In its annual refresh, BenQ’s newest family projector is designed to bring large screen entertainment to the living room.
Projectors tweaked for a specific purpose aren’t a bad idea, especially for those who are just starting to dip their feet into serious home-theatre territory or those looking to augment a specific area in their house with a bigger screen. The TK-850 is BenQ’s answer to a typical family room where it’s not always practical to draw the curtains, shut off all the lights and paint the walls the right shade of grey! Instead, it has been optimised to prioritise brightness over absolute colour accuracy and it works quite well actually. Its spec sheet proudly proclaims a brightness rating of 3000 ANSI lumens, brighter than most “home-theatre” projector that cost more, and it’s a dead giveaway to its intent.
All the essentials
Aesthetically, BenQ has always designed projectors that fare well out in the open without making your living room seem like a makeshift office. The TK-850 wears a handsome hue of blue faceplate that makes it palatable as a home entertainment device and not something the IT guy forgot on his way out. Rest of the body is regular white but the curved edges lend it a soft look that won’t find resentment from the fairer sex. The twin 5W speakers at the back are concealed in an attractive looking white perforated grille too. Capable of throwing up to an 100in image just from 8ft of distance, this isn’t a UST projector, but you can shoehorn it into a small room with legroom for flexibility. There’s auto keystone that works brilliantly too. We moved around the projector multiple times, trying to align it with our 130in Milan screen, and each time it reverted to perfect geometry without any intervention. You get limited lens shift, so it’s imperative that you find the right height for accurate picture geometry.
Coloured for life
BenQ’s now common suite of CinemaColor adjustments are present and they really are the key in making the TK-850 work as a dedicated home-theatre projector if you wish to. Out of the box, it comes with Sport mode as the default picture setting and this won’t work for most movies or HDR streaming content. Spend some time tweaking the settings, though, and the TK-850 is sharp, bright and with enough contrast to make you forget that this is a mid-end projector. HDR, when it works, is fantastic but is also colour and scene sensitive. The greens and reds have a tendency to burn a little, so it’s essential to play around with the CinemaColor adjustments – for us, Flesh Tone at -2 and Color Enhancer at +3 worked best.
Pixel Enhancer is basically an advanced sharpness control and is easy to misjudge, so use only if you really are struggling with edge detail. More than +4 will yield in edge distortion. Apple TV’s gorgeous screensavers in 4K make for the best test material since they are slow-mo drone shots that allow you to do a proper A/B comparison. And the TK-850 with its 10-element lens makes for a fine movie-making machine on a relatively tight budget. The fan noise does get audible in quiet rooms so you might want to take that into consideration while installing it on location.
Ready Player One, with its exquisite colour palette and virtual skin textures, is delivered with a solid punch that is eminently watchable and, at the same time, switching to an NBA game or Call of Duty is equally fun. Input lag is almost negligible and with the built-in speakers, you could even have a quick session without having to switch on any other home-theatre paraphernalia. As always, the BenQ remote is well designed with full backlight and hot keys for almost every function, making it a breeze to make quick changes to picture settings and HDR. Dynamic Iris is included, but it can be distracting with its constant corrections, so it’s best kept to Low, if not Off. Motion processing is better than most and can be used as per personal taste, but the most cinematic experience comes from the mildest setting where it eliminates judder without adding the “soap opera effect” to 24fps content.
Regardless of the use case scenario, it’s hard not to recommend the BenQ TK-850 as part of your shortlist. In the budget to mid-end category, it’s one of the few that has the requisite brightness to be used in a well-lit living room and can also double up as a decent contender for home-theatre duty. Be prepared to put in some work and you will be rewarded.