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BenQ TK800 Review – Dazzling 4K On A Budget

Pros – 

Excellent maximum brightness output, Effective 4K resolution, Very cost-effective, Well-calibrated colours with flexible presets

Cons – 

Limited IO, Slightly clipped shadow detail on certain content, Slightly oversaturated yellows

Verdict 

The TK800 offers a highly competitive feature set in addition to a picture performance that could very well be mistaken for a higher-priced model.


Introduction –

BenQ has achieved popularity with their value-orientated audio-visual products. The TK800 represents their latest design, an affordable 4K projector featuring HDR and 3D support in addition to a dazzling 3000-lumen maximum brightness. In turn, the TK800 joins their home entertainment line-up as a sports optimised model designed for the living room whether shaded or well-lit. With a redesigned colour wheel and several sport-specific picture presets, the TK800 achieves vivid colours, a high-resolution and extremely competitive peak brightness at a reasonable $2000 AUD asking price. You can read more about BenQ and the TK800 here and purchase one for yourself here.

 

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank BenQ very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the TK800 for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the projector free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

 

Design –

The TK800 has an approachable design that presents as quite contemporary, especially compared to the more geometric competitors from Optoma. It is on the more compact side and almost identical in design to BenQ’s former release, the HT2550; trading that models grey fascia for a more vibrant satin blue. The result is a projector that draws the eye a little more while still retaining a clean aesthetic that isn’t overly aggressive or techie-indulgent and suitable for both professional and home settings.

Projector

Functionally, the projector is user-friendly and will be familiar to those with prior experience with projectors. However, even those without experience will have little issue familiarising themselves with the TK800 due to its intuitively placed and clearly labelled controls and IO. The projector can be configured using the top-mounted controls. The front houses the focus and zoom settings while the back has basic controls that enable function without the remote.

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At the rear are the inputs and outputs, one VGA, 2x HDMI (one HDMI 2.0, one 1.4), a Mini-B port for firmware upgrades, an RS232 12v trigger for activating motorized projector screens and one USB-A port to power a Chromecast or other attached source (1.5A power output). The rear also houses a 3.5mm input and output for external audio, however, no digital output is available for those valuing utmost sound quality. The housing is otherwise well-ventilated to keep the lamp at optimal operating temperature. Fan noise is clearly audible when no media is playing, however, it’s a rather low-frequency hum that isn’t distracting and pretty much innocuous when watching content.

 

Setup –

The TK800 is easy to set up with a ratcheting support on the front and threaded rear feet that enable fine adjustment. Otherwise, the projector can be mounted on a roof and it has two IR receivers on the front and top to reliably pick up remote signals in both orientations. In addition, the projector has a 1.2X zoom lens that enables a slightly shorter throw than some competitors, translating to the ability to create a larger image with a smaller room. Keystone can be manually or automatically adjusted to ensure that the image is perfectly aligned with the projector screen if the user’s particular setup does not permit perfect positioning of the projector itself. The projector leaves a reasonable light border around the image that should be nullified by any screen with a black border. However, for higher keystone adjustments, this border can grow fairly large. Though it isn’t bright enough to irk during viewing, those sensitive to this issue may want to consider fabric draping.

 

Sound –

Though home theatre enthusiasts will be sure to connect a dedicated audio system to the TK800 using its rear-facing 3.5mm output, the integrated audio solution is quite impressive. It doesn’t provide the range of a dedicated speaker set, yet alone a home theatre setup, however, the single 5W driver provides plenty of volume, reasonable fullness and great clarity, both with regards to vocals and high-frequency detail. For those intending to use the TK800 in a portable setup, this will provide more than adequate quality, especially in conjunction with the in-built eQ presets that provide a noticeably richer audio experience. Just note that these eQ’s also apply to the 3.5mm output and can sound quite muddy on a larger sound system that already has voluminous bass.

 

Software –

The TK800 provides a wealth of software customizability, however, no integrated media player or streaming is available straight from the projector. This is easily appended with a Chromecast or TV Box, but it would still have been convenient to have some functionality built in. See the TK800’s software interface below.

 

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Image Quality –

The photos below are provided for reference only. They do not holistically represent the image quality of the projector in real-world use. All images were taken using an 18% grey card and manual exposure settings to provide the most precise results.

 

Lamp Life –

BenQ promises up to 10,000 hours of life from the projector’s lamp in Economic mode, 8000 in SmartEco mode and 4000 in Normal mode. This is slightly shorter than most competitors, however, given the lamp’s high brightness output, this is to be expected. In real-world terms, that translates to 6 years of lamp life using the projector for 4 hours a day in SmartEco mode. Moreover, BenQ promise retained colour performance on lamp replacement due to the adoption of an RGBW colour wheel, where some projectors experience yellowing of the whites. Lamp replacements from BenQ are a reasonable $150 USD.

 

Resolution –

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Many consider resolution a specification, however, with regards to the TK800, the manner in which it achieves that resolution has produced some contention. Specifically, BenQ is utilising a DLP XPR chipset that achieves 4k by pixel shifting 1080p frames at twice the source framerate to achieve an effective 4K resolution with 8.3 million distinct pixels. And, when using a 140” screen, the jump in resolution from 1080p to 4K is stark. Yes, some critics have complained about artefacts in test images, and it is apparent when observing such tests. However, during real-world use, I found this issue to be imperceptible and the amount of detail similar to my 4K TV, especially when factoring in the lower pixel density. Users should note that the second HDMI port only accepts 4K at 30Hz so the first port should be prioritised for gaming at 4K. The TK800 also provides 3D support at up to 1080P 24Hz and quality optics contribute to an image free of chromatic aberration.

 

Brightness & Contrast –

A key selling point of the TK800 is its impressive 3000-lumen output that, at its asking price and resolution, is essentially unrivalled. In reality, the projector outputs just under 2000 lumens in all but the “bright” picture mode which almost matches that 3000-lumen specification at 2700 lumens (±50). Nonetheless, this makes it well-suited towards setups with ambient light sources such as living rooms, especially pertinent as the projector was designed for sports. And in practice, the projector does impress with its brightness, aided by an RGBW colour wheel that enables lower light loss. Considering, it’s impressive that, even using my 1.2 gain screen, the TK800 never clips detail in the highlights. The projector has plenty of brightness to combat a well-lit room and is almost excessive in a darker one. This also makes it an excellent choice for users with larger screens that can appear darker due to the light being dispersed over a larger area.

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On the contrary, contrast performance, though eye-pleasing, suffers slightly, especially when compared to 1080p competitors. This won’t be an issue for the vast majority, and it was only when coming from a high-contrast LCD TV that I noticed a loss of shadow detail and a slightly grey black. This does improve slightly with HDR activated, providing a genuine boost in dynamic range. However, the projector quickly hits its contrast limit and fails to maximise the information in the original HDR content, so in this sense, it doesn’t fully support HDR. Still, the same can be said for any projector around this price range and with the TK800’s excellent maximum brightness, this will be a non-issue for most buyers.

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This was most highlighted when viewing Solo [2018], a film with very homogenous colours and rather contrast taxing grading. Though every moment of the film remained easily discernible, darker scenes were fairly low-detail as the projector’s higher black level struggled to reproduce darker gradients. This, however, represents a worst case scenario and such clipping of shadow details was not nearly as noticeable when viewing other films such as the visually spectacular Blade Runner 2049; where the projector faithfully reproduced its mix of cyberpunk grunge shadows and space-age neon highlights. For its intended uses, such as sport, the TK800 performs admirably, providing controlled highlights and great legibility with or without ambient light.

 

Colour and Gamma Accuracy –

The TK800 does not aim for perfect colour balance or accuracy, however, its colour performance remains admirable for an entry-level 4K projector. BenQ claim 92% coverage of the Rec.709 colour standard and, beyond specification, calibration is quite good too. The projector does have a warmer tone, tending to slightly oversaturate reds and yellows, especially using the Football preset. However, this can be quite easily corrected using the user picture settings that enable extensive colour control. Otherwise, colours are accurate and well-expressed without over-saturation, clipping or hue shift. Fidelity can be achieved with the user picture setting by changing the gamma to 2.4 and slightly desaturating the yellows and red (the amount will differ between units).

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Out of the box, the BenQ gamma setting is slightly too low, creating a brighter image, but also one that clips shadow detail. And for those wanting greater vibrancy, the Football and Vivid TV modes deliver in spades. The Football mode, in particular, provides a slightly hue shifted green for added visual impact in addition to generally brighter and more saturated colours and warmer skin tones. This helps in brighter rooms, creating the impression of a brighter image despite measurable brightness remaining similar. The football mode is well-considered for this projector’s intended uses but also satisfies during film for those coming from TV sets and wanting a richer, more vibrant colour experience. Meanwhile, the Sports setting suffices for indoor sports, increasing the saturation of popular jersey colours. The remaining settings provide a more natural colour reproduction, albeit, with different colour temperatures to suit those in pursuit of greater fidelity.

 

Gaming –

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The ability to expand the image up to 300” opens great possibilities for gamers wanting an immersive experience. However, some are concerned about input lag (measured at 40ms by avforums). Though not as responsive as a PC monitor for competitive play, that figure isn’t quite as noticeable as one would think in the majority of instances; where the TK800 delivers an impressive performance for gaming. In addition, no ghosting is present on behalf of BenQ’s adoption of a swift DLP chip. This makes gaming an overall pleasure, especially in conjunction with the TK800’s punchy colour performance and strong maximum brightness. Booting up Bioshock Infinite in 4K and the TK800 flattered the game’s punchy colour palette and vivid lighting with well-controlled highlights and pleasing shadow detail in darker scenes all the while maintaining colours that popped without overly skewing skin tones. Even faster-paced online games such as Overwatch and Battlefield One were completely playable making the TK800 a great option to enhance any gaming setup within a reasonable budget.

 

Preset Comparison – 

The various image presets available on the TK800 have a radical impact on brightness and colour performance in addition to altering gamma to some degree. Below is a scene from Upgrade [2018] with great contrast and a mix of the three primary colours to best represent their effects.

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Verdict –

I have been estranged from the projector scene for quite some time and coming back has been quite eye-opening to the level of performance modern consumers can find at reasonable prices. Where high-resolution TV’s have quickly become affordable, the same could not be said for projectors. The TK800 represents one of the first high-value pioneers of 4K projectors, offering an experience that isn’t compromised but simply scaled down from high-end offerings. Its brilliance provides flexibility in placement and screen size in addition to providing the impression of being a higher-end model. Though shadow detail is slightly clipped on certain content, for the TK800’s intended use in well-lit spaces where contrast is naturally reduced, its brightness performance is more important.

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Nonetheless, contrast is eye-pleasing, avoiding wash or blow-out and aiding an immersive experience. Colours are well, if not perfectly calibrated, flattering skin tones with optional picture presets offering enhanced vibrance and saturation for additional visual impact. The integrated audio solution is capable and though the projector has no streaming or media player ability, providing a USB-A port for power enables easy streaming device attachment. Some may want a digital audio output and more HDMI ports, however, the TK800 offers a highly competitive set of features in addition to a picture performance that could very well be mistaken for a higher-priced model. The TK800 makes for a versatile addition to any setup, whether it be the living-room, game station or home-theatre lounge.

The TK800 is available from Amazon and Amazon Australia for $1499 USD and $2199 AUD respectively at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.

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