We reviewed two of BenQ’s new projectors for 2015, the HT3050 and HT4050, recently at Reference Home Theater. We found that they offered some improvements over the prior models while keeping the price close to the same. What we didn’t know is that the real star of the new lineup was the BenQ HT2050. For only $800 BenQ has made a 1080p DLP projector with improved contrast and color accuracy that is a no-brainer pick in the price range.
I would pick the HT2050 over the HT3050 and the HT4050 myself. It offers the same level of performance and you get to save enough money to buy yourself a nice projection screen to go with it. Unless you have an issue with DLP rainbows, in which case the Epson 2040 is for you, the BenQ HT2050 is the best value going in projectors today.
The BenQ HT2050 reminds me a bit of what Sony did with their VPL-HW55ES and VPL-HW40ES projectors a few years ago. The 40ES was identical to the 55ES in performance, it just shaved off a few features that most people didn’t need. But as a consumer you could go out and save almost 40% off the price of the more expensive unit to get one with almost the same performance. The BenQ HT2050 feels that way to me: You lose a few features from the HT3050 and HT4050, but for most people you’re not going to miss them.
The big selling point of the HT3050 and HT4050 over the HT2050 is the pre-calibrated modes. These are setup at the factory to match the Rec.709 standards so you see exactly what you should from the projector. While we love to see this on TVs, projectors are a different story. Your screen material is going to affect how those colors are displayed. It might come through the lens perfectly, but once it reflects off the screen it may no longer be accurate. As a projector lamp ages, this also tends to throw the colors off a bit as well, making this pre-calibrated mode not quite as good as it would be on a TV.
Beyond this you aren’t giving up much. The BenQ HT3050 has MHL support on an HDMI input, but I’ve yet to know anyone that has used that. It also can accept an internal wireless HDMI adapter which some people may want to use. Unless you need one of those features, going with the BenQ HT2050 nets you almost identical performance and saves you $200 as well.
The BenQ HT2050 is a small revision of their prior HT1075 and HT1070 projectors. The biggest change is in the design of the case. It is more stylish than before, with rounded sides and a bit of silver trim to make it stand out. This larger case also has the benefits of reducing the noise by 3dB and reducing light leakage. With the HT1070 and HT1075 I could always notice the light spilling off the side of the projector but not with the HT2050. Otherwise it has the same 1.3x zoom range, a small bit of vertical lens shift, and needs to be aligned above or below the projection screen to line up. The two HDMI inputs are HDMI 1.4a and not HDMI 2.0a, but since this is still a 1080p projector you won’t need to feed it UltraHD content.
Unlike some other projectors in this price range, the BenQ HT2050 includes a backlit remote that is easy to use in the dark. Setting up the BenQ HT2050 is easy provided your screen is in the right position. If you have to angle it to get the image onto the screen, the HT3050 offers some extra keystone correction to help fix that issue. It will introduce some artifacts, but is an option if you cannot align the HT2050.
Watching the BenQ HT2050, it is flat out one of the best values going in AV today. It puts out a bright, sharp image that looks wonderful up on the screen. I started my testing with The Expendables 3. Unlike the prior films, this one had a sharp, detailed transfer that didn’t rely on soft shots to make the stars appear less wrinkled on-screen. Instead every one of those wrinkles came across, sharp and detailed, onto the screen. Single chip DLPs are sharp projectors compared to three chip LCDs and the BenQ 2050 looks fantastic here.
Moving onto Heat, it was clear that the film is in bad need of a new transfer. It is easy to make out the textures of suits and other fabrics on the BenQ HT2050, but it makes clear how poor the Blu-ray of this film looks. If you’ve never had a projector before and are starting with the BenQ, you might be surprised to find how well it reveals both the good and the bad in a Blu-ray disc. Heat gave me that immersive experience, just like when I saw it in a theater, but the BenQ didn’t hide any of its flaws.
Sports play well on the BenQ HT2050 because it is a DLP. DLP projectors have always been superb with their handling of motion and are free of smearing and other artifacts. Watching some football on it the action was clear and crisp and I was not distracted by rainbow artifacts at all. Setting the BenQ HT2050 into bright mode made it possible to watch with the lights on a bit. I’d still recommend having them off while watching for the best overall image.
To torture test the black levels, I put on Gravity. This serves well as a torture test for two main reasons: it’s set in space, so you want it to be as dark as possible, but it also has stars to display. Here DLPs offer a mixed bag compared to a higher-end LCD and especially LCOS projector. The blacks of space are nowhere near as dark as those options. They’re more a dark gray, but not black. Yet the stars offer up more pop since DLP usually does better in ANSI contrast but not native contrast. This lets DLP offer an image that can be more dynamic in these scenes than one with a higher contrast ratio. That said, while Gravity looks good, those $2,000 and up LCD and LCOS projectors will look better just because of the superior blacks.
I didn’t test video games on the BenQ HT2050, I’m not a gamer, but it did measure in at 33ms of lag. This is better than both the HT3050 and the HT1075, making it a better choice for the fast-twitch gamers among us. Combined with the better motion that DLP offers, the BenQ HT2050 is an ideal video game projector.
Bench Test Data
The BenQ offers a cinema color mode that, after a couple of adjustments, is pretty accurate. First you’ll have to disable Brilliant Color, as it makes colors worse. Next you’ll want to use a test disc and back the contrast down a few clicks. We went from 50 to 45 on ours as the image was running out of red and tinting the whites otherwise. Once you’ve done this you can improve the image a bit by using the white balance or ISF controls, but you’re almost there.
All calibrations are done using CalMAN software from SpectraCal. A DVDO AVLabTPG is usually used for test patterns, though Mobile Forge on an Amazon FireTV is used sometimes as well. Measurements are done with an i1Pro2 and a C6. For projectors, we measure directly from the lens while with TVs we measure off the screen. We target the Rec.709 colorspace and BT.1886 gamma unless otherwise noted.
The best preset mode for the BenQ HT2050 is the Cinema option. After choosing this you should disable Brilliant Color from the Advanced Menu. This lowered our average dE2000 for grayscale, saturations, and the color checker. From our viewing we see no reason to enable this and you should leave it off. After this is done the main issue is that the red channel runs out of energy with the Contrast at 50. You can drop the contrast down from 50 to 45 and it goes away but it reduces the contrast ratio from 1700:1 to 1500:1.
Our pre-calibration measurements don’t include this calibration drop as it isn’t as obvious on first look to people. The main issues pre-calibration are that the grayscale errors get higher the closer we get to 100% because Red starts to run out of headspace compared to blue and green. Gamma is good, but the color errors are a bit high.
Post-calibration we just dropped the contrast, verified the brightness, and used the two-point white balance. After adjusting the gain we had no need to adjust the RGB cuts, so it took us 5 minutes at most to do so. This led to as image that was nearly perfect on the charts. There are some small flaws but nothing major. If anything could be improved upon it would be the gamma, but there is no 10-point control to adjust that on the BenQ.
If you have a non-white screen, you might want to get the BenQ HT2050 calibrated. If you have a neutral screen, like the Silver Ticket I used, then you should be OK with Cinema Mode and some small tweaks. The BenQ HT2050 produces an image that measures very well and looks fantastic on-screen.
|Average Grayscale dE2000||2.96||0.78|
|Average Saturations dE2000||2.64||1.29|
|Average Color Checker dE2000||3.75||2.49|
|Summary||Pre-calibration the BenQ is good, but a few small tweaks make it great. You can turn off Brilliant Color, drop the contrast, and you'll have a great image. We didn't even need the ISF mode to achieve the results you see here.|
There isn’t much to improve upon in the BenQ HT2050 when you consider the cost. I’d like to see more lens shift, but if it was my only projector I could make it work in my room. It could be faster to sync to a signal over HDMI but when you watch a movie that isn’t going to impact you except for the start.
The one major feature enhancement they can introduce is a fixed iris. This lets you adjust the amount of light coming from the projector. Even in Eco mode I have light output to spare and an iris gets me darker blacks. I don’t need a dynamic iris, just a simple fixed one that will let the lower the light output and black floor while keeping the contrast ratios the same.
With the BenQ HT2050 it is pretty simple: You can’t spend a better $800 on a projector today. The only reason I’d get something else in this price range is if I needed a feature it didn’t offer like MHL or couldn’t deal with DLP rainbows. Otherwise I can combine the BenQ HT2050 with a nice screen and have a 100” projection system for $1,000. That’s a value that wasn’t possible just a couple of years ago and will offer an experience no TV in that price range can.
If you’ve been wanting to make the jump into a projection setup, or move up from an older 720p model, now is a fantastic time to do so. Aside from my small little complaints, the BenQ HT2050 should be your first stop for a projector at $1,000 or less.