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Performance
4
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Intended Use:
DIY Home Theater
BenQ HT5550 Projector BenQ HT5550
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100000:1 Contrast Ratio
1800 Lumens
Full HD 3D
$2,499 Street Price

BenQ HT5550 4K DLP Projector Review

M. David Stone, May 24, 2019

BenQ HT5550 Performance

Color Modes. The list of HT5550 preset color modes is less straightforward than for most projectors. The Picture Mode menu shows only five choices: Bright, Vivid TV, D. Cinema (short for Dark Cinema), Cinema, and User mode. All five let you adjust settings.

Silence mode, on a different menu, turns pixel shifting off, eliminating the noise that pixel shifting adds while dropping the image resolution to 1080p. That's the native resolution of the micromirror array on TI's .46-inch DLP chip, which uses a four-phase pixel-shifting process to deliver all of the pixels in a 3840 x 2160 UHD signal. Turn the mode on, and it shows up on the Picture menu as the current picture mode choice. It also makes the Picture Mode menu unavailable until you turn Silence mode back off. Note that it's not based on any other mode. You need to calibrate or otherwise customize it separately.

Three other modes missing from the Color Mode menu are 3D for 1080p full 3D; HDR10, which is the version of HDR on Blu-ray discs; and HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) HDR, which is designed for broadcast TV, and is still in the category of upcoming standard.

In my tests, the HT5550 automatically switched to the appropriate mode when it detected 3D or HDR10 input and made the option to switch to other modes unavailable. BenQ says it will do the same with HLG input. Note too that the Wide Color Gamut setting is permanently Off for most modes, permanently On for D. Cinema, and settable only for the HDR modes.

BenQ-HT5550-right-800

In addition to this list, the HT5550 supports ISF Day and Night modes with lockable settings. These modes will show on the Color Mode menu only if you choose to enable and calibrate them, which typically means paying someone for calibration.

For 1080p content, BenQ recommends using D. Cinema mode in a dark room and Cinema mode with ambient light. However, each has advantages over the other in theater-dark lighting. D. Cinema delivered slightly better contrast and darker blacks, while Cinema with factory settings offered more accurate color for Rec.709 content—both subjectively and as measured using CalMan Ultimate software, a Murideo Six-G generator, and an X-Rite i1Pro2 photo spectrometer. Because of its better color accuracy with Rec. 709 SDR, I chose Cinema mode as my starting point for calibration.

BenQ-HT5550-remote-250

BenQ calibrates color and color temperature for each projector before shipping using Rec.709 as the target for Cinema mode and DCI-P3 as the target for D. Cinema. The claimed out-of-box Delta E errors of less than 3 for primary and secondary colors, RGBCMY, are based on the color space each mode is calibrated for. (Delta E indicates how closely a display adheres to an ideal result. Delta E levels below 3-4 in color or white balance are regarded as indistinguishable from perfect accuracy.)

Keep in mind that measurements can vary somewhat depending on the equipment you're measuring with, but our out-of-box tests for Cinema mode showed a 6714K color temperature—just slightly off the 6500K target. It also showed essentially accurate color points. The furthest off was red, at a still good Delta E of 3.5, while most other primary and secondary color Delta Es were less than 3, the exception being magenta at barely above 3. By comparison, the D.Cinema mode with Rec.709 signals showed errors in the primaries that ranged from 3.5 to 5.5, while the secondaries ranged from 2.2 to 6.6. But keep in mind that BenQ's claimed Delta E of less than 3 for D.Cinema is for DCI-P3 targets, not Rec.709.

The only adjustments I needed to make in Cinema mode were to gamma and grayscale, brightness, and contrast. My changes raised the average Gamma from an initial 1.89 to a final 2.28, which sits midway between the BT.1886 standard for a dark room and the older 2.2 standard. Those adjustments also brought the Delta E errors for RGBCMY below 3. The grayscale leaned a little blue out of the box in this mode in the brightest tones but also ran too bright in the darker IRE windows. Tuning with the RGB gain and offset controls brought grayscale to an excellent result, with all IRE levels from 20 to 100 showing Delta E around three or well under it.

Leaving the lamp at Normal (full power), the brightness in Cinema mode came in at 838 ANSI lumens after calibration, giving a 27.9 fL reading for peak white on a 93-inch diagonal image using my 1.0 gain white screen.

As already mentioned, the HT5550 will recognize HDR content while in whatever color mode it's currently set for and automatically switch to its HDR10 or HLG mode as appropriate. In these modes, the projector's wide color gamut is on by default, though you have the option to turn it off.

Somewhat surprisingly, HDR10 with WCG turned on delivered a much smaller color volume with HDR content than the D. Cinema mode delivered with SDR wide color content. CalMan tests measured 101% of DCI-P3 as promised in D.Cinema with SDR test signals, but roughly 54% in HDR10 mode with Brilliant Color on and 57% with it off. In short, the test unit didn't provide 100% DCI-P3 coverage with HDR 4K Blu-ray discs, which is where you really want it. BenQ says that an upcoming firmware update will allow the HT5550 to deliver 100% coverage with Brilliant Color off, but that the HDR10 default setting will leave Brilliant Color on for better overall brightness and shadow detail at the cost of dropping DCI-P3 coverage to 84%. That new firmware is still in development at this writing, with no delivery date set.

In any event, after some experimentation, I settled on using the default settings for the HDR10 mode with only ocassional adjustments to the HDR brightness setting to customize it for different movies. Final measured peak white off the screen in this mode was 30.9 ft-L (106 nits).

1080p/SDR Viewing. Image quality with 1080p SDR Blu-rays after calibration was excellent, with highly accurate color that was all but indistinguishable in side-by-side comparisons with the calibrated Epson Home Cinema 5040UB I use for a reference projector. In an early scene in Casino Royale of a small plane's final approach to a Caribbean island over water, both projectors delivered matching colors, including neutral white for the plane itself, and with the ocean water in an inviting, clear turquoise just right for a travel poster. They also offered matching flesh tones in a close-up of 007's face as he's getting off the plane.

In clips that were darker overall, including a night scene in Casino Royale with a train moving through a forested area and an early scene in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice where the young Bruce Wayne falls into what will eventually become the Batcave, colors also closely matched. The HT5550 delivered very good contrast, dark black, and shadow detail in these scenes, though a side-by-side comparison showed that the 5040UB could reach down deeper. D. Cinema mode improved on the black level and contrast performance of the calibrated Cinema mode (again, at the expense of a bit of color accuracy with Rec.709 content), which brought the two projectors a bit closer.

CasinoRoyale-3
CasinoRoyale-BW-2-640
The HT5550 delivered accurate color with subjects like turquoise Caribbean waters and fleshtones in Casino Royale, and showed no signs of color bias on the black and white sequence that starts the movie.(Photos: Columbia Pictures/EON Productions)

The black and white scene at the very beginning of Casino Royale is useful check for unnatural color bias, and the HT5550 showed none in either Cinema or D. Cinema modes. This is also my go-to clip to look for rainbow artifacts, and I saw some with the HT5550. But I didn't see them in any other 1080p content, and I see them pretty easily. I also saw an occasional rainbow with 4K content. If you're particularly sensitive to rainbow artifacts, or don't know if you are, our standard advice applies: Make sure you buy the projector from a source that makes returns easy, so you can test it out for yourself.

UHD/HDR Viewing. Even with the current firmware, the picture with 4K UHD HDR was gorgeous straight out of the box, with sharp detail across the entire screen and the expected extra level of realism for color and shading that HDR adds to 4K UHD. The HT5550's HDR Brightness setting offers five steps from -2 to +2, with the default setting of 0. Peak white stays the same at all settings, but there are significant changes in shadow detail and midtones.

At -2, the toe of the curve, where the dark content resides, loses separation from one dark level to the next. Moving up the scale, the dark levels get progressively more separated to show noticeably more shadow detail at each step. You can see this, for example, in the title sequence in Batman v Superman, when the Wayne family is walking in the dark and is backlit by a movie theater marquee. With HDR Brightness set to -2, the elder Wayne's shirt and jacket merge into a nearly solid mass of black. At +1, and even more so at +2, you can easily see a dark shirt, a slightly lighter dark brown jacket with different shades of brown, and a still lighter jacket lining.

For scenes dominated by midtones, like the sequence that starts with the underwater salvage of what's revealed to be glowing green kryptonite once it's dragged to the beach, the higher HDR Brightness settings leave colors less saturated, while lower settings darken the shadows too much. For movies like Batman v Superman, which has more than its fair share of dark scenes, I was comfortable with a setting of +1. For movies that are mostly midtones, the default 0 is a good choice.

At no point did I see any banding artifacts with the HT5550, even with 1080p content, and the downloadable ProjectorCentral 10-bit HDR Grayscale test animation, which verifies 10-bit processing from input to image, was also free of noticeable banding. Note, too that the frame interpolation feature, which has three settings, applies more subtle effects across its range of settings than most projectors, both in its smoothing of motion and the introduction of the digital video "soap opera" look. At its lowest setting the difference in the image is barely noticeable; at its highest setting it smoothes some motion while adding very little digital video effect.

Another feature, the HT5550's Dynamic Iris, works smoothly enough, often enough, that you can get through some movies without seeing a problem. But—as I've often found with projectors at this price level—it also showed obvious pumping (flickering and near flickering) with some content when going from dark-to-light images or light-to-dark images. This was evident, for example, while watching the final Game of Thrones episode on my DVR. In one particular scene with Jon Snow and Arya talking, there are quick edits between shots showing both of them backlit by a bright gray sky, shots of just Arya against the same background, and darker close-ups of Jon's face. The iris consistently flickered each time the image came back to his face. In another scene with Daenerys in the throne room, the iris added two distinct adjustment steps when it jumped from a shot of her against a mid-tone wall to a view of her against a bright sky.

That said, I saw no issues with the iris while watching Batman v Superman in either UHD or 1080p Blu-ray, or with several other movies I tested with, even after I'd become aware of the problem and was looking for it on scene transitions. In any case, BenQ is aware of the problem and has promised to address it in an upcoming firmware update. In the meantime, viewers have the ability to turn off the auto iris if it's bothersome on whatever content is being watched. There have also been complaints reported online about the auto iris being noisy in some units, though I heard no evidence of this in my sample. BenQ said that some projectors did ship with a defective iris, and that if you get a unit with that problem and confirm it with them, the company will swap it for a replacement.

3D Viewing. Like a growing number of 4K projectors, the HT5550 supports 3D at 1080p using DLP-Link glasses. As with any projector with 3D, the image isn't as bright as with any 2D mode, but I found it bright enough for comfortable viewing in the dark with a 90-inch image on my 1.0 gain screen. Even a low level of ambient light washes out the image noticeably at that size, however. I saw no crosstalk in my tests, and only the typical level of 3D-related motion artifacts for current generation projectors. The 3D picture was highly watchable, with nicely saturated color.

Conclusion

BenQ-HT5550-front-straight-800

At $2,499, the BenQ HT5550 offers plenty of bang for the buck for a 4K UHD projector. Its Cinema mode's measured 838 ANSI lumens after calibration was bright enough to light up a 145-inch 1.2-gain screen in a dark room or a 90-inch screen in moderate ambient light. And thanks to BenQ's focus on color, it delivers better than typical color accuracy straight out of the box, producing a gorgeous picture for both 1080p SDR and 4K UHD HDR content.

Contrast for the HT5550 is excellent overall, and though its black levels, especially on the darkest scenes, aren't quite a match for the Epson Home Cinema 5040UB I use as a reference, they're close. And keep in mind that Epson's current iteration of that projector, the HC 5050UB, comes at a $500 premium to the HT5550.

In addition to its high quality image, the HT5550 offers good placement flexibility. The substantial vertical and horizontal lens shift and the 1.6x zoom will let you position it pretty much wherever is most convenient—from a ceiling mount to a bookshelf to a low table.

The BenQ HT5550's mix of features—from placement flexibility to out-of-box color accuracy to support for ISF modes—makes it easy to recommend if you want a high quality image for 1080p and 4K UHD. Most viewers will be happy with the picture right out of the box, and those who want to tweak it won't find much to improve on.

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Connections, Measurements
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Comments (4) Post a Comment
Walter Posted May 24, 2019 10:16 PM PST
Pixel-shifting makes audible noise?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted May 25, 2019 11:46 AM PST
Walter, the 0.47-inch 4K DLP chip conducts a 4-phase pixel-shift of a 1920 x 1080 micromirror array to get all the pixels of a UHD signal up during the period of what a native UHD device puts up simultaneously. With this in mind, David Stone responds:



"It's the clatter of two million tiny mirrors doing four times as much work. Remember, these are mechanical movements, and turning off pixel shifting reduces the number of movements needed by a factor of 4. It doesn't change the volume a whole lot, but it changes sound quality, removing an overlay of a low pitch, quiet hum."
Paul C Posted May 25, 2019 5:11 PM PST
What speed is the colorwheel? I'm very sensitive to RBE and anything else than 5x is unworkable for me.
SimonBG Posted May 26, 2019 6:51 AM PST
Still waiting for $2500 true 3000 lumens projector for living room with somewhat controlled light. Actually, a 2000 lumens calibrated is all I need but for whatever reason such projectors are not common. Either they are marketed as 2000 and deliver 1000 calibrated or they are marketed as 3000 but not suitable for home theater.

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