BenQ HT4050 3D DLP Projector Review Page 2

Sizing the image to the screen is accomplished via a lens-mounted, tabbed, manual inner ring for zoom (behind the front fascia) and an outer focus ring. Both are assisted with top-panel vertical and horizontal lens shift adjustments having just enough precision, despite interaction with the main lens, to finesse the image into place. Also on top is the keypad for hands-on operation of the HT4050, but BenQ does provide a well-backlit, nicely laid-out remote control.

Lamp power modes include not just Normal and Economic, but also Smart Eco. The 260-watt UHP lamp is rated from 2,000 to 4,000 hours depending on mode. When you look under Lamp Timer in the onscreen menu, you’ll see that each power mode is associated with an Equivalent Lamp Hour assessment. A formula calculates the impact a particular mode has on lamp life. Normal mode supplies 100 percent lamp output, tacking on a 70 percent penalty to the hour meter. For example, 33 actual run hours in Normal produce an Equivalent Lamp Hour tally of 56 hours. Economic mode reduces projector fan noise and power consumption by 30 percent, and Smart Eco yields a reduction of 70 percent. I did most of my auditioning in Normal mode (more on this below).

Simply Brilliant
From initial turn-on through 76 hours of burn-in prior to calibration, the HT4050 impressed me with the factory default settings assigned to the Cinema Rec. 709 preset. Throughout this probationary period (imposed to allow the UHP lamp time for its red spectral response to dissipate somewhat, a normal result of the settling-in process), the BenQ maintained a remarkably natural color quality, especially evident in fleshtones.

Enamored by the Brilliant Color feature, I found myself toggling it frenetically in the menu until I was unsure of it being on or off, testing to determine if I could detect its presence with content. In relatively short order, it was easy to identify, especially one evening when I watched Hawaii Five-O. Flowered prints on island-themed fabrics bloomed into life, with mosaic patterns of subtle hues pitching forward from royal blue and deep crimson backgrounds. On slow, sweeping camera pans of beachfront hotels and Diamond Head, Brilliant Color provided a sense of depth and refinement to otherwise featureless vistas; it was like the difference between a postcard and a picture taken with a Hasselblad camera. Brilliant Color could sometimes tip fleshtones over to the too-warm side on excellent cinematic material (I noticed this while viewing portions of The Fifth Element), but I preferred the extra zest it added to live sports.

I was keen on spotting signs of the rainbow effect, a DLP anomaly seen on fast motion because of interaction of the spinning color wheel with synchronization of the tilting mirrors on the digital micromirror device. Some folks are exceedingly sensitive to it, while others liken sightings of it to that of unicorns. Two themes plentiful in Hawaii Five-O are bikinis and action scenes. A mere three minutes into the episode, an ambush followed by a motorcycle chase unfolded, but I saw no sign of any rainbows from the HT4050’s 4x (at 60 hertz) color wheel.

For judder-free images, I found that Motion Enhancer set at Low eliminated any trace of staccato movement without introducing signs of the cinematic-robbing soap-opera effect. With broadcast sports, Middle or High worked well, depending on the pace of the action. However, those settings for movies on Blu-ray started to over-sterilize fidelity and highlight artifacts, whereas Low was perfect.

Oh, Black Water
Black level was something of a moving target. When I sampled the projector during the lamp wear-in period on an exceptional ambient-light-rejecting screen with a high degree of contrast enhancement (the Seymour-Screen Excellence Ambient-Visionaire Black 1.2, reviewed in this issue), the HT4050 took advantage of the screen’s assistance to work less and deliver more. I found that Smart Eco mode was great in dark room viewing, providing a dynamic image with the projector’s best black level, in part owed to dimming the lamp approximately 30 percent and throttling back a few of the rated 2,000 ANSI lumens. I mention this to highlight the benefits of ALR screens in controlled light conditions and to demonstrate how the technology from some screen manufacturers is giving budget projectors a chance to compete above their normal pay grade. For review purposes, though, you dance with the one you brought, especially for consistency; for this hoedown, it was my Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 G3. With the white-matte, 1.3-gain Stewart, the higher-output Normal fan mode was a necessity to provide the punch I’m accustomed to, and it resulted in some additional sacrifice of black level.

For example, at the start of chapter 1 in The Fifth Element, the opening credits in white lettering lead to a scene from deep in space. When I started with Smart Eco lamp power and then switched to Normal mode, there was a slight yet noticeable uptick in black level. Vertically centered in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the black bars above and below the active image never seemed to be as dark as and never darker than anything black in the image content. And they tended to modulate their level of black depending on how bright a scene in the active image was. To be fair, this may be a normal occurrence with white screens. Perhaps the amount of time I’ve spent during the past eight months living with two excellent ALR screens has left me both jaded and forgetful. I would categorize the overall black level performance of the BenQ HT4050 as being as good as it can get in the $1,000-to-$2,000 price range, and certainly better than that of similarly priced 3LCD machines.

3D
BenQ doesn’t include 3D glasses with the HT4050, though I managed to make a pair I had on hand operate using DLP-Link. To use the 3D VESA RF mode requires an adapter (not supplied) connected to the 3D sync port on the projector’s rear panel. Among the few 3D discs I have, I’m always drawn to Disney/Pixar’s Brave for testing, as the 3D elements are restrained and not overly done. Vast forests or castle dining halls convey a realistic sense of dimensionality, placing young and old alike in scenes next to Merida.

With Brilliant Color enabled, the 3D image was satisfactorily bright. But with the feature deactivated, the image was merely on the fence, and I also noticed a hint of light falloff in the corners. Given the bit of oomph that Brilliant Color lends to 3D, it’s best left on. I did not detect ghosting, especially in Brave action scenes like the one where the characters play in the Highland Games; some displays have problems here with tossed spears and speeding arrows. It seemed to take a bit of fiddling to adjust 3D depth to where it was comfortable for me to feel like all facets of the image were in focus, something I hadn’t experienced with other projectors. But fans of the 3D medium should find the HT4050 to be more than acceptable.

Conclusion
The BenQ HT4050 provides a stable platform of stellar performance for novice users as well as for experienced hobbyists. If point and play rules your day, be assured the HT4050 can display razor-sharp, strikingly accurate images in just a matter of minutes. More ambitious viewers will discover a color management system that can precisely match the projector to its intended application. For optimum, memory-locked performance, the ISF modes await a professional calibrator. Experimentation with lamp power in a dedicated room ekes out the nth degree of performance, while creativity in screen pairing can deliver unheard-of, knockout image fidelity for a miserly price. Add in smooth, fluid motion and good black level (with the bonus of ghost-free 3D), and the BenQ HT4050 earns a Sound & Vision Top Pick.

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