By Kirk Miller / June 18, 2019

Review: The BenQ HT3550 Home Projector Is a Potential Big Screen Replacement

The 4K DLP projector for $1500 is (almost) a steal

BenQ HT3550

As 4K TVs get cheaper, the need for a home projector seems to be, well, dimming.

Yet projectors are also getting more powerful, cheaper and offer a level of convenience that even the flattest screen can’t replicate. For a bit more money — though the cost-per-inch is probably lower — you’ll get a theater-level screen size that’s easy to customize. And you’ll be able to take said giant screen wherever you want. Plus, projectors are great if you value eye comfort.

BenQ has produced a number of well loved projectors over the past few years, and their latest entry, the HT3550, is being touted as the world’s first 4K DLP projector. It offers four times the resolution of full HD 1080p, and the projector itself is a featherweight six pounds. As someone who dreads switching cables or moving around my 4K LG, a projector seems like a convenient replacement.

We tested out the HT3550 by playing Destiny 2 on an Xbox One, watching live TV from an Altice One cable box and by watching an HD showing of There Will Be Blood, all in daylight conditions (with shades open and closed) and again at nighttime. We used an off-white wall in two different rooms in our apartment, which, being an apartment in New York, does not have enough space to warrant a dedicated home theater space.

But that’s good! We wanted to try out the HT3550 in real-world conditions. We sat about 9-10 feet away and projected a 90-100” screen.

The specs:

  • 3840×2160 resolution with 8.3 million pixels
  • Trademarked “CinematicColor” technology that the company claims covers a greater visible spectrum than the standard HD Rec. 709 displays and “reproduces authentic cinematic quality.”
  • Proprietary HDR-PRO technology that offers (again, their claim) greater contrast
  • 2000 ANSI Lumens, 30,000:1 contrast ratio
  • 1.3x zoom, 10% vertical lens shift available
  • Ideal picture is 100” from about 8.2 feet away
  • 12.6 lbs., 15” x 5” x 10.3” size
  • Multiple inputs, including two HDMI, a USB port to power streaming devices (hello, Fire TV or Roku stick), a USB 3.0 port, a 12V trigger and an RS-232 port
BenQ HT3550
You can plug pretty much any device into the HT3550 (Photo: BenQ)

What we liked:

  • The sound. It’s only 10-watt audio, but the powerful sound definitely outshined my 4K LG flatscreen and nearly equalled my TV with a three-speaker Sonos setup.
  • Multiple pre-set modes tailored to both dark rooms and regular living rooms made setup really easy
  • Speaking of setup, we had it out of the box and working to our liking in two minutes.
  • Gaming. No lag, bright colors and sharp detail.
  • Other reviews complained of fan noise, but we actually found the unit to be very quiet.
  • Backlit keys on the remote
  • Intuitive controls on the remote, on the device and within the on-screen menu and settings. We had zero worries about “pressing the wrong button” (it’s projector for A/V enthusiasts and dummies)

What could improve:

  • Like most projectors, the machine gets hot very quickly.
  • The device itself probably looks great mounted, but it’s bulky (albeit lightweight) sitting on a table
  • Live TV and games were fine in both light and dark rooms, but There Will Be Blood looked washed out in pretty much all pre-set modes — adjusting brightness and using it in a completely dark space helped to a degree. (Admittedly, watching it via 4K Blu-ray would certainly have helped — although live TV or scripted series on high-def cable looked fine, if not quite the level of my 4K flatscreen).

What we didn’t try

  • There’s a 3D mode and optional 3D glasses available. (We got rid of our 3D content along with a 3D TV about three years ago, and don’t feel like we’ve missed anything.) Reviews of the 3D quality have been strong, though.
BenQ HT3550
You’ll really want a dedicated home theater space to enjoy a projector (Photo: BenQ)

What others say:

  • “After more hours with the HT3550 than I care to share here, I do not over-exaggerate when I say that I feel that the HT3550 is a silver bullet category killer.” — ScottyRoo, AVS Forum
  • “While it might have been nice if the projector could get slightly brighter, we think the BenQ HT3550 is arguably the best way to go if you’re looking for a great projector in the $1,500 price range.” — TechRadar
  • “HDR often looked washed out compared to the other projectors, and the colors were not as accurate. There’s no game mode, so lag times are around 60 ms.” — The Wirecutter

Conclusion

$1500 is a bit expensive for a projector novice, even if the HT3550 seems to hit a sweet spot on performance and price for the category. Although it’s somewhat portable and saves space, I’d still stick with a nice large-screen 4K TV for half the price — and use a mini-projector (like Nebula’s Capsule) if I wanted to take my large-screen viewings on the road.

The HT3550 appears to work best for somebody who wants the convenience and portability of a projector, but can’t afford a truly upper echelon machines. And having a dedicated room for home theater certainly helps. The HT3550 could also be ideal for businesses, who might be frustrated with their current video setup and connection issues (note: this would be every company I’ve ever worked with) but need a sharp display for their conference room.