BenQ TH685 Full HD DLP projector review

BenQ's new projector treats gamers pretty well, but John Archer isn't convinced it's for movie lovers too

Video gaming is currently enjoying the sort of explosion in popularity that home cinema did in the 1980s. Sales of the latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles are truly mind-boggling (despite ongoing supply issues). It's no surprise, then, to see makers of traditionally AV gear suddenly falling over themselves to cater for the gaming market.

BenQ's new TH685 projector is a perfect case in point. Rather than majoring on its home cinema talents, this model is pushed as a gamer's delight thanks to its high brightness, low input lag, 'Game' picture and sound presets, and support for the 120Hz refresh rates that have arguably proved the best new feature of the latest consoles and PCs. All this is deliverable at screen sizes up to and beyond 100in for just £650, which is not much more than a PlayStation 5 will currently cost you on the resale market.

The TH685 does come with one budget string attached, however: it's only a Full HD projector rather than one supporting the 4K graphics now commonplace on the latest gaming devices, not to mention Netflix, Prime Video, iPlayer and your UHD Blu-ray collection. How much this matters in the context of a £650 product will obviously be one of the focus points of my review.

First things first, though. Given that it will likely be used in a relatively casual way rather than being permanently fixed in a dedicated room, does the TH685 look decent on your coffee table? Yes, it does. It's dressed in a crisp and glossy white finish, features calming rounded corners, and doesn't take up much space at all, being only 31cm wide and 22cm deep.

The top of the chassis has power and menu controls, plus a cutaway to access zoom and focus rings

It's also pleasingly easy to set up. There are simple drop-down legs to adjust the angle of projection; effective zoom and focus rings accessible through a panel cut out of the chassis's top edge; and the amount of zoom available is a very respectable (for this money) 1.3x.

The lack of any optical vertical image shifting might leave you dependent on the projector's less-than-ideal digital automatic keystone correction or digital image shifting to get the edges of your image perpendicular. Yet this limitation is standard for the sub-£1,000 projector market.

The TH685's optics consist of a single-chip DLP system illuminated by a standard UHP lamp. The claimed peak brightness of 3,500 Lumens, though, is anything but standard, and should be enough to deliver either explosively potent images in a dark room, or still enjoyable images in a fairly bright room. Both handy options fora gaming-oriented projector.

The brightness helps it claim coverage of up to 95 per cent of the REC.709 colour palette, and should provide a healthy foundation for the TH685's unexpected support for the HDR10 HDR format.

Resolution is, as mentioned earlier, limited to Full HD. So while the projector is able to accept 4K feeds through its two HDMI ports, 4K is downscaled to 1080p for playback. There's no pseudo 4K 'double flashing' or pixel shifting going on here.

It will also play 3D sources if you've still got any, but a lack of compatible glasses meant we weren't able to try the 3D playback out for this review.

That's Dedication
Crucially for any projector leading on its gaming chops, BenQ's TH685 takes only 16ms in its dedicated Game picture mode to render 50/60Hz images, and just 8.3ms to render 120Hz sources. This is an excellent result that means you really can't blame the projector at all for your gaming fails.


The offset lens features a 1.3x zoom for a 1.127-1.46:1 throw

There's also a Game sound preset that has been designed to give more emphasis to subtle details, making them clearer and spotlighting their location in the soundstage. Its potential is undoubtedly hamstrung a bit by the projector only carrying a mono 5W speaker system, but nonetheless this beamer actually sounds much better than expected, throwing its audio a good distance clear of its enclosure, keeping dialogue clear and convincing, and delivering on the promise of lots of subtle audio detailing.

More bass and volume would have been great and most gamers will surely prefer a good set of headphones, while most movie fans will surely prefer a decent soundbar. As integrated, convenient projector sound systems go, though, it's really not bad.

Bright Star
The story is more mixed when it comes to the TH685's picture performance. Kicking off with the upsides, the 3,500 Lumens of claimed brightness doesn't feel exaggerated in the slightest. Images enjoy a spectacular level of lustre and impact for such an affordable model. This BenQ does unexpectedly fulsome justice to the increasingly bold use of HDR in many of today's video games.