BenQ HT5550 vs Epson HC 5050UB/PC6050UB – A Comparison Review Is Coming!

Greetings Projector fans, our BenQ HT5550 projector for review finally arrives right after Memorial Day so just days away.  To do battle with this new BenQ – a 4K UHD DLP with dynamic iris and claimed great color, right out of the box – is the combination of the Epson Pro Cinema 6050UB, and Home Cinema 5050UB (the full HC5050UB review has been up for weeks) launched in April and should currently, easily be the most popular home projector in its price range.  But if any under $3000 projector can give them a run for the money, it should be the HT5550!

angle shot of HT5550
Along with impressive performance, the HT5550 looks good with the lights on!

We’re going to put more focus on these two major projector competitors, with a direct comparison review that I will write when we are done with the projectors.   Here are our plans for the related reviews:

PC6050UB and HC5050UB
The $3999 list PC6050UB is $1000 more than the HC5050UB. That gets you better QC'd lens other parts, etc. Bundled lamp, mount, etc. and an extra year warranty.

Scott has already had a good long look at the BenQ HT5550, which he no longer has access to.  On the other hand, our HT5550 review unit is in transit to us. Eric will calibrate, I will play with it for a few days (shoot a few of my favorite images), and then ship it to Scott who will handle the full review.

Thor movie
Thor and Loki 4K/HDR/P3 - BenQ HT5550

I’ve also have inbound to me, Epson’s Pro Cinema 6050UB, which Eric will also work with.  It may simply work great with the HC5050UB calibration numbers or might require minor tweaking, but both the HC5050UB and PC6050UB should calibrate identically, give or take minor variations in color from lamp to lamp.  Eric will drop in the HC5050UB calibration settings into the 6050UB, run measurements and see if any adjustments are necessary.

Black panther photo
Epson's HC5050UB tackle's the Black Panther's army - 4K / HDR / P3 content

I will write up a review of the Pro Cinema 6050UB – a shorter review focusing mostly on the subtle differences between the two UB models, and referencing the HC5050UB review whenever appropriate.  Once that is done, I will tackle the BenQ HT5550 vs Epson UB comparison.  It should be very interesting. My goal is to have the comparison posted before the end of June.  (that gives me just over 4 weeks). Considering we’re selling our house in California (in escrow), and also having an engagement party end of June for Lisa, it will be a challenge to complete by then, but doable.  I’ll give it my best.

BenQ vs Epson - A Historic Home Theater Projector Rivalry

There is historical significance to directly comparing the two near-identical variations of the Epson UB with the BenQ HT5550!

BenQ W6000
The vintage BenQ W6000, now 10 years old, was one of the first best 1080p projectors under $5K.

For several years, in the general $2000 – $4000 range over the last decade, we reviewed previous Epson UB projectors which were also the logical predecessors to the HT5550.  Our shoot-outs go back to the original BenQ W6000 vs. the Home Cinema 1080UB, back in late 2009/early 2010. The $2799 W6000 was the first of its series, while the Home Cinema 1080UB was the first in the UB series, priced at $2999, but almost identical to its predecessor, the HC1080 (no UB).

Epson Home Cinema 1080UB
I miss the rather impressive styling of Epson's first UB projector - the Home Cinema 1080UB. The HC5050UB is the 8th generattion!

The key difference for the Epson models – new organic 3LCD panels with much better native contrast went into the newer HC1080UB, offering black levels that were at least the equal to anything from the DLP manufacturers. Epson’s aggressive iris design, combined with the new LCD panels allowed the Epson to easily beat out virtually every DLP projector on those very dark scenes. Up until that point, when it came to black levels, the DLP’s were the kings of the hill.

At the same time, the W6000, with its DLP chip, improved its black level performance with a dynamic iris as well. BenQ had been using dynamic irises on their top of the line older 720p projectors as well.

The bottom line was that the two projectors (both simple 1080p resolution) represented the best serious home theater projectors without spending far more money. (The next step up, at the time, in my opinion, was the JVC RS10 projector at $4995, a huge increase in investment.

More history: The W6000 (in the US) was replaced by the W7000, then the W7500 and that seemed the end of the series. But the HT5550 is the logical continuation – 4K UHD, iris, the lens with good zoom range, and a respectable amount of lens shift. Those (except the 4K UHD) were all features that made those earlier BenQs stand out compared to the other DLP competition and let it be a serious competitor for the Epson of the day.

cityscape image
The HT5550 tackles a cityscape. The dynamic iris helps.

BTW in the old days, the W6000 was a bit larger than the Epson 1080UB. Today, the new BenQ is larger than the W6000, but the Epson projectors are a little larger still. They got larger when Epson went to offering motorized lens features and lens memory.

Disclosure: Now that I’ve mentioned 3 major brands; BenQ, Epson, JVC, should also note that those are the only three brands of projectors I have personally owned over the years (I stopped buying projectors for myself in 2010). By that time, since 2003, I had owned three BenQs 1 Epson and 2 JVCs. In 2011 I decided instead of spending my own money, to try to borrow for extended periods, a good reference projector. Most of those, over the years, have been Epsons, but I’ve also had a couple of Sony’s here for extended periods of up to 6 months at a clip.
Perhaps even more significant than the fact that I have owned projectors from those three brands is that every projector I have owned has been one of those three brands. (Not that there aren’t other great projectors, but I always chose what I felt was the best projector I could afford at the time.

Hey, I certainly would love to own the $40K Sony VW995ES, but I still have a problem with the “$40,000” price tag.
I always ask for “reference loaner” projectors from a short list of my favorites.

What To Look For in the Projector Comparison

Both Epson and BenQ are generally known for particularly good color and picture quality “right out of the box.” Not necessarily really close to being “on the money D65 color”, but well balanced – generally if a projector or OLED TV looks great on a variety of skin tones and shades in different lighting, then the color is at least well balanced, even if a little cool or warm.

I don’t know which brand will be closest to “dead on the money” color, but both should look great. I’m basing that on Scott’s previous work with the HT5550, and on the pre-calibration performance of the HC5050UB which I used for my projector review.

cityscape
HC5050UB handles a night cityscape from The Black Panther: 4K HDR P3 content.

BTW if the timing works out, I will have both projectors set up in my theater at the same time, if only for a few days.

What do I expect? Good black level performance from the HT5550, but the Epson HC5050UB/PC6050UB should win that war. Still, the BenQ will probably have visibly better blacks than any other sub $5000 DLP projector.

Both claim the ability to do P3 color with HDR. Interestingly the BenQ doesn’t use a “cinema” filter (something the less expensive, but impressive HT3550 uses to attempt P3 color), yet claims P3 abilities. We shall see – Eric will let us know how close it gets to P3.

Because BenQ tackles P3 without a cinema filter, and Epson tackles P3 by inserting a cinema filter in the path, that creates a dichotomy in terms of brightness. That’s because the Epson essentially gives you a choice – do 4K content with HDR, with P3 color, at a lower brightness level, or be almost twice as bright without the filter, and doing 4K HDR with REC709 color.
Important Note: the differences between REC709 and P3 color are relatively subtle compared to the differences between HDR and no HDR.

What I am saying is that you’ll end up with choices like this:

If you want P3 color, with your 4K UDR content, the BenQ will be a bit brighter. But if you need significantly more brightness still, the Epson can provide that by using REC709 color. I don’t have measurements yet on the BenQ, but I’ve been hearing around 1400+ lumens calibrated (that would be P3 color – or as close as it gets).
The HC5050 by comparison, clocks in just over 1200 lumens calibrated (full power, wide angle on the zoom) with P3 color, but over 2100 lumens calibrated with REC709 color.

I do like that the Epson gives you real choice – a lot more brightness, with REC709 color, or slightly less brightness than the BenQ when both are doing P3 color.

Of course, that also indicates that for content other than 4K, with the Epson you have the same choice more muscle or slightly better color, but with 1080 content, the difference in color will be more subtle, since with, or without, the cinema filter you are doing REC709 – no P3 attempt.

The BenQ’s key strengths compared are likely to be: inherently a sharper projector (by virtue of a “single-chip” design (so no panel misalignment) and being a 4X pixel shifter while the Epson (also using 1920×1080 panels,is a 2X pixel shifter). The BenQ is also likely to be a little quieter running in full power (I’m not sure about that, just a guess)

While the BenQ relies on a 1.6:1 zoom – which is pretty good range, and a healthy amount of lens shift, it may not have enough for rear shelf placement (high up), whereas the Epson with its 2.1:1 zoom and even more lens shift should have little trouble in most rooms.

The Epson provides power lens features which allows for lens memory for working with “Cinemascope” shaped wide screens. The BenQ doesn’t so the widescreen option is only an option for the Epson.

The Epsons are also free of the rainbow effect which a very small percentage of people see (including me) on almost all single chip DLP projectors. I’m curious to see how fast the BenQ’s color wheel is, and the amount of rainbow effect I will see.The BenQ should also exhibit that “famous” DLP “look and feel” which I’ve always felt – all else being equal, made a typical DLP projector do a bit better on dark but rich colors. Finally, I expect more discounting on the BenQ than the Epson, so there is long term, likely to be at least a $500 price difference favoring the HT5550!

Another Great Projector Coming To Be Reviewed - From JVC

Enough! In other news, JVC has confirmed again, that they will definitely be able to deliver one of their DLA-NX7 home theater projectors (native 4K, $9999), by our drop-dead date of June 15th. This will be our first chance to review one of JVC’s native 4K projectors.

JVC NX7 home theater projector
JVC's $9999 DLA-NX7, one of JVC's first generation of native 4K projectors (excluding their old $30K model). Should prove to be awesome.

I will likely write the first look review of the JVC, but let Phil tackle the full review. That should be most interesting as Phil spent much of the past decade as a key AV engineer for Sony projectors. He’s provided expert support for years to Sony’s internal teams, dealers, distributors, and those of us who review their projectors. (Getting him to review for me has been a real find.) Ron, who some of you remember, retired 18 months ago, another expert AV engineer, but Phil’s street cred and knowledge goes way beyond even Ron’s expertise. (If you ever attended one of the major trade shows and managed to get into a technical presentation, in booth or in a suite, it was probably Phil who was presenting.

Therefore: Expect (unless JVC doesn’t deliver on time), a full review of the JVC NX7 to publish in July, so that it, like the BenQ HT5550 (and HT3550), as well as the Pro Cinema 6050UB and Home Cinema 5050UB, will all be included – along with others, in our 2019 Best Home Theater Projectors Report, which will publish first half of August. At that time you will learn which projectors will be winners of our prestigious Best In Class awards.

That’s all for now! Lots more coming. PS also waiting for the Optoma P1 and other UST 4K UHD projectors that should start shipping in the next 2-3 months. -art

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