BENQ TK850 4K DLP Projector Review
Tony O'Brien spends quality time with this capable new home entertainment-focused projector…
TK850 4K DLP Projector
AUD $3,299 RRP
BenQ isn't resting on its laurels. Just over a year ago, the company released the W2700, and here we are again with another of its projectors, the $3,299 TK850 4K. Priced very closely to the W2700, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the TK850 is its successor. Yet while the new kid on the block shares more than a few similarities with its stablemate, it's actually aimed at a different segment of the market.
Where the W2700 is a home theatre projector, the TK850 is a home entertainment projector – confused yet? Unlike the W2700 – which is better suited to a bat cave – the TK850 is designed to counter the brighter daytime conditions found in your typical Australian lounge room. With sports fans in mind, the TK850 has been designed to deliver all the action of the game in screen sizes of up to 300”.
Of course, combating brighter daytime conditions requires a lot of light output. To this end, the TK850 promises a whopping 3,000 ANSI lumens. Like most of BenQ's range, the TK850 uses a Texas Instruments 0.47” DMD chipset to provide its quoted 3840x2160, or nearly 8.3 million pixels of resolution. In reality, the chip has a resolution of 1920x1080. However, by quadrupling the flash count of its mirrors, the chip is able to increase its pixel count to 8.3 million. As I've said before, call it what you will, the fact of the matter is that to own a true native 4K projector you're going to need to spend a lot more than this…
With a throw ratio of 1.13 - 1.47 (100” @ 2.5 m), the TK850 is capable of producing images with a diagonal size of 30”- 300”. It's also quoted as being capable of reproducing 98% of the Rec. 709 colour space. While this is a smaller colour space than DCI/P3 used in 4K HDR movies, it's the same colour space used for HD content, and particularly sports. The TK850 also features MEMC (Motion Estimation, Motion Compensation) with HDR Pro and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) on the menu. All of this is rounded out with a dynamic iris – a somewhat surprising, but welcome inclusion at the price-point.
A lamp-based projector, the TK850 has a quoted lifespan of 15,000 hours in SmartEco mode, 10,000 in Economic and 4,000 hours in Standard mode. It's worthing noting though, that in brighter environments you're going to need Standard lamp mode to obtain a watchable image. Regardless of this fact, replacement lamps are priced $249.
Finished in matt white with silver accents and a blue brushed metal faceplate, the new TK850 is a striking projector package for the money. Its rather modest dimensions (368x130x254mm) mean it doesn't have a large footprint, so it's going to be easy enough to lug around to a mate's place – social distancing restrictions complied with, of course!
The lens is located to the front left of the TK850, with vents fitted on either side of the chassis. Except for the metal lens body, the assembly itself features the same high precision 10-element 8-group all-glass lens array as found in the W2700. As with the latter, it's located behind a hood to help protect the lens from dust.
Round the back you'll find all the connections, which comprise two HDCP 2.2 HDMI inputs, USB 2.0 and 3.0 (media reader), USB mini (reserved for service), TOSLINK optical digital and a single 3.5mm audio out. The power button and control panel are on the top of the projector, and it's here under a pull-down flap that you'll find the lens controls – which comprise focus, zoom and vertical lens-shift. While I always lament the loss of horizontal lens shift, it's the norm for the price point, and can be worked around with careful placement. As with the Vivitek HK2200 reviewed last month, vertical lens shift was a little coarse in operation. Overall build quality, however, is superb – its sleek styling and brushed blue faceplate has had everyone oohing and aahing.
Ceiling mounted, the TK850 produced a moderate amount of light spill onto the walls and ceiling around it. Quoted fan noise is 30/28dBA with the TK850 in its Silence picture mode and the lamp in ECO. In reality, you'll be using one of the other picture and lamp modes – or such was my experience. With this projector situated not far above the primary viewing position, fan noise proved to be quite noticeable. Depending on your viewing environment and distance from the projector, this may not be of concern. Nonetheless, take note of when placing the TK850, or any projector for that matter.
The TK850 was connected to an Anthem MRX-720 AV Receiver, which in turn had both an Apple TV and Panasonic UB-9000 4K Blu-ray player connected to it. Images were projected onto a 16.9 100” Severtson Cinegray screen. The Anthem MRX-720 was connected to VAF Signature i91 front and centre loudspeakers, and i90 rear and overhead Atmos speakers, with the low-end handled by twin custom 10” VAF Veratis subs. The speakers and AV receiver were wired with Analysis Plus cables.
MEASUREMENTS & CALIBRATION
When it comes to judging the picture quality of a television or projector, the impact of incorrect picture settings should not be underestimated. Therefore, before making any critical observations regarding picture quality, all the projectors we review at StereoNET are professionally calibrated.
Calibration tools consisted of an X-Rite i1Pro2 spectroradiometer and Spectracal C6 colourimeter (profiled against the i1Pro2). Each is tripod mounted with measurements taken directly from a 100” Severtson CineGray screen with Calman Professional calibration software. Patterns consisted of a mix of 10% and 18% windows, generated via a Murideo SIX-G Pattern Generator and the Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark disc.
While contrast ratio and black level measurements are included, it's essential to understand the limitation of doing so outside of a controlled testing environment. It's for this reason that sequential contrast ratio was used, as opposed to the preferred method of ANSI contrast. Despite the flaws in using this method of testing, it nonetheless provides a means for comparing black levels and contrast ratio between projectors in the future.
The TK850 has five user-selectable picture models consisting of Bright, Cinema, Sports, User and HDR10; the latter is reserved for HDR and HLG content. Light output varied with the selected picture mode, topping out at an impressive 149 nits in Bright Mode. While the TK850's Bright Mode isn't going to win any awards for colour accuracy, it's vastly more watchable than Bright picture modes I've encountered in other projectors.
The TK850's calibration controls consist of two-point greyscale adjustment; gamma presets and a colour management system (CMS). The TK850 was evaluated in its various picture modes in different viewing conditions, its Cinema Mode calibrated and used for critical viewing.
In Cinema mode, the TK850 still produced a healthy 115.6 nits and a black level of 0.042 nits, resulting in a contrast ratio of 2724:1. Pre-greyscale tracking was reasonably good, with an average Delta E of 5.08, which topped out at 5.71 at 70%. I strongly suspect this number would have been lower with a white screen, as opposed to the grey screen which I used. Regardless, there was a small but notable green tinge to the greyscale which was able to be corrected with calibration, resulting in an average Delta E of 1.73, topping out at 2.36 at 20%.
Unsurprisingly, given its limited Rec. 709 gamut coverage, Delta E values topped out at 14 - 15 with Green and Cyan. As little could be done with both undersaturation and hue errors at 100%, it was decided to let the TK850 produce its native colour gamut. If you're considering having this projector calibrated, then do ask your calibrator to dial in the CMS at 75% and let 100% fall where it will.
Gamma tracking was able to be improved upon, with pre-calibration gamma tracking going from 1.92 to 2.51. While 2.51 is a little darker than the 2.40 I prefer, much of this was in the brighter parts of the image. In its HDR10 picture mode, the TK850 produced 72.52 nits at 100% and 82.53-86.69% of the UHDAP3 (Ultra HD DCI/P3) colour space.
The TK850 is at home in environments with small to modest amounts of ambient light. A clever combination of high light output and gamma curves ensure images are easier to make out in such situations. Used in more critical applications as a movie projector, the TK850 put in a fine performance. Here its brightness served it well for HDR movie viewing, albeit at the cost of some colour accuracy.
In cinema mode and a calibrated gamma curve tracking between 2.30 and 2.40, it's surprising how well the TK850 held up in a viewing environment with some ambient light. Of course, such a gamma curve is better suited to more critical night time viewing. The gamma curve and light output of Sports mode is better suited to environments with ambient light, albeit at the cost of overall colour accuracy.
A more unwanted side-effect was that picture noise was more visible than it would otherwise be. While image noise on the SDR transfer of 2012's Wolverine was able to be reduced with the inbuilt controls, it couldn't be eliminated. Ultimately, Cinema mode with a lower gamma curve was my preferred method of viewing with ambient light.
In a darkened environment, colour reproduction in Cinema mode was decent. However, colours and particularly flesh tones could appear slightly overcooked. This was able to be significantly improved upon with a combination of the Brilliant Colour and main colour controls. Grays and other neutral tones fared much better, thanks to the TK850's excellent greyscale tracking.
As with many 4K DLP projectors that use the Texas Instruments chipset, the TK850 produced razor-sharp images, the SDR transfer of 2017's Valarian exhibiting a good sense of dimensionality. There was also a noticeable improvement in terms of detail and sharpness from the upscaled 1080p image. The accurate greyscale served the TK850 well when watching the often drab environments found within the SDR transfer of 2016's The Revenant. Switching to the HDR transfer provided a notable improvement in terms of both depth and detail.
The high brightness capabilities of the TK850 meant that spectral highlights were able to be better resolved. As with the Vivitek HK2200 we reviewed last month, the TK850 punched beyond its measured brightness – spectral highlights appeared bright and bold. As with SDR, colour reproduction in HDR10 could appear overdone at times, the reds of a costume in the HDR transfer of 2016's Deadpool often taking on a slight orange tone.
Black level performance of the TK850 was adequate. Viewing the opening scenes in the HDR transfer of 2017's Blade Runner 2049, couldn't reproduce the same level of punch or dimensionality that I am used to from my own Sony VPL-VW270ES. In all fairness, to the TK850, these types of black levels are par for the course for the price-point, the Sony coming in at nearly three times the cost.
First and foremost, this is a projector designed to watch sports, or for that matter any other content in conventional living rooms with some ambient light. To be blunt, such environments present a challenge for any projector – BenQ's TK850 included. Granted, this design does fare better than most projectors, just don't expect it to provide LED/LCD type images in such environments.
Personally, I'd stretch my budget a little further to accommodate one of the more affordable ALR (Ambient Light Rejecting) Screens on the market. Coupled with one of these, the TK850's brightness would result in a combination that's extremely hard to beat, while still offering superb value for money.
As a bonus, the TK850 is also more than capable of serving as a way to watch big-screen movies once the light dims down. Granted, it can't deliver the colour accuracy of BenQ's W2700, but such is the trade-off for the vast amount of light it can produce. Tasked with wearing many hats, this new BenQ really is a jack of all trades, and a bold endeavour given its modest price-point.
For more information, visit BenQ.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.