Projector Reviews

Best in Class – Under $1000 Performance Home Theater: BenQ Home Theater 3050

BenQ HT3050

Here we go again, another year, another BenQ Best Under $1000 (Entry) Level Performance Award.

Long ago, BenQ introduced their W1070, which, in one form or another, has never wanted to go away. BenQ seems to keep reincarnating that one, because of its reputation. But, the HT3050 is really the replacement model to go with, under $1000, if you want a low-cost home theater projector that looks great, rather than a “home entertainment projector” that can’t match this projector’s picture quality!

BenQ Home Theater 3050 Overview

The HT3050 starts its third year on the market. It started out selling for over $1000, and when about $1000 was the rock bottom you could find it for. But today, the street price is basically $849, with some lower prices to be found.  (Just stick to authorized dealers, with good support/return programs – more below).

As a single chip DLP projector, it doesn’t sport as many color lumens as it claims in terms of white lumens, but it comes a lot closer than most competing DLP projectors, including some of the others mentioned in this report. That comes into play when comparing brightness, and dealing with ambient light, the richness of colors, etc.

Under $1000 Best in Class Best Performance Home Theater BenQ HT3050

BenQ advertises 2000 white lumens – expect only about 2/3 as many color lumens. Many DLP projectors come in at 50% to 70%. The bottom line there is that it can produce a healthy amount of lumens with excellent color. But, there are a number of brighter projectors in the price range. If you really have a bright room, you’ll probably be looking for a brighter alternative.

One real plus is that the HT3050 has at least a tad better than entry-level black level performance and it’s got that DLP look and feel. This has always been a strength of earlier BenQ projectors, and applies to the HT3050 as well. I definitely lean toward recommending this projector to budget-challenged movie aficionados for the look and feel of the projected image (and it’s nice and sharp too).

BenQ HT3050 Black Levels
The BenQ HT3050 has better-than-entry-level black level performance!

Downsides are primarily only having a 1-year warranty (like many competitors at the price), and other things that low-cost projectors also suffer from, such as limited lens shift – but, at least the HT3050 has some shift, which is more than most competitors can claim, especially at the sub-$1000 level.

Of course, that as a single chip DLP projector, the HT3050 uses a color wheel as part of the standard DLP design. That wheel can affect those of us who are rainbow sensitive (I am!), but in this case, the HT3050 pretty much turns that negative into a neutral, with a 4X color wheel, faster than virtually all similarly priced competitors, and resulting in rainbows that I notice less than with almost any other sub $1000 DLP projector.

I’m rainbow sensitive, and I could not live with a DLP with a 2X wheel. This BenQ, by comparison, is far better.

Gaming – 33ms input lag. We count that as good! Faster is better, but anything in the 50ms range or less is acceptable to almost everyone but the most serious, hard core, competitors, the ones that spend big time on the PC and monitors etc.

Missing is CFI – smooth motion. Very few projectors under $1000 offer it (although, interestingly, the Value winner, the Epson 2100, 2150, do have it). I always say that feature is a nice extra, but not critical (I use it only for sports).

Another thought about CFI: One would think that the the lower end projectors, in less ideal rooms – bought for more mixed use – not just movies, but also or even more importantly, sports, and HDTV, is where having CFI is most appreciated, yet most under $1500 projectors lack it.

I really do like the remote control. It’s got a back light, good range, and it also supports HDMI-Link, which I can really appreciate now that I have a couple of Blu-ray UHD players that can be controlled with the BenQ remote.  Neither player’s remotes have backlights, so I find the ability to use the BenQ’s remote, to be a massive improvement into my “quality of life.”

3D is pretty good using DLP-Link. Of course I prefer RF glasses for various reasons. Considering today, we’re starting to see some of the 4K UHD projectors completely lacking in 3D capabilities, I’m just glad the HT3050 has 3D support.

If you do have an excellent room (home theater or cave), I particularly like this projector for the price. In a family or “other” room environment where you likely have some ambient light to deal with (even at night), you might want to with a brighter projector, although 2000 lumens is certainly respectable. Still, for the home theater environment, I have to consider it my top choice at its price or less, thus this award, again. I’m patiently waiting for another projector at the price to cater to the movie fanatic, to give the HT3050 a run for the money.

The BenQ HT3050: What Makes It a Low-Cost Performance Projector

BenQ has been pounding their chests for two years now about color performance on this HT3050. In the best color modes, it is most certainly deserved. Good brightness, good color, a nice feature set, and, again, thanks to pricing over time, this BenQ is selling for about 15% less than a year ago. Add to that, the zoom lens has a reasonable zoom range, and there’s a modest amount of lens shift, which can come in very handy if you are ceiling mounting or placing it on a table and projecting to a screen.

Remember, while all projectors in the under $1000 are really pretty entry level, this year, spending into the $1000-$2000 range mostly give you the choice of projectors similar to this HT3050, but ones that support 4K content. Most of those are just as “entry level” as these, but for that. For example, BenQ’s HT2550 and TK800 models both under $1500 support 4K, but do not have lens shift, which this BenQ has!

The color wheel is not only 4X, but it is a six-segment color wheel which helps minimize the RBE. If you are RBE sensitive like me, that may well affect your purchase decision. If you’re not sensitive, you only have to worry about family and friends seeing RBE, and they are less critical than you (right?).

If you are rainbow sensitive, this BenQ has the fastest color wheel of any sub $1000 DLP we’ve been able to review!

Rainbow sensitive? If you buy this BenQ HT3050 and you prove to be sufficiently rainbow sensitive, you’ll know immediately. In that case, you can switch to a non-DLP projector as many others do (the Epson HC2100 and 2150 are 3LCD projectors and will not produce the RBE).

All considered, there are a few trade-offs, as would be expected in the entry-level price range. The HT3050 puts up the best color and overall picture of any of the DLPs in the range, and is a touch more home THEATER than the pair of Epsons which share the Value award for Best Home Theater Projector in this Class.

I count the BenQ as more of a one person’s (an enthusiastic one with a “movies first focus”) projector while the “Value” projector – the Epson, is more of a built for “the whole family to enjoy.”

If you are serious about the best picture performance in a home theater setting, and under $1000, no need to look further until something new comes along. This is the projector I recommend under $1000 for the hard-core enthusiasts like myself, but on a limited budget! An excellent little projector that has benefited by a significant drop in selling price since first launched.

BenQ HT3050 Review