Are you looking for a phenomenal 4k projector to build out your dedicated home theater? While the Epson 5050UB is a popular choice for a premium home theater projector, critics are raving about the new BenQ HT5500 as its toughest challenger for the best 4K home theater projector under $3000. This class of projector is very popular as they are rated for DCI color , which enables you to see the same dynamic and subtle colors in your home theater that you would see in a commercial cinema. In this article, we will examine the two models on key feature differentiation that will make a difference in what you see on the screen – and in your wallet. Our goal is to be fair and informative to help you make the best decision for your home theater.
While both projectors target the 4K projector market, only the BenQ HT5550 delivers 4K resolution according to the Consumer Technology Association definition. Using the new Texas Instruments .47” DLP chip, the projector delivers 3840 x 2160 resolution using 8.3 million unique addressable pixels to minute details to be rendered on the screen as it is on the original Blu-Ray media. It does this using the amazing speed of the DLP chip that has been tested for accuracy and sharpness by industry critics such as Chris Chinook.The Epson 5050UB displays only half as many pixels to the screen. Since the Epson projector is actual displaying only 4.1 million pixels, it cannot be a UHD projector, according to the Consumer Technology Association. Epson calls their resolution “4K PRO-UHD,” describing it as “A new type of 4K home theater experience utilizing advanced processing for resolution enhancement, color and image processing." On their specification sheet, the projector resolution is identified as “4K Enhancement (with a footnote) of 1920 x 1080 x 2.” Bottom line – the BenQ has twice as many pixels as the Epson – and delivers a sharp and detailed 3840 x 2160 4K UHD image according to the industry standard adopted by the Consumer Technology Association .
The BenQ HT5550 uses the same basic DLP semiconductor technology from Texas Instruments that are used in about 85% of commercial digital cinemas . The additive color technology was first used in the 1999 release of Star Wars , The Phantom Menace, and is now used in all the iMax movie theaters where the DLP technology creates realistic 3D images by having each mirror on the DLP chip create multiple pixels on the screen for a flawless commercial 3D experience. The HT5550 uses the new Texas Instruments.47″ 4K DLP chip to create a color-accurate DCI picture and according to the online review at Projectorreview.com , its single-chip design delivers ”impressive sharpness and smooth motion.”There are two other advantages that the BenQ projector using DLP projector has over the technology used in the Epson 5050UB. First, due to its single-chip design, there is no risk of panel misalignment that can occur in the three-chip design of the Epson. This can occur if the three panels are not perfectly aligned. Epson has a special menu setting to correct this. The other advantage is that the DLP technology is immune from color fading and yellowing over time. This phenomenon can happen if the imager on a projector cannot properly control the light, and can be expensive to repair. BenQ has sold nearly 10 million projectors using Texas Instruments DLP chips without color fading or yellowing that has occurred over time that has been seen on non-DLP projectors.
Both the BenQ HT5550 and Epson 5050UB projectors deliver 100% of the DCI color space – enabling them to match the large color spectrum that until recently could only be found in commercial cinemas. According to third-party reviewer tests, both models have high-quality all-glass 4K optimized lenses that deliver similar brightness uniformity without any hot spots.To ensure high color accuracy before shipping, each BenQ HT5550 is tested and adjusted for precise D65 color temperature, gamma, black level, white level, neutral grey, RGB CMYK color tracking, hue, saturation, and other metrics based on DCI-P3 and Rec. 709 specifications. All the data is then compiled for individual factory calibration report that comes with each projector, ensuring DCI-P3 color accuracy with Delta E <3 to ensure authentic reproduction of authentic colors in your movies. Each BenQ HT5550 includes the calibration report in the box.
For HDR, both projectors support HDR content but take different approaches. Because most commercial movies are edited using DLP Cinema projectors, BenQ has been working with cinematographers worldwide to carefully craft its HDR technology to align with how the directors want their images to be rendered in the same manner as in a commercial cinema. The BenQ has five curated HDR settings to choose from, while the Epson uses a sliding brightness level tool.
Both projectors are powered by traditional lamps (compared to the high-end BenQ HT9060 that is powered by high powered LED’s),but the BenQ lamp lifetime is significantly longer – enabling the BenQ to have an advantage on the total cost of ownership.In normal mode, the Epson 5050UB is rated at 3500 hours, while the BenQ HT5550 lamp is rated at 4000 hours. But the BenQ has a significant advantage over the Epson with its Smart-Eco lamp technology that extends the life of the lamp to 10,000, while the Epson only can achieve 5000 hours in eco-mode. While the eco-mode for the Epson reduces the overall brightness, the BenQ Smart-Eco lamp synchronizes with the Texas Instruments DLP chip to reduce the power on dark scenes, while boosting the power on bright scenes.The result - light is constantly adjusting the light levels every fraction of a second to align with the image – rather than operating at full power and using the imager and mechanical iris to try and block the light from the lamp. With the BenQ Smart-Eco mode, you get extra-long lamp life – and a brighter, vibrant picture. For replacement lamps – the BenQ HT5550 replacement lamp cost is $149, while the Epson 5050UB is $299
All projectors specify brightness and contrast on their specifications, but the actual specifications themselves are often difficult to determine which is better in real-world performance. Especially the case when comparing the Epson and BenQ models when it comes to brightness and contrast.
The Epson 5050UB is rated at 2600 lumens, while the BenQ is rated at 1800 lumens. These ratings are in the “brightest” mode, where the images are tuned for maximum brightness instead of color accuracy. According to third party reviews, when the projectors are used in their respective color modes, the measurements become much closer. For example, one website found that the difference in “cinema mode” brightness was only 120 lumens when running on an eco-mode of the lamp. The other point to keep in mind is that these two models are designed for dedicated home theaters where the ambient light can be controlled. Projector Central recommends between 13 and 21-foot lamberts on the screen – which enables the HT5550 to easily support a 150” screen in a home theater environment. While the BenQ specified lumens is not as bright as the Epson, the difference may not be that significant in a dedicated home theater installation.
Contrast is essential in the proper rendering of a movie. The ability to see small detail and movement is dependent on small brightness differences from one pixel to the next – such as seeing the dark brown mouse whisker against a lighter brown desert background.Here again, the Epson specification is higher than the BenQ, but both projectors get high marks for contrast performance by third party reviewers. While the ANSI measurement for contrast is a checkerboard square with white pixels next to dark pixels, the projector industry measures overall white screen and black screen – which prompted Projector Central to remark that “comparison between contrast ratio claims from different manufacturers, you shouldn't take these numbers at face value, since there is no industry standard for reporting contrast ratio. To achieve the type of detail needed in high-resolution 4K movies, the BenQ projector uses a combination of the high fill factor of the DLP chip (it can control over 90% of the light on each pixel), its Smart Eco lamp technology which reduces the light for dark scenes, and a dynamic iris on the lens to sharpen the contrast differences between light and dark pixels on the screen. Epson uses a combination of polarizing filters and dynamic iris to reduce the stray light. Which approach is better? While the Epson has excellent contrast, the ProjectorReviews website noted that “when viewing HDR content, on a dark scene, the BenQ produces deeper blacks on some of those scenes than the Epson.” HomeTheater HIFI spent a lot of time looking different scenes of Planet Earth , commenting that “…the Cities episode was a great test of black levels which looked impressive. It’s not quite as deep as the best LCoS projectors I’ve seen, but it’s startlingly close. Contrast is not an issue here; any viewer would be satisfied”. While critics may argue over which is approach is better, and both projectors appear to deliver the quality of detail, customers are looking for in premium home theater projectors.
In most dedicated home theaters, dark décor is used to keep stray light from reflecting on the screen. The BenQ HT5550 uses a matte black case to avoid light reflecting on the case and creating a visual distraction. The Epson model is only available in white – unless you upgrade to the Epson 6050, which sells for $3999.
Since most projectors in dedicated home theaters are ceiling-mounted, a smaller case is easier to install and less visually distracting. The BenQ HT5550 is much smaller and 10 pounds lighter than the Epson 5050UB, which makes it less visible in your theater – and less stress on your projector mount.
Many dedicated home theater rooms are designed and built by integrators who make sure the audio, control systems and lighting all work together with the right screen and furniture. Here are some of the features that the BenQ and Epson projectors have included to help integrators put together the theater of their customers’ dreams.
Both BenQ and Epson provide significant amounts of vertical and horizontal lens shift for integrators to fine-tune the image location on the projector screen. This is essential if the projector location has to correct for an off-center mounting location from the screen (e.g., to attach the mount to a stud), or mount the projector higher / lower to accommodate a visual blockage such as a ceiling beam. The BenQ has 60 degrees of vertical lens shift and 23 degrees of horizontal lens shift. If you have a unique or difficult mounting situation, such as mounting the projector in the corner of the room, the Epson may be a better choice as it has about 20% more lens shift in each axis.Both projectors have big zoom ratio’s as well, with the BenQ delivering 1.6x zoom and the Epson 2.1x. Like lens shift, both projectors should work in the vast majority of dedicated home theater installations.
The BenQ includes Imaging Science Foundation lockable Day and Night calibration modes that an integrator can access to calibrate the projector to your room colors properly. For example – if you have a home theater with rich dark green carpet and a gold curtain around the projector screen – those ambient light being reflected from those colors could distort the image on your projector image. BenQ is dedicated to making sure your projector is displaying the color the director intended and recommends integrators set up both day and night modes in the HT5550. The Epson 5050UB does not support lockable ISF Day and Night color calibration mode.
Both the BenQ and the Epson models can receive audio signals from analog and digital sources. However, the BenQ HT5550 offers integrators the ability to tap into the projector for high quality digital audio output via the SPIDF port or use the analog 3.5mm output to support creative audio applications in your home theater room configuration. The Epson 5050UB does not offer any audio outputs.
The BenQ supports reading media from both the USB 2.0 port as well as the high powered USB 3.0 port. Media reading USB ports can be helpful to enable your home theater customers to share photographs or homemade videos on your projector directly from their cameras to the projector.
Once the projector is installed, the homeowner is responsible for the maintenance and repairs outside the warranty period. While modern projectors are quite reliable – how do these models stack up regarding long term ownership?
Both these projectors offer solid warranties, and both have excellent customer service. The BenQ HT5550 stands out with its three-year warranty on the projector and also warranties the lamp for the entire first year. The Epson has a two-year warranty and only covers the first 90 days of the lamp.
One other feature projector owners appreciate there is the filter-free design of the BenQ HT5550. Since most home theater projectors are ceiling mounted, responding to a Epson 5050UB's “clean filter” message on the screen can involve moving furniture and bringing in ladders to remove the filter. Then the homeowner needs to tap out the dust and vacuum the filter before putting it back in.BenQ uses the latest in advanced semiconductor cooling technology to eliminate the need for a filter – letting you watch movies without worry or mess.
One important consideration with the BenQ is that the projector image is that there is no risk of the projector yellowing or having the color fade away over time. Since 2006, BenQ has sold nearly 10 million projectors worldwide using DLP technology – and works closely with Texas Instruments to ensure the same type of long-lasting color performance as is seen at DLP Digital Cinema projectors all over the world.
While the BenQ HT5550 and Epson 5050UB are designed for home theater applications, many projector review sites evaluate the gaming response time of these projectors. As a primary gaming display, the Epson has an advantage over the BenQ, with an input lag of about half of the BenQ model in 1080p mode (29ms for the Epson and 65ms for the BenQ).However, many people may not realize that BenQ is one of the largest brands of gaming monitors, keyboards, and mice for professional gamers via its Zowie brand. So while the Epson projector has less lag time, most gamers will find both projectors too slow for competitive gaming as a primary display.
One way to use a home theater projector in a competitive gaming environment is to use a Zowie gaming monitor as the primary display – and connect the HDMI out signal from the monitor to the projector. The Zowie R2460S ($219) monitor delivers lag-free gaming with a 1ms GtG response time on the screen – which is much faster than either projector - and its convenient HDMI out port originally designed for professional gamers to stream their games from the monitor also works great with either projector.
The BenQ HT5550 is a solid alternative to the popular Epson 5050UB projector. It has twice the resolution than the Epson, longer lamp life, and its small black case size makes it easy to ceiling mount in so that the projector blends into the room. From a color performance standpoint, it delivers the same 100% DCI color that the Epson has – but has additional HDR modes and comes with a calibration report that validates its color accuracy right out of the box. With the MSRP being $300 less than the Epson and low replacement lamp cost, the projector has a lower cost of ownership and should be a consideration for anyone looking for a high-quality 4K projector. The BenQ delivers the same 4K resolution, uses the same core DLP technology, and is crafted to deliver the same DCI color space and HDR effects as a commercial DLP Cinema theater projector. Granted – it is not as bright as the commercial versions, but according to Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity website, the BenQ HT5550 is a “DLP projector with superb clarity that rivals any native 4K model and beats them handily when things get moving on screen…and receives my highest recommendation. "
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