BenQ TK800 Projector
Street price: $1999
Summary: BenQ has delivered a quality projector for the price, but don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s a true 4K projector
+ Excellent brightness
+ Crisper than a 1920 x 1080 projector
+ HDR10 compliant
+ Twin HDMI inputs
- Not actually 4K
- Limited calibration features
- No short-throw lens
- DLP chip can lead to “rainbow effect” in some viewers
- Zero lens shift features, so must be mounted precisely
When it comes to display devices, the words “True Resolution” equate to the native resolution of the product. That is, native means the exact resolution outputted by a display. For example, a 4K TV or projector (also now commonly known as Ultra High Definition) outputs a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is why BenQ’s new TK800 projector stood out from the pack when I first heard of its release. Claiming to be “True 4K HDR” compatible at a mere street price of $1,999, it’s roughly half the price of the next most affordable 4K projector on the market, ViewSonic’s PX747-4K, and a third of the price of Sony’s offerings. However, things aren’t quite what they appear.
It seems that BenQ’s marketing team has been rather creative in its use of the words “True 4K”, as this projector does not have a native resolution of 3840 x 2160. Instead, it appears to use the Texas Instruments DLP470TP DLP (Digital Light Processing) chip used to output a native resolution of 1920 x 1080, but then but uses a technique known as “pixel-shifting” to upscale the resolution to 4K. This moves each pixel by half a pixel-width multiple times to per second, to display what appears to be 4K resolution. In motion it does a fairly good job of faking 4K, but still images are obviously stuck at the native resolution of 1920 x 1080.
BenQ is not the only company guilty of pixel-shifting, with the likes of JVC also using the same technique. However, they instead use the phrase “Enhanced 4K” rather than “True 4K”, a line that BenQ is the first company to cross. Some may say this is mere semantics, but it’s confusing enough for consumers to understand various standards without changing their meaning. During playback, the TK800’s images are noticeably more detailed than a 1920 x 1080 device, yet aren’t quite as crisp as a true, native 4K projector. The increase in detail definitely makes a considerable difference due to the larger size pumped out by a projector as compared to smaller TV sets – where 4K resolution is only noticeable at screen sizes of around 70-inches or above – but the TK800’s image detail and clarity is noticeably less impressive than a real 4K projector.
Another issue where the TK800 suffers is its reliance upon DLP technology, whereas most other projectors now commonly use LCD technology. A DLP chip is basically comprised of thousands of micro-mirrors, which switch on and off, and reflect light in the process. To bring colour to an otherwise black and white display, this light is then reflected through a rotating colour wheel, and in the case of the TK800 it uses a four segment RGBW wheel. This is a very intriguing new technology, as in the past manufacturers have used higher segments per wheel, spinning at higher speeds, to minimise an effect known as the ‘rainbow effect’, which is unique to DLP projectors. This can be seen as a halo, multi-coloured shadow effect in fast moving objects within a scene, or fast-panning scenes, and is why LCD-based projectors are favoured by projector aficionados. It’s only noticeable by a small percentage of viewers though, so testing the TK800 in-store is highly recommended, simply to check if your eyes are sensitive to this effect (I’ve found that heavy users of computer displays tend to be more sensitive to the issue).
On the flipside, a benefit of the new type of colour wheel used in the TK800 is that one segment is pure white, which delivers excellent brightness. I measured 2567 ANSI Lumens in performance mode using my light meter, which makes it extremely bright compared to other projectors in this price range, and better suited to rooms that aren’t perfectly dark.
Another benefit of DLP compared to LCD is that it delivers excellent colour reproduction, and the TK800 is fully HDR (High Dynamic Range) compliant, which brings a much wider colour gamut than non-HDR devices. There are currently four different HDR standards commonly available, with the basic HDR standard being the bare minimum, and the TK800 comes with the next level up, HDR10. I noticed that when playing non-HDR material with HDR activated, colours were ridiculously oversaturated, but playing HDR certified content resulted in a much more natural look and feel. During the latter, using my HDR tests my colorimeter measured an impressive 91% coverage of the Rec.709 colour space, which is an excellent result at this price.
Unfortunately, this is not a short-throw projector, with the zoom of the lens between 1.47x and 1.76x, which requires a rather long room to get the largest possible image; at a distance of 3.25 metres it displays a diagonal image size of 100 inches. The colour tweaking controls are rather basic compared to more expensive projectors, making accurate calibration difficult.
One huge plus for this projector is the input latency, which is very important to gamers. Most 4K projectors take around 60 to 70ms from the time the gamer hits their controller button to the time the action plays out on-screen. I measured an input latency with the TK800 of just 46ms, making this one of the fastest “4K” projectors I’ve seen.
While the price is right, and the brightness is phenomenal, I’m still not comfortable with BenQ using the phrase “True 4K” to describe the TK800. Put simply, it’s bending the marketing rules of what ‘true’ really means when describing a display device’s resolution. In all other regards it’s an excellent value-for-money projector, but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re getting a real 4K projector at this price.
Tips and tricks:
At default settings, this projector is overly bright. I highly recommend running a basic calibration process via the http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/ website to tune it to reproduce a more accurate overall image.
Upscaled to 4K; HDR-compliant; 3000-ANSI Lumens max brightness; bulb life = 4,000 hours in normal mode, 10,000 hours in Eco mode, 8,000 hours in Smart-Eco mode
Major Innovative Feature:
At half the price of competing 4K projectors, this brings 4K to an entirely new price point. Sadly, it’s not actually a true 4K projector.