NEW PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENT
BenQ CinePrime HT5550 & HT3550 4K DLP Projectors
BenQ has announced availability on April 16th of its CinePrime HT5550 4K DLP home theater projector, a step-up model from the recently launched CinePrime HT3550 that adds more premium features and improved performance.
Priced at $2,499 vs. $1,499 for the HT3550, the HT5550 represents the first time in several years that BenQ has offered a home theater projector that sits between its $1,500-and-under entry-level models and the high-end HT8000 and HT9000 CinePro series projectors targeted at the integrator channel. This year's HT8060 and HT9060 carry MSRPs of $7,999 and $8,999, respectively, and offer benefits that include an ultra-high-quality 4K lens system and, in the case of the HT9060, a sophisticated LED light engine built on the Philips ColorSpark technology. So while the HT3550 is intended as a replacement for BenQ's earlier HT2550 model, the HT5550 is a new drop-in.
Both the HT3550 and HT5550 feature some key benefits that have become increasingly important for home theater enthusiasts, including the ability to reproduce colors across most or all of the DCI-P3 color space that is used to master today's UHD content. DCI-P3 is 26% larger than the traditional Rec.709 HDTV color gamut, offering additional color range in the most saturated reds and greens that becomes obvious with some content. The HT5550 claims full 100% coverage of DCI-P3, while the HT3550 is said to hit 95% of DCI-P3—a nice perk at its modest price point.
In addition, as part of what BenQ is calling its CinematicColor techology, the projectors both have color modes targeting the D65 reference white point, and have been tuned with an ISF-type calibration at the factory to stay within acceptable error levels of D65 across the full brightness range. D65 is a neutral gray akin to natural daylight that is used to define white in the mastering of entertainment content; displays should ideally reproduce it across their grayscale from the darkest to the brightest whites without any obvious red or blue tint. The HT3550 and HT5550 each come with a certificate from the factory showing the results of their color-space and grayscale calibrations.
Both projectors also feature compatibility with both HDR10 and HLG high dynamic range content. BenQ has further advanced its HDR tone-mapping and image rendering over its prior generation HDR projectors with a package of technologies dubbed HDR-PRO. It is said to "incorporate auto-color and tone mapping techniques to offer superior brightness and contrast ranges as well as ideal image optimization."
The HT5550 distinguishes itself from the HT3550 in a number of ways beyond its slightly wider color gamut. It is built on a larger and heavier chassis to accommodate a bigger and more sophisticated, center-mounted lens (an 11-layer vs. 10-layer all-glass design). While the more compact HT3550 offers a relatively short throw lens with modest vertical lens shift and zoom designed to accommodate close-up coffee-table placements, the HT5550 is more flexible and offers up a generous 1.6x zoom and +/- 60% vertical as well as +/- 23% horizontal lens shift. (Both projectors offer keystone correction, which we always recommend you avoid using to prevent image degradation.) The stylish "4K HDR"-emblazoned barrier visible in front of the HT3550's lens is a stationary shroud that has no effect on image geometry but prevents the lens from spilling light onto the ceiling when it is ceiling-mounted, a complaint with the older HT2550 that has been successfully addressed here.
Although the HT5550 offers slightly lower rated full brightness (1,800 lumens) than the HT3550 (2,000 lumens), it has a more sophisticated dynamic iris system that results in a 100,000:1 full-on/full-off dynamic contrast ratio and noticebly deeper blacks vs. the HT3550's 30,000:1 rating. Both models use the 0.5-inch 4K DLP chipset, which relies on a 4-phase pixel-shifting technique to bring all of the pixels in a 3840x2160 UHD-resolution signal to the screen.
The connection panels on both projectors are generous. They share in common a pair of HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2-complaint HDMI ports; a USB 3.0 input for playback from a flash drive via the onboard media reader as well as a USB power port for use with streaming or other dongles; and both 12 volt trigger and RS-232C serial connections for control. Unusually, each also features a 3.5mm analog audio output and an optical audio output to accommodate a variety of audio playback systems. (The HT3550, which is clearly expected to see more action as a portable projector for temporary setups, also includes a pair of 5-watt stereo speakers.
The CinePrime HT3550 began shipping earlier this month and is widely available from online retailers including ProjectorCentral's affiliated resellers. The CinePrime HT5550 will be available at retail starting on April 16th from the same channels; SnapAV will initially have exclusive wholesale distribution rights for the custom integrator community. Equivalent models for the overseas markets are the W2700 (for the HT3550) and the W5700 (for the HT5550).