BenQ HT3550i 4K projector review: Sharp and colorful, needs more pop

    Powered by 4K decision and the inherent sharpness of DLP, the BenQ HT3550i house theater projector places up beautiful element. On a 100-inch display I noticed particular person hairs, the precise weaves in material and wrinkles galore. It’s additionally some of the color-accurate projectors I’ve just lately reviewed, with wealthy and vibrant reds, greens, blues and every thing in between. These two features of efficiency make for a pleasingly sensible picture. 

    LikeWonderful detailVibrant, correct colorsClean picture with little video noiseBuilt-in Android TV streaming

    Don’t LikeNot notably brightMediocre distinction ratio

    Compared to rivals in different methods, nonetheless, the HT3550i struggles. Its distinction ratio is on the low facet of common, and brightness is much decrease than many comparable projectors, together with the Optoma UHD30 and BenQ’s personal BenQ HT2050A. Without vivid whites and darkish blacks the picture merely lacks pop. The HT3550i would not look unhealthy in any particular method, it is simply that its strengths — together with built-in Android TV streaming — cannot offset its weaknesses.

    Basic specsNative decision: 3,840×2,160HDR-compatible: Yes4K-compatible: Yes3D-compatible: YesLumens spec: 2,000 (ANSI)Zoom: Manual (1.3x)Lens shift: ManualLamp life (Normal mode): 4,000 hoursThe HT3550i is a 4K projector, and each little bit of that decision is seen on display. It’s additionally HDR-compatible, however like all projectors, you should not anticipate nice issues. 

    That lumen ranking is actually the HT355i’s greatest legal responsibility. 2,000 lumens is definitely not dim, and even only a few years in the past would have been lots. But on this period of ultrabright projectors, it is properly behind. If it had a greater distinction ratio this brightness would not be a problem. However, it doesn’t. We’ll dive extra into why that issues in a second.Like our Editors’ Choice HT2050A, the 3550i is likely one of the few DLP projectors on this worth vary with lens shift. It’s not so much, however sufficient to make placement a bit simpler. While it has a greater zoom vary than the like-priced Optoma UHD30, 1.3x vs. 1.1x, it is bought a shorter throw. So to fill a 100-inch display it must be round 8 toes from the display, in comparison with 10 toes with the Optoma and most different projectors on this worth vary. In my case this implies it has to go on the couch, not behind it. BenQ appears to favor shorter throws on its projectors, because the HT2050A was comparable, however many of the different projectors we have reviewed this yr did not must be so shut. This is not an enormous deal, however for those who’ve already bought a projector mount, it is one thing to concentrate on.Lamp life is on par with this technology of projectors. The 4,000 hours in Normal mode improves to 10,000 in Eco. SensibleEco mode, which varies lamp degree primarily based on the brightness of the content material, improves this much more, to 15,000 hours.

    Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
    Connectivity and convenienceHDMI inputs: 2 (Both HDMI 2.0b)PC enter: NoUSB ports: 2 (USB 3.0 and a pair of.5A energy)Audio enter and output: 3.5mm outDigital audio output: Optical (1)LAN port: No12v set off: YesRS-232 distant port: YesMHL: NoDistant: BacklitThe HT3550i has glorious connectivity choices. Both HDMI inputs are HDMI 2.0, so you possibly can join two 4K HDR sources, for those who so want. I might assume most individuals shopping for a projector like this can have every thing related to an AV receiver first, with only one HDMI working to the projector, however the possibility for 2 is sweet. There are two USB connections, which is fairly uncommon. Also uncommon is that one is USB 3.0, letting you join and simply stream content material from a tough drive. The different places out 2.5 amps, once more greater than what’s accessible on different projectors. Most streaming sticks will not want this quantity of energy to run, 1.5A is often tremendous, however as soon as once more, the choice is sweet.For audio there’s 3.5mm analog and a single optical output. The optical solely outputs stereo, not 5.1. There are two 5W audio system as properly.Technically, you do not want a streaming stick as a result of the HT3550i comes with one already. It’s an Android TV dongle that installs contained in the case, by way of in any other case hidden USB and HDMI connections, so you continue to have entry to all of the connections on the again. While handy, the draw back is you solely get stereo audio, not encompass. I do not suppose built-in streaming is especially necessary in a nonportable projector like this one, nonetheless, since streaming sticks are so cheap and will be related simply as simply to a receiver or soundbar, which regularly offer you encompass choices.For house automation functions, there is a 12v set off and an RS-232 port.The distant has a dim amber backlight that’s much more nice to make use of in a darkish theater than the Optoma UHD30’s, which may double as a tanning mattress for bare mole rats.
    Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
    Picture high quality comparisons

    While not 4K, and half the value of the 3550i, the HT2050A is our present decide for finest projector. Since it did properly towards the UHD30, it is right here once more. Speaking of the UHD30, it is a direct competitor when it comes to worth and determination. I related the 2 4K projectors utilizing a Monoprice 1×4 4K HDR distribution amplifier, aka a “splitter.” The HT2050A bought its personal supply because it has decrease decision. We may as properly begin with the largest concern: brightness. The HT3550i is half as vivid as the opposite two projectors. Admittedly, these two are a number of the brightest projectors I’ve ever measured, however even in comparison with far dimmer projectors, the HT3550i is not any mild cannon. I measured roughly 677 lumens in its Cinema mode, whereas the opposite BenQ and Optoma had been round 1,600 of their comparable modes.Usually a projector like this deliberately sacrifices mild output for the higher colour and black degree desired by house theater lovers. This is, the truth is, how BenQ markets the 3550i, calling it a “Premium Home Theater Projector.” On the colour entrance it is glorious, among the many finest I’ve seen in a DLP projector. However, the colour of the HT2050A and UHD30 are almost pretty much as good, they usually’re brighter. The 3550i’s black degree is sweet, however that is deceptive. I measured a greater black degree than the UHD30, and about the identical because the HT2050A, nevertheless it lacks the distinction ratio for that to matter.The consequence, with all three projectors facet by facet, is that the HT3550i appears to be like dim. On its personal it would not, in fact. Even 677 lumens on a 100-inch display is ok, however when you may get much more mild with solely a bit tradeoff in colour, the HT3550i is beginning on its again foot already. The distinction ratio, far behind the wonderful HT2050A, is mainly the identical because the UHD30. Where the HT3550i fares much better is with, properly, the opposite features of image high quality. As talked about, the colour is implausible. The refined shades and in-between colours are much more correct and pure than most different projectors. Even in comparison with the HT2050A and UHD30, two projectors with nice colour, the HT3550i is simply that bit higher that it attracts the attention. It’s not fairly sufficient to offset the distinction ratio, nevertheless it will get it nearer than you’d think about.
    Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
    The element, too, is great. Just as with the 4K UHD30, the additional pixels over the HT2050A are instantly noticeable on a big display. This is what 4K was made for. Adding to it is a full lack of movement blur. DLP is the one trendy show expertise that lacks any semblance of movement blur, and does so with out help from black body insertion or movement interpolation. Speaking of movement interpolation there appeared to be some gentle smoothing, aka the cleaning soap opera impact, occurring once I first arrange the 3550i. There is the choice for this for anybody who likes it, however I do not and needed to show it off. However, it was off. Disconcerting. After making an attempt every thing else, I turned on the movement smoothing, then turned it off, and that appears to have solved the problem. Another oddity is the projector’s pace. No projector on this class is especially quick. They all take a second to change between resolutions or body charges for instance. The HT3550i is very gradual, nonetheless, taking a noticeably very long time to change. Most of the time, this is not a problem. Going from a menu to a present may take just a few seconds longer than you’d anticipate. Watching YouTube, nonetheless, it tried my endurance. YouTube adverts are sometimes a unique body price than the video itself, which means each 10 minutes or so (or every time there’s an advert), the display goes black, then ultimately resumes. It’s lengthy sufficient that for those who’re into no matter you are watching, you be taught to pause on the finish of an advert break so you do not miss something on display.Lastly, there’s the side of noise. Or particularly, the shortage thereof. Not the followers, that are noticeable in any projector this measurement, however within the picture. For comparability, the UHD30 is a really noisy projector. There’s noticeable banding in vivid highlights (clouds, for example), and in shadows there’s what appears to be like like further grain. The HT3550i lacks any of that. The picture is noticeably a lot cleaner. This is considerably much less a win for the BenQ than it is a matter with the Optoma, nevertheless it’s truthful to present BenQ factors for getting this proper and searching much more pure.
    Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
    ConclusionThe HT3550i shocked me, however not in a great way. I used to be anticipating the excellence of the HT2050A, simply in 4K. That’s simply not the case. The less-expensive, lower-resolution HT2050A appears to be like higher total compared, regardless of the HT3550i’s superior element and barely higher colour.Then there’s the 4K decision UHD30, which is identical worth, affords almost the identical colour and element, however is 2.5x brighter. That projector additionally has an extended throw, for simpler placement for many individuals, and solely has barely worse colour. It does have extra noise within the picture, however I doubt most individuals will likely be troubled by that tradeoff. My suggestion? For most individuals, the BenQ HT2050A is one of the best worth going. If you crave the element of 4K and are prepared to sacrifice distinction ratio (you actually should not) and tolerate some picture noise and banding, go for the UHD30.Or to place it one other method, I’ve had these projectors in my theater/lab for months. After I used to be carried out testing the 3550i, I put the UHD30 again in and have been watching it ever since, and doubtless will till I must ship it again to Optoma. If it had been my cash to really spend, nonetheless, I’d get the HT2050A.Geek field




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    Measurement notesColor was clearly a serious consideration for BenQ on the HT3550i. Its different projectors are usually fairly correct, however there was a naturalness to the 3550i that is fairly uncommon amongst projectors on this worth vary. All three main and all three secondary colours are just about spot-on correct. None had been “perfect” however definitely shut.The trade-off for this, sadly, was picture brightness. I measured 75.21 nits, which calculates out to round 677 lumens. For comparability, BenQ’s personal HT2050A did almost 1,600 lumens and prices half as a lot (although is barely 1080p). This was the bottom mild output of any house theater (aka not moveable or battery powered) projector within the final yr. Even the Viewsonic PX727HD, which we knocked as being too dim, is 50% brighter.If this was offset with an incredible distinction ratio the brightness can be much more forgivable. Single-chip DLP projectors just like the HT3550i simply do not have that, although. And at the same time as DLP projectors go, the 3550i is not nice. I measured 693:1, a quantity so low I ran all my measurements twice, simply to make sure. All the extra shocking is that the HT2050A has the very best distinction ratio I measured in a projector within the final yr.The consequence, by itself, will not be as unhealthy because the numbers counsel, particularly when viewing notably colourful content material. But as a lot as I like nice colour, it is simply not as necessary to the general attractiveness of a picture as distinction ratio and, with projectors anyway, brightness.

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