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Review Contents
Best Home Theater Projector
Performance
4
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
DIY Home Theater
BenQ HT3550 Projector BenQ HT3550
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30000:1 Contrast Ratio
2000 Lumens
Full HD 3D
$1,499 Street Price

BenQ HT3550 4K DLP Projector Review

M. David Stone, June 26, 2019

Connections & Measurements

• (2) HDMI 2.0b (both with HDCP 2.2)
• (1) USB Type A 3.0 (media reader and firmware upgrades)
• (1) USB Type A (power only)
• (1) USB Type Mini B (service only)
• (1) DC 12v trigger (3.5mm mini jack)
• (2) IR Receiver (Front/Top)
• (2) Audio out (3.5mm stereo mini Jack, S/PDIF optical)
• (1) RS-232 (D-sub 9 pin, male; for control)

BenQ-HT3550-Connections

Brightness. The HT3550's brightest mode came in at 1,575 ANSI lumens, which is not quite 80% of the 2,000-lumen rating. BenQ says that's about 150 lumens lower brightness than it measured before shipping, which suggests it may have been subjected to some rough handling. (It doesn't take much misalignment from a physical shock to lower the brightness a few percent.) However, the more important measurements are for Vivid TV, Cinema, and D. Cinema modes—the three modes you're most likely to use. With the 1.3x zoom lens set to its widest angle setting, the measured ANSI lumens for Normal (full power) and Economic modes in each color mode was as follows:

BenQ HT3550 ANSI Lumens

MODE Normal Economic
Bright 1575 1202
Vivid TV 708 541
Cinema (REC. 709) 785 599
D.Cinema 553 422
Silence 732 559

Straight out of the box, Bright mode had a noticeable green shift, as with the brightest mode for most projectors. All the other modes were close enough to neutral that most people will find them quite usable as is. That makes Cinema the brightest mode without an obvious color shift. At 785 lumens, it's bright enough to light up a 90-inch 1.3 gain screen in moderate ambient light.

Zoom Lens Light Loss: 8%

Brightness Uniformity (Wide Zoom): 63%

Brightness Uniformity (Full Telephoto Zoom): 67%

Lowest Measured Input Lag (4K): 47-51 ms, all modes, frame interpolation off

Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p): 60-61 ms, all modes, frame interpolation off

Fan Noise. BenQ rates Normal mode at 30 dB and Economic 28 dB. Both are loud enough to hear the whoosh of air from anywhere in a small room during quiet moments. It's the kind of steady sound that I don't find annoying, but those who are particularly bothered by noise may feel otherwise. Silence mode didn't lower volume by enough to make much difference with either setting. High Altitude mode, which BenQ recommends at 4,921 feet and above, is loud enough that most people will want to consider some form of acoustic isolation.

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Performance, Conclusion
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Comments (16) Post a Comment
David Gurney Posted Jun 27, 2019 2:32 AM PST
Can we please stop calling pixel-shifting HD-to-4K projectors "4K?"

Come on, guys. This site should do better and its readers should expect better.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jun 27, 2019 2:42 AM PST
David, I understand the distinction between this and a true "native" 4K projector that delivers all the pixels of a UHD or 4K signal to the screen simultaneously, but it's a mischaracterization to not call it a 4K projector when it's delivering all the pixels in the signal in the timeframe required, and when it does so with excellent results that (short of a huge leap in the quality of optics) performs about as well as a native 4K projector. We are very careful not to refer to these projectors as "native 4K" and reserve that for projectors whose imagers have full UHD or 4K resolution. That said, discussion of the Epsons as 4K is a bit misleading--what they call 4K or 4K enhanced is really 1080p pixel shifted just twice rather than the 4 times required in the 0.47-inch DLP chips or twice in the 0.66-inch DLP chips. But we use Epson's (clearly marketing driven) product designation and explain clearly in the reviews what's going on inside the projector.
Chris Posted Jun 27, 2019 11:47 AM PST
I tried the calculator to see if this would work in my room, but it said to reduce picture size as it'll be too dim at any throw distance. My Epson 8345, rated at 1800 ANSI lumens shows fine. What's the difference? The calculator works nice & cleanly I must say. One thing that's missing is the screen gain though. I have an Elunevision Elara with 2.4 gain, so it would be good to see the difference different gains make.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jun 27, 2019 11:50 AM PST
Chris, I'll refer you here to my response to David below regarding how we arrive at estimates for the calculator and why the reading may be coming up low. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have the juice to light up your screen, only that the mode we're using for the estimate might not have the reserves needed.

And our calculator does have a field to punch in your screen gain...

Joe N Tell Posted Jun 27, 2019 12:23 PM PST
I just wanted to say that this is an excellent and thorough review. Thank you for everything you do.
Brandon M. Posted Jun 27, 2019 1:21 PM PST
Thanks for the review! I most appreciate that you include 3D in your reviews, as that is one of my most important consideration along with many others. I am happy enough with my 1500-hour HT3050 for now, but am looking forward to some of the upcoming bright laser projectors with both 4K and 3D. The HT3550 is just going to be too dim for me. Take care!
David Posted Jun 27, 2019 4:47 PM PST
Just checked your calculator..this projected has limited brightness(12) for. a 120” screen at 1.1 gain? am I reading this right?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jun 28, 2019 1:54 PM PST
Well, yes David, you read it right, but this estimate needs to be taken with just a bit of salt and some understanding of context.

For most home theater projectors, our new calculator offers two choices to arrive at a brightness estimate for a given screen size and gain. There is a button to select the ProjectorCentral estimate for calibrated dark-room settings, or to use the manufacturer's full rated brightness specification (in Lumens) as the basis. The ProjectorCentral estimate, if available, is based on one of two things. If we haven't reviewed this particular projector, we apply a reduction in light output based on our experience with the brand to make a rough call on what it will put out in the preferred dark-room color mode with the most accurate color. As you probably know from looking at our reviews, the calibrated image for dark room viewing rarely comes close to the full output of the projector in its brightest mode...which is most often unusable due to excessive green bias meant to pump up the lumen spec.

If we have reviewed the projector, we report the calibrated peak white light output from the review to Bobette, our database maven, and that becomes the basis for the ProjectorCentral brightness estimate in the calculator. For example, here's a pertinent excerpt from David's review of the HT3550:

"After all the adjustments, including tweaking brightness and contrast, the grayscale and color accuracy were both excellent, especially for a projector at this low price. Leaving the lamp in Normal power mode, I measured D. Cinema mode at 467 lumens, giving me a touch over 19 foot-Lamberts with a 90-inch diagonal image on my 1.0-gain white screen."

If you go to the calculator, plug in 90 inches for the screen size and 1.0 for the gain, you'll get a result of 19 ft-L at mid-zoom, and a range of 18 to 20 ft-L across the full available range of the zoom. If you bump the image size up to 120-inch diagonal and the gain up to 1.1, then you end up with a range from 11 to 12 ft-L within the available zoom range.

So what does that mean? It means that this projector, which let's face it, isn't exactly a powerhouse, may not deliver enough punch to a larger 120-inch screen WHEN USED AT OUR SETTINGS FOR A 90-INCH SCREEN. Does that mean you can't get it to light up a larger screen? No, but it will be dimmer and you may not love the result if you use the D.Cinema mode we used for the review. The Cinema mode, which was an excellent alternative, was considerably brighter according to our measurements and would likely deliver the desired punch.

Keep in mind, too, that David's sample of the HT3550 showed considerably less output than the 2,000 lumen spec for this projector in its brightest mode. It's possible that a different sample might have more brightness to spare in the D.Cinema mode. That doesn't mean our calibrated brightness would have been any different -- 19 ft-L is a nice punchy image for SDR and David would not likely have tuned to the projector any brighter. However, a different sample hitting something closer to the factory spec in the brightest mode would have delivered more lumens in every color mode, which means that it might be possible to use the contrast (peak white) control to get a more favorable result in the Dark Cinema mode on the larger 120-inch screen without needing to switch to the Cinema mode for its extra reserves.

Of course, you can always just use the calculator option for the manufacturer's spec, but assume that you'll be in a different, more color-accurate mode that will considerably reduce the light output from the full spec to something that might be 1/2 or less, maybe much less. This varies by manufacturer and model, but ultimately you can see that we ended up on our 90-inch, 1.0 screen using about 1/4 (give or take) of the full manufacturer's rated output.

Gerardo Delgadillo Posted Jun 28, 2019 2:40 PM PST
I'm planning to replace my three-year-old, 4000-hour HT2550 with the HT3550. The HT2550 in eco-mode projects to a 170" screen in my dark room. And I love it. My concern with the HT3550 is the 200-lumen drop. Should I be extremely worried about this or not? I also watch the occasional 3D movie.
Gerardo Delgadillo Posted Jun 28, 2019 2:42 PM PST
Correction: I meant to say HT2050! (Not HT2550)
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jun 28, 2019 2:55 PM PST
Gerardo, that's a pretty big screen for this projector, especially if it performs like our sample, which actually came up a bit short on measured lumen output compared with the manufacturer's spec. But even if we assume an extra 20% output to account for that, you'd end up with approximately 950 lumens or so in the Cinema mode based on our measurements, which is the brightest of the two preferred color-accurate modes on the projector. That's a bit less than half of the projector's full specified output and I think would net you about 11-12 ft-L on your 170-inch screen at the widest (closest) zoom setting. It'll be a lot dimmer in 3D, obviously. You could get more light from it in bright mode, but with a noticeable green bias.

Not sure what you're getting now from your 2050, or what settings or screen gain you're using, but your concern about having enough firepower here to take full advantage of UHD HDR content for such a large screen is legit. You do sacrifice some brightness in these 4K projectors to get better color fidelity and gamut.
SimonBG Posted Jun 30, 2019 6:09 AM PST
Another disappointment from BenQ (I own one). Marketing it at 2000 lumens when it can barely hit 800 usable should be punishable. In this case, the punishing system is my wallet (I was hoping to upgrade to this one). Shame.
mike Posted Jul 2, 2019 12:06 PM PST
I have a BENQ 3550, i purchased a 175" screen, will the projector still handle this large screen size ?
kzh Posted Jul 3, 2019 2:16 PM PST
Thank you for the review, but I do have a question: I know it's possible to measure black level- shouldn't be that hard, even so, only hometheaterhifi include black level measurements in their reviews. Why does't Projctorcentral include black level measurements? Even if it were inaccurate, as long as your methodology is consistent, it would still be very helpful when comparing projectors you review.
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Jul 3, 2019 3:10 PM PST
KZH,I agree that black level and contrast are critically important performance parameters for home theater projectors and we continue to struggle with both arriving at the best methodology to use for measurement and how we can consistently measure across all of our reviewers who work in different environments and on different screens, etc. It's better delved into in a longer missive at some point, but suffice to say that I continue to have this top of mind and hope we can start sharing a more formal indicator on this. In the meantime, I believe the best service is done for readers when we compare the black levels of a new projector against known reference projectors that we've previously reviewed.
Kevin Posted Jul 10, 2019 9:38 AM PST
If input lag with gaming is a concern, what should an alternative to this unit be? I like that it does well with a shorter distance, I may have to use the short length of my new house, but I can't sacrifice gaming performance because input lag on FPS shooters is monstrously aggravating.

I don't know if dropping to a 1080p projector is the right choice, or if 2000 and under is not a high enough price point.

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