BenQ TK800 4K HDR Projector Review
Thanks to BenQ for supplying me with a review sample of their latest TK800 4K HDR Living Room Projector. This is an updated review and represents my final thoughts on this projector.
It's been over four months since my review of the BenQ HT2550 4K HDR home cinema projector. At the time, the HT2550 represented the first entry in a completely new segment of the projector market: value priced 4K projectors. Since the HT2550 was released we've seen a flood of new and affordable 4K DLP projectors entering the market from a variety of name brands. Now, BenQ is back to the segment it helped start with a model intended for bright room use: the TK800. So how does the TK800 stack up? Read on for my impressions of this familiar, but quite different, home entertainment projector.
Basics and Setup
Let's just get the TK800's most notable specs and features out of the way:
True 4K UHD resolution of 3840x2160
3000 Lumens Output
Projector-Optimized HDR10 Support
>92% coverage of the Rec.709 color space
Full Bandwidth HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 (18Gbps capable of 4K HDR @ 60 fps)
Up to 10,000 hr lamp replacement interval
3 Year Warranty
The TK800's relation to the HT2550 is obvious the minute you take it out of it's box. The two projectors are nearly identical with one notable exception-- the face plate of the TK800 is a vibrant aquamarine blue! External dimensions are identical at 13.9in x 5.3in x 10.7in and so is the weight at 9.3lbs. BenQ claims the lens is identical and with a 1.47-1.76 throw ratio (1.2x zoom), the TK800 will require around 11 feet to target a 100" screen. The TK800 shares the HT2550's 110% fixed offset and similarly lacks lens shift which means if you are mounting the projector you'll need to use extra care to make sure your projector and screen are aligned. The inclusion of automatic vertical keystone correction has been retained and it can automatically square the image if tilting is required. However, I recommend to avoid this when possible as keystone correction lowers resolution. There is no horizontal correction available.
The TK800 has five picture presets: Bright, Vivid, Cinema, Sport, and Football. Bright is, obviously, the brightest picture mode and has a limited use which I will get into later. While there are subtle differences in each of the TK800's remaining four picture presets they are, all of them, more or less equally bright. Even the Cinema preset, which is typically a little dimmer on most projectors. As such, any of these four picture modes can be used with ambient light present. In a fully dark room the TK800 may, in fact, prove to be a little too bright for some people. While Normal lamp mode is ideal for a very bright room, in most rooms I would recommend the SmartEco lamp setting as it dynamically adjusts the lamp intensity to maximize contrast. If the image is too bright you could reduce the lamp to it's Eco setting at the cost of some contrast. One thing I do NOT recommend to lower the TK800's light output is to turn off Brilliant Color. Doing so dramatically cuts the TK800's light output but it also reduces contrast by a comparable amount and the image becomes quite dull as a result.
As with all the 0.47" DMD equipped 4K DLPs entering the market the TK800 has the same visible grey border around the projected image. The border is large enough that it extends beyond the 2.4" felt wrapped frame of my 100" screen by a couple of inches on all four sides. While the light spill will not be noticeable all of the time, it will be noticeable some of the time and some people may find that distracting. Extending some black felt or velvet beyond the edges of your screen or painting your front wall a darker or flatter color will go a long way toward alleviating the issue.
All my testing was done with the TK800 connected directly to a Sony X800 UHD bluray player via a 10' Mediabridge HDMI cable for playback of a variety of UHD bluray discs as well as some 4K Netflix streaming. I also swapped in a PS4 at one point to test the TK800's gaming capabilities. My screen is a fixed frame 100" Silver Ticket White.
Brightness, Color and Contrast
It's impossible to talk about the TK800's picture quality without first talking about it's brightness. As I stated in the introduction, this is a very bright projector! No doubt a large part of the credit for the TK800's spectacular lumen output is due to it's RGBW color wheel-- which adds a clear or 'white' section to the typical red, green and blue color wheel sections. This color wheel composition produces an awful lot of white light relative to color light which has a knock on effect on the TK800's picture quality which I will detail below.
BenQ has built a reputation for delivering projectors with above average color accuracy right out-of-the-box. Here, the TK800 does an admirable job of presenting a picture that is reasonably accurate without adjustment. BenQ claims 92% coverage of the Rec.709 color space but makes no promises about calibration accuracy as they do with their HT2550 (BenQ's CinematicColor feature). Still, I found the TK800's color presentation to be more than satisfactory with realistic skin tones and good saturation. While the TK800 will accept DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 it is, as stated, a Rec.709 device and will simply 'fit' those extended color spaces into it's available palette. Again, the TK800 does an admirable job here but it's important to not expect true extended color space support.
I do, however, have a complaint about color as it relates to that imbalance of white light versus color light that I mentioned before. In certain material, colors on the TK800 can look a little dark in comparison to highlights or bright objects. BenQ attempts to combat this by ramping up the color saturation in specific picture modes (greens in Football, reds in Sport, and pretty much everything in Vivid). While this more or less works it can sometimes produce an image that looks a little less natural than what you'd expect from a more theater-focused projector like BenQ's own HT2550. Overall, I feel most people would find this an acceptable compromise considering the TK800's intended use in less than ideal rooms.
On the other hand, the ability of the TK800 to get so bright helps with contrast and I was pleasantly surprised to find that the TK800 does better here than the HT2550. While black levels are still a bit disappointing with especially dark scenes looking more gray than black, the presence of any bright element lends the TK800 plenty of pop. This is especially true with HDR material where contrast improves dramatically. Specular highlights and point light sources on the TK800 are absolutely brilliant! Indeed, HDR performance may be one of the TK800's biggest strengths.
Just like the HT2550, the TK800 uses Texas Instruments' 0.47" DMD-chip. While the DMD itself is 1080p, it is combined with Texas Instruments' DLP XPR pixel-shifting technology to deliver a UHD qualifying 8.3 million distinct pixels to the screen. The TK800 is not a 'native 4K' projector meaning there is not a 1:1 relationship between the number of elements on it's DMD and the number of pixels produced on screen. While the conversation around native vs pixel shifted solutions continues I will avoid entering this review into that discussion except to say the following. The DLP XPR technology being utilized here is the closest one can come to native 4K resolution performance for a fraction of the cost of a native 4K projector (at the time of this review, $5000USD).
As such, one of the most obvious highlights of the TK800's picture quality has to be it's impossibly sharp image. Just as I observed on the HT2550, when fed a high quality 4K source the TK800's resolution advantage is obvious. Details that would be impossible to resolve on a 1080p display are rendered with breathtaking clarity. Here, BenQ touts their 7-element, all-glass lens system and I'm happy to report that this is not simply marketing fluff. While the focus ring on the TK800 is a little more touchy than I'd like, once dialed in the image is sharp corner to corner.
I am a little surprised to find the TK800 lacks the HT2550's sharpening feature: 'Pixel Enhancer 4K'. While I liked the feature on the HT2550 I don’t mind it's absence too much here, perhaps owing to the TK800's improved contrast. I do, however, mind the absence of the HT2550's DCTI/DLTI features-- which BenQ purports to reduce image noise. While I wouldn't call the TK800 a noisy display I did note more image noise during my testing than I did with the HT2550. My best guess as to the difference is the absence of the aforementioned DCTI/DLTI features.
One added benefit of the XPR pixel shifting is it eliminates the gap between pixels. This means that you can project as large an image as your space/ambient light will allow or sit as close as you'd like without having to worry about screen door effect-- even with 1080p material. This essentially frees the TK800 and other 4K DLPs from the limitations of seating distance 'recommendations'. If you're someone who likes to sit in the half of the theater that's closer to the screen than the half that is further away you're going to love 4K on the TK800.
Bright Picture preset
The Bright picture preset on the TK800 is so unique I had to address it in it's own section. Anyone who has owned multiple projectors will know that the Bright picture mode on the majority of projectors is typically useless due to a strong green tint over the image. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the TK800's bright picture mode not only lacks that strong green tint-- it is actually fully customizable! Now, this isn’t to say that the Bright preset doesn’t have it's share of disadvantages. Color saturation is way down in Bright and the issues of white light / color light balance are exasperated. Still, this is useable preset that puts out enough lumens to easily compete with a high degree of ambient light-- I was able to run the TK800 in the middle of the day with my blinds open. That affords the TK800 with a flexibility many projectors lack and I feel is worthy of mention.
Fact: 3D continues to be popular in theaters and 3D HD bluray discs are still seeing release. That said, 3D doesn't have a bright future. Flat screen manufacturers have ceased making 3D TVs, 3D was left out of the UHD spec, and many of the latest 4K home projectors being released have omitted the format. That last point is probably the most alarming as 3D has long found a home in front projection where the format is arguably it's most effective. The good news for 3D fans? BenQ appears to be committed to the format with both of their affordable 4K projectors prominently advertising the feature.
When it comes to 3D, I'll be honest, I'm not that picky when it comes to picture quality. My biggest concerns are: one, that the image is free of artifacts and cross talk and, two, that the image is comfortably bright. Armed with 3000 lumens I was very much looking forward to testing out the TK800 in 3D. I'm happy to report that the TK800's prodigious light output translates well creating a bright and punchy 3D image with little to no cross talk. While I noticed a bit more noise and what looked like some mild aliasing that is absent in my reference 1080p 3D projector, I would still consider this very good performance-- with one large caveat.
The TK800 has issues with *some 3D glasses. When I began evaluating the TK800's 3D performance I was dismayed to find that in bright scenes (particularly those found in animated family films) the image would lose sync with the glasses and, in extreme cases, cause the glasses to shut off. While I say *some glasses, the truth is I have 8 pairs of 3D glasses from 4 different manufacturers and all of them exhibited the same error. I initially blamed the TK800 as these glasses have all worked with other DLP projectors I've reviewed. But BenQ could not recreate the issue and suggested the fault was in the glasses. True enough, after I obtained a pair of BenQ's own 3D glasses (model DGD5 v 2.0) the sync issues went away.
The TK800 (and most 3D DLP projectors) rely on a sync method called DLP link. DLP link doesn't use a radio link with the projector and instead relies on an optical sensor on the 3D shutter glasses that detects a flash that the projector inserts between frames of the 3D image. My best guess is the TK800 is too damn bright and the optical sensor on the glasses I own aren't sensitive enough and the sync is lost.
While suggesting another pair of glasses would seem a simple enough fix. Keep in mind that one of the advantages of DLP link 3D is the relative affordability of the glasses. 3rd party glasses can range in price from $40 down to $10 depending on sales and bulk discounts. Meanwhile, BenQ's glasses are $59/pair and while they are the best 3D glasses I've ever owned I could understand how someone needing 4-5 pairs for every member of their family might prefer 3rd party glasses. Just be advised that I cannot guarantee 3D performance with 3rd party glasses.
The TK800 is an incredibly sharp 4K projector with good color, good HDR performance, great motion handling, an HDMI 2.0 port capable of 4K HDR @ 60fps and enough lumens to deal with ambient light. Those are qualities that make for an excellent gaming display. Which is why I find the next spec to be so bittersweet.
At 48ms the TK800 is currently one of the quickest 4K projectors on the market. It is, however, slow compared to 1080p displays that are now capable of sub 16ms input lag. I tend to be a bit of a snob when it comes to display latency and freely admit that many gamers will no doubt find 48ms acceptable for casual gaming. Still, I would absolutely love if BenQ could find a way to reduce input lag to at least 33ms. Playing through the PS4 exclusive God of War (2018) in glorious 4K HDR with an uncapped frame rate on a 100" screen is one of the best experiences I've had as an avid gamer. While I didn't find the input lag to be a frustration during the majority of my play through, when it came time to face off against some of the tougher boss encounters (Sigrun OMG) I switched over to my 1080p projector and found that dodging and parrying became much easier. Especially so on the higher difficulty levels.
Will the input lag bother you? It really comes down to what kind of gamer you are and what types of titles you play. If you are a casual gamer or focus more on single player games at the normal difficulty setting you'll be fine. If you are a competitive online player or prefer to challenge yourself at the higher difficulty levels you'll likely want to stick with a 1080p projector capable of 16ms.
A quick word on rainbow effect. I typically can detect some RBE on non RGBRGB DLPs but did not experience RBE in my testing with the TK800. Your mileage may vary.
The box the TK800 is shipped in is emblazoned with the words "Vivid Living Room Entertainment" on it's side. BenQ clearly designed the TK800 for use in living rooms or anywhere ambient light cannot be fully controlled and in that role it excels. It produces a bright, punchy, incredibly sharp image more similar to an LCD TV than a typical theater projector and, as such, is a solid recommendation for someone looking to use the TK800 as a TV replacement. In a dim/dark room it has solid color reproduction and surprisingly good HDR performance. The TK800’s ideal use is as a projector for game day parties, netflix binge-ing or family movie nights. It's portable enough and bright enough that you could use it outside for movies under the stars. While the family lineage with the HT2550 is unmistakable, the TK800 is wholly different in it's intended purpose. I really enjoy projectors like the TK800 because they prove that you don't need a batcave or black out curtains to enjoy a truly big screen experience.
Super sharp 4K image
Plenty of light output
Surprisingly good HDR performance
What Could Be Better
No lens shift limits placement flexibility
Unimpressive black levels-- an auto iris would work wonders here
Lower input lag would make this a top tier gaming projector
What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue:
Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems to be more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer...
-- Excerpt from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Last edited by sage11x; 07-06-2018 at 08:02 AM.