BenQ TK850 4K HDR10/HLG 3000lm Home Entertainment Projector Review and Owners Thread
I've had the opportunity to take a look at a review sample of BenQ's latest, affordable 4K projector: the TK850. Following the release of the HT3550 last year, the TK850 uses the same chassis and much of the same feature set as that 'step up' home theater projector but is rated at a much higher 3000 lumens (versus the HT3550's 2000 lumen rating). It does this by replacing the HT3550's RGBRGB color wheel with one that includes a white slice (RGBW). The result is significantly improved light output but at the cost of the HT3550's wide color capability. I've been eagerly awaiting a chance to review this projector as it appears to combine the most sought after features of the HT3550 in a brighter package for those looking for a more capable living room projector or TV replacement.
As always, the following are my own thoughts and opinions and I was not compensated for this review.
1. Overview and Hardware Tour
2. Picture Quality and Performance
3. Viewing Experience
4. Final Thoughts and Conclusion
1. Overview and Hardware Tour
The BenQ TK850 is a single chip, True 4K DLP projector rated at 3000 ANSI lumens. It utilizes Texas Instrument's XPR pixel shifting technology to achieve a full 4K resolution of 3840x2160, or roughly 8.3 million pixels. The TK850 is the latest BenQ projector to feature a dynamic iris for improved contrast/blacks as well as BenQ's HDR-Pro tone mapping with support for HDR10/HLG. Also included in the package is BenQ's suite of Cinemamaster picture enhancements which includes a 4K pixel sharpening algorithm as well as a 4K motion enhancement feature. The TK850 is a 3D capable display with DLP-link 3D shutter glasses (not included) and is one of the only 4K DLPs on the market that can display 24Hz film content natively.
BenQ includes five selectable picture presets for the TK850: Sport, Living Room, Cinema, Bright and User. As well as offering three source dependent modes: HDR, HLG and 3D (the TK850 auto-detects HDR and 3D content and places the projector in the appropriate mode). All modes are fully adjustable with controls for gamma or 'HDR brightness', white balance, RGB bias/gain and a slider for the Brilliant Color. The latter is a feature which is brand new to BenQ projectors. You can select from four different settings for the dynamic iris: High, mid, low and off. As well as all three different lamp power settings: Normal, Eco and SmartEco. SmartEco is a lamp dimming mode which saves on lamp life but disables the iris.
The chassis of the TK850 is all but identical to it's stablemate, the HT3550. With the only notable difference being the TK850's brushed-metal face plate is blue instead of bronze. This is a compact, lightweight projector (less than 10 lbs) that can be ceiling mounted or simply placed on a coffee table out in front of the viewing area. The TK850's short throw of 1.13 - 1.47 is capable of projecting a 100" image in as little as 9ft. To assist in placement the 10 element, all-glass lens array features a 1.3x zoom ratio and a modest vertical lens shift of 10% image height. BenQ includes an automatic vertical keystone/leveling feature that I recommend disabling if mounting the projector.
For I/O we get 2 full bandwidth HDMI 2.0b/HDCP2.2 ports, a USB 3.0 for the included media player (as well as any future firmware revisions), a 5V/2.5A USB power port and a pair of audio outputs in the form of a SPDIF digital optical out and a 3.5mm analog output. Also around back you'll find an RS-232 port as well as a 12V trigger.
The included backlit remote is the same unit BenQ includes with it's HT3550. It features easy menu navigation as well as handy one-button access to things like the test pattern and dynamic iris.
A pair of surprisingly effective internal 5 watt speakers are built in. As always, I recommend an external sound system but the included sound is nice to have in a pinch.
BenQ rates lamp life at 4,000 hours in Normal, 10,000 hours in Eco and a whopping 15,000 hours in SmartEco (keep in mind that SmartEco is a lamp dimming mode and will disable the dynamic iris). Official replacement lamps cost $150. BenQ warranties the TK850 for 3 full years and the lamp is covered for 1 year.
2. Picture Quality and Performance
The TK850 is a 'True 4K' DLP projector meaning every single one of the 8.3 million pixels present in a 4K source image is addressed here. This is distinct from competing pixel shift technologies that result in a simulated 4K image of around 4 million pixels-- half the pixel count of 4K. In addition, the single chip design of the BenQ and other 4K DLPs means the TK850 is impervious to convergence or alignment errors. The nature of pixel shifting means the individual pixels aren't as fine as those found in (much more expensive) native 4K projectors. But this does have it's silver lining in that there is no pixel gap to speak of even with your nose pressed up against the screen.
Of course, with a projector, pixel count is only half the story. The lens needs to be able to translate all eight million of those pixels to the screen. BenQ touts their use of an all glass lens array and, as with most short throw models, focus is sharpest in the middle two thirds of the image but softens only slightly towards the left/right edges of the screen. This is very good performance. However, BenQ's glass does show more chromatic aberration than I'd like. Appearing as a subtle purple glow around bright white text/graphics on a dark background. To be fair, this artifact is not easy to detect from typical seating distances and I never witnessed the artifact in content. Overall, the TK850 is remarkably sharp. 4K images will come through in all their ultra high definition glory.
As one of the few 4K DLPs on the market to include a dynamic iris, my expectations were high for the TK850's contrast performance. Out of the box with the projector in it's Normal lamp mode and the iris turned off I measured 0.141 cd/m2 (nits) black. This is the projectors native black level. Turning the iris on makes for a significant improvement and I measured 0.071 cd/m2 black with the iris set to High.
My overall impression of the TK850's contrast performance is quite good for a model aimed at living room use. Obviously, full field black scenes still look decidedly grey. But the high lumen output of the TK850 means if there is any bright element in the scene, contrast will be retained with dark portions of the image looking solidly black. Perhaps most importantly, I didn't notice any decrease in performance when reducing the iris to Mid. That's good because High introduced too much brightness pumping for my taste.
Color and Brightness
BenQ claims 98% coverage of the Rec.709 color gamut and I'm happy to report that I was able to confirm this in my testing. Out of the box the BenQ ships in it's Sport picture preset which measures a full 100% coverage of Rec.709 and an impressive 118.7% Rec.709 color volume. The TK850 is not advertised as being a wide color display and I measured 83.5% DCI-P3 gamut coverage and 84.1% DCI-P3 color volume. Repeated testing of the Sport preset reveals an average delta E color error of 5.3. So, Sport is not the most color accurate picture preset but this appears to be less a bug than a feature. With a slightly cool picture bias and oversaturated color, the Sport preset looks a bit garish in a dark testing environment but acquits itself much better under ambient light. Which is no doubt the intention.
The Living Room preset measures very closely to Sport in terms of both color gamut and color volume but average color errors rise to over 6.5. Output is largely the same. With the TK850's telephoto lens engaged at near it's maximum and the lamp set to Normal, both the Sport and Living Room modes measured similar output on my 100" 16:9 screen-- an eye searing 160 cd/m2 (nits). But with it's flattened gamma, Living Room does have an advantage under especially bright room lighting. Speaking of which, the Bright preset adds a few more nits but comes at the penalty of significant green bias. I didn't bother measuring this mode as I suspect few will have any use for it.
Color accuracy improves when you move to the Cinema preset. While I measured a small drop in Rec.709 gamut coverage and color volume to 97.6% and 103.3% respectfully (with a similar drop to DCI-P3 coverage at 72.8%), average delta E color errors improve to 4.3. Cinema doesn't just measure better, it looks better as well with more natural looking skin tones and better color balance. You don't lose much in the way of output either, with the lamp still in Normal I measured a massive 140 cd/m2 in Cinema.
If you're looking to improve the picture further, especially for dim/dark room viewing, Cinema is a great place to start. With only a few basic tweaks-- including reducing the Brilliant Color setting to 4 and making small adjustments to white balance-- I was able to drop average Delta E errors into the low 3s and achieve a near ideal 6470K white point. Making these changes as well as selecting the Eco lamp mode also makes the picture more comfortable for use in low light situations: I measured 76 cd/m2 with these setting.
[Just an FYI: I don’t recommend turning Brilliant color off unless you have tools to calibrate. At zero, color errors actually increased and I had difficulty getting a good white balance with the picture taking on a magenta hue.]
HDR is difficult for most displays and especially so for projectors. So how a display handles that HDR content, or how it tone maps that content, is of the utmost importance. The TK850 is equipped with BenQ's proprietary HDR-Pro tone mapping algorithm. HDR-Pro debuted last year on the HT3550 and I mentioned at the time that it represented about the best HDR performance I had seen on a projector to date. The big difference is the HT3550 uses an RGBRGB color wheel (without the TK850's white slice) and has a wide color filter that allows it to achieve near total coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut. The addition of DCI-P3 to the HT3550 was a real game changer in this price range as it brought one of the biggest elements of the Ultra High Definition standard to projectors at an affordable price. With the TK850 lacking wide color support I was curious to see how the TK850 would perform.
In test patterns the TK850 fairs pretty well, showing only minor banding in projectorcentral's excellent 10bit HDR Greyscale animation. Out of the box, the Brilliant Color feature is set at it's maximum for HDR content. This is much too high and will cause noticeable color clipping/banding as I'll get into later in the review. Mehanik's HDR10 test patterns confirmed the color clipping although white clipping performance is about as good as you can expect of a projector.
I live in an apartment where my decibel meter measures around 33dB at the best of times. The TK850 only managed to raise that number to 38dB in it's Eco lamp setting and 42dB in it's Normal lamp setting. This is mostly all fan noise which I find to be the least offensive and the easiest to ignore with a show on. BenQ, to their credit, has all but exorcised the actuator noise (pixel shifting) of their prior generations of 4K projectors and, unlike the HT3550/HT550 before it, the TK850's iris is almost completely silent in operation. What's more, the TK850's prodigious lumen output means you'll rarely need to run the projector in anything but Eco even when viewing in a well lit room.
BenQ claims the TK850 should be capable of hitting 58-70ms of lag. Unfortunately, I could not verify this in my testing. In fact, the lowest input lag measurement I was able to achieve on the TK850 was 84ms. Now, to be fair, this measurement was attained using an HD input signal. There is a possibility that a 4K input signal would test lower. But even if I were able to confirm BenQ's estimates-- and I'm taking into consideration that sensitivity to input lag varies greatly from person to person-- I would still not be able to recommend the TK850 as a gaming display. The amount of input lag here is high enough that, even if a player were to claim not to sense it, it would definitely impact their performance. In any case, there are 4K projectors with much lower input lag than the TK850 including BenQ's own TK800M.
BenQ equips the TK850 with their CinemaMaster suite of picture enhancements. Here you'll find a 4K pixel sharpening feature as well as a color enhancer and the 4K motion smoothing feature. I mostly left the color enhancer alone as I found it to add varying levels of 'vividness' to the image that I didn't enjoy. The 4K pixel enhancer, on the other hand, is a nice inclusion and I found a setting around 3 or 4 made for a nice boost to image sharpness without looking artificial. Ditto for the 4K motion enhancer, which does a good job of improving motion without introducing SOE (soap opera effect). One thing to note here is the TK850 is one of just a few projectors in this price range to offer a motion smoothing feature that works in 4K.
3. Viewing Experience
High Definition / Standard Dynamic Range
With the TK850 aimed squarely at providing living room entertainment for big screen sports and binge watching, it's ability to display less-than-4K material will be a top priority.
2015's Jurassic World is an immensely enjoyable return for the franchise and the HD Blu-ray release is a superb transfer of a movie largely shot on 35mm film. Here I gave the TK850's Cinema mode a workout. Despite the HD source, image detail came through very well with everything from the scaly skin of the dinosaurs to the texture of the actors clothes resolving well. Colors look natural and there is a strong sense of depth to the image. The scene (meme?) where Chris Pratt rides a motorcycle flanked by a trio of raptors did reveal the limitations of the TK850's black level, but things never get mushy and detail near black remains very good. Special credit goes to the TK850's ability to display film in it’s native 24Hz-- Jurassic World contains several aerial panning shots of the island that all appeared, thankfully, smooth and judder free.
Next, with my fiancé as my guide, I moved on to some streaming content. I'm admittedly late to The Good Place seeing as how it is nearing the conclusion of it's 4th and final season. But, hey, there's no better time to start than now. With a couple of lights on so my fiancé could work on a craft project, Cinema still proved more than capable of standing up to ambient light. Skin tones remained natural and the bright, sunny world of the 'Good Place' looked fantastic even under significant room lighting. Throughout our several hour binge session the image remained rock solid and I again noted how well the TK850 is able to upscale lower resolution content to near-4K levels of clarity.
BenQ markets the TK850 as a projector aimed at Sports fans and with friends and family over for the holidays it was a perfect time to test the TK850 out with some NBA and NFL action. In the Sport preset with lights on throughout our apartment I was amazed at just how capable the TK850 is at cutting through ambient light! To be clear, no projector can handle ambient light as well as an LCD flat panel, especially when projecting onto a white screen as I have. But then, no LCD flat panel draws the attention of friends and family the way 100 inches of basketball or football can! In this role the TK850 is a resounding success with a bright, punchy image that, while not strictly accurate in it's Sport preset, is a perfect complement to weekend game days.
I even found a lot to love about BenQ's 4K Motion Enhancement feature here. I normally loathe frame interpolation features such as this but found that the BenQ implementation made for a nice boost to the appearance of motion while not introducing the dreaded Soap Opera Effect or other distracting artifacts. While the core motion handling of the TK850 is excellent and impervious to motion blur, the 4K motion enhancement feature can definitely make a big difference if your provider or streaming service doesn't broadcast sports at 60fps.
Ultra High Definition / High Dynamic Range
I started my 4K/HDR testing off with the mostly unloved 2018 sequel: Pacific Rim Uprising. Although upconverted from a 2K intermediate, the 4K Blu-ray is still a fantastic reference disc thanks to it's bombastic, neon-soaked spectacle of giant robots and giant kaiju punching each other. I'm glad I started with this particular film as it proved to be a bit of a torture test for the TK850's HDR capabilities. As I mentioned before, the BenQ ships with the Brilliant Color feature set to it's maximum for HDR content. Unfortunately, this resulted in visible clipping especially in the electric blue of the kaiju's blood and in the various reds and oranges of the holographic computer screens used throughout the movie. Going back to my test patterns, I ended up reducing Brilliant Color to 4 out of 10 which I kept for the remainder of my testing. This fixed the clipping issues and actually resulted in a more vibrant, albeit slightly dimmer image. Despite this the TK850 still proved plenty bright in HDR when, later in the film, the various sparks and flashes of the damaged Jaeger cockpit held sufficient pop.
Sticking with the sequel theme, I moved on to anther 2018 release: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. Shot digitally on the ARRI Alexa 65 and featuring some truly breathtaking special effects, this 4K Blu-ray release proved a good match for the TK850. Despite the TK850 lacking wide color support, the green foliage of the island where the film starts was richly saturated and every blade of grass came through in crystal 4K clarity. There is a better sense of contrast in HDR than SDR and a few scenes stuck out to me. In the scene when Claire and Franklin are trapped in a bunker with a hungry dinosaur during the eruption, the TK850's extra punch in HDR is put to good effect in the bright dripping lava flow. Later in the movie the plot takes a turn and the whole feature ends up resembling something closer to a horror film than a summer actioner. Here, within the shadowy confines of a creepy mansion, the TK850's iris does it best to keep the mostly dark locale appearing black and again shadow detail is well maintained.
I finished up my UHD testing with a tour of some of my favorite scenes on some of my favorite reference discs.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle has one of the best examples of expanded color gamut usage in a film. In the scene where we are introduced to our villain, Julianne Moore's Poppy, we are taken for a long tracking shot through the rain forest ending up inside a vibrant red, 50's themed diner that doubles as her lair. This scene is of particular note on wide color capable displays as the diner is a beautiful deep red that is only possible with DCI-P3. With it's lack of DCI-P3 support, the TK850 renders the diner in the familiar orange-y/red hue that Rec 709 is limited to.
Shot on a combination of IMAX digital and 35mm film and featuring a 4K intermediate, the 4K Blu-ray release of MI: Fallout is a fantastic reference disc… but maybe not for the reasons you might think. The 35mm sections of the movie feature a very prevalent film grain that proved controversial with a lot of viewers. I was happy to see the TK850 retains the film grain without either smoothing it out (and thus making the image look artificially soft) or over emphasizing the grain (which would make the image appear noisy).
Lastly, no 4K projector review would be complete without a look at the Planet Earth II 4K Blu-ray. A must-have for any enthusiast, PEII is absolutely jaw dropping and the TK850 handles the content beautifully. While there were a few scenes where I missed the color capabilities of a wide color projector like the HT3550, overall, the HDR performance here is solid. The racer snake scene on the Islands episode is a great test of a display's ability to render detail in motion. This is a busy scene and on many displays the fine texture of gravel and volcanic rock can get lost, especially once the chase begins. The TK850 absolutely nailed this scene reinforcing just how sharp it's 4K image is even in motion. Again, special attention needs to be paid to the TK850's ability to display 24Hz film content natively. With the many camera pans and fly over shots appearing smooth and judder free.
With fewer and fewer releases seeing the light of day and the industry as a whole largely abandoning the format on new 4K displays, things aren't looking good for fans of 3D. Still, BenQ has included 3D playback on each and every one of their affordable 4K projectors so far and the TK850 might be the best yet in terms of performance. When you load up a 3D disc the TK850 will automatically detect the 3D content and move to the corresponding 3D picture mode. This actually shuts off the pixel shifting and operates the projector in HD (1920x1080p). The BenQ is compatible with any make/model of DLP link active shutter glasses although none are included. No RF option is available.
The trick to a good 3D image is having enough lumens to compensate for the dimming effect of the 3D shutter glasses. The TK850 has lumens to spare and the result is a bright, punchy 3D image. I watched the 3D Blu-ray of Alita: Battle Angel and it reminded me of just how enjoyable 3D content can be on an immersive, quality 3D projector. With reasonably accurate color and a bright, sharp picture with plenty of depth and no hint of crosstalk artifacts: this is one of the best 3D projectors I have reviewed.
4. Final Thoughts and Conclusion
Don't think a projector can replace a conventional TV? Think again!
I always enjoy reviewing products like the TK850. With it's generous lumen output, small size and short throw it can provide big screen entertainment in almost any environment. Whether you want to use it in a media room attached to a full surround system or simply set it up when and where you want using the included speakers, the TK850 is flexible enough to fill a variety of roles. This is a fun, feature rich projector that provides an outstanding 4K picture at an affordable price. I would highly recommend this projector to anyone looking for a model that can be used with the lights on or off!
Of course, no discussion of the TK850 is complete without mentioning it's stablemate, the HT3550. While both the HT3550 and TK850 share a chassis and most of their feature set, their pictures and intended purpose couldn't be more different. The TK850 offers a substantial increase in lumen output for competing with ambient light in a media room or living room. It is certainly the more flexible of the two when it comes to the environments it will work in. But this does come at the cost of some dark room image performance and, specifically, the wide color capabilities and factory calibration of the HT3550. This is most apparent with HDR content, where the HT3550 has a distinct advantage with it's richer color palette and slightly deeper blacks-- assuming you have a dark or treated room to display it in. The TK850's HDR image, while solid after some adjustment, doesn't offer as much of an upgrade over it's SDR image as the HT3550 does. Conversely, if you don't have a dedicated space or prefer not to be limited to dim or dark room viewing then the TK850 offers a clear advantage.
Razer sharp 4K picture and motion clarity
Generous lumen output that is flexible enough to be used in a variety of room types
Good contrast and solid black levels
Well built and quiet in operation
What Could be Better:
HDR doesn't add as much as BenQ's wide color models