BenQ TK800 REVIEW

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The BenQ TK800 makes it four. That is, four Ultra-HD AV projectors from BenQ. The other three are from its W and X series — the letters it uses to mark its home cinema models. This one it calls a ‘Home Entertainment’ projector instead, and says in its release information that it’s ‘sport optimised’.

Equipment
Indeed, this projector is very similar indeed to the BenQ W1700 — the same weight and the same dimensions, inputs and so on. It shares a built-in five-watt speaker. And it uses the same 0.47-inch 1920 × 1080 Digital Micromirror Device with Texas Instruments’ four-flash XPR technology, thereby creating a 3840 × 2160 Ultra-HD image.

We previously did a deep dive on how this produces actual on-screen UHD, partly because we’ve been unimpressed with various other pixel-shifting technologies. Briefly, the fact that the DMD is much smaller than most 1080 panels means that the gaps between the pixels are wider, relatively speaking, compared to the size of the pixels. So when these pixels are shifted, they don’t entirely overlay neighbouring pixels. In a 1080p display mode, this might deliver an objectionable ‘screen-door’ effect. But there isn’t a 1080p mode, so that doesn’t happen.

Where it differs is mostly in brightness. BenQ’s W1700 is rated at 2200 ANSI lumens output, the TK800 at 3000 ANSI lumens. This makes sense. Often sports viewing is shared, and often in a room without the light control of a home cinema. Oddly, even though it’s significantly brighter, the lamp power is the same as that for the W1700. We wonder how they’ve pulled that off.

Also, the lamp life is the same extended amount as the W1700 — 4000 hours for the ‘Normal’ full brightness mode, 10,000 hours for the ‘Economic’ mode, and 8000 hours for the Smart Eco mode.

Other differences? Some cosmetic changes. And perhaps there’s some deep tech stuff inside that we don’t know about. But the only clear thing is that this projector offers ‘only’ 92% coverage of the Rec.709 colour gamut, rather than the 96% of the W1700.

The display is 30-bit rated. That is, each of the three colours supports 10 bits of resolution instead of eight, so each can handle 1024 levels instead of only 256. And that means over a billion colours (1024×1024×1024).

The projector is shortish in throw. With its 1.2:1 zoom lens, it needs to be positioned between 3.25 and 3.9 metres from the screen. There’s no lens-shift facility. Those still owning 3D movies will be pleased to find the TK800 works with 3D (the 3D glasses are optional), although for some reason resolution is only 720p in 3D mode.



Performance
We were expecting to encounter an issue which afflicted the W1700, as well as BenQ’s other 4Kers, the X12000 and W11000 projectors, namely that “the internal display engine is locking in a 60Hz display sequence”. That meant that the 24p of most Blu-ray and Ultra-HD Blu-ray movies, and the 50 frames per second of most Australian content, had to be converted to 60 frames per second. There’s no way of doing that smoothly, so the on-screen result was marked judder in just about all camera pans, and sometimes even in the movement of characters across the screen. That was with 24p. With 50fps material it was even worse.

Since then our Editor has discussed this directly with Texas Instruments, and it seems that they hadn’t thought that this was an issue. In our experience, those brought up on 60fps material — so people from the US, Japan, and Korea — tend not to notice these cadence matters. We were hopeful that Texas Instruments might address this in future models... but here they seem to have addressed it already. Not completely, but more than adequately. We played some 576i/50 test clips that we use to test deinterlacing. They turned out to be imperfect but reasonable. The projector detected material that was film sourced and mostly kept to film mode, only tricked out of it occasionally. That was the same with 1080i/50 test clips. But in both cases, the motion was very jerky due to a 50fps to 60fps conversion. Very jerky.

And then we switched the output on the player to 1080p. And suddenly the motion was smooth. What on earth? We flipped between interlaced and progressive, and it was jerky, smooth.
Well, not perfectly smooth. There are no motion-smoothing algorithms generating new intermediate frames, so the content was effectively 25p, and that often has a little regular judder.

And 24p? The same. This also was now smooth (other than the inherent film judder). We tried the Ultra-HD version of Dunkirk, where the slow beach pans are dispositive of the question. They were smooth, and if there were any cadence weirdness going on, they wouldn’t be. And they were. So well done TI. Well done BenQ.

But that’s not all. Our strong impression was that somehow BenQ has managed to deliver improved black levels with this model over those we experienced with the W-series projectors. Full blacks weren’t completely black, of course, but for the most part they were convincingly dark, and better than you normally see in the cinema. Again with Dunkirk, much happens in very dark spaces, and even the bright areas are pushed to maximum contrast in the movie, thanks to the HDR coding The first time we watched this film was on a recent-model Ultra-HD OLED TV, and we were stunned by the colour. It’s muted and shifted in a way that’s really quite astonishing and, to be frank, disquieting. Even though we turned out the lights, we simply did not expect this projector to generate quite the same sense.But it did. Ultimately, nothing was quite as intense, neither the blacks, nor the occasional flashes of brightness, nor the slightly off colours. Not as intense, but certainly the shades were right. Perhaps a 100% coverage of the Rec.2020 colour standard might introduce something beyond that produced by a 92% coverage of the Rec.709 colour standard, but we can’t say that we’re missing it at the moment.

We should not focus solely on Ultra-HD, tempting though it is, given the projector’s resolution. We sat down to watch some Friday night football. It turned out that even though our PVR was outputing the video at 1080i/50 (we were watching the HD channel, of course), the type of camera work tended to disguise the 50 to 60 hertz conversion. We saw it occasionally because we were looking for it, but we could imagine that most people would never notice.

Nonetheless, we decided to remedy it by converting the output to progressive. We used a home theatre receiver to do that. First, we set its output to ‘Auto’, which meant that it queried the projector and fed it the projector’s preferred video standard. But that turned out to be 2160p/25. To get 25 frames from 50 interlaced fields, you have to throw away every second field. That’s what the receiver did, producing a jittery picture. So we forced the receiver into 1080p output mode, and it properly delivered 1080p/50 to the projector, producing smooth, flowing video, clear of any sense of that 50 to 60Hz conversion.

The team colours were bold and bright. There was zero, absolutely zero, smearing of the image because DLP is like that. Pixel switches are effectively instantaneous. We gave the ‘Football’ picture mode a whirl too. It seemed mostly to make the colours pop a bit more. We preferred the regular viewing modes a little more in our darkened theatre room, but when we switched on the full room lights, the ‘Football’ mode proved its worth. The projector image was surprisingly viewable even under the lights. ‘Football’ mode added flair to the image thus viewed.

We used a test pattern to closely examine the effectiveness of the projector in delivering real Ultra-HD resolution onto the screen. The results were virtually the same as the W1070. All 8.3 million pixels were there and discernible. They were not as cleanly etched as they are on an Ultra-HD TV. There was some colour smearing. But it was there.

The program material results were consistently sharp and clean. Especially with Ultra-HD Blu-ray, this projector made us enjoy our projection screen and the big picture-size boost over even 65-inch TV viewing.

Conclusion
We think that if you’re after value for money in Ultra-HD for the big screen, the current winner is the BenQ TK800 projector; the price really is remarkable. BenQ calls it a ‘Home Entertainment’ projector. We think it’s worthy of being called a ‘Home Theatre’ projector.

BenQ TK800 AV projector
Price: $2199

+ Bigscreen Ultra HD below $2500
+ Respectable black levels
+ Excellent value for money

- Cadence issues with interlaced 50Hz

Projection technology: 12mm FHD Digital Micromirror Device with 4 x pixel shifting
Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Lamp: 240 watts
Lamp life: Normal 4000 hours, Economic 10,000 hours, SmartEco 8000 hours
Contrast ratio: 10,000:1
Brightness: 3000 ANSI Lumens
Inputs: 2 x HDMI (1 with UHD support), 1 x D-SUB15, stereo audio (3.5mm)
Outputs: stereo audio (3.5mm)
Other: 1 x RS-232C, 1 x USB-B (1.5 amp power), 1 x USB Mini-B (firmware upgrades),
1 x 12 volt trigger

Dimensions (whd): 353 x 135 x 272mm
Weight: 4.2kg
Warranty: Two years on-site pick up and return; Lamp: the earlier of 6 months or 750 hours use