The $2,499 BenQ HT5550 4K DLP projector is the single mid-tier model in BenQ's line of 4K UHD projectors, and the first the company has offered at this in-between price point in several years. It costs $1,000 more than the $1,499 BenQ HT3550 that falls below it (which we'll be reviewing shortly), but a whole lot less than the next models up—the $7,999 BenQ HT8060 and the $8,999 BenQ HT9060 (review also pending), projectors that are meant primarily for professional installation. For more modest budgets, the HT5550 delivers enough to justify the price bump from the HT3550 without jumping to a much higher price range.
At a rated 1,800 ANSI lumens, the HT5550 isn't quite as bright as the 2,000-lumen HT3550, but a 10% difference isn't enough to notice without a side-by-side comparison. Far more important is the HT5550's higher rated contrast ratio (100,000:1 dynamic vs. 30,000:1) and its additional setup flexibility. It offers a longer zoom range than the HT3550, a much larger vertical lens shift, and horizontal shift—the latter missing from the step-down model. In addition, the HT5550 is rated at 100% DCI-P3 coverage, compared with 95% for the HT3550.
Both models use a 6-segment RGBRGB color wheel and both use TI's .47-inch DLP chip, rather than the .66-inch version in BenQ's higher-cost UHD projectors. One other difference is that the less expensive HT3550 adds an onboard speaker, which can be useful if you want a projector you can take to the backyard for a movie night. However, that doesn't matter for a permanent setup, where you'll want an external sound system with any projector. (Both the HT3550 and HT5550 feature audio output jacks, both analog and optical, should they be required).
As noted, among the HT5550's key features are its 1,800 ANSI lumen brightness, its .47-inch DLP chip for 3840 x 2160 resolution with pixel shifting, and its six-segment RGBRGB color wheel. Also high on the list is its 100,000:1 contrast ratio with the Dynamic Iris on and its Wide Color Gamut (WCG) setting with a claimed 100% DCI-P3 coverage. (More nuanced detail on this later.)
Very much on the plus side, the 1.6x zoom offers significant flexibility in deciding how far to place the projector from the screen, allowing, for example, a throw range of about 10 to almost 16 feet for a 100-inch diagonal image. (Check the ProjectorCentral BenQ HT5550 projection calculator to determine throw distance options for your screen size.) The +/- 60% vertical lens shift is enough to give you the choice of mounting the projector inverted on a ceiling mount, placing it right side up on a medium-to-high bookshelf in the back of the room, or putting it on a table that's no lower than about 10% of the image height below the bottom of the screen. The +/- 23% horizontal shift also offers plenty of leeway for positioning the projector left or right of the screen's vertical centerline.
Here's a list of these and other key features of the BenQ HT5550:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Connections. Along with a pair of HDMI 2.0b ports, both equipped with HDCP 2.2 copyright management for protected UHD content, the HT5550 includes two USB ports suitable for playing files from a flash drive and, unusually, both analog and optical audio outputs to service an outboard audio system directly from the projector.
• (2) HDMI 2.0b (both with HDCP 2.2)
• (1) USB Type A (5V/2.5A power only)
• (1) USB Type A 2.0 (media reader and firmware upgrades)
• (1) USB Type A 3.0 (media reader and firmware upgrades)
• (1) USB Type Mini B (for firmware upgrades)
• (2) Audio out (3.5mm mini jack; S/PDIF optical)
• (1) LAN (RJ-45, 10BaseT, 100BaseTX; for control only)
• (1) RS-232 (D-sub 9 pin, male; for control)
• (1) DC 12v trigger (3.5mm mini jack)
• (2) IR Receiver (Front/Top)
• (1) Wired Remote in (3.5mm mini Jack)
Brightness. I measured the HT5550's brightest mode at 1,634 ANSI lumens, a solid 91% of its rated 1,800 lumens. With the HT5550's 1.6x zoom lens set to its widest angle setting, the measured ANSI lumens for each color mode in Normal (full power) and Economic modes was as follows:
|Cinema (REC. 709)||899||612|
The color brightness for the Cinema and D. Cinema modes are both well over 90% of the white brightness, which is one of the reasons they both offer high color accuracy right out of the box. However, none of the modes has color brightness any lower than 78% of white brightness, which is still high enough to have only a minor effect, if any, on color accuracy.
Most people would consider the Vivid TV mode quite usable. At 1,226 lumens, it's bright enough for a 100-inch 1.0 gain screen in moderate ambient light. Bright mode—as with the brightest modes in most projectors—had a green bias, which is annoyingly obvious in black and white clips, and noticeable in color clips. However, many would consider it usable on an occasional basis in, say, a family room with lots of light during the day time. Silence mode may be attractive to those who are particularly bothered by noise, despite the drop in resolution to 1080p. It also has a slight green bias straight out of the box, though much less so than Bright mode.
Zoom Lens Light Loss. At the full telephoto setting, the loss of light compared with the full wide angle setting is 15%, which is well within the typical range for a 1.6x zoom lens. It's not enough to be concerned about for most installations, but it is enough that you should be aware of it. For Cinema mode's 899 lumens at the full wide angle setting, for example, the SMPTE recommendation for a 12 to 22 ft-L brightness for a dark room translates to a 117- to 158-inch diagonal, 1.0 gain screen. The 765 lumens at the full telephoto setting translates to a largely overlapping range of 108- to 146-inches diagonal.
Brightness Uniformity. The measured brightness uniformity for the HT5550 was 84% at the wide angle end of the range and a nearly identical 83% at the telephoto end. The brightness difference was subtle enough to be visible on a solid white screen as being slightly dimmer in the upper and lower right corners, but I never saw any difference with real-world content.
Input Lag. The input lag at 1080p, as reported by a Bodnar lag tester, ranges between 60 and 65 ms with frame interpolation off, depending on the mode, and jumps to a little over 80 ms with it on. Serious gamers will consider this sluggish, but more casual gamers may find it acceptable. At 4K, our 4K Bodnar tester reported even longer lags, at 88 to 91 ms with frame interpolation off depending on the mode, and 130 ms and higher with it on, depending on both the mode and the frame interpolation setting.
Fan Noise. BenQ rates Normal mode at 32dB and Economic at 26dB. Both can be heard from anywhere in a small to medium size room during quiet moments, but both are the kind of steady sound that tends to fade into the background. With either Normal or Economic lamp modes, Silence mode didn't lower volume by enough to make much difference. High Altitude mode, which BenQ recommends at 4,129 feet and above, is loud enough that you'll probably want to apply some form of acoustic isolation.
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