Home theater zealots felt like they’ve been waiting forever for 4K video projectors to go mainstream. Up until recently this quasi-enthusiast category was in an awkward area, with high-end projectors priced far into the stratosphere and every type of 4K TV from bargain LEDs to ultramodern OLEDs getting all the attention. For many people, the next generation DLPs couldn’t come soon enough and the BenQ TK800 DLP Projector gives you large scale 4K/UHD and HDR without completely going broke.
Last year was the unofficial inauguration of home 4K DLP projectors below $2000 and the offerings were scarce, but now you’ve got choices. The biggest advantage by far is the ability to get a minimum 80-inch screen with little effort, this isn’t unique to the TK800 but the 4K-like image for many will be perfect, enough.
BenQ didn’t change much of the exterior and build quality from their existing lineup to the point that it’s hard to pick out any substantial differences from what we’ve seen before. As a matter of fact, the TK800 is a twin to the BenQ HT2550 and the front face sports a different hue, possibly meant to signify its intention. Either way the theme on the outside is white and aqua matte color motif with a gold “4K HDR” badge.
Around back, the BenQ TK800 has an HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2) port for 4K/60Hz compatibility and a standard HDMI 1.4 port. Supplemental connectivity gives you 3.5mm stereo input and output, PC VGA (D-sub), RS232 (DB-9pin), and a USB port. Speaking of that lone HDMI 2.0 input you’ll have to invest in a AV receiver or component switcher if you happen to have multiple 4K devices, something that will irk people without a singular hub setup or unfamiliar with non-TV arrangements.
Everything else appears to be carryover from their “1080p” variants the 1.2x zoom lens is simple to use but requires a lot of throw space (roughly 10.7 feet) to get a 100-inch presentation. Another knock is the lack of any lens shift capability which the Optoma UHD60 and other offerings from Epson (Home Cinema 4000), JVC (DLA-X790RB), and Sony (VPL-VW285ES) feature on their projectors — which are in different classes entirely. Even something as rudimentary like vertical lens shifting would’ve been nice but isn’t a total deal breaker.
The remote is very good, with plenty of shortcut keys and full amber backlighting. BenQ has always been good about giving the user all the necessary picture button without navigating the hamfisted menu, and the appearance is thankfully unchanged from what we’re familiar with.
4K DLP: Mirrors and Pixels
It’s important to note that the majority 4K DLPs right now utilize Texas Instruments’ (TI) smaller 0.47-inch (DLP470TP/DLP470TE) DMD chips. Basically, they incorporate tiny mirrors to create discrete pixels by multiplication and the claim of getting 8.3 million pixels. It is able to reflect 1920×1080 four times over to produce an image applicable to a 4K projector so effective that your brain will interpret it as an extremely detailed image. Not all methods are engineered equally depending on how proficient the technology is implemented, in this case it’s going for low-cost compared to the larger DLP 0.66” XPR or more commercial 4K 3-chip DLPs also made by TI. My friend who goes by “Geoffrey” has a digestible rundown on how this stuff works for projectors, so I don’t have to bother reexplaining the intricacies.
Knowing this, the TK800 has an impressive picture whether you think the internal wizardry involved is a cheat or not. We have no complaints on how the method is achieved because BenQ did a great job despite the technical limitations.
The TK800 has a 3000 lumen count and expected lamp life of 4000 hours (double that to 8800 hours if you stick to the SmartEco mode), which makes it easier to live with, if you want a projector that you can use in brighter areas or simply don’t have a dedicated room meant for movie nights. It’s a reasonable all-rounder but if ambient light isn’t going to be a problem, then the nearly identical BenQ HT2550 or the ViewSonic PX727-4K we lauded earlier will be better choices at 2200 lumens.
Out of the box picture performance is satisfactory for what you get with the only quirk being a mild preference to cooler hues. The initial appearance can be mildly distracting so we recommend calibrating the colors before touching anything else, you can either change the temperature from cool to normal or opt for the picture preset like I often do. I always go to movie/cinema mode with just five tick up (from default) in contrast and four-five tick lower in brightness for something more neutral or slightly warm in natural tones. Unlike the HT2550 which is situated for the theater the TK800 is intended watching for sports on the biggest screen possible. The differences appear to be minor and seem to bump up the brightness to mildly exaggerated levels when set to additional Football or Sport modes.
The look is great in 1080p and matches many of the projectors we’ve already reviewed from BenQ, but we’re motivated by 4K and HDR for this evaluation. The TK800 was handily able to pass some pattern generator tests showing proper 4K picture and dark vertical lines when viewed up close, regardless of 24Hz, 30Hz, and 60Hz refresh rates. It was certainly sharper than the Hisense I had earlier, but the farthest I could sit was 8.6 feet (between the TK800’s set 12.3-foot distance) while receiving the fullest effect — anything beyond that and things continue to look good in 4K but a little harder to distinguish.
Keep in mind that a lot of this is heavily dependent on relative viewing distance from any display, the differences are apparent the longer you experience content in 4K. Unless you’re not looking or don’t care, eager or prudent viewers will immediate notice and appreciate any visual superiority over HD. It’s still a finer improvement no matter the immediate radius.
The addition of HDR is noticeable, but is only excellent in darker environments where projectors operate better. Once it’s turned on among optimal conditions, the transformation is much more accurate and punchier colors that look amazingly natural. However, this has the opposite effect (in fact exacerbated) in rooms with sunlight to point of being absolutely washed into oblivion, moreso than most budgeted DLPs I’ve tested. It’s an unintended consequence that’s wonderful in the right settings in brighter and darker details. Fortunately, the TK800 is able to automatically detect and activate HDR or can be manually adjusted for standard 4K, although niceties like Dolby Vision or newest HDR10+ format isn’t built in here.
In My Eyes
I have very little to say negatively about the TK800 and the overall experience I had, in fact any outstanding criticisms you can happily live with when immersing yourself in everything 4K/HDR. I have a gaming PC with an EVGA GTX 1070 Ti graphics card and Pioneer BDR-211UBK Blu-ray drive, an Apple TV 4K, PS4 Pro, and a Nintendo Switch to test with.
Similar to the ViewSonic PX727-4K projector, seeing existing and compatible content is eye-opening. No matter how many times I play games like Far Cry 5, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, and Gran Turismo Sport there’s always been a certain aura of majesty when you get to see everything in 4K/UHD — with the question being “my god, is this what I’ve been missing?”. The TK800 also makes it hard to go back to anything duller or smaller than a entire wall when watching Ultra HD Blu-ray movies of Pacific Rim and The LEGO Batman Movie, and I don’t think I could have enjoyed the FIFA World Cup any other way. 1080p material on the other hand was moderately upscaled in HD for Super Mario Odyssey and didn’t disappoint, although we doubt people will want to constantly swap devices between that one HDMI 2.0 port.
Another feature we appreciate is that the TK800 is one of the very few mainstream 4K DLPs to still support stereoscopic 3D, in fact, BenQ is the only company not to remove it to save microscopic costs for newer tech. You will need DLP-link 3D glasses (sold separately) but cinemaphiles invested in their Blu-ray collections should consider this projector, because it Is pretty much the only one available besides its HT2550 brother.
Life with DLP
But there are complaints, and they’re the typical nitpick you’ve heard about with DLP technology in general. Despite the 10,000:1 contrast ratio, black levels are merely adequate in terms of depth, the 5W mono speaker is flat, and while the implementation of a RGBRGB color wheel greatly reduces rainbow artifacting — but doesn’t completely eliminate it for sensitive eyes. Another bothersome issue is light leaking and showing a dark gray frame outside of the main viewing area. Altering the picture keystone won’t fix this and inherent of every DLP in existence, it’s just something long-term owners will need to accept.
You really have to appreciate the BenQ TK800 DLP Projector and how much immersion you get. At $1499, it’s certainly one of the most affordable and fully featured means to get a huge 4K image, HDR, and the convenience of a movable screen for the same price as a medium-grade 60-inch 4K TV—especially when you factor in the astronomical cost of additional real estate can hit into the thousands.
After my extended time with the TK800 I’m finding it difficult to give this up not only for replicating the cinema experience, but also enjoying visual entertainment as a whole. It was damn extraordinary while it lasted though, BenQ.