BenQ HT1075 First Thoughts
I mentioned last week that I was upgrading my system to go from a 50 inch Samsung LCD to the BenQ HT1075. What got this ball rolling was moving from our current house, to a location that would allow for a dedicated home theater space. I am happy to say that it looks like we have found the right location, and we have a buyer for our current home. So at the end of May, I will be setting up the BenQ in the new theater space (provided there are no unforeseen complications).
The projector arrived on Monday, just in time for the release of The Force Awakens on Tuesday. I didn’t have a screen, but I really wanted to try the projector out. I did some research on-line and I decided to try blackout fabric for a screen. It comes in a width of 55 inches, so a 98 inch long piece would produce a 16X9 screen with a diagonal width of 112 inches. The fabric has a nice white finish, is quite smooth, and is totally opaque. In a pinch and for $30 it did quite well. I am sure it is not as good as a quality screen but it sure beats a wall, or some of the other alternatives.
Like virtually all reviews of this projector indicated, the setup was ridiculously easy. I placed it behind the couch on a small table that was about 3.5 feet tall. I did not need to use the keystone adjustment (which is good because it reduces resolution) and with just making a few adjustments I was good to go.
To mark the occasion of the release of The Force Awakens, we decided to watch the original Star Wars Trilogy on blu-ray. On Monday night we screened A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was just using the Cinema mode for those films, and we thought they looked fantastic. A New Hope obviously has some issues relating to its age, but it has never looked better viewed at my home. It really is amazing how much of a difference you get from going from 50 inches to 110. The whole experience is that much more cinematic. You can see all the details in the background because they are so much bigger. The other benefit is that the picture just draws you in. It is totally immersive. It is comparable to seeing it in a movie theater.
For the second night, I made a few tweaks to the settings based upon some other reviews on the net – those types who have all the measurement equipment needed to properly calibrate the projector. What I used was based upon the Cinema Mode. Brightness was increased from 50 to 51, and contrast was decreased from 50 to 49. I also changed the color temperature to Warm, which I was surprised to find was more appealing and realistic to me as I usually prefer the Cool setting on past displays. Warm seemed to provide the best skin tone. I also set the lamp power to the Smart Eco mode, which should provide the longest bulb life possible. I was watching the films in total darkness, and even in Smart Eco mode the screen was plenty bright – perhaps too bright in some cases where there are shots that have both dark and bright components (such as the shot of Starkiller Base against the blackness of space). In scenes like that, I found that the brightness of the planet, was washing out the darkness of space. This may be helped by the addition of some dark masking materials that would provide more contrast for on screen vs off screen. I have also been doing some reading about neutral filters, which would make the picture a little darker. And yes, I know, I did increase the brightness by 1 in the settings, but when I tried decreasing the brightness it had other undesired effects. But at the end of the day, this is a sub $1000 projector, and so far I am more than happy with the quality of the projected image. Actually, it is even better than I was expecting it to be.
The blu-ray release of The Force Awakens was nothing short of spectacular. The only real issues I noticed where like the ones mentioned above. But then again, I was not using a proper screen and there may be some configuration changes that could improve on that.
The Digital Theater vs YouTube
It appears that there has been a bit of a debate that sprung up across the internet over the past couple of weeks with regards to the latest Warcraft Trailer, where there has been a lot of passionate talk on Reddit and more recently Forbes.com where they are comparing the quality of the video of the YouTube trailer vs the version I have. I do want to mention that there are some who are suggesting that the lossless version I have here has uncompressed video, which looks much better than the YouTube version which is compressed to hell, pardon the expression. In the case of “lossless” trailers on this site, the term applies only to the audio. The video is compressed, but in the case of the ‘lossless’ mkv files, the bitrate is comparable to blu-ray, which is much better than YouTube. The HD Master of a trailer runs at 220 Mbps and is usually about 3GB in size. I am compressing trailers down to an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and usually in the 300 MB range. By comparison, the 1080p version of the 1 minute Warcraft trailer on YouTube is 18 MB in size, while the one featured here is 176 MB. Ours has 5.1 surround sound at a much higher bitrate of 6912 Kbps, instead of a highly compressed 2 channel AAC track at 144 Kbps.
Trailers on YouTube are substandard. A director should be angry to have the trailer for their film presented in such a way. But I am heartened that there are a lot of people out there that think that the promotional efforts I am doing are a better representation of the film than what is available at YouTube. After all, that is why I started this site. I wanted trailers that sounded better than the 2 channel versions readily available and I thought that there had to be more people out there who were interested in the same thing. Video and audio quality matter – maybe not on a phone or tablet, but certainly on anything in the home theater realm. One day YouTube may have multi channel audio and better compression, but until that day comes I am going to keep pushing for better quality.