This month’s sponsored article is brought to us by BenQ, which offers an excellent selection of smart projectors designed to make the latest content easier to access than ever before, reducing the headache of navigating multiple remote controls and upgrading your entertainment value dramatically.
It goes without saying, but 2020 was arguably one of the most challenging years we may all ever live through [furiously knocks on wood]. In early March 2020, sweeping statewide lockdown orders were instituted to combat the spread of a novel Coronavirus, later dubbed COVID-19.
Now I know you know this already. Heck, you lived it alongside the rest of us. And with this you know these lockdowns put a major damper on all of our collective lives, eliminating our ability to go out and see friends, eat dinner at our favorite restaurants, attend concerts, go to movie theaters, and a bevy of other activities we all safely took for granted in the “before-times”. Predictably, we fled to our home entertainment systems to fill the void instituted against us. And the numbers prove it.
In fact, the consumption of at-home streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, Hulu, and everything in between skyrocketed. According to a survey from TransUnion:
“As consumers’ use of paid streaming services (including platforms such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix and Apple TV) has increased, so too has the amount of time they are using them. Consumers said their usage increased from 1–2 hours per day prior to the pandemic to an average of 3–4 as of the week of May 18th. More than one-third of consumers surveyed spent at least five hours daily with streamed media.”
While this is just one such survey in a variety of dozens produced in 2020, it does point to a dramatic increase in the amount of time we spend at home watching movies on our favorite streaming services. The survey also discovered that people began subscribing to more services as a result of being stuck at home for the majority of their time. The hunger for fresh content was – and remains – real.
The Golden Age of Content
This giant increase in streaming demand, and the flock to find the best content to consume, is also pushing production studios and other content producers in new, exciting directions for consumers: quality and diversity of content. There are several points of proof to this assertion, beginning with potentially the most exciting announcement out of them all: HBO and Warner Bros.’ announcement that all 2021 theatrical releases stream on HBO Max at the same time as theaters (!). This is an exciting development for home theater enthusiasts and a new business model for studios who are trying to navigate the new landscape with many movie theaters still closed due to the pandemic. Direct release streaming content still provides a revenue stream for those studios, while allowing everyone stuck at home an opportunity to still enjoy their latest movies.
But not only will the top-quality A-list Hollywood content now suddenly be available to stream at home, companies like Starz are betting that content more precisely aimed at specific consumer segments, say women for example, will be a way for them to appeal to a broader audience and spur evermore subscriptions to their services. This greater diversity in content will continue to build the trend of at-home consumption and ensure that hungry customers will always have top-notch quality, and relevant content available to us all. At least, that’s what these companies hope will happen.
In addition to the giant HBO and Warner Bros. announcement, there were also announcements from Netflix regarding its goal to release at least one new movie every week in 2021, which is an incredibly exciting grouping of entertainment that is sure to continue the trend of keeping people enraptured by at-home content for a while longer.
So one thing is for sure, we have no shortage of amazing content coming our way to enjoy in 2021 and beyond.
But this trend in content production and increase in streaming demand also had a dramatic effect on the consumer electronics industry as well, with companies like BenQ seeing notable growth in sales in 2020 in relation to people aiming to improve their at-home viewing experience. We also saw announcements from companies like Klipsch – manufacturer of home theater speakers – having some of their best years yet. Which all points to one thing in particular: people want to experience all this new amazing content with higher-quality home entertainment equipment. Naturally, we agree with them.
After all, what’s the use of watching the new Wonder Woman 1984 on a small TV and $100 soundbar? I’ll tell you, it’s no use at all. And frankly, if I may editorialize further, you’re wasting your hard-earned dollars paying for premium services and using subpar equipment to enjoy it all.
Now we know you know this, after all you’re on ProjectorReviews.com likely because you’re in the market for the latest and greatest projector, or perhaps you want some direction on what would be best for your burgeoning home theater room? Suffice it to say you came to the right place, as projectors are a great way to take advantage of all this amazing new content streaming direct to your house. With platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and others all offering packages that deliver 4K content, it’s absolutely time to upgrade from your old TV or projector to something that can get you closer to that real theater experience.
Projectors are easy to get behind in terms of how quickly and dramatically they upgrade your watching experience at home, especially if your main goal is to create a home theater that can rival what you’re typically used to at a movie theater. If you’re new to buying projectors, we believe you should review BenQ’s fantastic guide to buying projectors.
Once you master the basics of how to get started with a projector, it’s important to understand how the projector market is changing, with the advent of “smart” projectors now really taking hold and offering watchers an easier way to access higher-end content. For a quick primer on smart projectors and why you should consider buying them, we suggest you review our article, “THE COMPELLING CASE FOR PROJECTORS WITH INTEGRATED SMART CAPABILITIES,” wherein we highlight the many attractive ways smart projectors can make your life easier.
Perhaps the most important part of that article is the discussion regarding how projectors with built-in smart technologies add native support for smart TV operating systems, including Roku, Netflix, etc. Smart projectors eliminate the need for multiple remote controls that can confuse your family, but they also deliver smarter operating systems that offer consumers more streamlined access to content than ever before. And when you have more streaming services and content being consumed and accessed than ever before, this is a huge benefit.
Getting Started with Smart Projectors
To get you started on your journey with smart projectors, we’ve highlighted a few options from our content partner, BenQ. BenQ has a great portfolio of smart projectors with industry-leading projector technology, Android TV integration and features.
If You Enjoy Gaming
If you’re just getting started in the projector space and want something smart that will ensure you have seamless access to the latest shows, movies and music content, we recommend the BenQ TH685i, which offers everything you need to get a fantastic projector experience with smart functionalities. Now to be clear, this is by no means an entry-level projector, but in the burgeoning category of smart projectors, we think this is a great place to start.
The TH685i features Google-certified Android TV, which enables really easy access to all the great content available to us today, even allowing users to search for their favorite TV or movies with their voice. An added benefit to the BenQ TH685i, it is also designed with gaming as a core focus, so if you or your kids are avid gamers, this projector has added benefits. This includes low-input lag so you’re never caught a step behind, beautiful 1080p HDR graphics and 3500 lumens of brightness so you can watch with ease, even in daylight.
If You’re Ready for a Serious Upgrade for the Big Game
If this isn’t your first rodeo in the projector game and you’re ready for a serious projector upgrade with smart technologies, it’s easy for us to recommend the BenQ TK850i. As with BenQ’s other smart projectors, the TK850i benefits from the company’s robust integration with Android TV to bring content to your fingertips with a single remote, or no remote at all if you opt to use your voice.
Where the BenQ TK850i really stands out is the fantastic image quality it provides. Like the HT3350i, the TK850i uses BenQ’s exclusive HDR-PRO technology to enhance 4K HDR content, and expands on that with true 4K UHD 3840×2160 resolution with 8.3 million distinct pixels, which reduces blur and provides an incredibly clear picture and defined details for your favorite TV show, movie or sporting event. This advanced 4K picture is brought to life with a precision 10-element 8-group lens array, allowing greater light penetration for an extremely intense 4K picture.
In addition, with a dedicated “Sports Mode,” the TK850i enhances all of the right colorations for your favorite sports, which provides more true-to-life skin tone, immersive sound and motion enhancing properties. To ensure watchers don’t miss a second of the action, the built-in Motion Enhancer actually inserts interpolated frames between action sequences to provide an even more seamless picture, which makes the game look smoother and easier to follow.
If Elevating Your Home Theater Is The Main Goal
If you’re not keen on gaming and want a projector that instead focuses on outstanding home theater capabilities alongside smart features, we recommend the BenQ HT3550i. While the TK850i is designed to deliver a bright vivid image even in a room with some ambient light, the HT3550 was designed for dark theater environments where black level and accurate colors are more important than maximum brightness. To further improved its black level, the HT3550i is one of the least expensive 4K DLP projectors equipped with a dynamic iris.
Powered again by Google’s Android TV, the HT3550i enables you to seamlessly access 500,000 TV shows and movies from Google Play, and all of your favorite streaming platforms with the simplicity of a single remote and your voice.
Now the core thing to focus on here is ease-of-access. Not all smart projectors are created equal, and BenQ has focused on creating a platform that makes Android TV easy to use, and ensures the latest apps, streaming content and cast-able content from your laptop and phone are simple and fun to use.
Since this is a projector designed to make home theater look amazing, the HT3550i leverages BenQ’s CinematicColor™ technology, which enhances optimal colors for precise picture quality. The important takeaway here is that the projector accurately reproduces cinematic quality with wide and precise color accuracy, which helps bring the directors’ vision to life for TVs and movies alike.
In addition to this, the projector is calibrated out of the box, which can be a fairly challenging barrier to people who aren’t familiar or are new to projector technology. It is also enabled with BenQ’s exclusive HDR-PRO technology, which enhances 4K HDR content with greater contrast range through enhanced tone mapping. This helps you achieve better detail from streaming content, which again, is the most important part of investing in this type of technology.
Generally Speaking, this is All Good News
Whether you’re ready to dive into a new projector or not, the good news is that the incoming array of amazing content from major studios and streaming services is sure to continue growing for the foreseeable future. The push to elevate streaming content was already underway prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but like so many other industries, the pandemic helped spur along the radical shift to at-home entertainment in a major way.
This paradigm shift to home entertainment is reminiscent of the way arcades fizzled out of popular culture, which took place decades ago. Before at-home gaming, the only place to get your game on was the local arcade, where Pac Man, Skee Ball and Galaxiga could be played for a dime or two. Then something radical happened. Magnavox introduced something called Odyssey, which was followed by Atari, Sega, Nintendo, and well, the rest is history. Now arcades are relegated to boardwalks on the Jersey Shore and the majority of gaming takes place at home.
But let’s be clear, we’re not saying the theater industry is doomed to the same fate. There will always be die-hard fans who want to watch the latest blockbuster on a real IMAX screen, and we support that mission 100 percent, because well, we’re fanatics of the big screen ourselves. But it can’t be denied, the pandemic has dramatically altered the way content is produced and delivered to consumers, and that won’t quickly shift back to the way things were. In fact, we’re betting it won’t.
Luckily for us, companies like BenQ have been at the ready for this moment in time. Quietly developing the best projector technologies to bring your favorite TV, movies and other entertainment to life. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that you can, as a consumer, dramatically elevate your home theater experience without dropped oodles of money to do it. Think about it, a 100” 4K image for less than $2,000 is something we could only dream of ten years ago. We believe this firmly slates where we’re at today as the absolute best time to be a projector enthusiast, and perhaps the luckiest time of all for people just getting started in the hobby.
So, if you’re looking for a smart projector to access the latest content, we strongly recommend you check out BenQ’s stellar lineup of smart projectors. Whether that’s something focused on gaming, like the BenQ TH685i, or something more home theater oriented, like the HT3550i or perhaps something bettered geared towards sports, like the TK850i, there’s something for you. And remember, don’t despair, despite the fact we’re all stuck at home, at least we’re stuck at home with access to some of the most amazing home theater technology ever before in human history.