With everyone staying safe at home, I can’t think of a better time to create a Home Theatre. The first thing people get for a home theatre room is a new television. Consider a projector instead. Provided you have space like a basement or den, a projector can turn any wall into a full HD screen in 4K.
Today I’m reviewing the BenQ 4K UHD HDR Smart Home Theatre Projector (TK850i). This will be the second 4K projector I’ve reviewed this year. This one has a Google-certified Android TV and Chromecast built-in. As an Android user, these two features immediately catch my attention.
Design of the BenQ TK850i projector
The TK850i looks like a conventional projector with a low-profile look that doesn’t take too much space. It weighs approximately 9lbs and measures 15 inches wide, 5 inches tall, and 10 inches deep.
On the back are two HDMI ports, USB Type-A, USB Type mini-B service port, SPDIF, audio output, RS-232 control, and a 12V trigger. The top of the projector features the power and menu button. A small cover on the top unveils the dials for focus, zoom, and lens shift.
The front features the projector lens that produces 3000 lumens of brightness. The lamp life depends on the brightness level. At full, medium, and low brightness, the lamp life is 4000, 10,000, and 14,000 hours respectively. At four hours of use per day at medium brightness, the lamp would last 6-7 years.
The TK850i also comes with a remote controller with illuminating buttons. This comes in handy at night but these lights can also be turned off.
Setting up the BenQ TK850i projector
The projector comes with the BenQ QS01 Certified AndroidTV Dongle. This needs to be installed into the projector. I used a Phillips screwdriver to unscrew a faceplate. Inside was a dedicated spot for the dongle with an HDMI port and micro-USB power. I inserted it in and screwed the faceplate back on. The dongle has its own dedicated remote for navigating Android TV.
The next step was setting up the position of the projector. The TK850i has a throw ratio of 1.13-1.47. To get a 100” screen, it needs to be approximately 8 feet away from the screen.
My projector wall can produce a max screen size of 137”. I placed the TK850i approximately 10’ away from the wall and adjusted the focus. The setup was easier than I expected. I placed it on a coffee table and pointed it to the wall. It didn’t need to be elevated to get the image to the center of the wall.
Using the BenQ TK850i projector
The TK850i can produce 4K Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160). It also uses BenQ’s HDR-PRO technology to provide a more dynamic range in light and dark areas. This means darker blacks and brighter whites.
I used the controller to select YouTube on Android TV. To search, I pressed the microphone button and said “8K macro footage of everyday objects”. I selected a video from the search results.
Even in daylight, the images were stunning. The colours were bright and clear. Even up close, you can still see all the detail of the images. I could visually see the higher dynamic range in the light and dark areas. The best viewing experience is at night. I turned off all the lights and the 3000 lumens lit the whole room.
HDR viewing is especially notable. It’s optional but you can visually see the difference. With it on, the contrast is enhanced and the colours are richer. Looking at macro footage of insects up close displayed deep-textured colours and bright images.
Audio options on the BenQ TK850i projector
The TK850i comes with a built-in 10-watt speaker. Usually, internal projector speakers don’t sound very good, but this one impressed me. It has three different modes for cinema, music, and game. The sound quality is actually quite good. If you sit next to the projector, it’s enjoyable. It still cannot replace the auditory experience of a dedicated soundbar or surround system. Consider it as a good backup option.
Missing from this projector is Bluetooth connectivity. Setup to home theatre sound systems is done by a wired connection to the SPDIF and audio out.
I have a Bluetooth soundbar mounted on my projector wall. One workaround is installing a Bluetooth receiver to the audio out on the back of the projector. That will wirelessly send the audio signal to my soundbar but there will be some latency. I’m perplexed why a 4K home theatre projector would not have Bluetooth 5 built-in.
The addition of AndroidTV is a huge selling point for me. I already use Google Assistant a lot at home, and having it on the AndroidTV controller is life-changing. It makes it super easy to find videos and other information.
Casting off my phone was seamless. It’s one thing to cast to a TV, but it’s a whole different experience casting content to a 137” 4K projector screen. With the Google Play Store, I have also had access to 500,000 TV shows and movies.
Both Amazon Prime Video and YouTube are embedded into Android TV, but not Netflix. To watch Netflix, users have to use a laptop to cast Netflix to the TK850i from the web browser. That’s no fun.
Amazon Prime Video gets a dedicated button on the Android TV controller. Obviously, there is some type of licensing issue going on here. Sadly, we the consumer have to jump through hoops to watch Netflix on this projector.
What could be better than a 4K projector? A 4K projector with Android TV. That is the main takeaway I had from this review. The TK850i produces sharp resolution, vibrant colours, and high contrast between dark and white. The lamp worked well in the daylight, making it a potential replacement for a television in a home theatre room.
I love that Android TV is built-in, but that’s not entirely the case. It comes with the BenQ QS01 Certified AndroidTV Dongle. Users have to unscrew a faceplate and manually install it.
I can’t figure out why. It doesn’t make sense to me. Roku comes built-in to TV’s, why couldn’t Android TV be embedded into the TK850i? While we’re at it, can someone explain why Netflix is not built-in? I can download the Netflix app on my Android phone, why can’t I get it on Android TV?
The workaround is to just install a Roku streaming stick to watch Netflix on the TK850i. That introduces a third controller into the mix. If anything, the TK850i should just have a single controller for the projector and Android TV. Three controllers, just to be able to watch 4K Netflix? That seems overkill, totally unnecessary.
Ranting aside, I really enjoyed the TK850i. The more 4K projectors I review, I’m becoming even more convinced that they provide a better entertainment experience than televisions. Whether it’s watching sports, Youtube, gaming, or casting off a phone, it’s a versatile 4K projector.
If you have at least feet of throw distance to a wall in your home theatre room, I highly recommend you consider the BenQTK850i smart home theatre projector.