BenQ HT5550 Projector Review -Picture Quality 2

Posted on July 23, 2019 by Art Feierman

BenQ HT5550 Picture Quality page 2: 4K HDR Movies, 1080 movies, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality

4K Movie Content with HDR and P3 Color

BenQ projectors typically have some good looking color, right out of the box (the very brightest mode notwithstanding – as is typical). When the projector recognizes 4K content with HDR, it automatically switches to HDR10 mode (or HLG for broadcast, some streaming). The color is overall pretty good but definitely a bit on the cool side – stronger blues, a bit thin on reds. On average, the color temp runs in the low 7000K range, instead of 6500K. Not bad. You’ll want a warmer picture for movies, which is not a problem. Eric’s calibration warmed up things up nicely, with the whole brightness range from 20 IRE to 100 IRE (white) tightly packed into the proper range – measuring 6470K – 6670K. Very nice! BTW lots of folks prefer a color temp a little cooler – 7000K – 7500K for sports. (I’m one of them!)

The HT5550’s attempt at P3 color wasn’t as good as some competition, but P3 color impacts the overall picture far less than the HDR implementation, so look at P3 as highly desirable, but if we need more brightness, and REC 709 color can deliver, it gives us a choice.

As I’ve previously mentioned, overall watching movies on the HT5550 in 4K with HDR, I’ve made a few general conclusions:

  • HDR comes across brighter in the upper brightness ranges, than most other 4K projectors handling HDR content
  • This may be costing some highlight detail (on HDR only)
  • Overall, the HDR looks vibrant, and good, with its auto tone mapping, but it looks different doing HDR than various other projectors including some very expensive ones

From this I conclude that the BenQ does look rather good on HDR content, but I feel it is not being handled as correctly as with other projectors.

That said, in this case, I’m pleased with the end result.I would have liked a little more HDR (and less SDR look) than I’ve been seeing, especially in the mid ranges that give it that slightly lower dynamic look, but even if not that “accurate” at coming up with a good compromise for a projector, overall it looks good.

A perfectionist might be unhappy.  As a hard core enthusiast, I still like the end result.  My brain may be telling me that on that dark pool scene with stars in Passengers, that the water is definitely too brightly blue (green), but it looks good.  If I hadn’t “studied” that same image on more than a dozen projectors in HDR, my initial reaction might have been “this is a great implementation.”  Instead, it seems we have a very respectable implementation that looks really good, but also a bit brighter, less HDR, than some others, and likely brighter etc, than it should be.(You’ll be able to live with that!)

1080p Movies

No surprises, here, the HT5550 is classic BenQ HT projector, Before or after calibration, the BenQ serves up, in best modes, some pretty accurate color and a natural looking image on my 1080p movies.

Like most projectors, the out of the box color is a bit cool, but not as much as when in HDR modes. In this case, measured temps before calibration stayed in the 6800K – 7000K range, (my idea of ideal for sports, btw.)

Post calibration the projector was right on the money. And the color, the skin tones, pretty much everything looked really good on 1080p.

Black levels, as noted, are very good, the HT5550 is now my least expensive projector that has really good black level performance. As many folks know, Epson’s UB’s have long been my first choice in “affordable” serious home theater projectors largely because of black levels.  I can tell you that on 1080p movies, the new HC5050UB still provides blacker blacks. But, the BenQ comes fairly close, much closer than the also iris equipped, and lower cost HT3550.  And, "close enough."

To me, therefore, for typical movie watching, if your budget is tight, and you want some really good black levels, the HT5550 is your best bet. If you have the extra $500+ for the Epson, sure go for it, but BenQ has just brought down the starting price for what is my idea of a “Lowest cost serious HT projector."

HDTV and Sports

Hmm, I’ve already talked about that. The HT5550 has several modes that are just fine for sports viewing, and for that matter, casual regular HDTV viewing. (I think of high production quality content like Game of Thrones as more movie-like than TV).

I didn't watch a whole lot of sports on it, at least not live. I ran through parts a few NFL games I usually use for the photo shoots, and found comfort on the NFL channel for fresh content, for just watching, without analyzing.

For lightweight HDTV viewing, I usually have some rear lights on in the theater.  For that reason, I did much of my watching of sit-coms, dramas, etc using the untouched Vivid TV mode, for the punch. I also used Cinema mode (User) with its calibrated color, but not as often, as I'm usually working/writing when watching TV, and I like the extra pop of Vivid TV mode.  Again, it is a bit on the cool side, but enough to actually be more enjoyable for my football viewing than a mode hitting the warmer 6500K target.

What's missing? Really only more sheer horsepower for watching with more ambient light, or a very large screen.

The BenQ’s smooth motion is never quite subtle enough for me for movie watching but I had no issue with using it while viewing lots of sports footage. I like the lowest setting, but then I’m conservative. Find the “smooth” setting that does it for you. Keep in mind, the higher the setting the more visible artifacts you may notice around the fast moving objects. You’ll want to find your favorite combination of smoothness and artifacts (they are fairly subtle, but enough to annoy an enthusiast, and probably unnoticed by a casual observer.

Overall Picture Quality

I think I’ve covered just about all of it, so here’s a quick recap: Better black levels than any other projector I’m aware of at or below its price. For better, you’ll spend at least $500 more.
Overall color – pretty darn good out of the box, even skin tones in most modes. Calibrated, the BenQ looks really good, rich saturated colors, and especially true on dark scenes.

Because of the surprisingly low lumens for HDR (for which you normally want a ton of brightness), I had Eric also calibrate the projector for 4K standard REC709 color. The color isn’t as accurate (or as wide a color gamut) as our “best” HDR calibration, but, the brightness almost doubled.

Folks that’s your call. Try both sets of calibrations!

Overall, Eric has a lot to say about that in his pages.

star scape
Passengers 4K Blu-ray, HDR10 mode, P3

This is an HT projector - not a lot of muscle for leaving the dedicated theater/cave, but if you have a decent room, and pair it with an ALR ("light rejecting") screen, that can work.

As long, though as you have a good room expect some first-class home theater. The image is very nicely sharp of course (4K UHD).

The HDR looked really good, but, as mentioned above it seems closer to SDR than full HDR. You get a nicely bright image on HDR, and that’s no easy trick for a projector that Eric measured only putting out 665 lumens with wide color selected (trying to accomplish P3 color).

Picture quality-wise, put the HT5550 in a class with just a couple of other excellent projectors near its price.

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