BenQ TK800M Projector First Look Review — 4K UHD HDR Optimized for Sports Fans

When Art Feierman reviewed the BenQ TK800 4K UHD DLP projector about a year ago, he found it to be an excellent performer, with impressive light output and sharpness, especially for the price ($1499 at the time). This year, BenQ has upped its game with an upgraded model, the TK800M, which carries a list price of only $1299. That’s a mere $50 more than the TK800’s current list price, though the earlier model is no longer in stock.

Because we reviewed the TK800—which won Best in Class for Bright Room Home Entertainment in last summer’s Best Home Theater Projector Report —we probably won’t do a full review of the TK800M, which is similar in many ways. Still, it has several improvements over the previous model, so let’s give it a once over.

You can plug a streaming or cast-receiving dongle into the HDMI 1 port and power it from the USB-A port on the TK800M.
Projector Reviews Hot Product Award
The previous version won this award. We are sharing it with the newer, improved M - the TK800M receives it, for doing everything the the 800 does, but with more features, and a lower price!
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BenQ TK800M Specs
Price$1,299
TechnologyDLP
Native Resolution3840x2160
Brightness (Manufacturer Claim)3000
Contrast10,000:1
Zoom Lens Ratio1.1x
Lens ShiftNo
Lamp Life4,000 hours / 15,000 hours (eco)
Weight9.2
WarrantyN/A

Overview

Like its predecessor, the TK800M is a home-entertainment projector through and through. Its single-chip DLP design offers full 4K UHD resolution using Texas Instruments’ latest 0.47″ DMD (Digital Micromirror Device) imaging chip, which has a native resolution of 1920×1080. Each pixel is quickly shifted between four different positions, which happens so fast that the eye simply sees a combined resolution of 3840×2160 on the screen. This is the same chip used in the company’s highly regarded HT3550, and it avoids the light-border issue in the previous TK800.

Weighing in at 9.2 pounds, the TK800M is fairly portable, allowing you to easily set it up wherever the game-day party happens to be. And speaking of games, the new model is well-suited for video gaming as well. Art measured the TK800’s input lag at 48ms, and we assume the TK800M has the same input lag as its predecessor, which is good news for gamers.

The TK800M offers a 1.1x zoom lens, but no lens shift.

The new model’s high dynamic range (HDR) performance has been improved with the addition of HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), an HDR format that is designed for live broadcasts. It joins HDR10, which is a common format for movies and streaming content. BenQ’s exclusive Auto HDR Color Rendition is said to tame the oversaturated reds and greens common to other HDR-capable projectors as well as bring out dark details in HDR images.

Highlights

– 3840×2160 resolution (1920x1080x4)
– 3000 lumens peak light output
– Offers HLG HDR in addition to HDR10 for greater HDR compatibility
– Auto HDR Color Rendition optimizes colors in HDR mode
– Color gamut increased from 92% to 96% of BT.709 thanks to new color wheel
– Lens quality improved with new 7-element 1.1x glass lens
– Improved 3D compatibility to support more 3D formats
– Sport and Football Picture Modes accurately render fast-paced action
– Onboard 5-watt audio system utilizes aluminum driver in the resonant chamber for better sound
– Auto Keystone makes it easy to align the image on the screen
– Like TK800, 40+ ms input lag in Game mode is fast enough for most gamers, but not the most fanatical (under 20ms ideal)
– 1.1x zoom allows a 100″ image with a throw distance from 10.83 to 12.14 feet

Special Features

The TK800M is touted as a “sports projector,” with a dedicated picture mode for football and other sports. It offers a peak light output of 3000 lumens, though it will almost certainly be less after calibration. Thanks to a new RGBW color wheel, the color gamut has been increased from 92% to 96% of BT.709, resulting in slightly more vivid colors than before. Of course, it can’t be considered to produce “wide color gamut,” since it does not exceed BT.709. Also, the white segment in the color wheel punches up the brightness at the expense of black level. Still, both features allow the image to stand up to plenty of ambient light, which is perfect for your next game-day gathering.

Like all single-chip DLP projectors, the TK800M has no inherent alignment issues whatsoever. By contrast, LCD and LCoS projectors use three imaging panels, which are prone to misalignment that can soften the image. Also, its optical system uses a new 7-element, 4-group, all-glass lens with low-dispersion coatings to minimize chromatic aberration. Together, these components are said to produce razor-sharp images.

3D might be gone from new flat-panel TVs, but it’s still going strong in projectors. Whereas the TK800 required manual setup of 3D over-under and side-by-side timing, the TK800M automatically selects the correct timing for 720p and 1080p at 50 and 60 Hz (side-by-side) and 1080p at 50 and 60 Hz (over-under). It can also display frame-sequential 3D up to 720p at 120 Hz and frame-packed 3D up to 1080p at 24 Hz.

The top panel offers a few controls, but not as many as the remote.

The onboard audio system on most projectors is a joke, but BenQ has devoted some attention to it in the TK800M. The speaker incorporates an aluminum diaphragm with neodymium magnet inside a resonant chamber to enhance both ends of the sonic spectrum. A 5-watt amplifier drives the speaker, while custom-tuned sound modes and exclusive EQ algorithms enhance the sound quality even further.

Of course, the single speaker can produce only mono sound, whereas some competitors offer stereo or even stereo with surround effects. Still, no onboard audio system can compete with an external system, especially in the bass department, but the TK800M can serve up better sound than many projectors in a pinch.

If a projector can’t be positioned so it’s vertically aligned with the screen, the image is distorted into the shape of a trapezoid rather than the desired rectangle. The TK800M provides automatic vertical keystone correction that solves this problem, but I strongly recommend avoiding any keystone correction if at all possible, because it reduces the sharpness of the image.

Unfortunately, the TK800M offers no lens shift, which is a far better solution to problematic placement than keystone correction. Lens shift is uncommon in projectors at this price, though the HT3050 1080p model does offer vertical lens shift for $850, so it’s a bit strange that the TK800M does not.

One feature that’s missing from the TK800M—and, to be fair, most other projectors—is a suite of built-in streaming apps that can be found in so-called smart TVs these days. Optoma and LG offer “smart projectors” with streaming apps, but this is still fairly rare. Of course, most folks get their online content from a streamer such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV, which can easily be used with the TK800M.

Hardware

The TK800M’s connections include two HDMI inputs—one is version 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 copy protection, while the other is version 1.4. You must use the HDMI 2.0 input for UHD Blu-ray and other modern content; the 1.4 input is useful only for legacy players. I wish they were both HDMI 2.0; also, I wish there were three HDMI inputs, but very few home projectors offer more than two.

The connections include (L-R): 3.5mm stereo audio input and output, VGA input, HDMI 1 input (v2.0 with HDCP 2.2), HDMI 2 input (v1.4), USB Type-B port (for service only), RS-232 port, USB Type-A port, 12V trigger output.

There’s also a PC (VGA) input as well as Type-A and Type-B USB ports. The Type-A port is intended to provide power for things like streaming dongles such as Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast. However, unlike some projectors, the TK800M has no built-in media player, so it can’t play content stored on a USB memory stick or hard drive. The Type-B port facilitates factory service. An RS-232 port and 12-volt trigger output support various control and integration systems. Finally, the back panel offers a 3.5mm stereo-audio input and a 3.5mm stereo-audio output.

The projector’s remote is comprehensive, with dedicated buttons for many functions. The buttons are mostly the same shape and size, which makes them difficult to find by feel, but the remote provides a backlight, which lets you see them in the dark. Fortunately, the backlight is red/orange, which doesn’t disrupt dark-adapted vision when you look at it. The top of the projector itself also provides some controls, but most people will probably use the remote, especially if the projector is mounted on the ceiling.

HT2550/TK800 remote control - Nice layout, good range, and a red/orange backlight that's not too bright or too dark.

The Bottom Line

In the TK800M, BenQ has made some distinct improvements to the TK800 while keeping the price surprisingly affordable. As a home-entertainment projector—as opposed to a home-theater projector—it will likely perform better than most low-cost models in a room with ambient light, but not as good in a darkened home theater as models without a white segment in their color wheels, especially in terms of black level.

Keep in mind that few if any single-chip, lamp-based DLP projectors have good black levels. On the other hand, true home-theater models like the BenQ HT5550 have a dynamic iris that improves black levels, which comes at a price: The HT5550 lists for $2499, almost twice the price of the TK800M. Art is currently finishing his full review of the HT5550, so be on the lookout for that.

Of course, true home-theater projectors aren’t as bright, so you need to decide what’s more important to you. If sports in a well-lit room is your thing, the BenQ TK800M should probably be among your top draft picks.

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