BenQ has introduced several new 1080p projectors in the past year. Some, like the $999 MH530 and TH670, are targeted at the home entertainment space, meaning that they are brighter and designed for use in everyday viewing environments. However, the company also introduced a new "flagship" 1080p home theater projector, the HT6050--which is the subject of today's review.
The HT6050 is a THX- and ISF-certified DLP projector that uses TI's DarkChip 3 chip and a six-segment RGBRGB color wheel. The company's big selling point with this projector is that it's designed to offer reference-quality Rec 709 color out of the box. It has a rated light output of 2,000 lumens and a stated contrast ratio of 50,000:1. When you purchase the HT6050, you can choose between five lens options to suit your viewing environment, and BenQ's optional Wireless HD Kit is available to send a wireless 1080p signal from source(s) to projector. The HT6050 is a 3D-capable projector that supports either DLP Link or 3D VESA glasses.
The HT6050 carries an MSRP of $3,799 and is sold through the company's Integrators' Choice partners.
The HT6050 is a little more substantial in size and build than the company's home entertainment models that focus on portability. This model measures 16.9 by 6.5 by 12.6 inches and weighs 19.4 pounds, which is on par with other mid-level models in the HT genre. The cabinet is pretty much a basic black-box design, with slatted ridges around the sides and back to disguise the fan vents. To me, the design is very business-like. Under a pull-up door on the top panel, you'll find dials for vertical and horizontal lens shift, plus a control panel with buttons for menu, source, back, auto, OK, and navigation.
Around back, the connection panel features dual HDMI 1.4 inputs (one of which supports MHL to connect a tablet, phone, or streaming stick), as well as PC, component, and composite video inputs. You'll also find an RS-232 port, a 12-volt trigger, a 3D sync output, and both Type A and Type B USB ports. The Type B port is for service, and the Type A port provides power to BenQ's Wireless HDMI Kit (or a similar kit from another manufacturer) but does not support any form of media playback.
The package includes an IR remote with full amber backlighting. It lacks dedicated buttons for each input; you have to scroll through the various options using the Source button. Otherwise, though, the remote has an intuitive layout and lots of direct access to desirable picture controls.
The HT6050 has a center-oriented lens with manual zoom and focus rings. As I mentioned, you can choice from five lens options. I went with the standard lens, which has 1.25x zoom, a throw ratio of 1.54-1.93:1, and a size range from 35 to 205 inches. The other lens options are Wide Fixed (no zoom, 0.778:1 throw ratio), Wide Zoom (1.18x zoom, 1.1-1.3:1 throw ratio), Semi Long (1.5x zoom, 1.93-2.9:1 throw ratio), and Long Zoom 1 (1.67x zoom, 3.0-5.0:1 throw ratio). All of the lens options offer the same amount of shift capability: +/-5 percent horizontal and -15 to +55 percent vertical--which is not as much as you get with some competitors but is still better than I've seen from a lot of DLP projectors. As I always do, I placed the projector on a gear rack in the back of my room; the rack is about 46 inches tall and 12 feet from my Visual Apex 100-inch drop-down screen, and I was able to center the BenQ image with minimal effort. The HT6050 also supports the use of an anamorphic lens attachment, with two anamorphic aspect-ratio options that allow you to view 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 movies without black bars.
BenQ says that the HT6050 is the first single-chip DLP projector to earn THX display certification. When you first power up the projector, you'll find it in its THX picture mode. Other picture-mode options include Bright, Vivid, Game, User 1, and User 2. Since this is also an ISF-certified projector, you can create ISF-Day and ISF-Night picture modes and lock in the settings. There are plenty of advanced picture adjustments to perform said calibration. You get four color temperature presets (normal, cool, lamp native, and warm), but they are not available in the THX or User picture modes. In those modes, you only have access to the advanced RGB gain and offset controls to fine-tune the white balance. A full six-point color management system gives you the ability to adjust the hue, saturation, and gain (brightness) of all six colors. The HT6050's dynamic iris can be turned on to automatically adjust the lens aperture to suit the image being displayed in order to improve contrast ratio. Other adjustments include nine gamma presets (from 1.6 to 2.8); a BrilliantColor mode to improve the color brightness; noise reduction; and three lamp modes (normal, economic, and SmartEco). The HT6050 uses a 280-watt lamp, and BenQ lists lamp life between 2,500 and 6,000 hours, depending on which lamp mode you choose (SmartEco offers the best lamp life).
BenQ has introduced a new suite of video processing tools called CinemaMaster that includes adjustments for color enhancement, flesh tone adjustments, pixel enhancement (i.e., edge enhancement), Digital Color Transient Improvement (which "improves the transition between contrasting colors"), and Digital Level Transient Improvement (which "reduces noise from fast-switching luminance in video"). Those are all adjustable in small increments. I left Color Enhancer, DCTI, and DLTI set at zero. Pixel Enhancer is set to 4 (out of 10) by default; this provides a nice amount of sharpness without producing visible lines around objects. I wouldn't go any higher unless you want to see edge enhancement. The CinemaMaster section is also where you'll find the Motion Enhancer frame interpolation tool designed to reduce motion blur and film judder. There are options for off, low, middle, and high (we'll talk performance in the next section).
The HT6050 supports 3D playback but does not come with any 3D glasses. BenQ sent along one pair of the optional DGD5 DLP Link glasses, which communicate automatically with the projector with no need to attach a 3D emitter to the projector's sync port. If you want to use 3D VESA glasses with an emitter, you'll need to switch the 3D Sync Mode in the HT6050's menu from DLP Link to 3D VESA. When you send the projector a 3D signal, it will automatically switch into its lone 3D picture mode, through which most of the picture adjustments I described above can be tweaked.
My video sources for this review were a Dish Network Hopper HD DVR and an Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player.
As always, I began my official evaluation by measuring the display's different picture modes as they are out of the box, to find out which one is the closest to reference standards. As I said, the HT6050 is set to the THX picture mode out of the box, and BenQ says that this projector meets the Rec 709 HD color standard out of the box. Is that true? According to the readings I got with my Xrite I1Pro 2 meter and SpectraCal CalMAN software, the answer is yes. In THX mode, all six color points have a Delta Error under three, which means that any amount of error should be undetectable to the human eye. The least accurate color was cyan, with a Delta Error of 2.3.
Despite its accurate color, though, the THX mode was not the most accurate picture mode overall. That honor belongs to the User modes, which also have accurate color but offer a slightly more neutral color temperature or white balance. The gray-scale Delta Error for the THX mode was 7.2, while the gray-scale Delta Error for the User 1 mode was a slightly better 5.3. In both modes, the color temperature is a bit too warm, or red--but it's less so in the User 1 mode, so that's the mode I chose to do a full calibration. As you can see in the measurements charts on page two, I was able to obtain excellent results through calibration. The maximum gray-scale Delta Error fell to just 2.6, the color balance was very good, and the gamma average was right on the 2.4 target that we use for projectors. Even though the six color points were technically fine right out of the box, I played around the color management system and was able to obtain even better results. Color management systems don't always work the way they're supposed to in projectors, but this one actually did, and I was able to lower all six Delta Errors to below 0.8. Those are outstanding results for a projector.
In the area of brightness, the HT6050 puts out about 32 foot-lamberts in the THX mode and 24 ft-L in the User modes--on my 100-inch-diagonal, 1.1-gain Visual Apex screen. The brightest mode is the aptly named Bright mode, which puts out 63.6 ft-L but is woefully inaccurate in its white balance and color. Interestingly enough, the Vivid mode is usually a projector's least accurate mode, but in this case the Vivid mode really isn't too bad. Its color points are off, but its white balance is fairly neutral. The gray-scale Delta Error is only 5.12, and its light output is a solid 47 ft-L. So, if you're looking for a picture mode to view content during the day with some ambient light, the Vivid mode is a good choice.
With measurements out of the way, it was time to delve into some real-world HDTV and Blu-ray content, and overall the HT6050 served up a rich, clean image with excellent contrast. The level of detail in the HD sources really jumped out at me. BenQ says that all five lens options use low-dispersion coatings that "allow for brighter, sharper video with minimal chromatic aberration," and indeed the image was very clean, clear, and sharp--visibly sharper and more detailed than my reference Epson Home Cinema 5020UB. Out of curiosity, I did some A/B tests comparing Blu-ray discs and DVDs on the BenQ and the Sony VPL-VW350ES native 4K projector, and the BenQ picture looked just as sharp...sometimes even more so.
While the HT6050's overall contrast is excellent, it couldn't quite compete with the Epson projector in the area of black-level performance. I ran through my usual assortment of black-level demos, including chapter three from Gravity, chapter two from Flags of Our Fathers, and chapter three from Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, and the Epson consistently served up notably darker blacks. Even in its darkest lamp mode with the dynamic iris engaged, the HT6050 just couldn't go as dark in those darkest of movie scenes. Both the Epson and BenQ projectors are THX certified; and, beyond the black-level differences in the darkest scenes, the two projectors' THX picture modes looked quite similar in color and brightness--but again the BenQ did have an advantage in picture clarity and detail. It just had that rich, clean look for which DLP is known (and I did not see any rainbow artifacts, although I'm not particularly sensitive to them).
In other video processing news, digital noise was not a concern with the HT6050, and it passed the 480i and 1080i film deinterlacing tests on my HQV Benchmark and Spears & Munsil test discs. The projector also cleanly rendered my favorite DVD torture test scenes from Gladiator and The Bourne Identity; when a display's 480i processing is poor, these scenes are filled with jaggies and moire, but they looked good here. The HT6050 failed the video-based tests and most of the assorted cadence tests on the aforementioned test discs, so you might see some jaggies and other artifacts with non-traditional film sources.
Regarding motion blur, the HT6050's performance is on par with other projectors--meaning that you do lose resolution during fast-motion scenes. On my FPD Benchmark test disc, the motion-resolution test pattern only showed clean lines to DVD 480, which is fairly standard for projectors. Turning on the Motion Enhancer tool did not appear to do anything to improve motion resolution in this projector. Motion Enhancer does reduce judder in film sources, though, if you prefer that smooth look--and the low mode is pretty subtle in its implementation.
Finally, I auditioned some 3D Blu-ray source content: Ice Age 3, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Life of Pi. The HT6050's solid light output, rich color, and great detail make for very engaging 3D image, and I did not see any instances of ghosting. However, something just looked off in 3D motion, like the left and right images weren't coming together properly to create a totally cohesive picture. During stationary scenes, everything was perfectly sharp and focused. But as things moved (as they are wont to do in movies), there was some kind of optical distortion. It was not the Motion Enhancer tool, which was off. I tried enabling the 3D Sync Invert function in the BenQ menu, as well as just moving farther back from the screen (farther than the recommended distance); neither helped. For the record, I received an early review sample, and Optoma couldn't seem to replicate on their end the problem I'm describing; so, perhaps it was just an issue with my sample. But if you plan to watch 3D content on this projector, I suggest you get a demo to see the 3D performance for yourself.
Click over to Page Two for Measurements, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...
Here are the measurements for the BenQ HT6050, created using CalMAN software by Spectracal. Click on each photo to view the chart in a larger window.
The top charts show the TV's color balance, gamma, and total gray-scale Delta Error, below and after calibration. Ideally, the red, green, and blue lines will be as close together as possible to reflect an even color balance. We currently use a gamma target of 2.2 for HDTVs and 2.4 for projectors.
The bottom chart shows where the six color points fall on the Rec 709 triangle, as well as the luminance (brightness) error and total Delta Error for each color point. For both gray scale and color, a Delta Error under 10 is considered tolerable, under five is considered good, and under three is considered imperceptible to the human eye. For more information on our measurement process, check out How We Evaluate and Measure HDTVs.
From a connectivity standpoint, there is one notable omission from the HT6050: It will not accept a 4K input signal, nor does it support HDR playback. But it's a 1080p projector, so who cares, right? Maybe you don't. However, if you check out the similarly priced competitors down in the Comparison & Competition section, you'll find other 1080p models that do support 4K input and use pixel-shifting to simulate a 4K image, so I need to mention it.
My other complaints with the BenQ HT6050 are ergonomic in nature. The fan noise is louder than average in the brighter lamp mode. The projector is sluggish in responding to commands from the IR remote, and it's also slow to switch between resolutions. Every time my Oppo player (which is set to Source Direct output) would change resolutions, the picture would go blank for a few seconds, then flash on and off once before locking on to the new resolution. If you're feeding the HT6050 a single resolution from your Blu-ray player or set-top box, this won't be a concern.
Comparison and Competition
With an MSRP of $3,799, the BenQ HT6050 is positioned at the higher end of the price spectrum in the general 1080p marketplace. I compared it directly with the Epson Home Cinema 5020UB, which is several years old. The newest versions of that line are the Pro Cinema 6040UB ($3,999) and the Home Cinema 5040UB ($2,999). These projectors accept a 4K input signal, feature pixel-shifting 4K Enhancement technology, and support HDR playback--which makes them more future-proof than the BenQ.
Likewise, JVC's DLA-X550R ($3,995.95) is a 1080p D-ILA projector that features the company's e-shift technology to simulate a 4K image, and it supports HDR playback.
Sony's VPL-HW65ES is a straightforward 1080p SXRD projector, with no support for 4K, priced at $3,999.
The HT6050 is a strong flagship offering from BenQ. Its combination of rich, accurate color, excellent detail, and great overall contrast makes for a very enjoyable viewing experience, both for movie night and casual TV watching. Those who desire the deepest black level for a dedicated theater room might find better options at this price point, but the HT6050 is a good all-around performer with a nice level of setup flexibility, thanks to its multiple lens options. It faces stiff competition at its price point from some 4K-friendly offerings; however, if great-looking 1080p is all you crave, then the HT6050 won't disappoint.
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