As with any comparison between a DLP projector like the $2,699 BenQ HT5550 and a comparable 3LCD projector like the $2,999 Epson Home Cinema 5050UB, it helps to start with the acknowledgement that many of the key differences between them are based on the different imaging technologies they use.
Both accept 4K UHD (3840x2160) HDR content; both support HDR10 and HLG, the emerging high dynamic range standard for streaming and broadcast TV; and both use some form of pixel-shifting to put more pixels on screen than their native 1080p chips offer. But where the HT5550 uses the fast-switching technology inherent in Texas Instrument's XPR DLP system to put four sets of pixels on screen for each frame—achieving full 3840x2160 resolution—the 5050UB generates only half as many, with just two sets of pixels per frame.
The somewhat surprising result, if you've never seen how well Epson's approach works, is that half as many pixels can produce what appears to be just as detailed a picture as a full 3840x2160 image. That's partly because there's a limit to how much detail the human eye can see at appropriate seating distances from the typical size home theater screen, and partly because the ability of a projector to actually resolve detail depends as much on issues like lens quality and contrast as it does on pixel count.
For more details than are included here on each projector—particularly for features that don't differ much between them—see our standalone reviews for the BenQ HT5550 and Epson HC 5050UB. The focus here is on their differences, starting with specs and features, and followed by a side-by-side comparison of image quality.
BenQ HT5550 vs. Epson HC5050UB: Key Specs and Features
Imaging Technology. Each projector has a one small advantage over the other based strictly on its imaging technology—3LCD for the 5050UB and single-chip DLP for the HT5550.
Having a separate chip for each primary color guarantees that the 5050UB can't produce rainbow artifacts, while the one-chip HT5550 can. If you're particularly sensitive to these artifacts, or don't know if you are, you'll want to buy the HT5550 from a source that makes returns easy, so you can test it out for yourself.
On the other hand, having a single chip that projects the primary colors sequentially guarantees that the HT5550 can't misalign primary colors, which is possible for any three-chip projector. The 5050UB addresses the issue with settings in its menu system for chip alignment. This potential extra setup step is only a minor chore, but it's something you don't have to worry about at all with the HT5550.
Pixel Shifting. As already mentioned, both projectors combine imaging chips with a native 1080p array with pixel shifting to boost the effective resolution on screen. And while the HT5550's four sets of pixels for each frame officially specifies it as a UHD projector under Consumer Technology Association rules and would seem to give it an advantage in detail over the 5050UB's two sets, it doesn't.
Much of the credit goes to the 5050UB's high quality lens and Epson's 4K PRO-UHD technology—a collection of features designed to enhance detail. The two work together to not only increase the ability to resolve detail, but increase it to the point where there is little, if any, difference at normal viewing distance between the detail in the 5050UB's image and in the detail you'll see with most 4K projectors, including in particular the HT5550.
Lenses. Although BenQ says the HT5550's 11-element, 6-group all glass lens is 4K-optimized, it makes no special claims about lens quality beyond that. In contrast, Epson touts the 15-element, all glass lens in the 5050UB as a high quality lens with virtually no hot spots or chromatic aberrations.
That said, both deliver the same 84% measured brightness uniformity in their wide angle setting. And with each one set to its full telephoto position, we measured a slightly better uniformity for the HT5550 than the 5050UB. Keep in mind that the two telephoto settings aren't fully comparable, however. The HT5550 has only a 1.6x zoom compared with the 5050UB's 2.1x zoom, and lenses with longer zoom ranges tend to have a larger difference in brightness uniformity between the two extremes for zoom setting.
Brightness. At 2,600 lumens versus 1,600 lumens, the 5050UB offers a significantly higher brightness rating than the HT5550. Both measured a touch higher than their ratings in their brightest modes, and both have comparable brightness ranges in terms of the percentage difference between the brightest and least bright modes. We measured the 5050UB's least bright combination of color mode and power mode at 739 ANSI lumens, compared with 424 lumens for the HT5550—about 28% of the brightest in one case and about 25% in the other.
Although there's plenty of overlap between the two ranges, with intermediate steps in both cases that deliver quite usable image quality, the difference in ranges gives the 5050UB more flexibility for use with larger screen sizes and in rooms with ambient light. In cases where even the lowest brightness mode for the 5050UB is too bright for the screen size you want, the HT5550 would be the better fit.
Also keep in mind that the 5050UB's 3LCD technology gives it the same color brightness and white brightness with all color presets. The HT5550's color brightness varied from 90% or more of its white brightness in Vivid TV and Cinema modes—close enough not to matter—to 70% to 76% as bright in its other modes, which is enough of a difference to make color images a bit less bright than you would expect for an LCD projector with matching measurements for both.
Contrast Ratio. The 5050UB offers the higher rated contrast ratio by a factor of 10, at 1,000,000:1 compared with 100,000:1 for the HT5550. As with any comparison between contrast ratio claims from different manufacturers, you shouldn't take these numbers at face value, since there is no industry standard for reporting contrast ratio. On the other hand, the 5050UB delivered clearly better contrast ratio on screen.
The UB in the 5050UB's name refers to Epson's UltraBlack technology, which uses a series of proprietary polarizing filters in the light path to significantly reduce stray light. The result is a lower black level and increased contrast compared to an otherwise identical projector without it. In our side-by-side tests, the 5050UB delivered both a darker black than the HT5550 with both SDR and HDR content along with visibly better contrast with SDR content.
Color Gamut. Both projectors are rated at 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut in their Digital Cinema color modes (which the HT5550 shows as D.Cinema in its menus). The 5050UB uses its Digital Cinema mode for UHD HDR content and essentially delivers the full DCI-P3 gamut. The HT5550 switches to its HDR10 mode with HDR10 content, which BenQ says offers 100% DCI-P3 coverage only with Brilliant Color off. The default, and recommended, setting is with Brilliant Color on for a brighter picture, which drops the claimed DCI-P3 coverage to 86%.
Throw Range. The 2.1x zoom for the 5050UB delivers a larger throw range than the 1.6x zoom for the HT5550. For a 100-inch diagonal image, the throw distance range for the HT5550 is roughly 10 to 15.8 feet compared with about 9.8 to 20.75 feet for the 5050UB. To find the ranges for the screen size you plan to use, check ProjectorCentral's BenQ HT5550 Projection Calculator and Epson Home Cinema 5050UB Projection Calculator.
Lens Control: Shift, Offset, and Memory. Both projectors score well on setup flexibility, but the 5050UB delivers more. Both offer lens shifts that will let you place them in a ceiling mount, on a bookshelf in the back of the room, or on a table below the bottom of the screen, as well as position them significantly left or right of the vertical midline of the screen. However, the 5050UB offers both a larger vertical lens shift (+/-96% compared with +/-60%) and larger horizontal shift (+/-47% compared with +/-23%), giving it more flexibility than the HT5550.
Beyond that, the 5050UB offers powered control for zoom, shift, and focus compared with manual control for the HT5550. It also adds 10 memory positions, so you can easily use it for a constant image height (CIH) setup to switch between 16:9 and 2.4:1 aspect ratios without needing an anamorphic lens.
Physical Dimensions. Although both projectors are intended primarily for permanent rather than temporary installations, the BenQ is both slightly smaller (at approximately 7 x 19 x 14 inches) and lighter (14.3 pounds), making it easier to handle during setup and somewhat less obtrusive than the Epson (approximately 8 x 21 x 18 inches, 24.7 pounds). In the event that cosmetics manner, it may also be meaningful in some environments that the BenQ HT5550 comes only in black, while the Epson 5050UB comes only in white (though its more expensive and similar sister product, the Epson ProCinema 6050UB, has a black case).
Maximum input resolution. The maximum input resolution for the 5050UB is 4096 x 2160, covering the full DCI 4K specification. For the HT5550, the maximum is 3840 x 2160, or the UHD specification. This difference won't matter for watching today's UHD content.
ISF Support. The HT5550 is the only one of the two with lockable ISF Night and Day Mode support.
HDR Brightness Levels. The HT5550 offers five HDR brightness levels for matching the HDR tone-map to specific content. The 5050UB offers a slider with 16 levels for fine-tuning the setting.
Frame Interpolation. Both projectors offer three levels of frame interpolation (FI) for smoothing motion, but the HT5550's FI is the more useful of the two. The 5050UB's FI is not available at all with 4K input. It is available with 1080p/24 Hz input for watching movies, but that won't be useful for the many people who find FI's soap opera effect in movies distracting. You can also use it with 1080p/60Hz input, but only if you turn 4K Enhancement off. And between the two features, I found 4K Enhancement added more visual impact to the picture. So as a practical matter, you probably won't want to use the 5050UB's FI when it would work, and can't use it when you would want to—except for Full HD 3D, which I'll discuss in the section on 3D viewing.
The HT5550 has none of these limitations, giving it the edge on this score for the kind of content where FI is most desirable: gaming, watching sports, and watching live and taped video from a broadcast, set-top box, or streaming source.
Input Lag. The 5050UB's measured input lag was notably faster than the HT5550's lag across the board, at 22 to 29 ms for 4K input, depending on the color mode, and 28 to 29 ms for 1080p input. Lags at both resolutions are a little slow for serious gamers, but easily good enough for casual gaming. The HT5550 came in at 88 to 91 ms for 4K input, which even casual gamers may consider too slow, and 60 to 65 ms for 1080p input.
Lamp. The HT5550's lamp has both a higher rated life and lower replacement cost than the 5050UB's lamp. It's rated at 4,000 hours in Normal and 10,000 hours in Economic and SmartEco modes, compared with 3,500 hours in High power, 4,000 hours in Mid, and 5,000 hrs in ECO for the Epson. The replacement cost for the BenQ HT5550's lamp is $149 compared with $299 for the Epson 5050UB's lamp.
Audio. The HT5550 offers both 3.5 mm and S/PDIF optical audio outputs, which will let you route audio through the projector to easily switch audio sources along with video sources. The 5050UB doesn't have any audio outputs. Neither projector includes onboard speakers.
Warranty. The HT5550's price includes a longer warranty period for both the projector (3 years rather than the 5050UB's 2 years) and for the lamp (1 year rather than 90 days).
BenQ HT5550 vs. Epson HC5050UB: Image Comparisons
1080p/SDR Viewing. After calibrating both projectors, I connected them to a Blu-ray player through a splitter for side-by-side viewing.
Having reviewed the HT5550 and having also compared the 5050UB to the Epson Home Cinema 4010, I knew before I plugged anything in that both offer good color accuracy. I also knew that the HT5550 delivered very good contrast and black levels, and that Epson's UltraBlack technology in the 5050UB delivered still darker black levels. Even knowing all that beforehand, I was still surprised at how much better the 5050UB did with 1080p SDR content for black level, shadow detail, contrast, and sense of three-dimensionality.
For images with a black background and only small patches of the screen lit up, like the starfield in The Martian behind the movie's title, or the later shot that starts with only a starfield and slowly pans down to show the Earth, the 5050UB delivered a notably darker black, making the HT5550's black look dark gray in comparison. It also delivered brighter whites, with the two extremes producing a far more dramatic visual impact. The difference was enough to be noticeable even in low levels of ambient light.
One of my go to dark scenes is early in Batman v Superman, when the young Bruce Wayne falls into what will become the Batcave. The 5050UB delivered dramatic contrast showing individual bats with their eyes reflecting bright pinpoints of light, plus a darker black level than the HT5550, more shadow detail, and a better sense of three dimensionality. The HT5550 showed a decidedly low-contrast mass of not-so-well defined bats and dimmer reflections from their eyes.
The 5050UB also delivered better contrast and sense of three dimensionality in most other scenes, from dark to midtone to bright, including, for example, the moment in Batman v Superman when two divers bring some kryptonite they found up to the beach. The same advantage held true all through Casino Royale and the 2D version of The Ultimate Wave—Tahiti. On an occasional scene, the HT5550 matched the 5050UB on contrast or even bested it. But with most movies I looked at, the 5050UB did better far more often.
Both projectors delivered solid color accuracy. With all the movies already mentioned and more, most colors in most scenes were close to identical on both projectors. Despite the close color match in hue, saturation, and brightness, however, the 5050UB's color was a touch more saturated when called for. The difference was particularly noticeable in La La Land, which is filled with highly saturated, bright colors. It also retained more of the subtle shading—the intermediate steps in gradations—that helps gives close-ups of faces, for example, a more three dimensional look.
The two projectors are closely matched for sharpness, at least if the 5050UB's 4K Enhancement is turned on along with one of its higher Image Preset modes. Note that picking too high an Image Preset level for the 5050UB can introduce artifacts in some content, but even at the highest level, I noticed artifacts in only a few scenes and only because I knew where to look for them. You can also increase the HT5550 sharpness with its 15-step 4K Pixel Enhancement control, but at settings even slightly higher than 3, the artifacts it adds are more obvious than with the 5050UB.
4K UHD/HDR viewing. For UHD HDR viewing—also side by side using a splitter—in addition to calibrating the projectors I also adjusted the HDR brightness setting in each projector to optimize it for each movie. This is a necessary step, since there is no standard that all movies follow. The setting you choose can greatly affect contrast, sense of three-dimensionality, how the projector renders shadow detail in dark scenes, and whether the image looks washed out in brighter scenes.
With each projector's final settings, there was far less difference in black level and shadow detail between the two for HDR than there was for SDR. The 5050UB still had an ever-so-slight edge for both, but to see it in the proto-Batcave in Batman v Superman, for example, I had to pause playback and take a careful look back and forth between the two images. It was almost impossible to see when I let the scene play without stopping, and too subtle to have noticed in an A/B comparison.
The 5050UB still has the advantage of darker blacks with HDR, but the difference shows only in scenes with total black, like the starfields in The Martian, and it's nowhere near as obvious as with SDR.
There were essentially no differences between the two with HDR content for contrast and sense of three dimensionality either. Each projector occasionally edged out the other on both scores for a second or two at a time, but those fleeting moments were evenly divided between the two. Most of the time, both matched.
As with SDR content, both projectors delivered good color accuracy with HDR, and most colors in most scenes closely matched between the two. Also as with 1080p SDR content, there was no significant difference between the two in detail or sharpness.
3D Viewing. Both the HT5550 and 5050UB offer Full HD 3D, with the HT5550 supporting DLP-Link glasses only and the 5050UB supporting RF glasses only. I didn't see any crosstalk with either, and I saw only the typical level of 3D-related motion artifacts for current generation projectors. The artifacts were a little more obvious with 5050UB, but you can compensate for that by turning on frame interpolation. Interestingly, the HT5550's FI isn't available for 3D mode, making 3D viewing the only time when the 5050UB's FI has the advantage.
The 5050UB offers two 3D modes compared with only one for the HT5550. The Epson's 3D Cinema mode sacrifices a little brightness for better color accuracy, while 3D Dynamic sacrifices a little color accuracy for higher brightness. My subjective impression is that color accuracy was good enough in both modes for most people to consider acceptable, especially after a little tweaking. The same is true for the BenQ HT5550's only 3D mode.
The bigger difference between 3D viewing on the two projectors is in brightness level. Epson's 3LCD projectors usually offer much brighter 3D modes relative to their brightest 2D mode than is typical for DLP projectors, and the 5050UB starts out brighter than the HT5550 even for 2D modes. So it's not surprising that it delivers a brighter 3D image as well. Even its 3D Cinema mode is noticeably brighter. The 3D Dynamic mode is in a different league altogether.
In my review of the HT5550, I mentioned that I found it bright enough for comfortable viewing in the dark with a 90-inch image on my 1.0 gain screen, but even a low level of ambient light washed out the image. The 5050UB can stand up to ambient light at the same image size with a 1.0 screen or light up a larger screen in the dark—particularly one with a 1.2 or 1.3 gain.
At their current prices—$2,699 for the BenQ HT5550 versus $2,999 for the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB—the 5050UB clearly offers more bang for the buck. But that's not to say its advantages will be meaningful to you or be worth the additional $300 premium.
Among the HC5050UB's advantages are larger zoom and shift ranges than the HT5550; powered zoom, shift, and focus (and the associated lens memories for CIH setups); and its noticeably higher brightness—including for Full HD 3D—to light up a larger screen size.
The Epson projector also offers notably better black level and contrast performance with 1080p SDR content, but there was hardly any difference on that score for HDR10 movies and little to no difference in their overall color accuracy and image sharpness with either 1080p SDR or UHD HDR content. And the HC5050 had shorter input lag time that may will be of value to gamers.
That said, the BenQ HT5550 offers substantial lens shift and zoom ranges as well, and brings other advantages, such as a smaller and lighter (and darker) chassis that may be better suited to your installation environment, a far more useful Frame Interpolation feature to smooth motion when you really want it, and both longer warrantees—including for the lamp—and cheaper lamp replacements that mean a lower total running cost. The HT5550's longer lamp life in equivalent modes may also be a help in that area, though that depends on your screen size—its lower brightness might leave you needing to run it in its full power mode for the same size screen that the 5050UB can light up in its Medium or ECO modes.
For some, the decision between these two will be simple. If you're planning on a 2.4:1 screen and want the ability to change aspect ratios with the push of a button, the Epson will be your only choice. Likewise, if you watch a lot of 3D, the Epson's extra brightness gains you a signficant advantage that's well worth the extra cost. Ditto if you don't mind paying a bit more for better contrast performance with 1080p content. On the other hand, if a CIH setup isn't in your future, you don't need the Epson's extra brightness reserves for your viewing conditions or screen size, and the BenQ's zoom lens and shift are sufficient for your throw needs, you'll find the BenQ HT5550 a well-considered option that can save you some bucks in both the short and long term.
BenQ HT5550 Connections
- HDMI 2.0b, HDCP 2.2 (x2)
- USB Type A (5V/2.5A power only)
- USB Type A 2.0 (media reader and firmware upgrades)
- USB Type A 3.0 (media reader and firmware upgrades)
- USB Type Mini B (for firmware upgrades)
- Audio out(3.5mm mini jack)
- Audio out (S/PDIF optical)
- LAN (RJ-45, 10BaseT, 100BaseTX; for control only)
- RS-232 (D-sub 9 pin)
- DC 12v trigger (3.5mm mini jack)
- IR In (3.5 mm mini jack)
- HDMI 2.0b, HDCP 2.2 (x2)
- USB Type A (for optical HDMI cable 300 mA max. power supply only)
- USB Type A (for wireless and firmware)
- Mini USB Type B (service only)
- LAN (RJ-45)
- Computer/D-sub 15 pin
- RS-232c (D-sub 9-pin)
- DC 12v trigger (3.5mm mini jack)
Brightness. The HT5550 offers a Normal (full power) and Economic mode. The Epson 5050UB offers equivalent High and ECO modes, plus a Medium mode. With the lens set to full wide angle in both cases, the measured ANSI lumens for each projector in each combination of color mode and power level was as follows:
BenQ HT550 ANSI Lumens
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB ANSI Lumens
Other key measurements were as follows:
|Measurement||BenQ HT5550||Epson HC5050UB|
|Zoom Lens Light Loss||15%||28%|
|Brightness Uniformity (Wide Zoom)||84%||84%|
|Brightness Uniformity (Full Telephoto)||83%||79%|
|Lowest Measured Input Lag (4K)||88-91 ms||22-29 ms|
|Lowest Measured Input Lag (1080p)||60-65 ms||28-29 ms|
Fan Noise. BenQ's fan noise rating for the HT5550 is 32 dB in Normal mode and 26 dB in Economic mode. Epson's rating for the 5050UB is a similar 31 dB in High Power mode, but a significantly lower 20 dB in ECO. As you would expect from the ratings, in a small to medium size room the full power modes for both projectors and the Economic mode for the HT5550 were all noticeable at quiet moments, while the 5050UB's Mid and ECO modes were barely audible.
The recommendations for High Altitude mode are 4,921 feet or above for the HT5550 and a slightly higher 5,000 feet for the 5050UB. If you need to use High Altitude mode with either power setting on the HT5550 or with the High power setting on the 5050UB, you might want to consider some form of acoustic isolation. An alternative with the 5050UB is to take advantage of the 2.1x zoom lens to position the projector farther away from viewers (assuming the room is large enough).