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BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector review – can you play 4K HDR game?

BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector review

Does it support 4K HDR console for gaming? Google-certified Android TV and Google Play store, with 5,000+ of the latest Android apps, movies, shows, live sports, games, music, and more. I is compatible with major consoles (Sony PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One X, Google stadia) huge, bright, sharp images and equalized audio. It has  3500 ANSI lumen brightness; 1080p HDR-enabled w/4K compatibility; 100-inch images from 8.2 feet (2.5m) away; stunning color 95% Rec. 709. Know about more features in BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector review.

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Pros & Cons

PROS

  • Good color accuracy and contrast for the price
  • Supports HDR, including HLG
  • Accepts 4K input to downconvert to 1080p
  • Low input lag for gaming
  • Supports Full HD 3D
  • Excellent 16.4ms input lag at 60Hz and 8.3ms at 120Hz
  • Uses the Android TV OS for streaming
  • Good color accuracy for the price

CONS

  • Hard to adjust for sharpest image
  • Doesn’t read files from USB memory keys
  • Average contrast ratio
  • Netflix not available from the Google Play Store

Specs – BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector

  • 1920×1080 (1080p) native resolution
  • Accepts 4K
  • 3,500 ANSI lumens brightness
  • 120Hz refresh rate
  • 8.3ms input lag at 1080p/120Hz
  • Up to 15,000 hours lamp life in LampSave mode
  • HDR10 and HLG support
  • BenQ LumiExpert for contrast enhancement
  • Included QS01 streaming stick for Android TV OS with Google Assistant
  • 95% of Rec.709 color gamut
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 (HD)
  • Contrast: 10,000:1 (full on/off)
  • Display Type: DLP x 1
  • Color Wheel: 6 segments
  • Color Wheel: 2x speed
  • Color Processing: 10-bit
  • Input Lag: 8ms (min)
  • Video Modes: 720p, 1080i, 1080p/60, 1080p/24, 1080p/25, 1080p/30, 1080p/50, 2160p/24, 2160p/60, 576i, 576p, 480p, 480i
  • Data Modes: MAX 1920×1200
  • 3D Modes: Full HD 3D
  • Lamp Type: Metal Halide bulb
  • Lamp Life: 4,000 hours / 15,000 hours (Eco)
  • Lamp Model: 5J.JKX05.001 Buy Replacement Lamp
  • Included Lens: 1.3x manual zoom , manual focus
  • Optional Lenses: No
  • Lens Shift: Vertical +/-5%
  • Throw Distance: 3.2′ – 24.6′ Calculate Throw Distance
  • Image Size: 29.99″ – 299.98″
  • Throw Ratio: 1.13:1 – 1.46:1 (D:W)
  • Projector Placement: For a 100″ diagonal screen, place the projector lens between 8′-2″ and 10′-7″ from the screen.
  • Digital Keystone: Vertical only
  • Projector Size: 4.00″ x 12.00″ x 9.00″ (HxWxD)
  • Weight: 6.2 lbs
  • Audible Noise: 35 dB / 29 dB (Eco)
  • Internal Speakers: 5.0 Watts Mono
  • Power: 340 Watts 100V – 240V

BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector review

Design

The TH685i is a single-chip DLP projector that has a 6-segment (RGBWYC) color wheel. Its white case is 4 x 12 x 9 inches (HWD) and weighs only 6.2 pounds. On top there are rings to manually adjust the 1.3x zoom and focus. They can both be a bit fiddly to get right—the focus more so than the zoom, which has a tab on it that can be guided more easily with a finger.

Connectors

Image inputs include two HDMI 2.0b ports, which both support HDCP 2.2 (the copy protection version on 4K Blu-ray discs). There’s also a USB port, meant strictly for supplying power to HDMI dongles. 

  • HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 (x2, one for the QS01 media player)
  • USB Type A
  • PC D-sub in
  • 3.5mm audio in
  • 3.5mm audio out
  • RS-232

Display

With a throw ratio of 1.13-1.46, the TH685i needs 8 feet 3 inches to projector a 100-inch image. Also on the top are menu navigation buttons and LED indicator lights. I set up the projector for a 90-inch image at 7 feet, 3 inches from the screen. One small annoyance is that it’s harder than it should be to get the image well focused. Moving the focus ring just a little changes the focus a lot, making it hard to adjust without overshooting the right setting.

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Brightness – BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector

The rated 3,500 lumens is bright enough, according to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations, to light up a 270-inch diagonal screen in a dark room or a 150-inch screen in moderate ambient light, assuming a 1.0-gain, 16:9 white screen. As with most projectors, however, the modes you’re most likely to use don’t project at full brightness.

BenQ TH685i ANSI Lumens
MODENORMALECONOMICSMARTECOLAMPSAVE
Bright2,7051,8302,7052,003
Living Room1,4719961,4711,090
Cinema1,5851,0731,5851,174
Sports1,5891,0761,5891,177
Game1,4679931,4671,087
User 11,4679931,4671,087
User 21,4719961,4711,090
HDR101,5601,0561,5601,156

Resolution

 It has a native resolution of 1080p (1920×1080), although it accepts 4K (3840×2160) and downconverts the signal. And in the sub-$1,000 projector world that’s becoming increasingly overtaken by LED and laser projection technologies, the TH685i uses a conventional lamp as a light source with a claimed light output of 3,500 ANSI lumens (although we measured lower on our sample). 

Game mode

 In Game mode, the TH685i has an input lag of only 16.4ms. Even outside of Game mode the projector’s input lag measured only 33.1ms, still an impressive number for a projector and something many casual gamers wouldn’t even feel. BenQ’s literature states the TH685i can achieve 8.3ms of lag at 120Hz—a completely believable statement considering it’s already measuring 16.4ms at 60Hz. The projector changes its refresh rate when a 120Hz signal is detected from a console or PC.

Audio

It delivers far more robust audio than you would expect from its onboard 5-watt mono speaker, thanks to the chamber design. Audio quality is good for such a small projector, and the volume is high enough to fill a large family room. For stereo or truly high quality, however, plan on using an external sound system. 

Lamp life

Lamp life is a fairly average 4,000 hours in the Normal mode. This jumps up to 10,000 hours in the Eco mode, though you lose about 35% of the light output. There are two other lamp modes that sound like they do the same thing, but work slightly different. SmartEco mode decreases lamp power in darker scenes “while optimizing display quality,” as BenQ describes. This results in a claimed lamp life of 8,000 hours. LampSave, on the other hand, decreases lamp power in darker scenes “while offering a longer lamp life.” It does this primarily by limiting maximum light output to what you’d get in the Eco mode. It balloons lamp life out to 15,000 hours. 

Remote

The non-backlit white remote has a microphone for using Google Assistant, menu navigation and settings adjustment buttons (such as keystone), two dedicated app buttons—one for Amazon Prime Video and one for FamiLand, a BenQ app with curated content for kids age 6 and under. There are two buttons to access the Android TV settings or the projector settings, and even though the one for the projector settings is clearly marked “Projector Menu,”

BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector Performance review

For HDR testing, I used 4K discs only, since HLG content is still more of a promise than a reality at this writing. But, according to BenQ, both modes work essentially the same way. In my tests, the TH685 switched to its single HDR10 mode and automatically downconverted the 4K image to the projector’s native 1080p. As with most HDR projectors, the TH685 offers what’s usually called an HDR brightness setting for manual adjustment. The best setting will vary with the ambient light level as well as from movie to movie.

In the case of the bright and colorful Central Park, the projector did a good job of mostly getting the colors right and offered a pretty good overall experience. Unfortunately that wasn’t really the case for Ted Lasso, which looked a bit desaturated and less crisp – though admittedly live action series are a bit harder to get right in terms of colors and brightness than cartoons.

Compare BenQ TH685i vs BenQ TH685

The only cosmetic difference between the TH685 and TH685i is the collection and orientation of inputs on the back of the projector. Instead of both of the HDMI 2.0 (with HDCP 2.2) ports situated next to one another and directed straight out of the back as is found on almost every projector, one has been moved behind a plastic cover (along with a mini USB power connector) and dedicated as the media streaming port for the included QS01 HDMI dongle. Once plugged in, the dongle lays flat against the back of the projector and can be protected and hidden by the plastic cover. This media streaming bay is meant specifically for the QS01 dongle and not for a different streaming stick (although you could feasibly put one in the other HDMI port and power it from the USB Type A on the back).

Other minor changes from the TH685 to the TH685i include the removing of the monitor-out D-sub connector—a PC VGA D-sub input is still there—and the moving of the 3.5mm audio in/out ports from the back left to the back right. Speaking of audio, the HDMI port not dedicated to the streaming dongle is equipped with Audio Return Channel, which should feed audio from the dongle back to an AV receiver to which your other sources (game console, cable box) can be connected. But if you need that HDMI port for a source component that can’t feed audio separately to an outboard system, you’ll need to use the analog audio out. There’s no optical digital output to use as an alternative.

Alternate of BenQ TH685i 1080p gaming projector

XGIMI Aura 4K

Specifications:

  • Max. Image Size: 150″
  • No. of Lasers: 1
  • Brightness: 2400 Lumens
  • Resolution: Pixel Shift 4K
  • Throw Ratio: 0.233
  • Netflix Streaming? Currently with streaming stick – see review
  • Ease of Setup / Use: Medium

The XGIMI Aura offers an outstanding performance for its price, and at the time of writing is the cheapest 4K ultra short throw laser projector.

Picture Quality

Picture quality is very good considering this a pixel shifted 4K device, delivering vivid, bright colors and excellent image quality that is not too far behind that offered by Samsung.

Blacks are of course not as deep as you would get on a dedicated TV, and you can get better with the Samsung projectors, but for a significantly higher cost.

With a throw ratio of 0.233, the projector only needs to be 11.7-inches from the wall to deliver a 120 inch image. This short throw distance combines well with the brightness of 2400 lumens, which is good for normal daytime viewing and works even with sunlight coming into the room.

Setup

Setup itself is not automatic, meaning that you must perform the 8-point keystone correction yourself, although you can use autofocus to get a sharp image.

The remote is a strong point, as with other XGIMI projectors, offering a well designed device that supports voice controls.

With a 12 second boot time, you can quickly get into watching your shows on Disney+ and Prime, although the Netflix app does not currently work, but will once Netflix have verified this model. This means that you need a separate streaming stick at the moment for Netflix viewing.

Overall

Despite a couple of issues, the lower price and long 25,000 hours laser life make this one of the top picks for those looking for a value for money, budget 4K ultra short throw projector, and it will only become more popular once Netflix have certified the model, which is sure to happen in the near future.

  • Pros:
  • Surprisingly good picture for a pixel shifted 4K device, with bright, vivid colors
  • 12 second boot time and Android TV with excellent voice controlled remote
  • Easy streaming of Disney+ and Prime
  • Low lag, which is better suited to gaming than other projectors
  • Cons:
  • Not yet verified for Netflix streaming – use a separate streaming stick until then
  • Longer lead time for shipping as this is a brand new device

Editor’s recommendations

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