HT3050 Angle

BenQ HT3050 and HT4050 Projector Reviews

BenQ has been making the best $1,000 projectors for a number of years now. Their HT1070 and HT1075 projectors offer a lot of value for your money, with high lumen output and a sharp, accurate image. The new HT3050 is the successor to the HT1075 and improves upon it in many ways. Also new this year is the step-up HT4050 model that offers more install flexibility. Both are very good projectors and unless you have an issue with rainbows out perform the LCD brethren at this price range.

Both the HT3050 and HT4050 offer a number of improvements over the HT1075. Most importantly the image is more accurate that before. Both colors and the grayscale have improved, and the calibration controls work better than on the HT1075. The lenses are very sharp and the intra-scene contrast ratios are very good. For a projector in the $1,000 price range you still can’t beat the options from BenQ.

HT3050 and HT4050 Differences

Specs
Manufacturer: BenQ
Model: HT3050
Lumens: 2000
Display Type: DLP
Resolution: 1920x1080
Inputs: 2x HDMI 1.4a, 1x VGA, 1x Component, 1x Composite, 2x Stereo Audio, 1x USB, 1x RS232
3D Support: Yes
Projector Size: 15" x 4.8" x 10.9"
Projector Weight: 7.9 lbs.
Review Date: December 4, 2015
Price: $995.00
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The HT3050 and HT4050 each offer improvements over the HT1075 and have their own differences as well. The wireless option for the HT3050 is more elegant as it installs inside the chassis and adds another HDMI input. The HT4050 option is a box that sits outside the projector, just like the HT1075 one, but still provides the same wireless functionality.

The HT3050 is quieter than the HT1075 by 3dB and offers the same lens shift that was previously available. The case has been completely redone to be more stylish and less boxy than the HT1075 was. What the HT4050 offers over the HT3050 is install flexibility. It offers horizontal lens shift as well as vertical which let me ceiling mount it in my home theater. It also has a zoom lens with a wider range that makes it easier to place further away from the screen. The design is closer to that of the HT1075: more angular and less curved when compared to the HT3050. The HT4050 can optionally support RF 3D glasses while the HT3050 is limited to DLP Link versions.

The major improvements here are internal. The Rec. 709 color preset is designed to be much closer to the HDTV color standards than the prior HT1075 was and our testing bears that out. All models still use a 6x color wheel to try to avoid rainbows though people very sensitive to them will still see them. The lens is still all-glass and has remarkable sharpness in use. Both models use the same remote control which is nicely backlit and easy to use in the dark, unlike many other projectors.

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Image Performance

BenQ already had the best $1,000 projector on the market in the HT1075 so they could have just done a minor update and called it good. Instead they made a number of very good improvements to the image performance on the HT3050 and HT4050. Even if you have a calibrated HT1075 the HT3050 and HT4050 offer a better image that you likely will notice.

The BenQ projectors offer a very sharp image. The use of a single chip DLP with a glass lens give you a sharpness that LCD and LCOS cannot match. Directly comparing the HT3050 to the brand new Epson 2040 LCD projector the BenQ offers more detail on fine textures. Watching the scenes of the monks in Samsara, their robes and hands are more detailed on the BenQ models than on the Epson. Switching over to The Man from UNCLE or The Expendables 3 and the BenQ models offer an image that is clearly sharper than any LCD projector I have on-hand.

Intra-scene contrast on the BenQ models also beats the Epson LCD. The opening of chapter 12 of the final Harry Potter film shows Voldemort and his minions gathering on a hill outside Hogwarts. As the camera pans around you see the castle in the background with fires lit. On the BenQ models these fires are very dark when compared to the surrounding dark castle. On the LCD based Epson the fires are duller while the surrounding castle is not as dark as on the BenQ. DLP models have always had problems with their absolute black levels, they just don’t get as dark as an LCD or LCOS can, but their images can look better than expected because of superior ANSI contrast. That gives these scenes, like in Harry Potter, more visual pop even if the objective test numbers indicate the LCD should be better.

This higher black level does cause some issues with the gamma control of the BenQ and it one place the HT4050 outperforms the HT3050. With a gamma tracking close to the BT.1886 standard we use we lose a lot of shadow detail. That same Harry Potter scene becomes a murky mess that lacks all detail. Adjusting the gamma to around 2.1, which can be done on the BenQ remote easily, makes it easy to see the detail without affecting the level of black. However brighter images, like sports or animated films, look better with the gamma that tracks closer to 2.4. There is no ideal setting on the BenQ that works for all content. If forced to choose I would pick the 2.1 option as the ultra-dark images suffer more, but I like not having to choose. The dark scenes also are more detailed on the HT4050 than the HT3050 in my testing. Typically they look very similar but the 4050 is better on Harry Potter.

I used the HT4050 to introduce my kids to Star Wars for the first time. In a light-controlled room the black levels were perfectly fine and as good as you get with a $1,000 projector today. Using my 100” Silver Ticket screen the image has plenty of pop and is more than bright enough in the Eco setting. The lens controls, which are flexible for a $1,000 DLP, made it easy to position the image on the screen from my ceiling projector mount. The HT3050 has to be table mounted in the room because it isn’t as flexible in positioning. With a starfield and fast pans I don’t see any rainbows unless I move my head as well. If I am focused on the movie I don’t see the rainbows at all, but if I keep looking away at my laptop to take notes, then I can see them. If you do easily see rainbows on a DLP, you should look at the Epson 2040 or another LCD projector.

Both of the BenQ models are quite bright if you need them to be. Fully calibrated in Eco mode, the HT3050 measured in at 890 lumens while the HT4050 has 937 lumens. On my 100” screen with neutral gain, that’s 30 foot lamberts, double the recommended 14-16 foot lamberts we want. Even as the bulb dims over time the BenQ is going to be plenty bright. Using the Vivid mode, as the Bright mode just looks awful, you can get 60 foot lamberts. This is more than some LCDs and gives you an image you can view with some lights on in the room quite easily.

Gamers are going to do much better with the HT3050 than the HT4050. The 3050 has 49ms of lag while the 4050 measures in at 129ms. Enabling the game mode made no different on the HT4050 unit I had, which might be a firmware bug but I’m unsure at the moment.

Test Results

The BenQ models this year fare much better than before. Last year there was a bug in the HT1075 where you couldn’t calibrate the grayscale without hurting the contrast ratio, but that is fixed this year. The color performance out of the box is also much better than before, so you don’t need to calibrate as much as you did previously. The results below show the HT3050 model, but the HT4050 scores very close. You can read the full results by following this link, and if you want to compare them to the HT1075 you can see those results by clicking here.

Conclusions

If I was shopping for a $1,000 projector today I’d get the HT3050. The only reason I think I’d step up to the more expensive HT4050 is if I needed the more flexible lens shift. Otherwise the HT3050 offers a nicer design, better integration of the wireless HDMI kit, runs quieter, and has lower input lag. Unless I can’t deal with DLP rainbows I’d get the BenQ over the LCD options on the market as well. The image is noticeably sharper and the color performance is better.

The HT1075 and HT1070 were very good projectors from BenQ, and the HT3050 is even better. I’ve recommended the HT1070 and HT0175 to countless friends and readers, and all of them have been happy with it. Now I’ll recommend the HT3050 to them instead. The $200 price difference is a decent amount, the cost of a 100” screen, but it gives you much more accurate colors and a longer life bulb. The HT3050 is a great performer and a great value that I highly recommend.

Review Summary
Product: BenQ HT3050
Reviewer:
Pros: Accurate color, sharp image, plenty of lumens, optional wireless HDMI, quiet
Cons: Speakers can distort at higher volumes, gamma isn't perfect
Summary: The BenQ HT3050 is the best projector at the $1,000 level that we've seen to date. It offers a significant improvement over the prior HT1075 and makes a great projector for your home theater.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 3.5/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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Calibration Details

All calibrations are done using SpectraCal’s CalMAN software using a DVDO AVLabTPG pattern generator, an XRite i1Pro2 spectrometer and a SpectraCal C6 colorimeter. We target the HDTV Rec.709 color gamut with the BT.1886 gamma function. With a projector we take all measurements directly from the lens instead of the screen to be neutral, and measure light output in lumens instead of using foot lamberts.

For all the BenQ measurements I used the Rec.709 setting in the menu. This is the most accurate mode and you can still get very good light output from it. Brightness and contrast take very small adjustments to get them correct, and color and tint are good out of the box.

Before calibration, the only issues are a slight blue shift in the grayscale as we get close to 100% white. Colors are almost all below the dE2000 visible error level of 3.0 and the gamma tracks fairly well.

 

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Post-calibration the errors are all gone. The saturation errors are lower and the grayscale errors are completely absent. There are no major flaws to find here at all. The main issue remaining is the higher black level, which happens because you have a lot of lumens with only a 1200:1 contrast ratio. If you added a neutral density filter to the front of the lens to drop the light output, it would improve the blacks while still being bright enough for a 100-120” screen. As the bulb ages you might have to adapt by removing the filter, but your blacks will also improve then.

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I found with the HT3050 I had the best results with the gamma at 1.8 for dark films like Harry Potter and 2.2 for football and other bright programming. The 1.8 makes all the dark details visible, while 2.2 gives the brighter material more depth while 1.8 looks a bit washed out. Choosing 2.0 is a good compromise, but keeping it at 2.2 and changing it if you are watching a dark film might be the best choice. But you can easily experiment in your own setup to see what works best.

Calibration Summary
Measurement Pre-Calibration Post-Calibration
Contrast Ratio: 1222:1 1223:1
Gamma Point: 2.44 2.44
Average Grayscale dE2000: 1.70 1.12
Average Saturations dE2000: 1.13 0.80
Average Color Checker dE2000: 2.63 2.38
Post-Calibration Lumens: 1323
Maximum Lumens: 2030
Summary: The pre-calibration numbers from the BenQ are good but the post-cal numbers are basically perfect. As long as your screen is neutral, the Rec.709 preset offers a very good image. Just make sure to adjust the gamma control based on content to what works best for your room.

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  • Cipri

    Is the HDMI 2.0 or 1.4 ?

    • They are HDMI 1.4a. With no support for WCG, HDR, or UHD there isn’t a need for more than 1.4a, but I’ve updated the specs box to include this.

  • Scotty

    Hi Chris, thanks for the great review – I’m currently undecided between the HT3050 or Optoma’s HD37 I can get both for around the same price here in New Zealand, with my main concern being that the HT3050 is DLP only for 3D (HD37 has RF) and I will be using the projector a lot for 3D content. Do you have any advice on this?