BenQ states that the TH690ST allows the end-users to enjoy richer, more lifelike colors based on the TH690ST’s 84% DCI-P3 color standard for the film industry and 98% Rec.709 color coverage. The out-of-the-box picture quality of TH690ST is good, which I have come to expect from BenQ based on their background in color science.
In the Picture Mode menu, you will find six user-selected picture modes: Bright, Living Room, Game, Sports, Cinema, and User. Three additional automated picture modes are built into the BenQ TH690ST projector: HDR10, HDR Game, and HLG. After auto-detecting metadata or EOTF info from HDR content, HDR10 or HDR Game picture mode becomes activated. HLG Picture mode is automatically switched on anytime metadata or EOTF information from HLG streaming contents is detected. Finally, the 3D picture mode becomes available when the 3D function is enabled.
Like the other BenQ gaming projectors I have tested, the BenQ TH690ST is equipped with an Advanced Color Settings menu where the end-user can jump into the Color Management system to fine-tune the color adjustments. A competent color management system is a feature lacking in many lower-priced projectors. The TH690ST offers a wide range of adjustments. The projector’s Advanced Color Settings menu can adjust many image parameters, including Gamma Selection, Color Temperature Tuning, Color Management, Light Source Mode, HDR Brightness, and Noise Reduction.
The TH690ST’s 4LED light source brightness is rated at 2,300 ANSI lumens. In addition, the 4LED life span is rated at 20,000 hours in Normal mode, 30,000 in Eco mode, and 20,000 hours in SmartEco mode. Although BenQ advertises the brightness of the TH690ST at 2,300 ANSI lumens, I also like to measure any projector’s brightness for myself. To measure the brightness, I set the projector’s Light Source Mode to Normal, its Picture Mode to Bright, and its Color Temperature to Native, which is the projector’s brightest setting. I then took 3-4 readings about 15-20% out from the center of the lens.
At wide zoom for maximum brightness, Bright mode, the TH690ST measured 1,743 lumens, slightly under BenQ’s TH690ST published 2,300 ANSI lumens specification. With that being said, the TH690ST should be more than bright enough for most intended end-user applications. I measured all six available picture modes at wide zoom; my measurements are below.
BenQ TH690ST Projector Settings Brightness
Bright mode provided the most luminous projected image, great for using the projector in higher ambient light settings. Cinema mode provided a nice balance between color accuracy and brightness. Game mode offers the best gaming experience with Audio-Visual presets for gaming. User mode allows the end-user complete customization of Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and Advanced Color Settings. It also opens User Management, allowing the end-user to quickly load settings from Living Room, Game, Sports, and Cinema modes.
BLACK LEVEL AND SHADOW DETAIL
The BenQ TH690ST’s blacks are darker than many projectors that retail around the TH690ST’s MSRP. Nevertheless, the projector’s blacks were still closer to dark gray than deep black. However, when ambient light was present, the TH690ST produced good enough black levels. Some lower ANSI lumen projector’s pictures wash out at the slightest trace of ambient light. Luckily, the BenQ TH690ST’s Game Setting has a Room Setting mode. Room Setting allows the end-user to set the projector to Bright or Dark to compensate for your ambient light environment.
When appraising a projector’s picture, I like to consider the projector’s likely use case. Although the TH690ST’s black level could be better, projectors like the TH690ST are not intended to compete alongside home cinema projectors typically found in dedicated blacked-out home theaters. Instead, the TH690ST would most likely be used in a gaming environment or multipurpose room with higher amounts of ambient light, meaning the ability to reproduce deep blacks would not be as critical. The extra brightness would probably be more beneficial to the end-user in higher ambient light environments.
The BenQ TH690ST’s video quality is respectable out-of-the-box for an entry-level projector; however, changing the Picture Mode, Light Source Mode, and Color Temperature Tuning can drastically modify the on-screen image. I toggled the TH690ST’s Light Source Mode from Normal to SmartEco and switched the Picture Mode between Cinema and User to make the best image in my projector lab. I used User mode to fine-tune the TH690ST’s image to better suit my specific viewing environment.
HDR PICTURE QUALITY
With HDR10 compatibility, the BenQ TH690ST does a decent job maintaining bright highlight details while delivering full-screen brightness. In addition, the TH690ST has adjustments under the Advanced Color Setting called HDR Brightness, where you can manually change the projector’s HDR tone mapping to fit your taste.
According to many attendees of the 2022 CEDIA Expo in Dallas, Texas, 3D in the home is making a comeback. Numerous Custom Integrators stated that their customers are asking for 3D-capable systems. It appears that people want to watch movies like Avatar: The Way of Water in 3D in the comfort of their homes instead of in a movie theater. Well, good news, the TH690ST is full HD 3D-ready. The BenQ TH690ST will allow you to enjoy 3D movies, videos, sporting events, and games in a more realistic way by enhancing the depth of the image when you are wearing a pair of optional compatible 3D glasses.
The dual integrated treVolo 5-watt chamber speakers sound good for their small size, especially once you tune the audio settings with User Sound EQ. The TH690ST menu system under Audio offers the following presets: Cinema, Music, Game, Sports, and User. In addition, the User audio mode allows the personalization of the sound settings via the User Sound EQ. The User Sound EQ adjusts the 100Hz, 300Hz,1kHz, 3kHz, and 10kHz bands to fine-tune the sound to the end user’s preference.
The TH690ST doesn’t have an Audio Return Channel (ARC) or an Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC). However, the projector does have a 3.5mm jack and audio output via S/PDIF. To enjoy S/PDIF digital audio, the end-user only needs to ensure the S/PDIF connector on the BenQ TH690ST’s audio output is set to RAW. Then the projector simply needs to be connected to a compatible audio system. For example, I used the S/PDIF audio output to connect the BenQ TH690ST to a Definitive Technology Studio 3D Mini Sound Bar, and the audio was great.
For instance, take any of the games we talk about in the Projector Reviews monthly Gaming On A Projector: Best New Games To Play On A Projector In 2022 articles, pair it with the BenQ TH690ST, and I can almost guarantee you’ll have a good time gaming. With the projector’s ability to project large images, splitting a screen two or four ways to play with friends becomes way more enjoyable than trying to split up a gaming monitor or TV four ways.
Evaluate it for yourself and play your favorite multiplayer game with two to four players playing on a split screen utilizing your TV. Then, try it again with a gaming projector and a 100-inch or bigger projector screen.
I can almost guarantee you will prefer the bigger screen, especially if you have access to a high-lumen, color-accurate HDR projector. Brilliant big-screen HDR gaming images delivered with balanced color saturation and brightness were some of the noticeable benefits I experienced with the BenQ TH690ST console gaming projector.
The TH690ST’s rated input lag of 1080p@120Hz: 8.3ms, 1080p@60Hz: 16.7ms, and 4K@60Hz (downscaling to 1080p): 33.4ms means when you press a button on your gaming controller, you'll get the correlated action quickly. The TH690ST’s low latency absolutely kept me in the game longer! If I died, it was not because my character did not react fast enough once I pressed a button on my PS5 controller. The TH690ST’s input lag is much faster than my ability to recognize danger and move out of the way.
Gaming with a capable gaming projector like the BenQ TH690ST is a blast! You just cannot duplicate the gaming experience of a projector projecting onto a massive screen. Don’t get me wrong, I like a well-made gaming monitor or TV, but I now prefer a larger and more impressive gaming experience that only a projector can provide.
Sure, you could use a VR headset for an immersive gaming experience, but those hurt your head and eyes after a short while of gaming. If you are a hardcore VR user, imagine strapping on your VR headset and then using your gaming projector to project your gaming session. Your friends and family could see what you’re seeing and doing so they can all be part of the gaming fun. Stand by, I’ll be purchasing a VR headset to test out my theory here. I’ll report back on Projector Reviews.
After the BenQ TH690ST auto-detects metadata or EOTF info from HDR contents, HDR Game becomes available for selection. HDR Game is used to activate Game Settings where the end-user can adjust the Room Setting to Dark or Bright and then toggle the Details Adjustment from Off to On and vice versa, depending on the game. Details Adjustment adjusts their level of clarity. When turned On, more details are shown, but with lower black performance, everything is brighter with Details Adjustment set to On.
When I connected my PS5 to the TH690ST and turned it on, the projector’s Picture Mode automatically switched to HDR Game mode. Switching to HDR Game mode takes advantage of the projector’s game-optimizing features.
Game Mode enables the end-user to adjust the images for the best display in dark or bright environments. Game Mode assists in the delivery of clarity and detail for total immersion into any game you may want to play. Lastly, changing the Menu Type from Advanced to Basic allows you to quickly make or check adjustments to some game-optimizing settings on the go during gameplay.
BenQ is an official member of HGiG, along with many game developers and publishers. So, what is HGiG? Sony and Microsoft initiated the creation of the HDR Gaming Interest Group (HGiG). Here’s the mission statement from the HGiG website, “HDR gaming further immerses gamers into the content and has become a strong trend in the industry, but the results are not yet optimal, which in some cases can impact gaming experiences.
With a variety of HDR formats across TV displays, volunteering companies joined together to discuss how gaming experiences can provide a more immersive experience through HDR and collaboratively identified a set of best practices for HDR game content developers and game platforms as well as for TV display manufacturers. As a result, HDR content, combined with optimized game platforms and TV displays, will be able to further leverage HDR technology for a truly immersive gaming experience. This collection of best practices proposed in the guideline will be easy to implement and will also support improved operability.”
BenQ following HGiG guidelines or best practices helps the users of their products enjoy HDR games from consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox. PlayStation and Xbox have HDR calibration menus. Go through the reasonably straightforward process contained within, and you are effectively teaching the gaming console the lower and upper contrast limitations of your projector. The problem arises when your projector then attempts to tone-map the already tone-mapped image. HGiG intends to prevent this so that once your gaming console has learned the parameters of your projector, it outputs all games accordingly.