But when you look in the highly-popular middle range of $2000-$3000, 3LCD and LCoS are by far the dominant technologies. Into this super-competitive fray goes BenQ, a long-time maker of projectors who has, until now, focused almost solely on portables. Today I’m checking out the HT6050, a dedicated home theater model.
BenQ HT6050 DLP Projector
- THX and ISFccc certified
- Five lens options
- New optical design with maximum clarity and light transmission
- Complete and flexible calibration controls
- 3D support
DLP is fairly common in the portable and high-end projector categories, but it’s only weakly represented in the pricing sweet spot of $2000-$4000. This is unfortunate because DLP offers a few perks over the 3-chip technologies. First off, a single-chip design means no worries about convergence errors. Screen uniformity is always top-notch even in the least-expensive displays. Second, motion processing is visually superior. LCD and LCoS’s sample-and-hold refresh method means some motion blur is always present though this has been largely mitigated by higher frame rates. But DLP still presents the smoothest camera pans and renders the highest motion resolution, regardless of price point.
RGBRGB, 6x speed
Native aspect ratio:
1920 x 1080
Yes, frame-sequential, top/bottom, side-by-side
5 lens options covering .778:1 – 5:1
Anamorphic lens support:
-15-+55% vertical, +-5% horizontal
Light output (mfr):
1 x HDMI 1.4, 1 x HDMI 1.4 w/MHL, 1 x Component, 1 x Composite, 1 x VGA
1 x RS-232, 1 x 12v trigger out
Rated lamp life:
2500hrs Normal, 3500hrs Eco, 6000hrs SmartEco
6.5” H x 16.9” W x 12.6″ D
BenQ, BenQ HT6050 DLP Home Theater Projector, DLP, DLP Projector, THX, ISFccc, 3D Projector, Projector Reviews, Projector Reviews 2016
I’ve long been a fan of BenQ’s portable projectors but I haven’t seen a new home theater display from them in a while. They know their stuff however so I wasn’t surprised to see the HT6050 appear at a very-competitive price of $3799. Buyers will want to compare it to the other technologies and may find a DLP is to their liking. This new display boasts interchangeable lenses which is pretty much unheard of below $10,000. It also has generous lens shift and pays serious attention to color accuracy with THX and ISFccc certification. I have little doubt that it will impress, both in testing and viewing. Let’s take a look.
The HT6050 is an installers’ dream with every possible feature one could need to fit the projector into any imaginable space. It sports a single-chip DLP light engine with a 280-watt lamp outputting a claimed 2000 lumens. In my tests, I was able to achieve over 80fL in the Bright mode and with calibration in the Eco power mode, I still saw over 30. There is plenty of brightness available for medium to large theaters and long throw distances.
The chassis is relatively compact but well above the size of portable projectors. The shape is simple and efficient with smooth surfaces finished in a satin texture that won’t reflect light. A little style is added in the form of silver trim around the top’s perimeter and the lens bay. IR sensors are placed on the front and rear for easy operation with the remote. The two front feet are independently adjustable to help level it when installed on a table or shelf.
There are five lenses available, all of which mount in the center position. One is a fixed wide-angle model with .778:1 ratio for short-throw applications. The remaining four have throw ratios from 1.1:1 to 5:1 across the range. The advantage of this approach is no one lens has a super-wide zoom which keeps output high since each one can have a wider aperture. The lens clicks in place with a bayonet mount. Optical quality is high thanks to an optical architecture BenQ calls Total Inner Reflection (TIR). This serves to eliminate internal reflections between the glass elements using carefully-placed prisms. The result is more efficient light transition, better uniformity and greater image clarity. I can say with confidence that the design works. The HT6050 is one of the sharpest projectors I’ve ever seen.
Users will also appreciate the provided lens shift. Once almost completely absent on DLP displays, it has become more commonplace in recent years, but BenQ is better than most by offering 70-percent total vertical shift and five percent horizontal. It’s controlled with finely-geared dials under a trapdoor on top. That, coupled with precise zoom and focus controls around the lens barrel, makes setting geometry a breeze.
The HT6050’s back panel sports two HDMI inputs; one of which has MHL for the charging of portable devices. You also get VGA, component and composite. Many projectors today are doing away with analog connections so it’s nice to see BenQ still supporting legacy source components. For control, installers can take advantage of an RS-232 port and a 12-volt trigger output. Also here is the intake fan for the extremely quiet ventilation system. Even with the unit right overhead, I could barely hear it on Normal lamp power, and it was completely silent in Eco and SmartEco. The projector does not leak light, either from the vents or the gap around the lens mount.
The remote is a well-built wand with soft red backlighting, ideal for a completely dark theater. The buttons have a quality feel and the printed labels are easy to read. My only beef is that a few more functions should have been included. There is no direct control for the auto-iris or the lamp power. And the input selector is a single toggle switch. Transport keys are included for systems that use HDMI CEC and there are discrete power on/off controls. Menu navigation is easily accomplished with a four-way keypad, along with back and select buttons.
The HT6050 supports 3D operation in frame-pack, top/bottom and side-by-side formats. You can also up-convert 2D content with a button on the remote. Glasses aren’t included but you can buy some from BenQ for $59. They’re of the DLP-Link variety so other makers’ products will work. BenQ’s are nice and light with thin earpieces that are quite comfortable. I didn’t notice them even after several hours of use.
BenQ includes every conceivable calibration tool in the HT6050, though I quickly discovered it barely has any need for adjustment. In fact, one could simply select the THX mode, change the gamma preset to 2.3 and enjoy. Every other parameter is nearly spot-on right out of the box.
The HT6050 offers four preset picture modes, THX, Bright, Vivid and Game. The latter three are all designed to compete with some ambient light. In fact, Bright will pump out over 80fL if you can live with a color temperature that’s decidedly green in hue. THX is the go-to mode for sure though its gamma proved to be significantly off-spec in my tests. Fortunately, all image parameters are adjustable so the fix is only a couple of button clicks away. If you want to create your own preset, there are two User memories that allow you to select any of the preset modes as a starting point. ISF-certified installers can also employ ISF Day and Night modes if they have a code to unlock the two additional settings memories.
My calibration was pretty simple. I used THX as the starting point, dialed in the grayscale to near-perfection, changed the gamma preset and made a few tiny changes to the color management sliders. All six colors can be adjusted for hue, saturation and gain (luminance). The grayscale has both gains and offsets and the gamma presets offer .1-step resolution between 2.0 and 2.6 with additional stops at 1.6, 1.8 and 2.8.
All of the above and more can be found in the Advanced menu. You also get a set of features called Cinema Master. It contains things like Pixel Enhancer, color and contrast transients and a general color saturation control. The main menu also has Brilliant Color which adds vividness but costs a bit of accuracy. My measurements both before and after calibration show that extra color luminance has already been engineered into the HT6050. I suggest leaving the other controls alone since things are quite well balanced by default.
Lamp Power has three levels, Eco, Normal and SmartEco. The output difference between Eco and Normal is pretty small but Eco extends the bulb’s lifespan by a claimed 1000 hours. To get even longer service, select SmartEco. This throttles the lamp depending on content and helps to increase contrast by around 50 percent according to my measurements.
Cinema Master also has an auto-iris feature. It increases contrast even further; over 15,000:1 in my setup but I found it a little slow in operation. I could see it working some of the time and it seems to make mid-bright and dark material look dull. After trying it in a few movies, I left it off. With the calibration complete, I reached for some Blu-rays to evaluate the HT6050’s 2D and 3D performance.
I frequently write about the look of DLP versus LCD and LCoS projectors. Both technologies can produce sharp, bright and colorful images but I’ve always felt that DLP has a slight advantage in clarity. After all, a single chip doesn’t have to concern itself with convergence like three-chip designs do. But most of my review subjects are inexpensive portable displays with good but not great optics. The BenQ HT6050 steps up the game significantly in this department. Along with some smart color tuning, this projector puts out one of the best pictures I’ve seen to date.
I started with an easy test, the Pixar-animated Wall-E from 2008. Details and textures abound in this film that says so much with almost no dialog. I played with the Cinema Master options and found none of them were able to make the already-superlative picture any better. In fact, the two transient improvement settings created jaggies in a few instances. I left both of them off. To maximize contrast, I experimented with the SmartEco lamp mode and the dynamic iris. They can’t be used simultaneously, you have to choose one or the other. SmartEco throttles light output and has a subtle but visible effect. Its operation can’t be detected during use which is a good thing. The iris on the other hand can cause some image pumping during fast transitions from dark to light material.
Moving on to Captain America: Civil War, I was greeted with a super-sharp image that had lots of depth and contrast even without the benefit of the iris. While it makes black levels deeper, it also left some scenes looking drab. After watching this film, I settled on SmartEco as the better choice for improving contrast. Its only drawback is that darker scenes lack the super-rich blacks I’ve become accustomed to from LCD and LCoS projectors. However in all other kinds of material, the HT6050 truly shines with razor-sharp detail and beautifully-saturated color.
I also took this opportunity to try out the Motion Enhancer which offers three levels of frame interpolation. The Low setting works well at smoothing out fast-action and doesn’t create any artifacts. The soap-opera effect is barely noticeable. I would happily use this feature for sports and animated content. In movies however, the super-smooth motion resolution possible with a high-speed DLP chip like this one negates any need for additional processing.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens offers a good example of grain since it is one of the few modern titles to be shot on film. Here I found I had to turn down the Pixel Enhancer to zero from its default of 4. This feature enhances grain to the point where it looks crawly and unattractive. I saw its effect even more in Ghostbusters from 1984. It’s a faithful transfer but the original film elements aren’t of high quality. Any sort of processing completely destroys the movie’s natural look. Luckily with everything shut off, it took me right back to my youth when I remembered seeing it in a theater for the first time.
3D is disappearing from HD and Ultra HD televisions but it’s still available in most projectors, regardless of price. DLP does a superb job with this content as there is little to no ghosting and the motion processing really helps amp up the perception of depth. The HT6050 has no measurable crosstalk at all and this meant my viewing of Star Trek Into Darkness was especially fun. Even though peak output is low, just over 5fL, it’s one of the best 3D displays I’ve seen. Only the recently-released Epson 6040UB can beat it, mainly due to its extra brightness. I quickly forgot about the light level when objects just seemed to leap from the screen and fast action remained super-clear and free of blur. If you’re a fan of 3D, this projector is a great choice for your theater.
With that low light output in mind, I queued up a copy of A Christmas Carol. It’s a real torture test that’s full of dark scenes rich in shadow detail. I didn’t have too much trouble seeing that detail but when bright highlights appeared, they were welcome. Color looked perfectly accurate in the HT6050’s 3D mode and even though it can be calibrated separately, I found no reason to do so. Even though brightness is low, detail still pops and the perception of depth exceeds any flat panel and most other projectors I’ve reviewed as well.
All grayscale, gamma and chroma readings are taken from the projector’s lens using an X-Rite i1Pro with the diffuser attachment. Contrast tests are performed with a Spectracal C6 tri-stimulus meter positioned at the lens axis and measuring from the screen at a 12-foot throw distance. This method provides an accurate picture of the contrast performance seen in a typical viewing environment.
My reference screen is a Stewart Filmscreen LuminEsse fixed-frame system configured with StudioTek 130 material. It has a gain of 1.3 and is 92 inches diagonal in size. Patterns come from an Accupel DVG-5000 signal generator and the whole procedure is controlled by CalMAN version 5. Color standards are Rec.709 and Rec.2020, both with a white point of 6500 Kelvins. Gamma is compared to the BT.1886 spec or the 2.2 power function where appropriate.
The HT6050 is shipped ready for home theater use in its THX mode with the bulb set to Eco. Initial measurements show a projector that doesn’t need a full calibration but the gamma needs to be adjusted. PLUGE patterns demonstrate that levels are set perfectly for both RGB and digital component signals.
There are no visible errors in the HT6050’s grayscale tracking but the gamma is definitely not at the THX specification. The white trace should follow the yellow line closely. Our standard here is 2.2 power function. I wasn’t able to find a preset that matched BT.1886. While the picture doesn’t look bad, there is room for improvement both in depth of contrast and color saturation tracking. Read on to see what I mean.
If you aren’t calibrating, the gamma can be fixed by changing the preset to 2.3. But if you have the means, the gain and offset controls are fairly precise. Tracking is very flat and runs well below the visible threshold except for zero percent black which is slightly deficient in red. I couldn’t see the problem in either test patterns or actual content. The gamma dip at 10-percent means the luminance value is a tad bright but this actually improves shadow detail. Overall contrast is still very good after calibration.
The pre-calibration measurements show an almost-perfect CIE chart with slight under-saturation in the red primary. This is directly related to the bright gamma I recorded in the grayscale test. What is more interesting though are the elevated luminance levels. This might be cause for concern but it turns out they’re all too bright by the same 30 percent or so. Since this balance extends to all saturation levels, the resulting effect on color is minimal. You get a little extra punch without any visible inaccuracy.
Calibration brings down the average error level somewhat but luminance levels are largely unchanged. The red primary now tracks its saturations perfectly thanks to the gamma fix. This particular method of color-tuning results in bold, saturated color that remains accurate in real-world content and gives the image a more film-like appearance than many DLP projectors. Though BenQ has gone a little outside SMPTE specs here, I have no complaint. The color quality is really quite excellent.
DLP projectors aren’t known for high dynamic range but they make up for it with superior intra-image (ANSI) contrast. The HT6050 provides two methods of manipulating this, an auto-iris and a bulb mode called SmartEco which adjusts lamp power based on content.
After calibration in the User mode, with the bulb set to Eco, I recorded a peak output of 35.7566fL, a black level of .0315fL and a native contrast ratio of 1136.2:1. Switching the bulb to Normal only served to increase fan noise as output went up by just 1fL.
The highest native contrast is found in the bulb’s SmartEco mode where I recorded 40.0153fL peak, .0257fL black and 1556.1:1 contrast.
Turning on the auto-iris puts the lamp back in Eco mode but increases contrast dramatically. Then I recorded 29.5175fL peak, .0019 black and 15,560:1 contrast. I was able to see the iris in operation however. Image pumping is visible in some content.
For non-light-controlled rooms, the Bright mode yields a max white of 80.9271fL, a black level of .0541fL and a contrast ratio of 1495.1:1. The HT6050 uses its lamp-native color temp to increase output which makes the image decidedly green in hue. If you have incandescent lamps nearby, their reddish color temperature will help offset this error.
Finally for 3D fans, there is a reasonable amount of light available and super-low crosstalk of just .04 percent. Measured through DLP-Link glasses I recorded 5.3049fL peak, .0062fL black and a contrast ratio of 856.4:1.
The HT6050 passes below-black and above-white in all signal modes. Resolution remains strong except for the 4:2:2 mode which rolls off the one-pixel burst. The only video processing test failure is the 2:2 pulldown cadence which is common. 3:2 and 24p are handled correctly. There is no need for an additional processing solution in a system containing this projector. It can handle common signal formats without issue.
In The $3000-$4000 Price Category, THE BENQ HT6050 Is Unequaled Among DLP Projectors. Its Flexible Installation And Calibration Features Will Be Attractive To Enthusiasts And Installers Alike.
- Premium-quality optics for fantastic image clarity
- Bright saturated color
- Accurate out of the box in THX mode
- Lots of installation options
- Excellent motion resolution
- Very good 3D performance
- Better default gamma in THX mode
- More remote functions
There are many choices in DLP projectors but in this particular price segment, there are surprisingly few. For theater buffs with three or four thousand dollars to spend, the short list will likely be filled with LCD and LCoS models. DLP offers some things the other two don’t however – superior clarity, screen uniformity and motion resolution.
Any three-chip design requires absolutely perfect convergence to achieve ideal screen uniformity and color accuracy but DLP displays don’t have that concern. If you pair a DMD with quality optics, as has been done here with the HT6050, the resulting image is so sharp it can easily be taken for what you’d see on a quality flat panel. And when things get moving on the screen, that sharpness remains better-preserved thanks to a total lack of motion blur. LCD designs mitigate this by raising refresh rates but a DLP can run at 48 or 60Hz and still look smoother.
BenQ has plenty of experience in the home theater game so it’s no surprise that they’ve created a winning display here. The HT6050 is one of the best DLP’s I’ve reviewed to date. It is right up there with the high-end Runcos I’ve worked with and gives up nothing to projectors which cost four or five times as much. With a large feature set, interchangeable lenses and lots of calibration controls, there is little this excellent projector cannot do. Small and large theater owners, and everyone in between, should give it serious consideration. The BenQ HT6050 receives my highest recommendation.