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BenQ LK990 First Impressions

BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« on: March 15, 2019, 06:29:51 PM »
I had the opportunity today to see a BenQ LK990 locally at someones home. I don't know if Calvin is a member here, but this is his theater:

https://www.avsforum.com/forum/19-dedicated-theater-design-construction/2027913-vista.html

Really nice theater setup and a KILLER sound system. Even though we spent about 4 and half hours in the theater we didn't get a lot accomplished. Most of the time was spent swapping back and forth between my JVC RS2000 and his LK990. Unfortunately I was having some odd issues with my HTPC (I intended on showing him how madVR worked) so the majority of what we watched was on his Panasonic DP-UB820. I didn't get the chance to calibrate the LK990. But even still the image it threw didn't look too far off from reference. There was a bit of extra red present in the white balance and I could tell the color was a bit over saturated (as expected with the laser). Nothing too bad though.

In HDR mode, with the laser maxed out and the lens pretty close to max zoom, I measured a peak lumen output of 3946 lumens. Native contrast was 1,007:1 and enabling smart eco mode (the LK990's dynamic dimming mode) boosted dynamic contrast to 3,965:1. Unfortunately those were the only measurements I was able to take. I might get the chance to go back and take another look at some point down the road and put the projector through a calibration.

Some thoughts on image quality. Yes, contrast didn't look as good as it did on the JVC, but with dynamic dimming engaged with as much brightness as it had, the image never looked as bad as the numbers might indicate. There really is something to say about the extra brightness that tricks your brain into thinking there's more contrast than there actually is. With that said, no, I never got the same feeling about this projector that some on the other forum talk about. There is no magic sauce with the LK990 that makes me reconsider my JVC RS2000 purchase. That's not to say it's a bad projector as that isn't the case at all, I just didn't see what the others are talking about.

We pulled up the Quick Brown Fox single pixel test pattern and the LK990 does extremely well with this test pattern, better than what I remember seeing on the Optoma UHD65. Better than the Sony VPL-VW695ES I recently reviewed. The RS2000, being true 4K did do better, essentially flawless. Image sharpness is on par with the RS2000 with video content. I couldn't really tell them apart in this regard. Maybe with the right content the higher resolution JVC might pull ahead, but the extra brightness of the LK990 might make you think it's sharper sometimes too.

I did notice some odd motion artifacts on the LK990. Panning shots looked as if the projector was being fed 60p even though it was being sent 24p. The RS2000 was buttery smooth by comparison. I also noticed rainbow effect on the LK990, though this is to be expected as it's single chip DLP with a color wheel and 4000 lumens on tap.

I wished the LK990 allowed for a more customized menu item experience. For instance, you can only enable HDR mode if there is a flag sent. And when the flag is sent you're locked into HDR mode. The JVC allows you to place the projector into HDR mode without the flag or take it out of HDR mode when a flag is sent. You also cannot use smart eco mode (dynamic dimming) without the laser being maxed out. This is a bit unfortunate as Calvin's 130" 2.35:1 screen didn't need 4000 lumens at all times. It would be nice for the ability to lower the laser and then enable smart eco.

In general the LK990 looked very good, but couldn't match the JVC in terms of contrast, black level, image pop and three-dimensionality. Even still, this might be one of the best high brightness HDR capable DLP options out there for those who love DLP as long as you can live with the limited contrast (even for DLP projectors) and the somewhat limited menu options.

https://i.imgur.com/XVUa9mR.jpg
BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 07:35:22 AM by Dylan Seeger »
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2019, 04:53:09 AM »
Nice writeup. Thank you :)

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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2019, 06:42:12 AM »
Thanks Dylan. Nice to get more comparison info on this projector. Really strange not allowing Smarteco, except at full output. I wonder if the 970 has this same limitation. 
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2019, 07:43:12 AM »
At the end of the day, it's still the same age old argument between DLP and LCoS-type projectors. There are pro's and con's to each. I will say the lens on the LK990 is very nice, though at its price it's a shame it's not motorized and for those with HUGE screens, all that brightness can go a long way.
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2019, 08:01:42 AM »
Yep, has been that way for ages. If you have a large screen and need the brightness, DLP can do that, but at a cost in contrast. This new breed has only made the contrast situation worse.
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2019, 10:32:41 AM »
Thanks for this. What size screen and how many foot lamberts were you getting ?
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2019, 10:43:55 AM »
I see some people confused about how to adjust the laser light source. This is from the user manual for the LK990:

https://i.imgur.com/nu1MYNN.png
BenQ LK990 First Impressions


The graph above explains it very well. Normal is full brightness, Economic and Dimming lower the laser level with one setting lowering it enough to allow for quieter fan operation and then Custom allows you to set a specific manual setting of laser output. You cannot use two modes at once so you can't set a Custom laser level and keep that setting to work in conjunction with Smart Eco. Only Smart Eco does dynamic dimming, and it only works with 100% laser output, starting from 100% output adjusting from there down to enhance contrast. Smart Eco does not lower peak lumen output, as Dave Harper says. I measured the same peak white level with Smart Eco engaged as I did with the projector in Normal mode (aka full laser output).

Again, the important thing to note is that you're forced to use full laser output if you want dynamic contrast engaged in Smart Eco mode. You'd have to use an ND filter if you want to cut extra light and use dynamic dimming. Maybe BenQ will provide a firmware update changing how all of this works, but as it stands, these are your only options.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2019, 10:45:30 AM by Dylan Seeger »
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2019, 02:06:27 AM »
I see some people confused about how to adjust the laser light source. This is from the user manual for the LK990:

https://i.imgur.com/nu1MYNN.png
BenQ LK990 First Impressions


The graph above explains it very well. Normal is full brightness, Economic and Dimming lower the laser level with one setting lowering it enough to allow for quieter fan operation and then Custom allows you to set a specific manual setting of laser output. You cannot use two modes at once so you can't set a Custom laser level and keep that setting to work in conjunction with Smart Eco. Only Smart Eco does dynamic dimming, and it only works with 100% laser output, starting from 100% output adjusting from there down to enhance contrast. Smart Eco does not lower peak lumen output, as Dave Harper says. I measured the same peak white level with Smart Eco engaged as I did with the projector in Normal mode (aka full laser output).

Again, the important thing to note is that you're forced to use full laser output if you want dynamic contrast engaged in Smart Eco mode. You'd have to use an ND filter if you want to cut extra light and use dynamic dimming. Maybe BenQ will provide a firmware update changing how all of this works, but as it stands, these are your only options.

Ruined is the one who said SmartEco was lower by 20-25% compared to Normal mode. I am the one who corrected him and pointed out that was wrong after reading Chris’ review at Secrets. I said there is also some auto dimming going on in Normal and Eco Modes with their Automatic Power Control feature.

12GAGE measured that when using a 100% white pattern that it did not go to full power on the chassis/laser, but in actual content it would, like it would hold it in reserves for when needed.  This must be part of their Automatic Power Control.

I’m not sure I can agree with your assessment at all that the JVC will have more pop, sharpness and detail than these LKs. It sounds to me like you ran the stock HDR mode, which I am sure isn’t as good as my custom settings. Who knows though, as the LK990 is a whole new beast which I haven’t gotten here yet.  I should have one by next weekend though.

Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2019, 08:01:19 AM »
Ruined is the one who said SmartEco was lower by 20-25% compared to Normal mode. I am the one who corrected him and pointed out that was wrong after reading Chris’ review at Secrets. I said there is also some auto dimming going on in Normal and Eco Modes with their Automatic Power Control feature.

12GAGE measured that when using a 100% white pattern that it did not go to full power on the chassis/laser, but in actual content it would, like it would hold it in reserves for when needed.  This must be part of their Automatic Power Control.

I’m not sure I can agree with your assessment at all that the JVC will have more pop, sharpness and detail than these LKs. It sounds to me like you ran the stock HDR mode, which I am sure isn’t as good as my custom settings. Who knows though, as the LK990 is a whole new beast which I haven’t gotten here yet.  I should have one by next weekend though.

I'm referring to this post where you say:

Quote
I’m not sure that makes sense at all Mike. SmartEco is a Mode, and so is the Custom Brightness option. SmartEco is dimmer overall than Normal Mode (100%) or Custom at 100% laser. If you’re showing SDR in SmartEco, I don’t think it goes all the way to peak white unless the scene calls for it, does it? I am sure it’s brighter than Eco mode of course, but don’t think it’s 100% of its laser power, based on some of @12GAGE ’s power measurements.

I measured the same peak white lumen output in Normal mode as I did smart eco mode. You say there is some dimming going on in Normal mode too. If that were true then native contrast on the LK990 is worse than 1000:1 because that's what I measured in that mode too.

You can disagree, but I wasn't the only person in the room that day and Calvin is actually the one who pointed out first telling me he thought the JVC had more depth and three-dimensionality and he is the one who owns the LK990. Is it really so hard to think that a projector with literally 23 times as much native contrast can and will look better than a projector that is so held back in this area? The image got very muddy in appearance anytime there was supposed to be darker pixels on screen. Or is it even hard to think that a projector that doesn't have to pixel shift or have more real pixels on screen can look as sharp (or sharper)? Please, let's come back to sanity here and talk about the LK990 as it really is. It's a bright business projector with a decent lens. It's not a home theater projector. BenQ themselves doesn't market it that way.

What you're also saying is that owners need to jump through hoops to get what you say are much better HDR results. You're going to need something that can strip the HDR flag if you even want to consider using your method of doing things. That's an extra several hundred dollars on top of the BenQ's cost to buy an HDFury product. Anytime you send HDR with a flag you're locked into HDR mode. The option to go to a different mode is greyed out. Even if you get an HDFury product you're still stuck choosing between max brightness with Smart Eco mode, boosting contrast to only 4000:1 or choosing a specific laser level and 1000:1. It's not image settings that make HDR perform less than the JVC, it's the extremely limited native contrast on the LK990 that makes it hard to compete. No set of settings can help contrast performance even more than this. I'm not trying to say the LK990 is a bad projector. It isn't. I just think some of the discussions about it is giving people the wrong impression on how it performs relative to the competition near its price point.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 10:40:03 AM by Dylan Seeger »
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2019, 01:20:11 PM »
I'm referring to this post where you say:

I measured the same peak white lumen output in Normal mode as I did smart eco mode. You say there is some dimming going on in Normal mode too. If that were true then native contrast on the LK990 is worse than 1000:1 because that's what I measured in that mode too.

You can disagree, but I wasn't the only person in the room that day and Calvin is actually the one who pointed out first telling me he thought the JVC had more depth and three-dimensionality and he is the one who owns the LK990. Is it really so hard to think that a projector with literally 23 times as much native contrast can and will look better than a projector that is so held back in this area? The image got very muddy in appearance anytime there was supposed to be darker pixels on screen. Or is it even hard to think that a projector that doesn't have to pixel shift or have more real pixels on screen can look as sharp (or sharper)? Please, let's come back to sanity here and talk about the LK990 as it really is. It's a bright business projector with a decent lens. It's not a home theater projector. BenQ themselves doesn't market it that way.

What you're also saying is that owners need to jump through hoops to get what you say are much better HDR results. You're going to need something that can strip the HDR flag if you even want to consider using your method of doing things. That's an extra several hundred dollars on top of the BenQ's cost to buy an HDFury product. Anytime you send HDR with a flag you're locked into HDR mode. The option to go to a different mode is greyed out. Even if you get an HDFury product you're still stuck choosing between max brightness with Smart Eco mode, boosting contrast to only 4000:1 or choosing a specific laser level and 1000:1. It's not image settings that make HDR perform less than the JVC, it's the extremely limited native contrast on the LK990 that makes it hard to compete. No set of settings can help contrast performance even more than this. I'm not trying to say the LK990 is a bad projector. It isn't. I just think some of the discussions about it is giving people the wrong impression on how it performs relative to the competition near its price point.


OK thanks for clearing up which post you were referring to.  I thought it was in reference to my conversation with Mike over there.  I still stand by what I said though, "...SmartEco is dimmer overall…", because it is auto dimming the image and black floor and lowers average picture level overall.

Please speak with @12GAGE in regards to what he measured in relation to power.  When you input a 100% white pattern the projector doesn't go to its peak output, but when you use actual content the whites get to 100% power.  So that means it actually has higher contrast in real world images.  You apparently can't use a white field pattern to measure overall contrast due to the projector's Automatic Power Control feature, which it doesn't seem can be turned off unless you use the Custom Brightness Mode.

All I am saying about what you saw with the image pop and three dimensionality is that since you were most likely using the stock HDR mode, then the projector wasn't setup in its optimal state as it would be if you had time to calibrate and tweak it, just like you most likely did with your JVC.  It isn't "jumping through hoops" setting it up with mine or other's settings either, anymore so than calibrating a projector, downloading custom curves and defeating Gamma D like we used to with the JVCs, downloading German Gamma curves for Sonys and all the other tweaks that have been discussed on AVS.  It is actually easier if you ask me than doing all that, especially if you have my baseline settings to start with, which I easily share for all that wants it.  I don't know if you even have to use an HDFury yet with the LK990.  I may be able to implement settings in the HDR mode to replicate what I do on the LK970.  I will know hopefully after this coming weekend if my LK990 arrives before Friday.

BTW, did you have a chance to totally calibrate and tweak the LK990 like I am sure your JVC was?  If not, how could that even be a fair comparison then?  If you didn't, then who calibrated his LK990, or did anyone at all?

It is quite apparent that the LK990 there wasn't in an optimal state when you take into consideration all the replies and glowing reviews, even of it having good enough black levels and contrast overall, over on AVSF.  This machine is far from "a bright business projector with a decent lens". This also happened with woofer's initial comparison, which he's since redone and updated his impressions to be much better than initially thought. These LK models are easily just as good or better than anything in the same price range (if you'd bother optimizing it properly, but they're awesome OOTB too actually) and even outperform the ones that are 3-6 times as much (RS4500, VW885ES, VW995ES) in many areas, as is clearly being discovered by many now over on "the other forum".  Everyone there is saying it is sharper and more detailed than the RS4500, but you seem to be saying otherwise compared to an RS2000, so something doesn't add up.

It seems you are the one in the very small minority to think what you're saying here about them, maybe the ONLY one actually.  So getting back to sanity is more on your end I would think.  I am not going to go round and round with you here Dylan.  You are a great and VERY knowledgeable guy, but I believe you are making rash judgements with limited time, calibration and tweaking on this model, as clearly evidenced by the many, many more saying otherwise.  I will just let the majority speak for itself.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 01:48:47 PM by HarperVision »

Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2019, 01:44:00 PM »

OK thanks for clearing up which post you were referring to.  I thought it was in reference to my conversation with Mike over there.  I still stand by what I said though, "...SmartEco is dimmer overall…", because it is auto dimming the image and black floor and lowers average picture level overall.
Yes, but that is true for any dynamic contrast system. For peak white, SmartEco is the same as Normal mode. This means both modes force full brightness when the APL of the content is higher. 
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2019, 01:50:07 PM »
Yes, but that is true for any dynamic contrast system. For peak white, SmartEco is the same as Normal mode. This means both modes force full brightness when the APL of the content is higher.

Sorry, I accidentally hit SAVE before I was done replying.  There is more to my reply above now.

Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2019, 02:16:05 PM »

OK thanks for clearing up which post you were referring to.  I thought it was in reference to my conversation with Mike over there.  I still stand by what I said though, "...SmartEco is dimmer overall…", because it is auto dimming the image and black floor and lowers average picture level overall.

Please speak with @12GAGE in regards to what he measured in relation to power.  When you input a 100% white pattern the projector doesn't go to its peak output, but when you use actual content the whites get to 100% power.  So that means it actually has higher contrast in real world images.  You apparently can't use a white field pattern to measure overall contrast due to the projector's Automatic Power Control feature, which it doesn't seem can be turned off unless you use the Custom Brightness Mode.

All I am saying about what you saw with the image pop and three dimensionality is that since you were most likely using the stock HDR mode, then the projector wasn't setup in its optimal state as it would be if you had time to calibrate and tweak it, just like you most likely did with your JVC.  It isn't "jumping through hoops" setting it up with mine or other's settings either, anymore so than calibrating a projector, downloading custom curves and defeating Gamma D like we used to with the JVCs, downloading German Gamma curves for Sonys and all the other tweaks that have been discussed on AVS.  It is actually easier if you ask me than doing all that, especially if you have my baseline settings to start with, which I easily share for all that wants it.  I don't know if you even have to use an HDFury yet with the LK990.  I may be able to implement settings in the HDR mode to replicate what I do on the LK970.  I will know hopefully after this coming weekend if my LK990 arrives before Friday.

BTW, did you have a chance to totally calibrate and tweak the LK990 like I am sure your JVC was?  If not, how could that even be a fair comparison then?  If you didn't, then who calibrated his LK990, or did anyone at all?

It is quite apparent that the LK990 there wasn't in an optimal state when you take into consideration all the replies and glowing reviews, even of it having good enough black levels and contrast overall, over on AVSF.  This machine is far from "a bright business projector with a decent lens". This also happened with woofer's initial comparison, which he's since redone and updated his impressions to be much better than initially thought. These LK models are easily just as good or better than anything in the same price range (if you'd bother optimizing it properly, but they're awesome OOTB too actually) and even outperform the ones that are 3-6 times as much (RS4500, VW885ES, VW995ES) in many areas, as is clearly being discovered by many now over on "the other forum".  Everyone there is saying it is sharper and more detailed than the RS4500, but you seem to be saying otherwise compared to an RS2000, so something doesn't add up.

It seems you are the one in the very small minority to think what you're saying here about them, maybe the ONLY one actually.  So getting back to sanity is more on your end I would think.  I am not going to go round and round with you here Dylan.  You are a great and VERY knowledgeable guy, but I believe you are making rash judgements with limited time, calibration and tweaking on this model, as clearly evidenced by the many, many more saying otherwise.  I will just let the majority speak for itself.


So what you're saying is, when you have all pixels at 100% white (as test patterns to measure contrast do) the projector doesn't output at 100%? Specifically what content can I display to show that this is how the projector functions? @12GAGE can you provide some more information here? Calvin is only a 15 minute drive from me and I"m sure he'd gladly host me again to verify this. No, I didn't put the projector through a full calibration but that rarely affects contrast performance in a huge way and usually contrast performance gets worse, not better after calibration.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 02:46:03 PM by Dylan Seeger »
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2019, 02:20:36 PM »
I don't know if 12GAGE posts here, Dave, could you PM him and ask him to post here or PM me here so I can get some more information about this? I've never encountered a projector that functions like this and I'd like to go back and test this out but I need some direction on what content I can use to verify this. Will an ANSI contrast test pattern allow for this behavior? Does Custom mode for the laser get rid of the dynamic dimming you're referring to?
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Re: BenQ LK990 First Impressions
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2019, 02:58:09 PM »
Looking through the LK970's user manual it makes no mention of a dynamic contrast system at all. so I can only assume this means it's on at all times then. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say what BenQ has done is added the SmartEco mode on the LK990 to give you the option to enable or disable the dynamic dimming. This way it's not on at all times.

Dave, seeing how you still haven't gotten your hands on the LK990, and it's software is definitely different than the LK970's, I'm going to stand by my assertions. If 12GAGE can get in contact with me to tell me what I should be doing to measure differently I will hold fast to my statements until he can guide me in the right direction.

It's also worth pointing out that the user manual states for Normal laser mode, which is one of the modes I used to measure ~1000:1 native contrast,  "Provides Full Light Source Brightness" so again, I'm sticking to my statements. You can see this in the photo I posted above.

Dave, can you point me in the direction of the LK970/990 review you were talking about? I only see a BenQ HT9060 review on Secret's website.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 03:41:09 PM by Dylan Seeger »
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