BenQ TK800 4K DLP Projector Review
Another flash projector from BenQ
What is the BenQ TK800?The TK800 is the latest budget 4K Ultra HD single-chip DLP projector which is being marketed as a home entertainment and sports model. It has the smaller Texas Instruments 0.47” DMD XPR 1920 x1080 DLP chip that flashes four times in very quick succession to create an image that fools the eye into seeing 8.3 million pixels on screen at one time. It is very clever and it works well with a convincing 4K like image on screen. This beats the costs of trying to manufacture a native 4K chip, which would cost five or more times the cost of this projector. Plus from normal viewing distances resolution is more difficult to separate between this projector and a native one, it is other image attributes like black levels and colour which would make the differences visible, not resolution alone. The projector will accept 4K HDR image signals and display them within the native capabilities of the projector. It doesn't however have wide colour gamut capabilities, this is a Rec.709 model.
BenQ market the TK800 projector as a home entertainment and sports model and not a home cinema machine. This means that it is designed to work at its best in normal living rooms with light coloured walls and ceilings and some ambient light. Or you could even use it outdoors shining on to a white sheet or the side of your house for a World Cup party. It is supposed to create an image ‘good enough’ to enjoy big screen sporting events, or gaming with your friends and is not a critical home cinema viewing device for movie viewing in a bat cave dedicated theatre.
So we will run the BenQ TK800 through our usual set of tests and measurements, but we will also bear in mind that this is designed to perform specific home entertainment roles and is not a critical viewing device. So if this is not the projector you are looking for, we will forgive you if you tune out now. If it is, then read on…
Design, Connections and ControlThe TK800 looks very similar to the W1700 we reviewed recently with the same chassis and a few tweaks to the colours used. It has a solid white plastic body that is well built and will stand up to being moved around and carried. It is strong enough to be your portable home entertainment device and the front panel has a nice aqua blue finish, which makes it stand out from the dull coloured home cinema devices which are designed to be hidden away in a dark room. This projector wants to be the centrepiece of your living room or party and be noticed.
It measures in at 353 x 135 x 272mm (W x H x D) and weighs around 4.2 Kg in total. The lens is positioned to the right side of the front plate and the remote sensor is to the right of that, with a hot air exhaust on the left side. On the top plate above the lens is a recess with the manual zoom and focus rings, there is no lens shift. To the bottom of the front plate is a plastic push button that extends a plastic foot to raise up the front of the projector and to the back of the projector are two screws to raise the rear end when table mounted.
To the rear of the top plate of the TK800 are a number of buttons and directional keys which give access to the menus and settings should you lose the remote control. There is also an indicator light which lets you know when power is on, when the projector is cooling down and in standby. There is also a large BenQ logo in grey next to these controls.
Moving around the back of the TK800 we have the connections with everything you would need for such a projector. From left to right you have Audio in/out connectors, a PC VGA input, two HDMI inputs, two USB sockets used for power and service updates as well as an RS232C and 12V trigger ports for control use. HDMI 1 is HDCP 2.2 compatible and accepts 4K HDR10 signals from your sources with HDMI 2 being 1.4 compliant only, so no 4K via that input.
The supplied remote control with the TK800 is the same as that supplied with the slightly more expensive W1700 projector, so white plastic and well built. It has a backlight that can be switched on with a dedicated button at the top of the projector, or by pressing any key. The most important and most used keys are around the directional pad with Back, Menu and Source just under the pad. This allows control of almost all the important features within an easy thumb reach while the controller is in your hands. There are keys here that do not function with the TK800 such as dynamic iris and detail enhancer, so points to this remote being bundled with most of the BenQ projector range. Overall the controller sits neatly in the hand and is easy to use in a dark room thanks to the excellent backlit keys.
The TK800 is designed to be a sports and home entertainment projector
BenQ TK800 Features and SpecsAs stated at the start of the review the TK800 is a budget 4K Ultra HD single chip DLP projector that features the 1920 x 1080 0.47” DMD with XPR technology to provide an image that they eye sees as 8.3m pixels on screen. This is a clever way of producing a projector at the price point that can accept a 4K HDR signal and display it to the eye as if it is a native 4K image. When compared to a true 4K native projector image from normal viewing distances the resolution between both technologies is difficult to separate, and it comes down to other image attributes such as black levels and colour. However BenQ have been using the terminology ‘True 4K” in their marketing which we feel is not accurate and a little misleading to those who don’t understand how the technology works.
BenQ also state that the TK800 has auto HDR optimised colour rendition technology which matches the content to the native capabilities of the projector, to try and give a bright and more colourful image, over normal HD material. However the TK800 will only get close to the HD Rec.709 colour standard and nowhere near the current DCI-P3 gamut being used by Hollywood on UHD Blu-rays and the like within the Rec.2020 container. This means the projector is not wide colour gamut compatible, it will display UHD Blu-ray and other wide colour material in the Rec.709 HD standard. So again, it is worth cutting through some of the marketing to get to the actual performance parameters. Rec.709 done correctly is perfectly fine for this projector and the price point; it can look stunning when done correctly, we just feel BenQ need to be a little clearer on the specifications and less vague with the marketing.
The TK800 uses a 4K 120Hz Red, Green, Blue and White (RGBW) four segment colour wheel with colour coatings to produce more light output and coverage of the Rec.709 HD colour standard. BenQ also claim it improves motion performance from the TK800 which should make it popular with sports fans.
The lens features a new 7-Element 4-Group arrangement of glass to try and minimise the effects of chromatic aberration by using low dispersion lens coatings and improve sharpness of the image from edge to edge and top to bottom. Being a single chip device also means there are no issues with panel alignment, which can be a slight issue for the 3-chip machines from Epson, Sony and JVC.
Whist this isn’t a short throw projector in the traditional sense, it does have an impressive zoom range where you can achieve a 100-inch image from just over 3m away with the 1.2:1 zoom ratio. Focus and zoom are manual on the TK800 and there is no lens shift, so correct set up is vital to get the best out of it. Please do not use keystone correction on your projector. This instantly kills fine detail and can cause other issues such as moiré effect on solid lines etc., so take the time to install the projector correctly. Also make sure you switch off the Auto Keystone feature straight away as it is on as a default setting. I was unaware of this on initial start up and troubled to see the image zooming in an out every few seconds until I realised after a few seconds what was going on. A quick press of the up or down directional key will deactivate the feature.
The BenQ is being marketed as a sports and home entertainment machine and as such it comes with a picture mode called football and some dedicated sound modes for those users who will utilise the built-in speaker on the TK800.
Out-of-the-Box MeasurementsWe set about finding the best settings out of the box to get the image as close as possible to the industry standards for white balance and colour. For HD content that is D65 and Rec.709 respectively, we found that using the picture mode User 1 with colour temperature Normal and gamma set to 2.4, lamp mode normal and Brilliant colour on gave us the best results. We used our trusty Klein K10-A meter, Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN software to take all our measurements.
As you can see in the greyscale tracking (top left) we have too much red and green and a deficit of blue energy. This gives us a slightly yellow tinge to the image, and DeltaE errors are respectable, but large in the brighter parts of the image, where we see that yellow tint. Gamma is also tracking slightly high (dark) from the mid-tones upwards to white, which is not ideal, but also doesn’t result in any major issues at all. For the majority of users of this projector in the way it’s intended to be used, this result is perfectly acceptable and would be the basis for most use cases. However at AVForums we like to see if we can get things more accurate and will be doing that in the next section.
We would expect to see a strict adherence to the Rec.709 colour standard (top right) in this DLP projector, but sadly that is not the case here out of the box. The white point is towards yellow as per the white balance results, but we also have large errors in the 75% saturation points and some large hue errors. Again for the majority of users this is not an issue at all with such a machine, but if you are looking for accuracy – and the marketing states the projector does aim to cover Rec.709 colour – we would expect better here with the technology available in this unit. Everything is pushed to get 75% saturation out wide and this is not what should be happening. The projector is capable of hitting Rec.709, albeit with restricted luminance (not shown in the published graph above), but for some reason BenQ engineers have decided to push things over standard. This is a shame because what results is inaccurate colour with all use cases, where a Rec.709 adherence would actually give nicer, more natural colour response. We can try and fix these issues with the built-in calibration controls, but BenQ need to be more accurate out of the box, even at this price point and with this use case.
Calibrated MeasurementsWe always soak test projectors for at least 20 hours before we do any major testing and measuring. For more performance driven projectors we will even take that up to 50 hours before starting any serious assessment. We have a good set of calibration controls present with the TK800 and should be able to correct the greyscale and colour gamut for HD viewing to D65 and Rec.709 colour.
For some strange reason the greyscale tracking for the BenQ TK800 (top left) was a little off in the mid tone areas after correcting the 100% white point and then doing the usual two point correction at 30 and 80ire. No matter what we tried we just couldn’t get around this issue and we suspect it may have something to do with how the projector is set up in the factory and the four-slot colour wheel pushing brightness. We did get deltaE errors down from the out of the box results and also flattened out our gamma to closer to 2.4. We managed to get rid of the obvious yellow tint to images though and greys did look more natural than out of the box.
By having a more accurate greyscale and white point meant that we could also start correcting some of the over saturation issues with the colour gamut (top right). We were able to get the 75% saturation points better aligned and more accurate to where they should be; with some luminance added back where there was a deficit (not shown in the graphs above). We still had a few hue errors with green and magenta, but nothing that made itself visible when watching normal material on screen. This is how the BenQ TK800 should come out of the box with some luminance tweaks also added. It gives a better overall natural looking image with the majority of HD material people will still be watching, especially sports content with large areas of green on screen.
HDR ResultsThere are no standards for HDR on projectors and with reflective display technology, like projection, you are just not able to reach the type of brightness levels, and pin point brightness accuracy that you can with a TV display. Projectors will never be able to match a TV for contrast and dynamic range, so the HDR experience will always be different and a compromise, on projectors at all price points. Manufacturers are adding their own ideas of how an HDR10 static metadata image should look (there are no plans, or standard, for Dolby to enter the projector market with Dolby Vision). Tone mapping is used to try and balance the HDR image so it takes advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of the display device being used. In the case of this projector it has a very limited dynamic range and poor contrast performance, so it will rely on trying to stick to the EOTF curve long enough before running out of brightness and rolling off and clipping the rest of the image detail
As we can see (top left) that is exactly what the BenQ does and due to the really poor black levels, shadow detail is clipped away and non-existent. Peak highlights are also clipped down to the native capability of the projector, meaning the HDR image is pretty poor when it comes to contrast and dynamic range performance. It is simply a limitation of the BenQ TK800 and where we are with the technology at this point.
Colour gamut performance is also restricted to the native capabilities of the projector and although the graphs do show saturation points going quite wide they are lacking in luminance (not shown) so colour volume is not great. However we didn’t expect anything better at this price point and with the limitations of using a bulb and DLP colour wheel technology. Again a better adherence to Rec.709 would actually give a more accurate palette for this projector to work within its limitations. We must also remind ourselves of the goals of the manufacturer for this product and while it is interesting to see how it copes with trying to be accurate, it is simply not built, or intended, to be so.
It fulfils its remit, but is not a projector for the critical viewer
BenQ TK800 Picture PerformanceIt is probably wise as we start this section of the review to set expectation levels again. The BenQ TK800 is not a home cinema projector built for critical movie viewing in a bat cave environment. BenQ have been very clear with the intended use of this projector and that it is not designed to be a super accurate machine when it comes to picture quality. That is evident in its marketing of the TK800 and that it calls it a home entertainment and sports device. So if you are looking for a home cinema projector you need to look elsewhere.
So does calling it a home entertainment and sports projector give it a free pass when it comes to picture quality assessment? Well we have been quite fair in our assessment by running it through our usual tests and measurements to see just how it benchmarks, but also kept in mind the intended use and where those results would benefit that type of consumer. As such we didn’t expect much from the black levels and shadow details, as these are normally poor on a DLP machine, especially one that pushes out a good degree of brightness, and that was the case here.
Blacks are a light grey colour and there is no shadow detail retrieval at all with just large areas of black mist where the more expensive machines will give you the details in the dark blacks. However the TK800 is designed to be used in a typical living room with light coloured surfaces bouncing light around the room and back on to the screen (or white wall). It is not designed to have inky blacks. In such an environment the black floor of the room is rather high and it is here where the BenQ TK800 performs better. You still don’t get the lost shadow detail, but the blacks are less of an issue and the brightness of the projector – 1200 lumens in calibrated mode – start to make sense.
Stay away from movies like the 4K discs of Blade Runner 2049 and Bram Stoker’s Dracula - which are just pools of light coloured grey mist given the dark scenes within them, and instead fire up Planet Earth II and you’ll soon realise what the intended market is for this projector. Load up some football with good brightness levels and colour looking vivid and you start to forgive the poor blacks. This is where the TK800 has been designed to shine (pun intended) and it does so as you would expect. But it also has some issues that eagle eyed viewers will notice straight away. First are the light coloured borders around the image, which is a side effect of the DMD chip and XPR processing, but this would only be visible to users using just a white wall or sheet to project on. If you have a proper projection screen in the 16:9 ratio with black borders, you can just zoom out to get rid of these light borders to the image.
The TK800 also shows up a lot of posterisation with 4K UHD discs, where large areas of the same colour within a scene start to show up gradations and posterisation effects. We especially noticed this with the new ‘Vegas’ scenes in Blade Runner 2049 and in the blue skies and clouds of Planet Earth II. The BenQ is operating at 8bit and the picture processing on-board simply cannot deal with high bitrate content and colours like this. It’s another chink in the armour, but we are not sure again that the target audience will be watching this type of content, or even see the issues, but we need to be complete in our assessment.
Switching to 1080p content on Blu-ray stands up better to image scrutiny and we also used some streaming services in HD and 4K to further test and in the majority of tests the BenQ TK800 puts up a commendable and colourful performance that is likely to impress the intended users.
Posterisation was less apparent with 1080 HD sources and TV broadcasts, although these also have their own issues, but at the source level and not introduced by the projector. For big screen sporting action and football the TK800 manages to complete the brief it sets itself with decent motion handling of fast moving sports with decent image processing and few artefacts introduced by the projector.
Gaming is another area where we expected the TK800 to do well, but an input lag of 40ms may put some gamers at a disadvantage, although our short stints on Far Cry 5 and Forza 7 didn’t seem laggy to us, but we would probably suggest a demo to test it for yourself if you are the competitive gamer.
- Sharp images and faux 4K 8.3 m pixel image resolution
- Good motion handling
- Bright enough for use in normal living room settings
- Works to the design brief for home entertainment and sports use
- Reasonable out of the box performance to the standards
- Good accuracy of image once calibrated
- 40ms lag for gaming
- Well built and portable
- Mediocre contrast and black levels for dark room use
- Light edge around image
- Out of the box settings not accurate enough to Rec.709
- Noisy even in Eco modes and colour wheel noise on top of cooling
- No visible image improvements with HDR content due to poor contrast
BenQ TK800 4K DLP Projector ReviewOverall the BenQ does what it sets out to do and that is to be a party centre-piece for BBQ’s in the garden while watching the World Cup or 4K premiership football via Sky or BT. It is designed to be used and then put away, projected against a white wall or bed sheet.
It doesn’t set itself out to be a home cinema projector or one that movie fans could use day in day out, it just doesn’t offer a decent enough performance to fulfil those users goals, and there are better machines out there for that. No, it has simple goals that won’t please the fussy videophile and it couldn’t care less about that in all seriousness.
Used to game on the big screen with your mates, show the football on the side of the house or just to entertain the family with photo slide shows, animated cartoons and so on, it fulfils its role well enough given the price point. And it is the price point that probably works against it a little, as given the use case we doubt any viewers of such a projector would know, or even care if it is 4K or HD they are watching and as such you might be better going for the far cheaper 1080P model in the BenQ line-up.
It’s a product designed for a market that probably doesn’t really fit with your typical AVForums home cinema fan, but it does a decent enough job of what it sets out to do and at a reasonable price point. If we had tested the BenQ as solely a home cinema model for critical movie viewing it wouldn’t score well at all, given that niche set of image quality points it would need to hit, but this isn’t one of those projectors and doesn’t pretend to be.
As such it scores a reasonable 7 out of 10 as a portable home entertainment and sports projector - because it does that role very well. Whether that market needs faux 4K as opposed to ‘just’ a 1080p model is a question for the intended end user to think about and decide on.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,199.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels5
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box6
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money7
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