I will be amending and updating this review as time goes on. Also, expect a crudely put together video review and additional photos below soon. I would also ask that comments and questions about this projector generally feed into an already very active thread on the HT3550 found here
to consolidate and simplify comments. Enjoy!
(Yes, settle in. This review has a prologue)
Six years ago, BenQ released the critically acclaimed W1070. The W1070 was a first-of-its-kind projector that combined the right ingredients in the right price-package that allowed iit to punch well above its weight. It was the first 1080p 3D projector available for under $1,000, and yet , it did not skimp on performance. The combination of brightness, 1080p resolution, sharpness, color accuracy, and a great 3D feature-set at a price below $1,000 led to it becoming one of the best selling home theater projectors of all-time.
While using Amazon reviews as a benchmark of success is an effort in futility, it is an interesting data point (of many) to gauge market impact nonetheless. The W1070 has more Amazon reviews of any home theater projectors from a big-name manufacturer to date. Not only did it receive A LOT of reviews, most all of those reviews were overwhelmingly positive whether it was from a casual Amazon or professional reviewer. In fact, 834 of 1,081 (77%) of all reviews were 5-star reviews for the W1070 on Amazon.
Even the 2050a, another critically acclaimed 1080p projector from BenQ launched several years later, garnered less than 1/3rd the number of reviews. The 2050a is what many call the true successor to the W1070 and outperforms W1070 in every way. However, it won’t go down in history in the way the W1070 will because of what the W1070 represented to the projector market in early 2013. To quote my initial review of the W1070, “To get the features and performance that this projector provides at this price point is a regular joe's dream.” Nothing like it existed in the market at less than a grand.
WAIT A SECOND… isn’t this a review for the HT3550? Yes, I’ll get to that. But, SPOILER ALERT, the context of what the W1070 was to the 1080p projector market in 2013 foreshadows what the HT3550 is to the emerging 4K projector market… I digress…
INTRODUCING THE HT3550
Alright, W1070 talk is on the back-burner, for now at least. Let’s fast forward to 2019! And here we are with BenQ having just announced its new entry in the 4K projector market, the HT3550 (or W2700 for the rest of the world). With BenQ officially unveiling the price point of $1,499 (wow) and release date (late March 2019) I can finally release my review and impressions I’ve spent the better part of three weeks working on.
My objective in this review is to give you insight into how your average ‘pro-sumer’ has experienced this projector, especially in a large-format dedicated theater space. I’ll leave it to the others to give you the objective data points and professional insight. For additional context, my setup consists of a 20’ by 30’ dedicated theater that I built under my suspended-slab garage. The TL;DR as it relates to this projector is I have a larger 160” 16:9 1.0 gain acoustically transparent woven screen in a completely light controlled environment.
The HT3550 is not BenQ’s first entry into affordable 4K projection. Last year, BenQ introduced the first 4K projector for less than $1,500, the HT2550. Shortly thereafter, BenQ released a similarly equipped bright version, the TK800. A lot of pomp and expectation were placed on these projectors and for good reason; they were the first truly affordable 4K projectors. ‘Truly affordable’ is a relative term though. While ‘Truly Affordable 4K’ could mean $1,500, ‘Truly Affordable 1080p’ could mean $700 for a great 1080p projector. I mentioned this point in my review of the HT2550 last year and I’ll mention it agin here, 4K projectors are an entirely different market than the 1080p projector market. They need to be viewed from that ‘4K Market Lens’. 4K HDR has to be at the top of your priority list when considering these projectors.
Getting back on track. The launch of the HT2550 and TK800 was followed by a wave of first-gen .47” chip 4K DLP projectors from Viewsonic, Acer, and Optoma. All of these projectors represented a great value for consumers eager to get into 4K on the big screen. But these affordable 4K projectors were not the ‘silver bullet’ sweet spot of performance and value that many hoped they would be. They didn’t hit that ‘W1070’ sweet spot due to some hardware limitations of the chipset.
In a January 2018 post, before the HT2550 was launched, I commented to this effect.
"I also think that this (HT2550) isn't the "W1070" silver value bullet for 4k.... yet. But the low price point makes it palatable for the average joe to enjoy 4k until that product comes along."
That comment more or less panned out in 2018. The HT2550 and TK800 was lauded for bringing 4K to the early adopters with FANTASTIC color reproduction. I especially adored the TK800 for the extra brightness it brought to my large screen. However, they weren’t quite the silver bullet. To get affordable true 4K we were left compromising contrast (grey border) and feature set (no lens shift) to a small degree. For some this was too large of a compromise to move from perfectly capable 1080p projectors that out performed the new 4K crop in these areas. We were left waiting another year for ‘that product’.
After more hours with the HT3550 than I care to share here, I do not over-exaggerate when I say that I feel that the HT3550 is ‘that product’. The silver bullet for the affordable 4K HDR market that the W1070 was with the 1080p 3D market. While not perfect, you no longer have to compromise in black levels or placement flexibility when you are moving up from solid performers like the W1070 and HT2050.
Enough context. Let’s dig in!
SPECS and HARDWARE
4K HDR DLP
The HT3550 is a DLP (single chip) projector capable of producing a ‘pixel-perfect’ resolution of 3840x2160. This is achieved by shifting a native 1080p DMD 240 times per second to create 8.3 million unique pixels on the screen. This ‘XPR’ technology allows it to achieve the HDMI 2.0a spec of 4K HDR at 60 fps in both of its HDMI inputs. This allows it to be fully compatible with the Xbox One X and PS4 for glorious 18 gbps 4KHDR60 gaming. It also supports 4K60 when connected to a PC.
BenQ is also introducing its new HDR implementation called ‘HDR-Pro’. They claim improved color accuracy and contrast by using better tone mapping algorithms. At the software level, I can confirm this tone-mapping has improved the HDR viewing experience immensely. This was not done with software alone, however. This seems to be a happy marriage of software and hardware. Helping out on the hardware side is an all new 10-element glass lens array, dynamic iris, and with the new TI DMD chip; no more gray border. The result is a true impressive HDR image which I touch more upon in reviewing the performance of the HT3550.
BenQ is also one of the first projectors in the world to launch with HLG or ‘Hybrid Log Gamma’ support. HLG is a little known, newly adopted standard for broadcasting HDR over the airwaves and internet. DirecTV, Youtube, and BBC are among the first to adopt the standard. The reason HLG is finding a niche in the market is that HDR standards such as HDR10 and DolbyVision are unfeasible to broadcast live since it would require a separate bitstreams of HDR and non-HDR broadcast signals. HLG solves for that with increased color information built into one bitstream and it lets the display unit decide what to do with that info. HLG is in its infancy and mass adoption is to-be-seen, but the inclusion of the feature is a good way to future-proof and certainly doesn’t hurt.
The HT3550 has 5 standard SDR modes and 1 hidden HDR10 mode that only automatically activates once HDR content is detected.
Bright - As expected, the ‘Bright’ mode is just that, bright. But like every ‘Bright’ mode I’ve seen, it is washed out in green and mostly unusable unless you are projecting data in a brightly lit conference room.
Vivid TV - Vivid TV amps up the color saturation and brightness at the expense of color accuracy. I enjoyed watching TV on my Xfinity DVR and NBA games in this mode.
Cinema - This is my favorite mode for my large screen. With Brilliant Color set to ‘On’ it provides the best brightness, color accuracy, and detail for the most types of content. I will get into more thoughts and impressions on my viewing experience, but out of the box, this is a very good mode for that perfect balance on a big screen.
D. Cinema - This stands for ‘Digital Cinema’ which leverages the “Wide Color Mode” set to On. More on this later, but the Wide Color filter is engaged, brightness is lowered and what you are left with is a fantastic looking color image. Your eyes need to get used to the dimmer image for a minute or two to truly appreciate it. I would only fully recommend this mode in a darkened theater with a sub 120” screen.
User - This is a mode based on Cinema and Digital Cinema. Other modes can be imported into this mode and customized. Something to note is that there is only one customizable user mode as opposed to two in the past. Granted, I always dedicated one of these user modes to HDR and now that is taken care of in the HDR10 hidden mode.
HDR10 - This mode is automatically engaged when HDR content is detected. While in this mode you can customize it to your liking, but out of the box it is very very good. The only adjustment I made to this mode is to change ‘HDR Brightness” to +1. Any changes you make while in HDR10 mode will be saved and automatically engaged. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have HDR10 mode auto-engage on it’s own. There were several occasion when I would watch an entire HDR movie on the TK800 and realize I accidentally left it in Football mode and felt jipped. My wife also hates when I fiddle with settings. Win win.
The HT3550 has a very pleasant sound profile. Deep and consistent. No off-putting buzzing at start up or when XPR is engaging. It sounds like moving air and is fairly quiet even mounted right above my head.
The item on the spec-list that struck me the most was the inclusion of a dynamic iris on the HT3550. To my knowledge there is not a dynamic iris in any DLP projector at this price point and are typically only found in projectors that cost over $2,000. I will touch on this very impressive dynamic iris implementation later on in the review.
Another impressive item to note is the 95% coverage of the DCI-P3 color space and 100% Rec709 coverage. The 95% DCI-P3 coverage that the HT3550 boasts has never been done by a 4K DLP projector. That is a feat in itself. BenQ has a history of providing not only accurate color but also marketing on the conservative side with their color space coverage. The TK800, for example, is marketed as a bright projector marketed with 92% Rec709 coverage. However, the TK800 has been measured at multiple outlets at close to 96% Rec709 coverage. For context, most other .47” 4K DLP projectors last year tested in the 60%s.
The HT3550 achieves this great DCI-P3 coverage with a setting called “Wide Color Mode” which physically actuates a color filter in the optical assembly. You can hear a little ‘click!’ When it engages for the first time. With the color filter in place, the color is truly impressive. There is a catch, however. This mode reduces light output by about 30-40%. A calibrated image in this mode will be approximately 800-900 lumens. Like I said before, this mode is to only be used in a completely dark setup. I actually enjoyed this mode on my 160” screen but I had to let me eyes adjust for a minute. Ideally you should have a 120” image or smaller in a dark room to fully benefit from this. I also found Brilliant Color to compete with the filter so I turned that setting off. I would like to see Brilliant Color turn off when this mode engages by default. I watched ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ in 4K HDR in this wide color mode and it was producing colors I didn’t know a home theater projector was capable of. Impressive.
CFI / MEMC
Another upgrade from last year’s models is smooth CFI/MEMC. This injects frames in high motion scenes to smooth out the image. It has been a feature on TV sets for the last 10-15 years and its inclusion in the HT3550 is a welcome one. I will say that I ONLY engage this feature when watching sports. I found the difference in the Low setting to not provide a material difference in the motion handling. Medium was just the right amount to smooth the motion while watching some basketball on my DVR. However, to anyone who enjoys this feature on movies, SHAME!
BenQ has added an optical S/PDIF audio out on the HT3550. This addition allows the HT3550 to be paired with a 5.1 sound bar or receiver. A nice touch, although I’m not sure how often this addition will be leveraged. It’s great to have the option for folks, though. Having the option for either 3.5mm or optical out opens up the possibilities of what audio setups it will pair well with, whether that be a backyard movie night in a pinch, or a dedicated projector with a 5.1 sound bar/receiver setup. If neither of those is an option, the dual 5W speakers have surprisingly full bodied sound at a decent volume. I found that when pushed to the limit at 100 volume, the internal speakers will distort a bit. To be honest, I only tested this feature for the review and I think most will be placing the HT3550 in ‘Mute’ and having our receivers do the heavy lifting. With all of that said, kudos to BenQ for an admirable job addressing a broader target audience with this multi-use audio feature set.
The portable entertainment features are expanded even further with the addition of the built in USB media player which can play pretty much anything you throw at it, codec-wise. There is also a dedicated USB power port which allows you to run a dedicated Fire TV or Roku Streaming Stick in either HDMI ports. However, there is no ARC support in the HDMI chipset which would have been a nice addition for those who wanted a more simple HDMI wiring scheme with their audio receiver of choice. I wouldn’t consider that a complaint, however. I’m reaching.
USER INTERFACE / PROCESSING
This one is big since it impacts so much of the HT3550 can do. BenQ has moved from having multiple less powerful chips on the HT2550/TK800 sharing the processing load from 4K, HDR, 3D, and HD handling. The processing power has been consolidated down to 1-2 SOCs on the HT3550. This is a welcome upgrade as it leads to a number of benefits to the end-user. From first power-on, I noticed the HT3550 was about 15 seconds faster on a cold boot than the TK800 I was upgrading from. That may seem like a small amount but in real life, 15 seconds seems like an eternity the are ready for some ‘me-time’. Source switching, handshaking, switching Picture Modes, 3D detection, menu snappiness and more are vastly improved compared to the HT2550 and TK800. There is no system function that is left untouched by this processor improvement.
So far so good. I want to use this opportunity to petition BenQ for an update to their outdated purple UI. When breaking out my old W1070 for this review, I noted that the W1070 UI was in better shape than the UI of this HT3550 and last year’s outgoing models. This purple UI looks more at home on a DVD player circa 2001. Luckily it is well laid out, logical, snappy, and most importantly doesn’t impact performance at all.
USB FIRMWARE UPDATES
Which leads me to USER UPGRADABLE FIRMWARE! The multiple processor chip setup of last year’s models also led to the firmware not being able to be upgraded by the end-user. Any update required shipping the projector into BenQ and then BenQ shipping the projector back out again. No doubt, this had to have been a very expensive and frustrating endeavor for both BenQ and the end-user. Now firmware upgrades are done via USB stick. This is a big deal. With BenQ’s very good post launch support of their projectors (I think the W1070 had 14 or 15 firmware revisions?), early adopters can jump in with confidence that any kinks and firmware UI updates (wink wink) will easily taken care of via USB update.
PERFORMANCE AND VIEWING EXPERIENCE
4K HDR CONTENT
I feel like 4K was made for projectors. Projector limitations aside, they allow the resolution and immersion to be appreciated in ways that TVs just can’t. Until technology like Samsungs modular Micro-LEDs are widely available in 20 years, projectors are the only affordable way to appreciate the extra resolution 4K provides on a screen larger than 100”. The HT3550 handles the extra resolution nicely, but where it really shines is in its HDR implementation. I referenced BenQ’s new ‘HDR-Pro’ implementation before and I have to say, I’m extremely impressed. The dynamic iris, lens array, new DMD, and software all work together to increase the overall image quality by a large margin compared to SDR content. The details in highlights and shadows are both much more apparent while at the same time the overall image still has punchy contrast to boot. The brightness of 4K HDR content is truly impressive as well. For my 160” screen, I turned the HDR Brightness setting to +1 and was still left with a fantastic image with great contrast and black levels.
One thing I did not anticipate when I started reviewing this projector is just how expensive reviewing this projector would be for me. In the last three weeks I have spent literally hundreds of dollars on 4K HDR blu rays to enjoy on this projector. Keep in mind that I’ve had a 4K projector for the last 18 months and a 4K TV for the last 5 years. This is the first display I’ve seen that has exposed a remarkable advantage in 4K HDR content compared to SDR. It has motivated me to truly invest in the standard. I typically only purchase blu rays that I consider to be epic sagas or reference masterpieces. This projector motivated me to buy the Blu Ray of Crimes of Grindelwald. THAT IS SAYING SOMETHING.
I would say that at least 60% of my time with HT3550 so far has been spent on 4K HDR content, a far cry from the 5-10% of HDR viewing time on my previous 4K displays. Titles I watched on 4K HDR Blu Ray include Planet Earth 2, The Martian, Ready Player One, Pacific Rim, Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald, and Black Panther. 4K titles I streamed from my NVIDIA Shield via personal Plex library and VUDU include Thor: Ragnarok, Bladerunner 2049, Lego Ninjago, Lion King, Life of Pi, Ralph Breaks the Internet and a few others. A pretty good mix. The best compliment that I can give this projector’s HDR performance is the admission that my fussing with content from title to title was minimal. My wife HATES what I fiddle with settings. There were only a small handful of scenes across over a dozen titles where the tone mapping in the red spectrum went a bit overboard but that is me being nit-picky.
A quick note on 4K Blu Ray. The player matters. I spent the first few days reviewing with the Xbox One S as my 4K HDR Blu Ray Player and 3D Blu Ray Player. The Xbox doesn’t output the full color space that the HT3550 can handle so I invested in a Sony X700 and the difference in tone mapping and overall color handling was appreciable. Pretty much any stand alone 4K HDR Blu Ray player sold today will be ok, but we wary of the Xbox One S as your primary source for 4K HDR content.
The new 10 element all glasswork lens array has a lot to do with the increased contrast, image quality, and placement flexibility. It represents an improvement in many ways over its predecessor.
The focus is good enough, but I did notice that the extreme edges of my display were ever so slightly out of focus when I performed my focus calibration using a center of image reference point. While only noticeable with text on the edge of the screen (ie: Gamertag on Xbox Home Page), I contacted BenQ about it. I was informed that it was a known issue for the sample unit batch and would be rectified in production. Engineering samples are rough around the edges as it is, so I’m not too concerned it will be an issue moving forward. For reference, I also had a similar issue on my TK800 sample unit and the production unit I later tested had picture-perfect focus uniformity. I will update this review once production units are available to test.
There was also minor chromatic aberration that is noticeable on white text on a dark background. Frankly, I was 20 hours into view time when my BenQ contact asked me to look for it. I put my nose to within a few feet from my screen and it was only then where I noticed it. I had to look for it. It has not affected my experience with the projector, however. BenQ has said this is within spec for the sample unit. It may or may not get better with production units and I will update my review when I see those units coming off the production line. For the average pro-sumer though, this is par for the course with short throw lenses and shouldn’t affect viewing experience.
CONTRAST AND BLACK LEVELS
Contrast and black levels is the area with the most apparent improvement compared to the HT2550, TK800, and every other .47” DLP projector on the market. This is the first projector released using Texas Instruments’ updated .47” 4K DLP DMD which fixes/eliminates the grey border. The grey border on last year’s models wasn’t noticeable to me in every day use but it could be argued that the extra light bouncing around only served to reduce the contrast and raise the gray point. In all honesty, the grey border should never have been a “thing”. With a new DMD, a dynamic iris, a new lens array, and improved tone mapping, black levels have gone from “meh” to “GREAT!” for this price point. This was a huge hurdle to overcome that crippled the perception of last year’s .47” DLP 4K projectors.
Regarding the dynamic iris implementation, it is impressive. My subjective pass/fail rating on dynamic iris implementations is simple. Does the image look better with it on? Can you tell tell it is actuating while watching the image? If the answer is ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ respectively, we get the the resulting pass or fail. The HT3550 passes. To what degree? That begs a further discussion.
We love context here. And for more context, here are my hands on impressions with another popular 4K-capable projector with a dynamic iris that I owned, the Epson 4000. On the Epson HC4000, I found that engaging the dynamic iris led to a dimmer image and the actuation on dim scenes were slightly delayed. This pulled me out of the movie and was distracting. It didn’t make the image look subjectively better and I noticed when it would engage and disengage. I have a big screen so I can use all the brightness I can get so I left the feature on the Epson 400 off most of the time.
When I saw the dynamic iris on the HT3550 spec list I was skeptical. When I first went hands on with the HT3550, I noticed that when I toggle the Dynamic Iris setting on and off, bright scenes are actually brighter with it on. In addition, I do not notice any ‘dim delay’ with it on. It works how a dynamic iris should work. You shouldn’t ever notice it in action. What you should notice is the increased contrast, black levels, and not at the expense of dimming otherwise bright and normal images. BenQ has gone above and beyond with this dynamic iris implementation with dynamic tone mapping algorithms that adjust the tone mapping on screen depending on the aperture of the iris. What this leads to is higher perceived brightness and better localized black levels. So instead of an overall dark scene going darker and maybe darker letter boxes, the benefits that are realized from this dynamic iris implementation is that added oomph from silky black hair, or starts standing out against the black field of space.
Light leakage on the HT3550 is also very good for a chassis of this size. In previous year’s models, and something that I publicly griped about with the W1070, there were issues of light leaking from the grilles and the ceiling halo from the lens array. The 'ceiling halo' so prevalent in projectors has been completely cured in the HT3550 by a bit of simple ingenuity on BenQ's part; a simple black piece of plastic placed in front of the lens that dually serves as a handsome placard for their '4K' branding. This control of light leakage on fronts is yet another boon for better contrast.
Regarding the new “Dynamic Black” feature, this is a software dimming feature and is basically a new fancy term for the “Smart Eco” Lamp Mode that has been around for 6-7 years. I didn’t care for the software dimming not because it isn’t good, it is fine, but because of how good the Dynamic Iris is on the HT3550. You see, both the iris and Smart Eco cannot be set to ‘on’ at the same time. It’s one or the other. I feel most will prefer the Iris set to on all the time.
OUT OF THE BOX COLOR
BenQ has been known for providing ‘better-than-most’ out of box color. Unbox, turn it on, and it just looks good. This was the case on the TK800, HT2550, HT2050a, and W1070 that I’ve unboxed. However, if you have ever read one of my reviews, I always lead out with “MY PREFERRED SETTINGS” and its usually a mix of brightness, contrast, and sharpness plus or minus 5 points on the settings scale, and adjustments to color temperature to get that ‘just right’ look. What can I say…. I’m a tinkerer! With that said, the HT3550 provides the best out-of-the-box color I’ve seen and there is a reason I didn’t lead with My Preferred Settings. They are for the most part, out of the box default settings. Multiple hundreds of hours into this projector, my settings are mostly the same right now as when I opened the box. And trust me, I’ve tried to break them down and change them…. But for most content and most environments, just pop it into Cinema mode and enjoy. BenQ also provides a “Factory Calibration Report” in a nicely embossed envelope for each HT3550. A nice touch to say “Hey. We care about color”. And it shows.
The HT3550 is claiming 2000 lumens, 200 less than then HT2550. However, in my testing, the HT3550 actually seems brighter than the HT2550. I have a feeling that the calibrated color brightness is better. While I felt the HT2550 was juuuuuuuust bright enough for my 160” screen, with the HT3550 the perceived brightness is spot on to my eye for this screen size in the default Cinema Mode.
HDR brightness, as stated earlier, is also fantastic.
The HT2550 and TK800 did 3D well enough but they were a bit finicky to get the source locked in. The image was a bit green in tint and it was hard to get personal top-bottom and side-by-side content to display. Every time you wanted to watch 3D content, you had to manually engage 3D mode which wasn’t that big of deal but it was a step back in performance and feature-set from the W1070, in my opinion.
The HT3550 is vastly improved with 3D content handling and performance. When a 3D Blu Ray is played, the projector will automatically lock on and switch to 3D mode. Nothing needs to be done by the user. I watched Tron:3D from the Blu Ray and it was a treat. I sat 11’ away in my first row from my 160” screen. My 3D glasses FOV was all screen and it was incredibly immersive. With glasses on, the image was just-bright-enough for my 160” screen. I tested my own personal 3D library of titles being streamed on Plex with my Nvidia Shield. It is all SBS content and all I had to do was change the Shield’s resolution to 1080p and change the projector 3D mode to SBS. Everything I threw at it was picked up by the HT3550. Handshaking only lasted a few seconds compared to the 26 seconds the HT2550 took to handshake with 3D. Avatar 3D was awesome on the HT3550 and 3D was very well done. The little air-jellyfish scene when it lands on the arrow made it seem like I could reach out and grab the little thing!
For those that care, 3D is done at 120hz on this projector. The W1070 did 3D at 144hz but the difference is so negligible that I could not see a difference in motion handling between the two.
I’m really glad that 3D is sticking around and its being improved upon and support by BenQ. For those that are really invested in 3D and it is a big priority I would consider something in the TK800 family of projectors. Currently the TK line is a family of one projector, the TK800, but it a family that will be growing here in the first half of 2019. With 3D, the brighter the better with and with focus not solely on color accuracy, 3D is right up the TK alley.
I’m a casual gamer and I have put probably 20-30 hours of gaming into the HT3550 so far. The image looks great and it’s a blast to play on. Input lag has not improved over the last gen of BenQ’s however. Early input lag measurements are pinning this at 50-60ms which equate to two frames of the game. I’m not equipped to measure but what I am equipped with are two eyeballs and two thumbs. Those bio-inputs tell me that, as a casual gamer, the input lag is not noticeable to me and it’s a blast to play on. I’m sure pro-gamers care about 50ms of input lag and if that amount of input lag is unacceptable, I know the HT2050/2050a and a couple of 1080p Optoma projectors achieve input lag close to single digits.
For kicks and giggles, I also tested gaming with my PC rig on the HT3550. I have a rig I built with a 6700k, 32GB 3000 MHz RAM, GTX 1070, and 512 GB NVMe drive. I mainly play League of Legends on it (I know, overkill build for LoL. Dat 700 fps tho) at a high Plat, low Diamond level. I created a custom 1080p 120hz resolution on my PC and the HT2550 handled its with aplomb. Mouse movements were fluid as you would expect with a high refresh rate monitor. I did notice the input lag on PC more than the Xbox since I am used to my GSync monitor and my mouse movements are more fine than an Xbox controller. However, I still had blast in the couple of ARAM games I played on it on the big screen. I could definitely get used to playing my PC on the HT3550.
Placement is key so I want to spend a good section on addressing this. The combination of throw, zoom, and offset is going to determine if and where a projector makes sense in your space.
Throw ratio is the measurement that tells us how large the projected image is relative to the distance you are from the screen. The reason this spec is always a range is because the zoom of the projector allows you to project different image sizes from the same lens location. How large the range is a direct correlation to how large to zoom is. The actual throw ratio calculation is simple. The HT3550 has a ‘throw ratio’ of 1.13-1.47. Let’s use a 100” diagonal 16:9 screen as an example. To determine the minimum distance the projector lens can be from the screen to project a 100” image, you multiply 87” (width of the screen) by the lower number in the throw ratio, 1.13. The product is 98”, or 8’2”. To determine the maximum distance the lens can be at to project a 100” image, you multiply 87” (width of screen) by the larger number in the throw ratio, 1.47. The product is 128” (rounded), or 10’8”. This tells us the range the lens can be from the screen is 8’2” to 10’8” for this projector to squarely place a 100” image on the screen.
Offset is the other key measurement in determining where to place the projector and/or the screen if you are starting from scratch. Offset is the spec that tells the user how much of the projected image is above or below the lens of the projector. A 0% offset would mean the lens would be dead center in the image; not ideal for many ceiling or table mounted locations. Most DLP projectors have an offset of 100% or more meaning that the lens is entirely below/above the projected image. The calculation is another simple and straight forward one. We will use the same 100” image example as throw ratio. The HT3550 has a starting offset of 105%. What that means is that if the HT3550 is ceiling mounted, the entire image will be below the lens with a screen-to-lens distance gap of 5% of the image’s height . A 100” screen has a heigh of 49”. With a 100” image and a 105% offset, the defaults lens position of the HT3550 is approx 2.5” above a squarely placed image.
Lens shift adds another variable to placement, albeit and beneficial one. The HT3550 has a lens shift of +/- 5%. This directly impacts the offset of the image above. There is a dial on the projector that can adjust the offset +/- 5% up or down. This results in additional 2.5” up or down that the image can be adjusted to without resorting to digital keystone. So the lens on the HT3550, when ceiling mounted and with a 100” screen, has the range to be 0”-5” above the projected image.
To determine where the top of your screen needs to be in relation to the ceiling, the additional distance from the lens to the ceiling needs to be calculated. Most mounts place the lens about 7” from the ceiling. What this means is the top of the 100” screen you are projecting to can be anywhere from 7”-12” from the ceiling with a mount that places the center of the lens 7” from the ceiling.
It’s much simpler than I just explained it. But for those that care and are just getting into projectors, the more info the better
Some projectors have better and worse range. While the HT3550 does not have the legendary placement flexibility afforded by a manufacturer like Epson, I think you’ll find this placement flexibility par for the course in this price range. The addition of a small amount of lens shift is most welcome and was glaringly absent from the HT2550 and TK800.
For owners of the W1070 and HT2050, the throw ratio, offset, and lens shift is nearly identical. This represents a direct upgrade path without changing mounting location or screen size. An easy swap.
I will say that the actuation of the lens shift is much easier on the HT3550 than it was on the W1070 where a screw driver was necessary to adjust lens shift. A small dial in the zoom and focus adjustment cluster allows for quick adjustment . While actuating the lens shift in the full range I did notice a small dead zone at around 105%, the neutral lens position, where the lens shift hesitates and then engages again. I was told that this will be addressed in mass production but thought I would mention its presence in my engineering unit. Not a big deal one way or the other.
The HT3550 is truly impressive piece of kit. To put it lightly, it is the projector I think we all (and BenQ) wanted the HT2550 to be. Very high expectations were placed on the HT3550 and I can emphatically say that I believe this is the “silver bullet” for 4K projectors that the W1070 was 6 years ago. As of February of 2019 I don’t know of anything else that cam compete with this projector in the market at its price point. If you are considering a 4K projector under $2,000, heck even under $3,000, the HT3550 should be on your list.
In classic Pro/Meh’s fashion, here is my official breakdown:
- Good blacks and contrast. Dark letterboxing. Good localized black levels.
- Goodbye grey border!
- Dynamic Iris FTW!
- Welcome back (minor) lens shift
- Very good out of the box image
- 4K image is sharp
- HDR implementation best I’ve seen from projector to date
- Auto HDR10 mode
- Color is very very good
- 3D is handled well
- Quick power-on, menu responsiveness, and handshaking of all source-types
- Good brightness considering color accuracy. 3D and ambient light spaces could benefit from TK equivalent.
- Fan noise is improved from last gen.
- Low light leakage
- Well rounded feature set with HLG and CFI
- Input lag is average, still playable
- My sample unit had slight focus uniformity and aberration issues (improved in production?)
- Outdated user interface