Benq HT3550 Review - 2 Months and Counting
Software Version 1.00.00
Purchase Date: 4/16/2019
Current Date: 6/19/2019
I’m an engineer by trade, and when I was in school I used to sell high end audio-video systems, especially home theater equipment. One quick note is that I have no affiliation with Benq or any other company and just wanted people to know the details about this projector.
Listed below is a breakdown of my current setup, so you’ll know what I’m using during this review. My theater room is completely light controlled, and the previous projector was an older Optoma HD70 (720p) projector that was just replaced with this new 4k Benq HT3550. The screen I used for my older setup was a 130” white 16x9 Da-Lite with 1.0 gain with my seating position about 12 feet away. I just upgraded my screen to a super wide screen format that I built myself using a 1.0 white gain material that contains about a 143” 16x9 within the 173” 2.35:1 cinema scope screen. My surround sound configuration is 7.1 setup using Revel speakers, Anthem Pre Amp w/ Separates, Panasonic Blu-ray player, Amazon Fire Stick w/ Hulu and Sling, X Box One X, and HTPC with quad off-air tuner cards for HD broadcast.
I’ve wanted a 4k projector for a while, and I’ve been waiting for the right projector to come out at the right price. One thing about any reviews you read on the web is that the reviewer probably is getting something for their review, so they will probably try to give you the hard sell more than if they were just a guy off the street checking it out. The reason I state this is because like most of these projector reviews put this projector at a very high pedestal, so when I first got it I had very high expectations. What I got was a device that needs a lot of work, and I really didn’t want to be a test mule on their software issues. However, the projector has an awesome picture on the right source material. Is this good enough to make a great projector, or does this mean I should return it until they get it right?
Once I paid for the pre-order on BenqDirect.com back in April, I started finding people on forums stating they have already received their HT3550, and they are talking about tons of issues and I have to say they are not wrong. When I first set up the unit and went through its beginning setup, everything worked great. Then all of a sudden, about 2 minutes after the initial setup was completed, the projector setup position reverted to table top position from my inverted setup. I tried to fix this and every time that I moved the cursor on the menu, the screen would drop out for about 5 seconds and then it would come back (this is happening when I’m using a 1080p source material). Moving the cursor again trying to select the screen position only caused it to blank out again and I had to wait. I got it to adjust, but what a pain, because it took 2 minutes to just get the screen position fixed again.
This should be fixed by a software update. However, I don’t want to be a beta tester and get nothing for it. Every time I try to do any kind of adjustment within the menu, the screen blanks out for 5 seconds. This gets annoying really quickly. I had to upgrade my supposedly future-proof 4k monster cable as well, because it either didn’t pass the signal, or if it did it caused major banding issues across my screen. I guess Monster Cable would say it’s good for 4k 30 Hz, but it really needs to pass thru 4k 60 Hz to work. There goes my future proof cable I paid a lot of money on (Note: length 36’). Once I got my cable upgraded and was able to send a native 2160p to the projector this stopped, but if I use a 1080p signal to this project the problem still persists, such as on 3D. I guess we’ll have to wait until they give us a software update to fix these issues, and hopefully soon.
Once the initial setup is completed and you’re just using the projector it works fine. It just gets very annoying when you’re trying to adjust your settings and the screen goes blank. Other issues reported on the forums were that the dynamic iris would bounce a lot on material, making them say it was unwatchable. I have found that sometimes you can tell the projector has changed the light output within a scene, but not enough to bother me, and it helps so much on improving the black levels that I left mine on for Blu-ray and UHD discs, but when watching normal HD TV or DVD’s about half the time it would get too dark and I would just turn it off.
The next issue people on forums are complaining about is projector noise levels people and the fans ramping up and down loudly, but I can say it’s actually better than my old Optoma HD70. The projector does ramp up time from time and you may be able to notice the chip making noise, but it’s much better then what I had before so it doesn’t bother me at all.
Before you read my comments on the picture quality, you need to understand how important the signal quality is because this projector shows everything. Here is an example, if your using a high quality speaker system, if the soundtrack for a movie or music is recorded at a very high level, the speakers can match this and make it a great experience, but if the recording is not up to par then these speakers will show all the short comings of the recording. So that is the same with video quality because the picture can look horrible on some lower class SD and HD channels because they are either highly compressed and/or using inferior cameras or just a substandard recording method. Also, the color at first can come across too strong. I had to turn the gamma to around 2.6 and the sharpness to zero and turn the contrast and brightness down because of how bad the image was coming out on lower quality signals. Without doing this, there was so much noise in the picture it was almost unwatchable to me. When you feed this a 1080p Blu-ray or 4k UHD disc this thing rocks, but when the recording quality is low or high compressed, it shows everything.
One thing to note is that the lower resolution Optoma HD70 (720p) projector display lower native source feeds better than this 4k Benq Ht3550. Normal TV viewing and lower quality HD channels that are way below Blu-ray’s standards, such as broadcasted TV using 720p and/or 1080i with some SD (480p) material mixed in looks better on my older projector then this new one. The reason why is the new Benq HT3550 internal scalers just aren’t good enough to scale these very lower quality resolutions to its native panel resolution without causing some kind of noise within the image. This is the reason this projector costs $1,500 and won’t break the bank like all the other higher end versions that are out there. That doesn’t mean this projector is bad, though. You won’t regret buying this projector, especially since 8K is coming sooner then we think.
Once everything is set up and working, you’ll come to find that this projector really shows you how good or bad your feed signal is. That means this thing is awesome when fed a good signal and just okay if not. The big question: Is it worth it? Yes it is! I couldn’t expect anything better in my room on 1080p or 4k source material. This projector does open my eyes to how great 4k can be when using it on such a large screen, say above 120”. The internal zoom is manual, but it’s the only one that could do the screen I wanted in such a short throw. I was able to do about a 143” 16x9 screen at 14’ 8” and zoom it all the way out to the screens max of 173” 2.35:1 ratio. What is awesome to me too is this makes the original recording go across the 2.35:1 screen with no black bars across the tops or bottoms. I really can’t even make out the black bars, even with this thing zoomed to 173” 2.35:1. People talk about black levels and maybe more expensive projectors can do better, but in my book this thing is awesome and you won’t be disappointed unless you’re coming from a very expensive project. Buy one and see for yourself, because seeing is believing. The drawbacks that I mentioned earlier are minimal, and I rate this projector 10 out of 10 on 1080p and 4k material and 6 out of 10 on low quality HD like HGTV and slightly better on Dvd's at 7.5 out of 10. Just remember that 8k is just around the corner and this is just priced too good to not put it in your theater.
4K gaming is a dream on this thing while using my X-Box One X. I’m not worried about being off a couple of frames or so during gameplay, because this thing sucks you into the game you’re playing. That’s what makes a projector either just okay or great, and this one is the latter. After hours of playing, your eyes don’t hurt and you’ll have to be careful not to waste your day just playing games. I’ve never experienced the rainbow effect on either my 720p projector or this 4k one, so if you have a problem like this before, you probably should just stay away from DLP projectors all together.
One quick note is that I did buy a bunch of 3D glasses and this thing works great that way too. I even stretched one of my movies to the full 173” 2.35:1 widescreen and it was plenty bright and the images did pop off the screen. Hope this helps and if you’re like me debating on buying one or not, just do it because you won’t be disappointed. This was the first one that met all my criteria, and that’s why I bought. Plus my old 720p projector had 8k hours on it. I’ll update this review once I get a newer software version installed.