BenQ HT2550 4K UHD HDR projector review

Taste the 4K HDR rainbow with BenQ's colorful (and affordable) HT2550 projector

Killer color, sharp 4K resolution, and effective HDR performance make the BenQ HT2550 a slam dunk.
Killer color, sharp 4K resolution, and effective HDR performance make the BenQ HT2550 a slam dunk.
Killer color, sharp 4K resolution, and effective HDR performance make the BenQ HT2550 a slam dunk.

Highs

  • Outstanding color accuracy
  • Revealing HDR performance
  • Impressive brightness
  • Excellent Value
  • Light and compact

Lows

  • Black levels could use improvement

In the market for a projector? The BenQ HT2550 needs to be on your short list. The specs alone make it a compelling option: 4K UHD resolution, HDR support, and 2200 lumens of brightness, all for $1,500, paint the BenQ HT2550 as a ground-breaking home theater upgrade.

But does this projector’s performance deliver on its promise? The answer is a resounding: Yes. That doesn’t necessarily mean this is the right projector for you, though. As is often the case with home entertainment gear, the right choice depends on your specific needs. In our review, we cover what it’s like to live with the BenQ HT2550 projector as a primary source of entertainment to help you decide if it deserves a spot in your home.

Out of the box

The HT2550 (also labelled as the W1700 in some markets) arrives simply packaged in an easy-to-transport box with a plastic carry handle. This projector isn’t meant to be portable, but it certainly can be if you fancy the idea of putting together pop-up movie events, so hold on to the box if you think you might want to use it as a carrying case later.

In the box with the projector is a white wand-style remote control, batteries for the remote, and a power cord – you’ll need to supply your own high-speed HDMI cables for signal delivery.

Ins and outs

The HT2550 comes with two HDMI inputs – HDMI 1 is the port you’ll want to use for any 4K HDR source since it is HDMI 2.0 compliant, while HDMI 2 is fine for pretty much any source. For 4K Ultra HD content, an Ultra HD Blu-ray player is the best choice for premium picture quality, but don’t count out a streaming stick of some sort. A USB A jack will provide power for a Roku Streaming Stick + (our favorite in the category) an Amazon Fire TV stick, or a Google Chromecast Ultra. Keep in mind, though, that if you want to connect more than one 4K HDR source, you’ll need a 4K-compliant A/V receiver or a 4K HDMI switch, since you’ve got just one 4K HDR-compliant input to work with.

Other inputs include a 12-volt trigger for installations where the projector can be automatically powered on when other devices are powered up, 3.5mm audio input and output jacks for connecting external speakers when not using a bigger home theater system, and an old VGA PC input, presumably because archaic PCs without HDMI outputs do still exist.

Features and specs

With 8.3 million distinct pixels, the BenQ HT2550 promises true Ultra HD resolution for sharper, more detailed images at large screen sizes. BenQ also folds in some unique HDR processing which analyzes the image to provide an optimal balance between color accuracy and contrast. The company touts not only the HT2550’s color accuracy, but also its color gamut coverage, which is reported to achieve just over 96 percent of the Rec.709 color space. That’s not as impressive a color spectrum as many a high-end TV touting 99 percent of the wider DCI-P3 color space, but it is still incredibly impressive for a projector under $3,000, let alone one half that price.

This projector isn’t meant to be portable, but it certainly can be if you fancy the idea.

The HT2550 also boasts a few features to make placement/installation a little more flexible. Automatic vertical keystone correction trues up the image when the projector is placed at less-than-optimal heights relative to a projection screen, and 1.2x optical zoom allows the image to be adjusted to fill a screen, even if the projector is placed closer to the screen than the ideal distance. We easily achieved a 100-inch diagonal 16:9 image with the projector placed 12 feet away from our screen.

This projector does not, however, provided any vertical or horizontal lens shifting, so you’ll have to get the projector as centered on the horizontal plane as possible, while a little kickstand located on the bottom of the projector will provide a little help in the vertical plane. The HT2550 is relatively self-installer friendly, but for the best results (and especially if electrical work must be done to run power to the projector mounting location) we suggest hiring a professional installer.

BenQ HT2550 Review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

For those who plan to use the HT2550 for outdoor movie sessions or other pop-up movie events, we suggest planning some extra time to play around with projector placement to get the best image possible. It’s also worth noting here that this projector is both compact and light, making it an ideal option for portable use.

The HT2550 does not come with a spare lamp, but BenQ claims the installed lamp should last about 15,000 hours in LampSave mode, and it should last a good 10,000 hours so long as the projector’s brightness is not cranked to its absolute maximum. BenQ folds in some SmartEco technology which adjusts lamp brightness based on image content to increase contrast in real time while also preserving lamp life.

We’re pleased to report the HT2550 packs some impressive speakers for a projector, as well. You won’t get cinematic audio impact from this unit – and the picture really does deserve equally impressive sound – but the sound quality far exceeded our expectations based on prior reviews of projectors with built-in speakers.

Finally, we’ve got to mention the remote, which is not only highly functional thanks to some hot-keys that deal with commonly-needed adjustments, but is also very brightly backlit – essential in a dark room.

Our testing setup

To determine how the BenQ HT2550 would perform in the most common scenarios, we tested the projector in two environments, one a completely dark home theater space, the other a common area in our offices where light coming through multiple windows could be controlled with a combination of sheer and black-out shades.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Sources for our tests included an Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player (our top pick in the class), and a Roku Streaming Stick +. Source material included both HD and Ultra HD content in both HDR and non-HDR formats.

For color accuracy comparisons, we also used a calibrated BenQ PD3200U Ultra HD monitor.

Performance

What a beautiful projector!

Ask BenQ what makes this projector so special, and they’ll point straight to color accuracy. The company sat down with us at our Portland, Oregon headquarters and described in some detail how accurately representing creators’ intentions was a key consideration in the HT2550’s development. We listened intently while holding a healthy amount of skepticism until we could test those claims.

The HT2550 delivers a deeply immersive and rich image.

Having spent considerable time casually watching movies and actively comparing the projector to BenQ’s exceptional monitor, we’d say BenQ has handily earned its bragging rights. Mad Max: Fury Road is something of a tour de force in color grading, and the HT2550 delivered a deeply immersive and rich image, full of the flavor we believe George Miller meant to impart.

We found the same to be true as The Martian steadfastly held our gaze for its entire 2.5 hours. The omnipresent hue of the planetary scenes was absent the harsh and oversaturated tones of red we’ve seen with other projectors, and even some TVs. Rather, the HT2550 delivered a cinematic spectacle worthy of a commercial-theater experience.

HDR highlights and detail were also surprisingly good considering the HT2550’s accessible price point. Comparisons with our Ultra HD Blu-ray’s standard Blu-ray counterpart vividly exposed the clear differences imparted by HDR as we viewed X-Men: Apocalypse. What was a blown-out blur of brightness on the Blu-ray version becomes a sea of sparkling highlights with the 4K Ultra HD version as processed by the projector’s outstanding tone mapping.

BenQ HT2550 Review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Brightness was better than we expected given the HT2550’s 2,200 lumen rating, considering many competing projectors (like the Optoma UHD60) boast 3,000 lumens. Yet, a side-by-side comparison of the two showed the HT2550 was able to deliver comparable brightness in our room with ambient light, and more than enough power in our controlled home theater space. We certainly feel the HT2550 is versatile enough to combat moderate ambient light, though we wouldn’t expect it do deliver anything impressive in a room with overhead lights turned on or sunlight blasting through the windows.

If there’s a down-side to the HT2550, it’s that blacks are not as deep as we’d like. You can clearly see light spilling out into areas that should be completely black – letterbox bars are the biggest offenders. For videophiles, this may be of some concern, but for the vast majority of folks looking at a projector in the sub-$2,000 category, we don’t consider it an issue.

In short, the HT2550 is an outstanding projector. BenQ could get away with charging more, but the fact that it sits at $1,500 (for now — it will likely go down over the course of 2018) makes it an irresistible value.

Warranty information

BenQ offers a three-year warranty on parts and labor (excluding lamps, covered below).

Lamps on new HT2550 units have a 180-day or 500-hour warranty from the purchase date, whichever comes first.

Our Take

With killer color, vivid brightness, sharp 4K resolution, and effective HDR performance, the HT2550 is a slam-dunk choice for any projector under $2,000, let alone one at $1,500.

Is there a better alternative?

The Optoma UHD60 is marginally brighter and slightly more versatile for installation thanks to a more powerful zoom and the presence of vertical keystone correction. The build quality doesn’t feel as solid, however, and color accuracy is not as on-point as the BenQ HT2550.

How long will it last?

It is possible advances in native 4K projectors could come along in the next couple of years, but the BenQ HT2550 is the most competitively priced projector of its capability we’ve seen to date. It is likely this projector will remain a best buy for years to come. In terms of performance, we expect that lamp replacements as needed should keep this projector performing long into the future.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you want a high-performance projector with some of the latest visual technology at an approachable price, the BenQ HT2550 is hard to beat.

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