best for indoor sports, be it ice hockey, basketball, or swimming – while a second sports mode, Football, is optimized for outdoor sports, or more specifically for football. They didn’t say if “American’ football, or “football” (soccer). I assume either. There seems to be a slight difference in color temp between those two modes, although we’ll sort that out when we bring in the TK800 for a full review, which should mean Eric will calibrate it, and measure the various modes.

Team jerseys were generally nicely saturated, although reds in some modes were a bit dark. Again, that’s typical for DLP projectors. If I had to guess – since no measurements were taken – the BenQ TK800 is probably capbale of putting 2,000 lumens on the screen with some pretty good color!

Sharpness, as has been the case of pretty much any 4K UHD projector, is excellent. Oh, in theory, the TK800 and HT2550 aren’t as sharp as the higher-end 4K UHD models (2716x1528x2), but “close enough.”

When watching sports and general HDTV, many folks won’t mind using some extra sharpness and detail enhancement, and quite honestly, that will blur (pun intended) the differences between the different true resolutions when handing 4K content. By the way, I did not get to view any 4K sports during my brief time with the TK800, but standard 1080 looked really good.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line on the TK800: It’s bright, it’s affordable, and it’s sharp. It is optimized for brightness, compared to the HT2550, which, by comparison, is “optimized” for (slightly) improved color, (neither projector can produce near as many color lumens (compared to white ones), but the HT2550 should have color lumens numbers closer to the white ones.. Still the TK800 projector’s strength is that in rooms with more than a little ambient light, the extra white lumens can be a positive trade-off.

One last time, because this is important for “bright room” projectors:

Most important tip: Be sure to pair the TK800 with the right type of screen for your room. If your room does get fairly bright, go for an ALR type screen – designed to absorb, not reflect back at you, ambient light coming from above, below, and the sides. I use a Screen Innovations Slate ALR type screen in my very bright living room.  It is very effective, and I pair it with a projector that normally, during the daytime, I have set to produce about 2,800-3,200 good looking lumens. This BenQ can’t produce that many good-looking lumens, but then, my “bright room” projector is basic 1080p resolution, and three times the cost.

I plan to do the full review of the HT2550 sometime late June or early July (2018). I’m hoping to have an HT2550 here at the same time so I can do direct comparisons of the same content up on the screen. Stay tuned!  -art

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