The Compelling Case for Projectors with Integrated Smart Capabilities

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In this month’s article sponsored by BenQ, we’ll be discussing “Smart” projectors and what to look for when evaluating smart, versus really smart. Smart technologies are nothing new. If you’ve been around electronics the past several years or ventured out to a CES or any manner of electronics tradeshow event, you’ve probably been exposed to more “smart” things than “dumb” ones, for lack of a better characterization.

BenQ recently announced three new really smart projectors, the HT3550i ($1799 SRP), the TK850i ($1799 SRP), and the TH685i ($899 SRP) which all build on the fantastic predecessors of the same name (the “i,” moniker denotes “intelligent”). The new models offer the same outstanding performance of last year’s non-smart models, including the HT3550 and TK850 which we reviewed.

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The HT3550i is a 4K HDR projector geared toward serious movie enthusiasts who care about picture quality enough to optimize their rooms for the best picture. The unit’s cinema filter expands the color gamut, at the expense of some brightness, but the HT3550i can project some colors that the TK850i simply cannot. It is also one of the least expensive 4K HDR compatible projectors to sport a dynamic iris to improve black levels. The HT3550 won one of our Hot Product Awards in 2019 due to its good black levels and accurate color reproduction at an affordable price. Check out the link to our in-depth review below

HT3550

While the HT3550i is a home theater projector that works best in rooms with little or no ambient light, the TK850i is about more brightness. It is built for watching TV and sports in a den or family room. The BenQ claims the TK850i is brighter than HT3550i, thanks to a “business” type RGBW color wheel geared to maximize brightness. The brightness of TK850i helps it deal with ambient light. So if you want to watch sports and TV during the daytime in a room you cannot get reasonably dark the TK850i is a great solution. Refer to the article below where we compare the HT3550 vs TK850.

BenQ HT3550 and TK850

The key difference between the new “intelligent” models and their predecessors is robust Android TV integration. Android TV eliminates the need for multiple remotes and ensures the user experience is incredibly seamless when accessing their favorite content, including BenQ’s proprietary “FamiLand” family-friendly content for kids and parents.  In this article, we’ll explore how Android TV helps make the watching experience even richer and how BenQ’s latest projector models are a great choice for those interested in “really smart” projectors.

In addition to improved picture quality, lower fan noise, and several other block-and-tackle updates — which most projector customers would expect from the latest and greatest models — there are also a growing number of projectors that offer smart features too. In fact, we have already reviewed two Android-based smart BenQ projectors designed for business applications, the BenQ EH600 and EW800ST.

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While there are several business projectors that ship with an external Android smart dongle, the EH600 and EW800ST have Android OS built-in and 16GB of internal memory. These BenQ projectors give users the ability to deliver impactful computer-free presentations by using the WPS Office app to present Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint directly from a USB drive or the projector’s built-in storage.

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BenQ already has a couple of “smart” portable projectors, the GS2 and GV1. So as you can see, more and more manufacturers like BenQ are starting to introduce “smart” projectors for a variety of different applications.

But what makes a projector truly smart? What are the advantages of having a projector that can do more than well, project? They are numerous and compelling, today we’ll explore a few areas consumers should focus on when it comes to looking for the best smart projector for them: simple access to movie/TV content, ability to cast from your smart devices and voice control.

Seamless Access to the Latest Content

Content is king in the world we currently live in, and access to it is becoming easier as smart projectors are better integrated from inception. There are several platforms, like Android TV for instance, that boast thousands of apps aimed at providing the best content possible in a single interface. Big names like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and several others all have native applications within TV operating systems like Android TV and Apple TV, checking off many of the largest content platforms in one fell swoop. This easy access to content is a persuasive case for users looking to have the ultimate in flexibility when accessing their favorite TV, shows, music, and more.

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Not only is there a huge amount of content accessible at your fingertips, but the various TV operating systems also feature a wide variety of add-ons specifically designed to improve the movie and TV watching experience, like 4K UltraHD, HDR, and Dolby Atmos, which make it a great option for entertaining specifically. After all, what’s the point of investing in a projector that can throw up amazing picture quality if you don’t have a streaming service that offers premium content developed by the best studios?

Easily Cast on the Big, BIG Screen

Another benefit we recommend are projector options that allow you to cast content directly to a smart projector, capitalizing on projectors’ superior picture quality and portability. This adds a completely new meaning to “family night,” or enjoying distanced communications between friends and family (can you imagine face timing on the big screen?). This is another area where native support for an operating system like Android TV comes in handy. Google built an incredibly robust platform that spans millions of devices, so the usability of a projector with built-in Android technology ensures the experience of casting content from one Android device to another is easy and seamless.

What this means is owners of Android devices can easily cast their content straight to their projector with limited friction and eliminating the need for specialized cabling or other weird workarounds that limit sound quality, picture quality or both. When looking for a projector with casting capabilities, remember that a good projector manufacturer will make it easy to cast content regardless of the mobile device. For example, BenQ has an intuitive casting feature that makes it possible to stream content from most mobile devices without hassle. We really enjoyed this feature when reviewing both the BenQ the BenQ EH600 and EW800ST smart business projectors.

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