- Solid-state LED light engine
- Short-throw lens
- 1080p gaming projector with UHD and HDR10 support
- 3D Support
- Out of the box accuracy not the best
- Lacks brightness for HDR
- No lens shift
The BenQ TH690ST sits at the top end of the TH line of entry level 1080p gaming projectors offered by BenQ. Its out-of-box accuracy could use a little work, but its above average post-calibration performance and color should win fans among gamers dreaming about the big screen as well those seeking a cinematic movie night without breaking the bank.
The BenQ TH690ST, released June 2022, is the highest end of the TH line of 1080p gaming projectors offered by BenQ. Unlike some of the offerings from BenQ, this is a not an "i" version, so it does not support the Android TV smart TV platform. With its focus set on gaming and home theater use, the TH690ST comes in at a $1,099 street price.
The BenQ TH690ST is a short-throw projector that utilizes a single-chip DMD DLP chipset and a solid-state LED light source rated at 2,300 ANSI Lumens with up to 30,000 hours of light source lifespan depending on use, eliminating the need to change bulbs. It does offer HDR10 support and is capable of accepting 3840x2160 resolution signals, which are still only displayed in the projector's 1080p resolution. In addition, the TH690ST supports 3D—which seems to be missing from more and more projectors these days—and boasts gamut coverage of 98% for Rec.709 and 84% DCI-P3 coverage for HDR.
The TH690ST uses Texas Instruments 1080p, 0.65-inch DLP chipset. Combined with the LED light source, this combination offers fast power on and off times, and rich color. Unfortunately, though, I did experience rainbows during my time with the TH690ST, which is a drawback sometimes seen with single-chip DLP designs, and sometimes more than others.
The TH690ST offers 2,300 ANSI lumens, a pretty solid rating for an all LED light source, though we measured it at 1,762 ANSI lumens, which is a little below the accepted 20% tolerance dictated by the industry-standard ISO21118 specification. (During our factcheck, BenQ noted that this number was below their factory tolerance and is investigating to check the veracity of our result.) The light source life span is specified as 30,000 hours in ECO, and 20,000 hours in SmartEco as well as the Normal lamp power modes. So the projector will last many, many years with normal daily use. The TH690ST gamut coverage cited above is the widest among the siblings in the TH line of projectors, and the published specifications are indeed accurate, as I measured Rec.709 gamut coverage at 98.2% and DCI-P3 gamut coverage at 85.54% xy and 90.64% uv. That DCI-P3 figure is excellent for a projector at this price point, and it is put to good use with the TH690ST's support for HDR10.
The TH690ST is able to display a 16:9 diagonal image size from 30 inches diagonal up to 200 inches diagonal, though the optimal screen sizes will range between 60 inches diagonal to 120 inches diagonal. This is accomplished by using a combination of projector placement and zoom due to its short throw ratio of 0.69-0.83. BenQ's listed distances proved to be accurate based on BenQ's listing to project a 100-inch image diagonal at a minimum distance and maximum zoom distance of approximately five feet. In my installation, I placed the unit 5 feet, 2.5 inches from the screen to project a 100-inch diagonal image. To determine throw distance for your preferred screen size you can utilize the ProjectorCentral BenQ TH690ST projection calculator.
The TH690ST allows for table top installs as well as ceiling mounting. The unit has an offset of 2.5% so the placement of the projector does need to be positioned below the screen some if installed on a table or slightly above the screen if ceiling mounted. For table top installs, the unit has 3 adjustment feet with one in the front and two in the rear of the unit. This will allow for some vertical adjustment; however, it cannot take the place of true vertical lens shift, which is unfortunately absent from the TH690ST. When using the adjustment feet, the lack of vertical lens shift will often result in needing to utilize the 2D digital keystone to properly align the image. So, to maintain the maximum image integrity for permanent mounting, it is recommended to plan installation accordingly to avoid 2D digital keystone or auto vertical keystone. The projector's manual 1.2x zoom and manual focus are available as well to dial in placement of the unit, and proved to be very responsive and tight, which made focusing the image very quick and easy.
The TH690ST is truly a gaming projector and this is made evident from its focus on providing a low input-latency gaming experience. BenQ cites the TH690ST as having 8.33 ms of latency at 1080p/120Hz and 16.67 ms at 1080p/60Hz. When measured, the latency was close to what was published though just a little higher: 1080p/120Hz measured at 18ms, and 1080p/120Hz at 10 ms. These measurements only apply to Game picture mode, and when the user is outside of Game picture mode the input lag can go as high as 63ms. Game picture mode also provides access to a Game Settings option which gives the user access to a Room Setting mode which has the options of Bright or Dark. These menu options correspond to changing the gamma setting, which is locked out and not generally selectable when in Game picture mode. Bright changes the gamma to 2.0, while Dark changes the gamma to 2.2. An additional menu option in Game Settings is the Details adjustment with the menu options of Off or On. When this is enabled, it changes the gamma to a BenQ custom gamma curve. The TH690ST does not offer the game mode settings specific to game types, such as FPS , RTS, etc. which are seen on some of BenQ's other gaming projectors.
The connection side of the TH690ST is pretty standard fare with two HDMI 2.0b ports with HDCP 2.2 support and one USB 2.2 Type A port used for service as well as 2.5A power delivery for an external device. Unfortunately, the USB port does not support media playback. There's an RS232 port for sending serial commands to the unit. Rounding out the I/O are 3.5mm audio input and output jacks, in addition to an Optical SPDIF output to allow for playing multi-channel audio on an outboard sound system.
A nice addition is that the TH690ST has two 5-watt TreVolo-tuned stereo speakers that make use of the predefined sound modes of Cinema, Music, Game, Sports and User. When User is selected the ability to adjust a five-band EQ is available. When Game picture mode is selected, the Game sound mode is automatically selected. The output capability of these speakers is fairly substantial and impressive, with clear dialog being able to be heard at a volume of only 2 on scale of 20. In no scenario did I ever feel like I needed to increase the volume past 6, and if it were later at night, past 3. Not surprisingly, however, bass was fairly thin, so the TH690ST would best be used with an external sound solution such as a soundbar or external AVR/Processor. Still, in a pinch or a temporary installation the onboard speakers will serve its purpose without much of an issue.
As mentioned, the TH690ST also offers 1080p 3D usable with any DLP-Link active 3D glasses. The 3D image was bright and showed minimal crosstalk. When 3D is enabled, the following picture controls are limited or locked to a default value: Color Temperature is locked to Normal (though the Gain and Offset controls are available for adjustment), and Light Source Mode is locked to Normal as well. Overall, the image was pleasing and provided a decent sense of depth.
The TH690ST weighs a very manageable 7.9 pounds and has dimensions of 4.7x14.4x9.6 inches (HWD) so placement is flexible and the unit could also be considered portable to a degree—it should easily make the trip over to a friend's house or to the backyard for an outside movie night. It isn't really an all-in-one solution given the lack of integrated streaming apps, but considering that an inexpensive streaming stick can be easily powered from the USB port, it still comes pretty close to being one.
Color Modes. The BenQ TH690ST has six picture modes for SDR, two for HDR, and one for 3D. The SDR Picture modes are Bright, Living Room, Game, Sports, Cinema, and User. Bright unfortunately is extremely biased towards green and the color temperature is locked to Native, presumably to allow the projector to make its brightness spec. You do have the ability to adjust the Bright picture mode, but due to how far off it is from accurate the controls lack the range to fully dial it in. HDR picture modes consist of HDR10 and HDR Game, while 3D signals bring up the single 3D picture mode.
Out of the box (OOTB) none of the picture modes were really that accurate, though they were all fairly usable with minimal adjustment to the color temperature. The picture modes that used the Normal color temperature looked more accurate and offered whites that were the most balanced and not overly cool or too warm. Picture modes that used the Cool color temperature were very biased towards blue, where Warm was extremely biased towards red. Normal attempted to balance it more though still had a slight green push to the image. But all the modes were ultimately usable with the exception of Bright, which was just too heavily green and could not be fully corrected.
HDR10 and HDR Game were nearly identical, so changes made to one picture mode easily applies to the other. 3D was effectively neutral since it uses Normal color temperature and defaulted to the BenQ custom gamma of 1.8, or 2.0.
The TH690ST provides standard controls for both grayscale and color management adjustment in all available picture modes. White balance adjustments of the grayscale are performed using RGB two-point controls for Gain and Offset. The Color Management System (CMS) allowed for tuning of the color space with adjustments for Hue, Saturation, and Gain for the primary and secondary colors as well as white (WRGBCMY). Gamma options are all predefined values that ranged from 1.8 to 2.6, and a custom BenQ gamma selection. Gamma did not track exactly as specified in the menu but was close: 2.3 actually tracked closer to 2.2, so gamma options were all 0.1 off to what is desired target.
OOTB picture modes that were most ideal to use without any adjustment were Living Room, Game, and User for SDR while the HDR picture modes of HDR Game or HDR10 would both work the same. Errors within hue were visible as well as oversaturation, though hue errors were very visible and would likely stand out more than the oversaturation as the hue errors made it so that the colors were just visibly wrong. The TH690ST would benefit from calibration and I found it can be very accurate after a calibration, though for those that opt to not calibrate, it is suggested to use Living Room, Game or User for SDR picture modes, and HDR10 for HDR. Using Eco mode for Lamp Power setting will give approx. 15fL on a 100-inch, 1.3-gain screen and reducing contrast down to approximately the 25-30 setting will reduce clipping of white at the higher end of the grayscale. Utilizing 2.3 Gamma will track closer to 2.2 and provided the best image, resolving the most detail on the lower end without crushing too much black or lifting the black floor too much. It would also be recommended to adjust hue on blue, magenta, and yellow by eye until the colors look natural.
I calibrated the TH690ST using Calman Ultimate calibration software from Portrait Displays, a Colorimetry Research CR-250 Spectroradiometer, a Colorimetry Research CR-100 Colorimeter, and a Murideo 8K Seven Generator. As noted, projector was calibrated to 100-inch 16:9 diagonal on a 1.3 gain Stewart Filmscreen. Pre-calibration measurements confirmed observations seen in initial OOTB viewing. SDR pre-calibration measurements had very large dE (DeltaE) errors which is the metric used to determine the visible error. It has been determined that anything over a dE of 3 is visible, anything over 2.3 is a just noticeable difference for trained eyes and anything below 2.3 should ideally not be seen to the eye unless in direct comparison to other display devices.
Grayscale pre-calibration measurements of User mode had dE errors all over 3 going as high as 5.47 dE for 100% white. Color gamut errors for the Rec. 709 color space were as high as 10.8 dE, mainly due to the aforementioned saturation and hue errors. HDR pre-calibration measurements had an average error of 5.5 dE in grayscale and 15.5 dE in color.
Utilizing the provided 2-point gain and offset controls for adjustments I targeted the production industry standard D65 neutral gray white point. Afterwards, a full CMS (color management system) calibration for the RGBCMY primaries and secondary colors was performed as well.
Post calibration for SDR resulted in User being calibrated to peak 15.39 fL/52.73 nits in my dark theater room. HDR Post calibration measured in at 33.32 fL/114.18 nits in HDR10 picture mode.
To the TH690ST's credit, it calibrated very well and post-calibration DeltaE errors were extremely low. I ran a large ColorChecker on the unit which resulted in an average of 0.8 dE, and a max of 2.0 dE, with Grayscale having a max of 1.7 dE with the exception of about 4 points being around 1.1-1.3 dE everything else was under a dE of 1. Post-calibration results for HDR had an average DeltaE for grayscale of 4.7 dE and 5.2 dE for color. (The Calman ColorChecker measures accuracy on a wide range of color swatches corresponding to skin tones, blue sky, etc.)
The devices I used for reviewing content post calibration were AppleTV 4K, FireTV, Oppo UDP-203 Blu-ray player, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X.
Gaming. I decided to focus on console gaming for testing the TH690ST and I began with Halo Infinite. I set the Xbox Series X to not allow 4K and forced the resolution to 1080p/120Hz. This will output Halo at 1080p/120Hz for the campaign. I started from the point where Master Chief first reaches the open world. Combat felt tight and responsive, and at no point did I feel as if I was behind in terms of input-to-action on screen. I decided to go into the training and test some weapons, and during that time I actually unlocked some achievements. With the input latency for 1080p/120Hz being so low, it truly makes gaming on a projector an option. Image quality-wise the game looked good; everything was properly saturated due to running the game in SDR, and brightness was good in my darkened theater room. The explosions from plasma grenades had a nice pop to them as did all of the gun fire from the plasma weapons. Overall, it was a pleasant experience.
The next game on my list to test was the fighting game Guilty Gear Strive on PlayStation 5. Guilty Gear is a native 4K/60Hz game that is not HDR. It is a very colorful, bright and vibrant game, as well as very fast paced. During my playtime I used the characters that I'm most familiar with and first went into training to try out some combos. I was able to land the majority that I attempted without any issues. The few that I missed I could accredit to just being out of practice. Guilty Gear has a game mechanic called a Roman Cancel which allows the player to cancel an attack to extend their combo and it requires activating this mechanic within a few frames of the attack. I was able to utilize this mechanic without any issues at all, which is great when you consider that this is being played on a projector and executing this mechanic requires being pretty exact in your timing. Colors looked good, though some of the vibrancy I'm used to seeing was not really there, but that really cannot be helped because of the overall light output of the projector. The image also looked somewhat soft, which is also to be expected considering the projector downscales the input signal to 1080p. But again, it was another pleasant experience.
1080p/SDR Viewing. After my gaming sessions I began watching various content and decided to sit down and watch Nightcrawler on Blu-ray via the Oppo UDP-203. The scene I really focused on was where Louis (Jake Gyllenhaal) got his new car and he and Rick are filling up at the gas station. The scene looked great. Lou's Challenger had the correct color of red, the correct saturation was presented how I remember it looking across various display devices. In another scene, where they head to the accident that Lou will ultimately stage to get a better shot, the street lights fortunately did not exhibit any banding, and a good amount of shadow detail was present in the scene. After Lou goes to turn in the video, he is having a conversation with Nina (Rene Russo) and I really focused in on the skin tones as well as the color being presented on the stage in the foreground. Nina had natural skin tone and the set in the foreground was bright and had good color to it. The TH690ST does really well with SDR content and this showed it very well.
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1080p/SDR 3D Viewing. For some 3D viewing I decided on watching Megamind on 3D Blu-ray via the Oppo-203. The TH690ST exhibited a minimal amount of crosstalk; it was present but wasn't overly aggressive. The image was bright and the active glasses offset any of the color shift that was present when looking at the image without glasses on. A good sense of depth was present, though not on everything. A few standout scenes were when Roxanne was abducted and the spider dropped down in front of her before blowing it into Megamind's face. Another scene was when Metro Man would point at the screen. This kept up throughout the movie where if something sat just in front of a character the sense of depth was most noticeable.
UHD/HDR Viewing. For some UHD/HDR content, I decided on watching something I just recently viewed on my LG G2 OLED—House of the Dragon S1: E2 as seen on HBO Max via AppleTV 4K. That experience was still very fresh in my mind and I recalled some scenes that I thought may be challenging for the BenQ. The first scene was when Rhaenyra and Alicent were talking just before Alicent asked Rhaenyra to pray with her. This scene could potentially be too dark in the background, but it also has a large number of candles lighting the set so it gives off a very distinct hue to the image and the character's wardrobe and faces. On this particular scene I had to play with the HDR brightness control. A setting of 1 was too bright and washed out the background, where 0 resolved just about the right amount of background detail but was still too washed out on the characters due to the candlelight. A setting of -1 fixed the candle light hue, but crushed too much detail in the background. So, there was no perfect setting answer for this. But it was most pleasant to me at -1 because of the heavy focus on the candlelight.
I checked the next scene, which was when Rhaenyra went to retrieve the egg. I had to again change the HDR brightness to best optimize the scene and landed on 0 for this one. The only other issue that stood out to me here was a lack of color on Caraxes (Daemon's dragon). The image was missing a certain amount of red and a noticeable hue to the red on Caraxes that I've seen on other display devices where I've watched this scene. It didn't look bad however, and it is important to state that it was just slightly off hue and missing a certain amount of luminance I expected. This was also true in the TH690ST's rendering of the sky, which also lacked some detail. The image was soft due to the 1080p downscaling, but overall, I was pleased with everything I saw.
The last movie I decided to watch was something else that was also fresh, Prey on Hulu via the FireTV. The scenes were again a little all over the place in terms of an appropriate HDR setting. When Naru went with her brother to rescue one of their warriors at night, it required HDR brightness at 0, but in the daytime scenes, such as the bear scene where Naru first encounters the Predator, it was better suited at 1. The same softness apparent with other 4K content was also visible but the image looked good overall.
Two special effects shots demonstrated the projector's weakness with HDR, though. One was the Predator's active camouflage when he fights the bear and lifts it above him. There is a somewhat orange effect that takes place when they are fighting that was missing all the vibrancy that I'm used to seeing. You could see the effect; it was just somewhat dull. The second shot was when the predator would use his heat vision, which also had a somewhat dull look to it due to the lack of luminance. Due to how often the scenes in this movie changed with regard to the APL (average picture level), this is one I did feel would have been better viewed in SDR without the need to ride the HDR brightness so much.
The BenQ TH690ST is in a somewhat strange place being at the high end of the TH line. Its price is about $200 more than its closest sibling, the 3,500-lumen TH685i. That extra money buys you a solid-state LED light source and a short throw lens, though at the cost of considerable brightness and the TH685i's Android TV streaming platform. So, the overall value proposition is questionable next to others in the TH family. And at $1,099, keep in mind that it's a shorter step up into the TK series, which offers 4K UHD resolution.
On the other hand, for a budget 1080p projector, everything the TH690ST does it actually does rather well. As a dedicated gaming projector it's a solid choice, and it's decent for home theater, too. It's out of box accuracy wasn't stellar, but it proved to have extremely accurate color reproduction if you're willing to calibrate the unit. In terms of overall performance, I'd say SDR was great and HDR was okay, with a convincing HDR presentation that lacked the overall luminance of brighter projectors and suffered some expected softness with 4K content. Ultimately, I do not think one would be disappointed in the SDR, though you could be left wanting a little more for HDR.
In the end, though, it may come down to your needs and what's important to you. If the prospect of no lamp replacements in a budget-priced, short-throw projector with good gaming capabilities and solid SDR performance appeals to you, the TH690ST is definitely worth a look.
Brightness. The BenQ TH690ST is rated for 2,300 ANSI lumens. The brightest picture mode in SDR was Bright, and for HDR it was HDR10 picture mode. In SDR, Bright picture mode measured 1,762 ANSI lumens, which is 76.6% of BenQ's rated ANSI specification and below the 20% tolerance of the ISO21118 specification by 3.4%. During our factcheck, BenQ noted that this number was below their expected factory tolerance and is investigating to check the veracity of our result.
The Lamp Power mode settings of ECO and SmartEco decreased brightness by 29.7% compared with the Normal setting.
BenQ TH690ST ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The BenQ TH690ST's light loss when shifting from the widest zoom position to its longest telephoto position was 4.72%.
Brightness Uniformity. The BenQ TH690ST projecting a 100-inch diagonal image resulted in measured brightness uniformity of 67% while in wide angle zoom, and 67% in telephoto zoom. The brightest portion of the screen was the middle center sector, and the dimmest the right top. The difference in brightness on a full white screen was not that noticeable and was not seen in viewing actual content.
Fan Noise. BenQ rates the fan noise at 33dB in Normal and 28dB in Eco mode for typical noise level. Using Room EQ Wizard software and a Umik-1 microphone, my theater room ambient noise floor is 33.3 dBA. The BenQ TH690ST measured at the following dB for both SDR and HDR, in the following brightness modes. All measurements were taken at a distance of approx. 4.5 feet away from each side of the unit.
SDR/HDR (all picture modes):
Front, Left, Rear, Top: 39.3dB
Noise level using ECO and SmartEco mode:
Front, Left, Rear, Top: 37.6dB
Input Lag. Input lag measurements while in Game picture mode measured the following:
- HDMI 2.0b (x2; HDCP 2.2)
- 3.5mm Mini Jack Audio Out
- 3.5mm Mini Jack Audio In
- SPDIF (Optical Out)
- USB 2.0 Type A (2.5A power delivery, no media playback, Service)
Calibrated image settings from any third-party do not account for the significant potential for sample-to-sample variation, nor the different screen sizes and materials, lighting, lamp usage, or other environmental factors that can affect image quality. Projectors should always be calibrated in the user's own space and tuned for the expected viewing conditions. However, the settings provided here may be a helpful starting point for some. Always record your current settings before making adjustments so you can return to them as desired. Refer to the Performance section for some context for each calibration.
Picture Mode: User
Advanced Color Settings
Gamma Selection: 2.2
Color Temperature Tuning
Color Temperature: Normal
R Gain: 99
G Gain: 99
B Gain: 102
R Offset: 257
G Offset: 256
B Offset: 255
|R Gain||G Gain||B Gain|
Light Source Mode: Eco
Picture Mode: HDR10
Advanced Color Settings
Gamma Selection: BenQ
Color Temperature Tuning
Color Temperature: Normal
R Gain: 99
G Gain: 98
B Gain: 102
R Offset: 257
G Offset: 254
B Offset: 252
|R Gain||G Gain||B Gain|
Light Source Mode: Normal
HDR Brightness: 1
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ TH690ST projector page.