What we have here, is a $2499 MSRP projector now shipping for about two months. So far, the online price of the HT5550 is staying very close to the list price, but I imagine we’ll see some price erosion as we get into the holiday season.
So, who is the competition?
Here we will consider how these projectors stack up:
BenQ’s own lower-cost HT3550 and TK800M
Other low-cost 4K UHD DLPs
Epson Home Cinema 4010 and 4050Ube
Epson Home Cinema 5050UB
LG HU80KA (a laser projector)
There are some older 4K UHD projectors still around that we could have considered, but as noted, most had various issues with HDR. Let's just say, "rougher around the edges"
BenQ HT3550 and TK800M vs HT5550
The BenQ HT3550! Better than typical performance, and a very good value.
Let’s start with BenQ’s lower-cost alternatives. There’s the 2200 lumen HT3550 an under $1500 4K UHD that also has a dynamic iris, and the same size DLP chip. And, there’s the similar TK800M, with 3000 claimed lumens, but more “home entertainment” oriented – not quite as good a picture (very similar though to the HT3550) but brighter, for brighter rooms. Neither is a match at all for their big brother, consider:
- Black levels are definitely deeper on the HT5550
- The others are only one step above entry-level blacks
- No lens shift on the HT3550 (or TK800M)
- 1.6:1 zoom – good placement range vs a modest 1.2:1
- RBE – the HT5550 has minimal, the others have a more frequent rainbow effect
- Just affects the small number of us that are RBE sensitive (5%? – a guess)
There are other feature differences, but as competition goes, The TK800M is home entertainment and should be headed for a brighter room than the HT5550 can handle well. The HT3550 goes mostly where the HT5550 goes, it’s a nice projector but the HT5550 is a good step up in many areas. (And by my take, the better value, but $1000 more expensive.
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Other low-cost 4K UHD projectors
There are plenty out there, from Viewsonic, Optoma, Vivitek, and others. But mostly they compete against each other and the lower cost BenQs just discussed. As the BenQs typically have the best color of those and the best blacks, no real need to compare each of them to the HT5550, except to point out that some, like the Optoma’s, are much better gamers thanks to less input lag, or that some are smart projectors (ie the Optoma UHD51A). BTW, at the time of this publication, I think of the HT3550 as the most “home theater” of those under $1500 4K UHD projectors.
Epson HC4010 vs HT5550
Epson Home Cinema 4010 offers lens memory
At $1999 street price, the HC4010 which started shipping fall of 2018, is one of the best selling projectors around. Like the HT5550 it is 4K capable, supporting HDR10, but it does not support HLG for broadcast (and some streaming). The Home Cinema 4010, by comparison, is a better gamer than the BenQ, but only to a point. Its input lag is half that of the HT5550, making it very good in that regard. But the 4010 doesn’t support HDMI all the way up to 18 GHz, as a result, it can do a great job of gaming with 4K content, but only with HDR turned off. Nikki our most serious gamer, says her 4K games look great even without HDR, but one reader pointed out to her, true, but if she had 4K with HDR on her games, they would look even better. BTW for $1000 more list price, the HC5050UB (does not have those limitations).
Out of the box color and picture on the Epson and the BenQ are roughly comparable, both have to be considered having very good such color, much better than many competitors, especially some of the entry-level 4K UHD DLPs. I won't mention names.
Black levels – both the BenQ and the Epson have dynamic irises, but the inherent native contrast of the BenQ is superior to that of Epson’s non-UB 3LCD panels. The BenQ definitely wins the black level battle, with the 4010 more suited for doing black levels battle with the lower cost HT3550!
Feature sets – Other than the HDMI caused limitations of the HC4010, the Epson rules when it comes to features. There’s the 2.1:1 motorized zoom lens, with far more range, and more lens shift than even the BenQ’s respectable abilities. For many of us movie fanatics, though, that all combine to give the HC4010 Lens Memory, which in turn lets you go with a Cinemascope shaped wide screen. That will be a huge difference to some of us, and the proverbial “nothing burger” to a lot of others. (Going widescreen should be a key decision factor between these two. Both have CFI for smooth motion, plenty of inputs, a 12-volt trigger (for motorized screens).
Memory – Epson offers 10 memory settings for your color. As I noted (complained) the BenQ is limited. You a spare User mode, for non-HDR, but with HDR, the BenQ can’t have two modes set up at the same time: A brighter HDR mode with standard color, or one half as bright with the wider P3 color. (When I’m using one of these Epson’s or the 5050UB – next – I typically have 4 separate modes set-up for just my 4K HDR content, with 1 for my best HDR/P3, and 3 for HDR with Rec709 (no cinema filter), for different ambient light levels. (Of course, I am a bit over the top…)
Bottom line here – two really good projectors. I’ll give the Epson the big win on brightness overall. The Epson produces about the same lumens using 4K/3P color as the BenQ doing 4K/REC709 color). Mind you, the BenQ’s inherently bright ranges in HDR make it seem not a whole less bright, when both doing HDR/P3. For non-HDR 4K the Epson seems a lot brighter (it measures over twice as bright). See the HC5050UB vs HT5550 images below.
Overall, both have very good color in best modes.
The Epson will cost you less – and has 2 years of warranty with a replacement program for both years, vs the BenQ’s standard 3 years parts and labor. (A fair trade-off!) BTW, if you want to buy from a local dealer or some big box houses (ie Best Buy), there’s the PC4050, for the same price as the HT5550, no real performance differences to the HC4010, but your extra $500 compared to the 4010, you also get an extra year warranty, and replacement, a spare lamp and ceiling mount. (But the BenQ still wins on black levels!)
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BenQ HT5550 vs HC5050UB – and HC5050Ube:
There is so much to write here – as we’re talking about what are now my two favorite under $3000 home theater projectors! The HC5050Ub is $2999, There's also Epson's HC5050UBe version with wireless HDMI but the HC5050Ube is $3299!
But I won’t spend too much time here, because I will be publishing a much bigger comparison article including more than a dozen side by side image comparisons.
So, here’s the important stuff:
The HT5550 has “ultra-high contrast” black level performance, that makes it really “serious” HT in my mind. The Epson UB projectors do that even better. As good as the BenQ does, the Epsons are still a stop better – at least on non-HDR content.
On HDR content, the handling of the HDR and tone mapping it makes a difference. While I describe the mid and brighter scenes as a bit too bright and less HDR-like than they should be with the BenQ, by comparison, the Epson seems to have the HDR brightness nailed. (But I do favor the BenQ HDR's brightness more than the older Epson HC5040UB's dimness. The Epson also does the best job of hitting P3 color of any lamp-based projector we've reviewed to date, per BTW the Epson’s HDR, well, it looks very, very similar to the $10K JVC NX7 and a $40K Sony, the BenQ comes across brighter even in dark scenes.