Projector Reviews

HT9060 Projector Review: BenQ’s 4K UHD Home Theater Projector- Special Features 2

BenQ HT9060 Projector — Special Features 2: “Going Widescreen” – Anamorphic Lens, Native Resolution: the Higher Res DLP chip for 4K UHD, 3D, CFI, 2 x 12 volt Screen Triggers

Going Widescreen – Anamorphic lens

As many of you know, a huge majority of home theater/home entertainment projector users, project the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio content that we’ve been used to since the start of the HDTV age. Of course most movies in recent history have, instead, been widescreen – typically 2.35, or 2.37, or 2.4:1 aspect ratio (16:9 is 1.78:1).

Now not all movies are or have been widescreen. A lot of animation has been 16:9 the past 20 years, as are many “made for TV” movies. Still the vast majority of movies released into theaters are widescreen.

Widescreen photo from movie
Wide screen movie: The Black Panther – 4K HDR…

 

The huge majority of home theater/home entertainment projector users, project the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio content that we’ve been used to since the start of the HDTV age. Of course, most movies in recent history have, instead, been widescreen – typically 2.35, or 2.37, or 2.4:1 aspect ratio (16:9 is 1.78:1).  That is Cinemascope type movies – which dominate – are wider than HDTV content.

Now not all movies are or have been widescreen. A lot of animation has been 16:9 the past 20 years, as are many “made for TV” movies. Still, the vast majority of movies released into theaters are widescreen.

There have been two options for “properly” viewing widescreen movies on a typical 16:9 ratio projector or TV:

  1. Lens Memory – Using motorized zoom, and motorized lens shift to enlarge the image to fill a wide screen, both vertically and horizontally leaving no “letter boxing.”
  2. Using a special lens called an Anamorphic lens (one that expands the width of the image, but not the height. That allows a widescreen to be fully filled as well.

To do Lens memory (at least when ceiling mounted, high shelf mounted, etc.,) motorized lens features are required. Hey, if you can reach your projector you could do this manually if there’s enough zoom range (really at least about 1.5:1 zoom,) but that would be a “pain” every time you switch from widescreen to regular content, or back, but that is doable.

The second method – using an anamorphic lens (and sled), is “old school”. That special lens is mounted to a motorized sled (you don’t really need a sled if you can easily reach the projector, but that, again, is very unlikely for most folks).

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I favor Lens Memory of the two method, but these are the trade-offs, should you have both options:

  1. With lens memory, the picture projected uses 1:1 pixel mapping – each pixel on the projector handles one complete piece of data.   This means no picture quality degradation due to compressing, etc., similar to the picture damage done by keystone correction.
  2. With use of an anamorphic lens and sled, you get those “compromised” pixels by stretching them wide, but not tall (data processing like that, creates lower quality than minor optical corrections. This data processing compromise is my issue.
  3. The anamorphic lens, therefore, is the solution that will have more compromise in the picture, but, at the same time, the anamorphic solution uses every pixel the projector has. Lens Memory still has those black “letterboxes” at the top and bottom, but you can’t normally see them because they would be above and below the screen.
  4. And that means, that Lens Memory is only using about 80% of the pixels, and that means the anamorphic lens – using 100%, is inherently about 25% brighter.

Passengers title

The bottom line on the trade-offs. More brightness with an anamorphic lens, but also more expense, and a touch lower picture quality, plus expect to spend from over $2000 to $6000+ for a good anamorphic lens and the motorized sled. Since the HT9060 doesn’t have the motorized features, the A. Lens option is the only viable one (unless you are running the projector “table top” and don’t mind getting up and spending a minture or so adjustin the picture everytine you change from HDTV to widescreen (or the other way around).

In a world of HDR, where extra brightness is real plus, most folks looking at the BenQ HT9060 with the idea of going widescreen, have the extra brightness as a key reason to go anamorphic. But it does make the projector system more expensive overall.

The HT9060 supports the 2.4:1 aspect ratio to work properly with an anamorphic lens.

Native Resolution: The higher resolution 4K UHD chip

Texas Instruments, the inventor/manufacturer of DLP chips has a number of “4K UHD” chips in their arsenal, including different physical sizes, but they fit into only two native resolutions. Both resolutions rely on pixel shifting, to hit the screen more than once with the same DLP pixel, but shifting the location so that the pixels only partially overlap each other.

Most of the lower-cost 4K UHD DLP projectors use 1080p native resolution chips but fire each pixel (shifting it for each), 4 times. Since 4 times the 1920×1080 resolution equals over 8 megapixels, that qualifies those projectors as 4K UHD.

This BenQ HT9060 instead uses the larger, more expensive, higher resolution DLP chip with a 2716×1528 native resolution. It, in turn, only fires twice – do the math, that to gets you over 8 million pixels.

The big advantage of the 2716×1528 DLP chip is that the pixels are half the size of those on the smaller chips, and that translates into a slightly sharper more detailed image. But only if you have good optics. Well, the HT9060 has excellent optics, so you can definitely expect a visibly sharper (but not night and day), picture than from much lower-priced projectors, including the BenQ HT5550, which we really like ($2499 list).

As I like to describe things – pixel shifting has real advantages, but it only attempts to achieve what a higher native resolution chip does naturally without the need to pixel shift. That’s why “entry-level” native 4K projectors, start at $5-$7K (for “entry-level” native 4K), while the lower end 4K UHD pixel shifters start at about $1000.

Think this way in terms of pixel size: The smaller the better. Now think of a native 4K projector as having pixels the size of a baseball. Then a projector using the higher-res DLP chip would have pixels about the size of a softball, and the lower resolution, DLP 4K UHD chip, would be slightly smaller than a soccer ball. Got that? It’s not that important, what is, is that “all else being equal” the higher native resolution of the chip, the inherently sharper the image! That means that the HT9060 inherently has a real if modest advantage over the lower-end chips.

3D

The HT9060 does 3D, and likely does it great (we’ve had very good luck with the less expensive BenQ’s doing 3D very well.) Unfortunately, I have been writing up this review while out of town (family emergency) for 2 weeks. When I get back, I will break out the 3D glasses, and check out the 3D handling of a couple/few fav 3D movies (Avatar, Hugo, The Hobbit, Ultimate Wave Tahiti…), and provide my final verdict. But I expect a really good result.

CFI – aka Creative Frame Interpolation, aka “smooth motion”

football game
1080i content over cable

The HT9060 lacks CFI. That’s unusual for an HT projector at this price point. Now I like CFI in sports but not much else. Many folks, though, on their HDTVs, watch with CFI on all the time (they don’t really realize what they are seeing). The larger the screen though, the more likely you would notice the “soap opera effect.” CFI does tend to ruin the director’s intent, on movies:
Imagine a fast-paced action flick like Bourne Supremacy, where the camera is always bouncing around, to enhance the sense of motion. CFI would take out some of that, making the scene less dynamic. If you want to watch movies, and your projector has CFI, I recommend not using it (for movies), although there are a handful of projectors that have a low CFI setting that is barely detectable (Sony for one) which, for example, I find acceptable. Short version, best avoided on 24fps movies, but if you like it on HDTV, sports, etc. Go for it. It would have been nice to see CFI.

Two 12 Volt Screen Triggers

menu for screen trigger
Installation menu: Projector position, Aspect ratio and two 12 volt "screen" triggers. The 2nd can be used to control an anaamporphic lens sled.

Yes, two. Why two? Easy. Use one for controlling a suitably equipped motorized screen. The other would normally be used if you opt for an anamorphic lens, so you can go “wide screen.” The 2nd 12 volt trigger can be used to move the anamorphic lens in front of the BenQ’s lens, for 2.4:1, or out of the way, for good old 16:9. It’s that simple. I would think that just about all sleds for those lenses would support a 12 volt signal to trigger movement.

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