Editor's Choice Award
Our Editor's Choice award goes to products that dramatically exceed expectations for performance, value, or cutting-edge design.
- Bright, accurate colors at full lumen rating
- Excellent contrast
- Sharp lens
- HDR looks great
- Motorized lens cover
- Supports 3D
- Only 2 HDMI inputs, with one required for Android TV stick
- No game mode, high input lag
BenQ shows up to the 4K UST projector party "fashionably late" and impresses with the V7050i's crisp, vivid picture quality. The projector is deft at playing the part of a giant TV when viewed in a bright room and it transforms into a high-performance home theater projector when the lights are dimmed. Best of all it stands apart from the competition by retaining good color accuracy at high brightness.
The V7050i ($3,499) is the first 4K laser UST projector from BenQ. It joins an expanding field of competitors, all aiming to earn a spot in the living room in the place you'd typically find a big-screen TV.
The BenQ's most noticeable physical feature is a motorized sliding "sunroof" that covers the lens mechanism when not in use. But where it shines is with performance that reflects BenQ's extensive experience with DLP projection.
This projector offers impressive picture quality for TV shows and movies, in a living room-friendly design and at screen sizes with which TVs cannot compete—up to 120 inches (diagonal). Among UST projectors, what stands out is the image fidelity, which approaches what I'm used to seeing from pricier dedicated home theater projectors.
The V7050i is a 4K UST (ultra-short throw) projector with a 2,500 ANSI lumen rated output and support for HDR10 and HLG HDR video up to 4K resolution. It is designed for screen sizes ranging from 70 to 123 inches and relies on DLP projection technology (using the latest generation 0.47-inch DMD) with Texas Instrument's XPR fast pixel-shift technology. The laser engine uses a single blue laser with a phosphor wheel and an RGBRGB color wheel. The laser light source consumes 152 watts and will last for 20,000 hours.
This UST offers a 0.25:1 throw ratio that's comparable to some competing USTs but not quite as aggressive as the LG HU85LA or the Samsung Premiere models. However, we're only talking a couple of extra inches difference in terms of proximity to the screen wall. This projector reproduces 96% of the Rec.709 color space and 98% of the DCI-P3 color space according to BenQ specs. The DCI-P3 color space has a wider gamut, but as with most projectors, using it comes at the cost of losing some brightness versus the Rec.709 color space.
BenQ offers some serious gaming projectors, such as the recently reviewed TK700Sti, but makes no claim to the V7050i being one of them. There's no Game Mode and input lag is significant; it's specified at 83 milliseconds, though I measured a bit less at 69.1 ms with a 4K/60 Hz signal. The projector supports resolutions from 480p SD up to 2160p UHD and frame rates up to 60 Hz. This projector also offers 3D in full HD and is compatible with DLP-Link 3D glasses.
BenQ equips the V7050i UST with smart TV features using its QS01 Android TV dongle that's also included with the TK700STi. On the plus side, its operation is integrated with the projector's included remote. However, using it takes up one of the unit's two HDMI inputs, and unlike with the TK700STi, there's no hidden compartment to keep it out of sight. Also, as with many projectors using the Android TV platform, the only way to stream Netflix on this unit is to cast a tab from a PC, for which BenQ provides YouTube instructions; the app is not supported, nor is direct casting. If Netflix is a big part of your TV viewing, I'd recommend buying a different streaming stick to use with this projector.
The V7050i features five SDR picture modes—Bright, Bright Cinema, Filmmaker Mode, DCI-P3, and User. It also sports two HDR picture modes, HDR10 and the Filmmaker Mode found on some other projectors these days that optimizes the image for compatible movies. It also offers four Color Temperature presets (Native, Cool, Normal and Warm). Finding the optimum combination of these two settings is key to getting the most out of this BenQ.
You do get built-in sound with this projector, although it's no substitute for a soundbar or an AVR-based sound system. Dual 5-watt speakers in the front panel handle audio duties, and to their credit, they are of 2-way design (woofer and tweeter). The sound is clear, but output levels are limited, and there's not much bass. You can add an outboard sound system with the projector's HDMI ARC port—sorry, there's no eARC on this one for Atmos soundbars and the like. But using ARC again chews up one of the two HDMI ports. The alternative is a digital optical output, though you can't get the lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD-Master audio formats from that type of connection without automatic downconversion to a lossy format.
BenQ's standard remote is a rounded-edge plastic candybar that lacks backlighting but includes a microphone for smart assistant use, and as mentioned it pairs with the QS01 Android TV stick. Perhaps its most outstanding feature is that it is white, which makes it easier to spot in a darkened room.
SDR Picture Modes. The absolute brightest picture mode on the V7050i is Bright with the color temperature set to Native. Unlike some projectors where the most brilliant settings result in a strong color cast, it is surprisingly usable, exhibiting only a slight green cast and measuring a bit warm at 6000K versus the 6500K ideal, as measured using Portrait Displays' Calman color calibration software and an X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter.
Because the Native color temp is close to 6500K, calibration adjustments have little impact on light output. This is a huge deal! While this projector is rated at 2,500 ANSI lumens at its brightest, and I measured 2,462 lumens from the review unit, when accurate color is dialed-in, it still manages to output 2,200 lumens (within a Rec.709 color space)—and that's fantastic. So, while some other UST 4K laser projectors may achieve a brighter image at the expense of accuracy, this BenQ is probably the brighter UST when calibrated—or at least when using optimal settings for color.
Beyond color, I'm thrilled to report this projector has accurate gamma tracking, including when used with a 0.6-gain lenticular UST screen. With optimized settings, my measurements were extremely close to the menu selected Gamma. This makes setting the V7050i up for a specific environment (bright, mixed lighting, dark) a cinch. All you must do to get a great picture out of the V7050i is choose Cool for the color temperature and the appropriate Gamma for your room (2.0 for bright, 2.2 for dim, 2.4 for dark).
Typically, the Cool color temperature on a projector is just that, much bluer than 6500K. But much to my surprise, Cool on this projector consistently measured within a few degrees of 6500K off my UST screen and is highly neutral at all brightness levels, from deepest shadow to peak highlights. It was spot-on on my sample, to the point where a grayscale calibration was not even necessary. And perhaps most impressively, the switch from Native to Cool color temperature only drops the peak luminance from 110 nits to 108 nits! This projector gives up essentially none of its peak brightness when delivering what qualifies as an adequately calibrated picture right out of the box.
By comparison, the Native color temperature of the V7050i is a little bit greenish and a little bit too warm (6000K), but not so much that it's an issue if your goal is to get as bright a picture as possible. But because you lose so little brightness when using the dead-on accurate Cool color temperature setting, there's no point in settling for Native.
The trick here is to check the defaults for whatever picture mode you use. The Bright Cinema mode uses the Normal color temp setting, but this measured 5670K, which is too warm; switching to Cool produced a nearly perfect 6470K reading.
SDR Filmmaker Mode is another bright mode, but it requires a little tweaking if you want to get the most brightness plus accuracy out of it. The factory default Normal color temp measured 5912K, which is more than watchable, but still a bit warm. It's plenty bright already, too.
In this mode, if you look in the picture menu under Advanced, you'll see that Brilliant Color is set to zero; this has the effect of "locking" the color temp selection to default. However, if you are willing to deviate from the prescribed settings, turning on Brilliant Color and using the minimum setting (one) unlocks the color temperature setting. Switch it over to Cool for an even brighter viewing experience that's also color accurate.
The DCI-P3 mode for SDR is one to skip unless you have a particular use scenario, like showing photographs in a slideshow from a PC. A wide color gamut is a part of what you get with HDR content. SDR content is typically mastered to the Rec.709 color space, so you'll usually only use DCI-P3 for HDR viewing.
Finally, the User picture mode is well worth optimizing for your most common usage scenarios and personal viewing preferences. I suggest making it your "go-to" picture mode, which I did in this review. Not much adjustment is needed, it already defaults to Cool color temp, and the gamma settings are accurate. If you change the Gamma to 2.4 and turn out the lights for a movie at night, what you'll see coming from this projector, and a proper low-gain UST ALR screen, will legitimately give a dedicated home theater projector a run for the money, despite being in the living room, and without having to paint the walls black.
I've had hands-on time with multiple UST projectors over the past few years, and this is one of the most color-accurate (pre-calibration) and easy-to-tune USTs I have encountered.
Regardless of picture mode, the V7050i can use some tweaking of the CMS (color management system) to adjust its color space. BenQ says the projector achieves 96% Rec.709 coverage, which is true but a little misleading. Except for green and cyan, all the other primary and secondary colors surpass Rec.709 gamut, which gives them a saturated look (that is complementary to most content). Still, it's technically inaccurate. But, while accurate grayscale settings make a significant difference in perceived accuracy, the richer reds and blues of the unadjusted CMS are mostly harmless eye candy.
I put in a little work to tame the CMS and bring all the primary and secondary colors a bit closer to the Rec.709 specs. I found that I could not get any more saturation out of green or cyan by using the projector's controls, although I could tweak the hue and brightness. After calibration, Rec.709 gamut coverage measured 95%, just a smidgen lower than published specs, but with a gain in overall accuracy. I don't think a CMS adjustment is necessary for this projector, and I like the "boosted" color of the untouched CMS controls. Still, the CMS calibration technically makes the picture more faithful to the source without losing any brightness.
In User mode, after dialing in calibrated settings, I measured 102 nits in the center of my 100-inch, 0.6 gain UST compatible screen (Epson SilverFlex Ultra). That's almost as bright as a Dolby Cinema commercial theater (108 nits) and well above the brightness of IMAX theaters (80 nits).
HDR Picture Modes. HDR on the V7050i has a split personality. It's a matter of choosing between a Rec.709 viewing experience, where brightness is the main HDR ingredient, or DCI-P3 wide color gamut but with a lower peak brightness. The difference between the two HDR options and their relation to viewer preference could easily come down to the environment: In a totally dark room, the wide color gamut looks fantastic, and the projector is more than bright enough.
But when there's some ambient light present in the room, the brighter Rec.709 HDR has more visual impact. It also depends on the content; some films are very colorful, whereby you see the difference the wide color gamut makes in every scene, while others have a subdued pallet. I suggest trying both modes and deciding for yourself.
Whichever HDR picture mode you choose, the projector will automatically use it when it detects HDR content. My personal preference for HDR movies is to turn on Wide Color Gamut, with the lights turned off and the color temperature set to Cool. IMO, the extra color depth has a more significant impact on the viewing experience versus the extra brightness. The result looks incredibly cinematic to my eyes, much like the image you'd see in a "premium" movie theater.
With these settings, you can enjoy UHD HDR content that's bright, has plenty of contrast, and is still very colorful. Peak luminance measured in this mode measured 100 nits.
If you switch on Wide Color Gamut in HDR10 mode, the default Normal color temp is way too warm. Here again, a switch to Cool fixes the color temp 100%; I measured it at 6517K. The disappointment here is a drop in peak luminance, down to only 55 nits (but still slightly brighter than a typical movie theater, which is 48 nits). However, what you gain is nothing to sneeze at. The richer color of DCI-P3 (BenQ calls it CinematicColor) is retina-pleasing. It closely replicates what you see in a commercial cinema, where DCI-P3 color is the standard. Based on my measurement, the projector covers 95% of the DCI-P3 gamut with this setting.
It is also possible to turn on Wide Color Gamut when you are in HDR Filmmaker Mode; it takes a couple of clicks in the menu, you'll find it under Picture > Advanced > Wide Color Gamut. It results in the same loss of brightness, down to 55 nits. Similarly, you can turn off the Wide Color Gamut in HDR10 picture mode, and peak brightness pops up to 100 nits.
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Here's a quick tip: Set up the HDR10 mode with Wide Color Gamut turned on, and set the Sharpness to zero. Now you can use the two HDR picture modes to quickly switch between Rec.709 and DCI-P3 color.
Whichever HDR picture mode preset you choose, the reality is that projected movies will not have the retina-blazing highlights you see in premium HDR TVs. What makes up for it is the rich, accurate color and the sheer size of the screen, which, when combined, make for a great way to enjoy UHD streaming, films, and other HDR content. And unlike many TVs, with a UST, there's no loss of saturation or color shift when viewing the screen off-axis. With the V7050i, everyone can enjoy excellent image quality, regardless of where they are seated.
SDR Viewing. When using this UST as a TV for sports or shows or the news, you'll probably be watching 1080p SDR, or possibly 1080i or 720p from a set-top box. "Regular" Blu-rays and most anything you stream that's not labeled UHD are typically 1080p. My experience with HD video sources was largely positive, with the caveat that the large screen easily reveals limitations in the source material, whether that's resolution or digital noise and compression artifacts. Regular Blu-rays do very well on this machine, and often it's only a hint of softness that gives away the HD source vs. 4K.
I scrutinized a couple of early '90s favorite films on Blu-ray, Candyman, and Natural Born Killers. In both cases, the projector succeeded in reproducing the film look and gave the impression of an authentic theatrical presentation, with plenty of contrast to carry it through the darker scenes of each film.
With Candyman, the real treat is when Helen goes exploring Candyman's lair in an abandoned, graffiti mural-covered apartment. You can see subtle color and detail in the deep shadows, and the black levels seem (subjectively) better than what I'm used to from DLP projectors (UST or not).
As for Natural Born Killers, it is perhaps Oliver Stone's finest film and surprisingly prescient in its insights on crime, culture, who and what is a celebrity, and more. It's a blood-spattered film that has animated interludes and the director uses various types of film to convey mood, so it will go from grainy to hyper-real to almost black and white, and from the brightest daylight to the deepest night. The projector's job, and where this BenQ succeeds, is to render these changes faithfully. Long story short, it delivers "director's intent."
Compared to Blu-ray, HD streaming and cable TV are more of a mixed bag for quality, but you can't blame the projector for revealing flaws in the source material. For example, with HD streaming movies (Netflix, Vudu), I sometimes saw banding and digital noise in the shadows that disappeared when I switched to UHD, but not always. On the plus side, the projector handles motion well—no matter the source resolution—with minimal blurring and no ghosting. For example, with sports, you'll easily follow the action and see what's going on during action scenes in shows and movies.
The timing of this review coincided with the Summer Olympics, which provided plenty of opportunities to watch sports and appreciate the colorful, bright picture. The neutral gray balance and overall accurate color were noticeable in the skin tones without shying away from recreating bold colors. The V7050i's handling of sports is excellent.
The accurate color and neutral grayscale are resolution-independent qualities that are a benefit to anything you watch. From playing my smartphone and GoPro videos to YouTube streaming to watching HD shows on Netflix, the lack of any color cast and the accurate hues produced by the BenQ was notable, and I'd trust it to do color work in Photoshop. Speaking of Photoshop, high-resolution photos look amazing on this rig.
Commendably, I saw not even a hint of hotspotting in this system. Perceived screen uniformity is excellent. After doing some pixel-peeping, I dropped the Sharpness control down to 10 (from the default of 15), which I feel gives the image that extra bit to crispness without any visible artifacts.
HDR Viewing. I love movies and appreciate good projection when I see it. The V7050i did an excellent job with UHD streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray playback. Banding was non-existent, the motion was smooth, cadence was judder-free, and colors were true to life.
With 4K content, you can appreciate the quality of the lens on this UST. Even though it is a pixel-shifting DLP and not native 4K, the image on the screen is highly detailed. I was surprised to see how well it handles a 4K Windows desktop; even small print looks sharp and is easily readable. There's no noticeable geometric distortion, the image stays sharp from corner to corner, and chromatic aberration is at imperceptible levels. This projection system legitimately looks like an enormous flat panel; that's how well-defined each pixel is.
The V7050i has adjustable HDR brightness that offers five steps. This is somewhat akin to Gamma for SDR in that it lets you tune the image to look more natural in various viewing environments. I was pretty happy with the default "zero" setting and didn't think I'd use anything lower (-1, -2) because everything starts to look like it's taking place in the shadows. But the +1 and +2 settings are handy if you watch HDR content with the lights on. They bring up the mid-tones nicely. Still, the default "0" setting is the "Goldilocks" setting, IMO.
This projector handles HDR so well that when I watched Fast 9, I was fooled by the "vintage" film look of the opening scene. For a minute, I was like, "what's wrong with the projector? This looks grainy and washed out". The joke was on me because as soon as the film switched to the present day, the fidelity I witnessed was jaw-dropping.
Initially, I had the projector set to Filmmaker Mode HDR, but I thought to try out HDR10 mode instead, and in the process turned on Wide Color Gamut (it's off by default). The boost in color saturation sold me on that mode right away, despite the noticeable drop in peak brightness. The colors looked lush; vehicle paint jobs had a gloss and glow that gave them a three-dimensional look. Skin tones all looked natural, and skies were true blue; even the shark-jumping space scene with the Pontiac Fiero looked excellent, thanks to the perceptually high contrast this projector achieves.
I also watched Black Widow on the BenQ, another movie that enjoys a seemingly unlimited special effects budget. In this case, I used Filmmaker Mode. The sheer amount of detail I saw was jaw-dropping, and that includes some incredibly kinetic action-and-effects-filled scenes (the final battle is a doozy) that can fall apart on displays that can't handle motion well. Skin tones and costume textures stood out.
While the input lag on this projector is not too great (as mentioned, I measured 69.1 milliseconds for 4K/60), many games are perfectly playable. I was particularly impressed with Microsoft Flight Simulator in HDR, Filmmaker Mode (Rec.709), with New York City as the backdrop. It looks shockingly real. With Forza Horizon 4, I did notice the lag a little bit, but it was not problematic, and the game itself looked vivid and hyperreal on this projector. The cars look straight up 3D in the HDR lighting.
Not once did I spot banding in UHD material. This projector handles playing the downloadable ProjectorCentral 10-bit animation wheel without issue; it's delivering 10-bit video.
3D Viewing. I'm a fan of 3D, and the V7050i supports it. DLP projection generally does a great job with 3D, and that proved the case here. I rewatched Black Panther in 3D and found myself marveling at the costumes and the set pieces. The projector created a great sense of depth, and unlike 3D on a TV, it looked natural on the big screen.
I like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk as a film, but what makes it so interesting is how director Ang Lee filmed it in high resolution, high frame rate, and in 3D. The 3D Blu-ray version is a strikingly different experience than the Ultra HD Blu-ray version presented at 60 frames per second, and I enjoyed both. But since I've had a nice break from 3D, I'm no longer jaded by it, and the way this projector handles 3D made me want to keep watching, despite the fact I have to wear glasses to do so. There was zero crosstalk, and in terms of brightness, the scenes looked natural; they were perceptually as bright as you'd expect to see in a non-3D movie theater. I also found the color in 3D mode was accurate, just like the 2D modes of this projector. There's no green tint, even in dark scenes and deep shadows.
It's a real treat to see such a well-behaved projector. The main takeaway is that you should use the Cool color temperature setting for all your viewing, since it was accurate and super bright. It's hard to overstate what a big deal it is that this projector produces neutral 6500K light near its peak lumen rating! That's the brightness spec that matters.
The V7050i produces perhaps the most cinematic image I've seen come out of a UST projector. I marveled at the overall fidelity in movie after movie, from the detail to the smooth motion to its accurate and punchy colors. I was never once distracted by a shortcoming in this projector's picture quality in all my viewing. It is a dream machine for movie lovers, one that transforms a living room into a home cinema when you turn out the lights.
This UST is equally impressive when streaming UHD shows from Netflix, Amazon, Apple, etc. But it's not perfect, and with HDR content, you have to choose between brightness or richer colors.
As a replacement for a TV, it does the job well by offering a bright enough picture in a well-lit room, perfectly suitable for watching sports and daytime TV. Yes, a premium big screen TV will get brighter and have more contrast in a bright room, but not enough to make up for the smaller screen size. I 100% prefer this UST over any 65- or even 75-inch TV.
The primary caveats for TV use—with this or any other projected image—are that the large screen will inevitably reveal the resolution limitations of HD broadcasts, and there is some loss of contrast due to elevated black levels caused by ambient light. But overall, even with lights on, the BenQ V7050i outputs an image that looks like a giant television if you use it with a UST ambient light rejecting screen (which are very effective at blocking light coming from above). It is crucial to pair this projector with a compatible screen to get the most from it.
Gamers will likely find the input lag is too much for games that depend on fast reflexes. Nevertheless, this projector renders 4K videogame graphics in ravishingly high fidelity and is a blast to use with titles that don't require precision timing.
Ultimately, if judged by the picture it produces, the BenQ V7050i is one of the best consumer 4K UST projectors available in its price range. It is an impressive debut in this category. It may be outclassed by some triple-laser offerings for HDR brightness in DCI-P3 color modes, but it costs considerably less and represents a great choice for an all-around high-performing living room projector.
Brightness. The BenQ V7050i's brightness performance is perhaps its most outstanding feature. While some other UST projectors in its price range have higher lumen ratings overall, with the V7050i you do not have to compromise color fidelity to enjoy its advertised lumen output, which is the key to getting a TV-like image in rooms with ambient light.
Measured with factory default settings, using a lux meter as well as Portrait Displays' Calman color calibration software and an X-rite i1 Display Pro Plus colorimeter, the review unit delivered 2,464 ANSI lumens in its brightest setting, just a hair under the rated 2,500 ANSI lumens.
BenQ V7050i ANSI Lumens
|Filmmaker Mode HDR||2,273||2,273||1,341|
Color Brightness. 754 lumens with default settings in the Bright picture mode.
Brightness Uniformity. Perceptually speaking, the picture looks very uniform, and any vignetting is not noticeable. There's also no hot-spotting to speak of. According to my meter, uniformity is 77%.
Fan Noise. BenQ specs the projector at 34 dB in Normal mode, 29 dB in Eco mode using the industry standard averaged measurement taken in a soundproof room. I measured 38.7 in Normal and 35.8 in Eco at a distance of three feet, behind the projector (i.e. facing the listener) in a room with a 34.5 dB ambient noise floor. When you are near the unit, you can hear the fan, but overall it is quiet, and I never once heard it from my viewing position. Since this projector will likely go into living rooms, the fan noise will probably be below the room's noise floor anyhow.
Input Lag. BenQ does not promote the V7050i as a gaming projector, and input lag was a weak spot in its performance. With a Bodnar lag meter I measured the input lag for 1080/60p at 104.6 milliseconds. 2160/60p UHD was better at 69.1 milliseconds, but without a dedicated game mode, that's as good as it gets. It's fine for casual gaming, not so much for games where every millisecond counts.
- HDMI 2.0b (x2 with HDCP 2.2)
- USB 2.0 (x2)
- USB 3.0
- Digital-optical audio output
Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user's own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.
For all modes, SDR or HDR, I strongly recommend the Cool color temperature setting. The result was consistently close to the 6500K ideal on our sample, with just a few degrees variation when projecting on the UST ALR screen. The tonal neutrality of this projector is excellent. Also, I left Brilliant Color turned all the way up to 10, no matter what mode I was in.
The only other universal adjustment I made was to use a Sharpness setting of 10. I found the default of 15 just a touch too much.
In HDR mode, be it Rec.709 or DCI-P3, the only control you may wish to adjust is HDR Brightness, aside from using Cool for the color temperature. However, this is circumstantial and also a matter of taste; I used the default of "0".
Picture Mode: User
Brilliant Color: 10
Color Temperature: Cool
Light Source Mode: Normal
For SDR, I made adjustments to the CMS to "tame" the reds and blues, although I suspect that some viewers will prefer to have those primary colors be a bit oversaturated. With the caveat that CMS calibrations are unit-specific adjustments, here's what I used:
Red: Hue 165, Saturation 209, Gain 209
Green: Hue 280, Saturation 260, Gain 220
Blue: Hue 145, Saturation 207, Gain 110
Cyan: Hue 131, Saturation 250, Gain 180
Magenta: Hue 316, Saturation 183, Gain 195
Yellow: Hue 165, Saturation 180, Gain 194
Picture Mode: HDR10 and Filmmaker Mode HDR
Brilliant Color: 10
Color Temperature: Cool
Light Source Mode: Normal
HDR Brightness: 0
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ V7050i projector page.