BenQ was nice enough to give me a look at their brand new TH671ST. Here is my review.
Lately, I've been seeing quite a few threads about short throw projectors. And why not? For a lot of people, a short throw model answers their biggest concern about getting a projector. Namely, where do you put it? Like most projectors, the TH671ST will easily mount to a ceiling. But this BenQ is just as happy to sit on a coffee table and, good news, you won't have to compromise on picture size! With it's short throw lens the TH671ST is capable of filling a 100" screen from as close as 5 feet away. Further more, with an excellent picture and an ultra low input lag of just 16.67ms BenQ's latest is the perfect companion to a video game console or PC. Let's take a closer look.
Basics and Setup
The BenQ TH671ST is a high brightness, short throw, 1080p home theater / gaming projector. It features a 3000 ANSI lumen rating, a 1.2x zoom lens, the aforementioned 16.67ms input response time and Full 3D support. Like the last couple BenQ models I've reviewed, the TH671ST has an impressive 10,000 hour lamp service life in Smart Eco lamp mode. The projector is compact at just 11.65 x 4.72 x 8.82 inches and has a handsome white chassis with a textured top surface that resists finger prints. For connectivity the projector is equipped with two HDMI ports (one with MHL), a VGA input, two USBs, a pair of 3.5mm audio in/outs and an RS-232 port. Inside the box you'll find an instruction manual CD, a quick start guide, a 6ft power cable, a VGA cable, a remote and a snap on lens cap.
Being a short throw projector, the TH671ST is intended to be placed closer to the screen than a conventional projector. For my setup I placed the projector on a coffee table and was up and running in minutes. One thing to note is the TH671ST, like many projectors in it's price range, lacks any sort of lens shift so if you're planning on targeting a fixed screen you'll want to use extra care when mounting your projector and/or screen to make sure everything lines up. The projector does feature vertical keystone but I recommend this only as a last resort as using it will decrease resolution.
BenQ has built a reputation for having very good picture quality out-of-the-box and I was impressed with the performance here. Starting with the TH671ST in it's default 'Cinema' picture preset I needed only to turn off Brilliant color and make a couple small adjustments to brightness and contrast to get an absolutely spot on image. Color accuracy is excellent here with contrast performance that lends images plenty of pop. Of course, this is a projector that is designed to be used with the lights on as well and the performance here didn't disappoint. I found the 'Sport' preset to offer the best balance of accuracy and lumen punch and even with plenty of ambient light the colors on screen remained vibrant and saturated. Bottom line: this is a projector that can be used for both lights on and lights off viewing without having to compromise.
Lens quality is a stand out here. The TH671ST uses the same all-glass optics as the more expensive HT2150ST and it shows. Projecting onto a 100" 16:9 screen the projector retains focus from edge to edge and exhibited no signs of chromatic aberration. If I'm being completely honest here the lens performance exceeds that of my own HT2050-- a model that get's a lot of press for the quality of it's optics and an indication that BenQ continues to push the envelop of what you can expect from such an affordable projector. With 4k being all the rage these days it's easy to forget just how razor sharp 1080p can look on a quality projector.
One thing I should mention is all my viewing was done with the TH671ST's lamp set to SmartEco. This setting not only maximizes lamp life it enhances contrast by dynamically adjusting lamp power to fit the scene. I recommend the use of SmartEco but the effect isn't invisible and there were a few times I was able to detect the lamp adjusting it's brightness. While I would stop short of saying I found this artifact distracting it was noticeable which is somewhat a change of pace from prior BenQ models I have reviewed which seemed to do a better job of hiding their lamp operation.
With a scant 16.67 milliseconds of input lag combined with DLP's inherently excellent motion handing and immunity to blur: gaming on the TH671ST is a joy. Whether I was shotgunning demons in the face in Doom 2016 or stomping koopas in Super Mario World, every controller input felt satisfyingly responsive. I cannot overstate how important low input latency is to a quality gaming display. While some people will tell you that low input lag is only a benefit to 'pro gamers' I'm here to tell you that removing any delay between your controller input and the corresponding action on screen is something gamers of all skill levels can appreciate. While I can't say that my scores in TitanFall 2 improved over those on my 33ms HT2050 I will say the extra responsiveness did make wall running and aiming down sights feel oh-so much more buttery smooth.
While BenQ gives you a custom 'game' picture preset you don't need to use it to gain access to the 17ms input lag. The 'Game' preset is purposefully calibrated with a lower gamma and enhanced sharpness.While I can see the benefit having exaggerated shadow detail and a super sharp picture would have to competitive play I prefer a more natural looking image for today's triple A games. Luckily, any picture preset can be made a 'game mode' by simply turning on Fast Mode under the Advanced Picture menu. I was told that Fast mode disables unnecessary picture processing at the DMD chip to insure the fastest response. The great news here is by giving us access to this setting you can have the excellent color accuracy of cinema or the balanced look of sport without having to sacrifice input lag. Bravo BenQ!
One quick note about Rainbow Effect. The TH671ST uses an RGBCYM color wheel (which helps it to achieve it's 3000 ANSI lumen rating). As such it is not as impervious to RBE as an equivalent RGBRGB model like BenQ's own HT2150ST. Personally, I did not find RBE to be an issue at all during my time with the TH671ST. While it was possible to induce the artifact-- such as quickly turning away from the screen or viewing the screen from my periphery over a laptop or phone-- it wasn't something I noticed during normal viewing/gameplay.
A look at some features that didn't fit above
While a screen is always recommended the wall color setting can be useful if you happen to find yourself projecting on to a bare wall. The wall color setting will adjust the image to compensate for whatever painted surface you might be projecting onto. There are 4 color correction settings: yellow, green, blue and pink (!). I actually tested this feature on our seafoam bedroom wall and the result was surprisingly good. Considering the TH671ST's small size and how easy it is to setup I could see this as being a real advantage for someone who might want to move the projector from room to room or even house to house.
BenQ is actually debuting a new feature on this model: LumiExpert. LumiExpert is a sort of set-and-forget mode that has the projector adjust the image based on the amount of ambient light in the room (using a light sensor atop the unit). This is distinct from SmartEco which adjusts lamp power based on the content of the scene being displayed. I expected this was going to be strictly a lamp function but quickly realized that there was much more at play here. After reaching out to BenQ I was able to confirm that the LumiExpert feature is actually making real time adjustments to gamma, saturation, hue, etc based on the sensor's reading of the environment. As you might expect, I left this feature off for the majority of my testing. That being said, I don't think this feature is without merit. For those using the TH671ST as their main display this might be a useful feature for family members who might not be comfortable changing picture presets just because they choose to watch with the lights on or off. You could simply leave the projector in whatever picture mode you want and let LumiExpert adjust the display as needed. I did test the function by changing the light levels in my room and found it did do a commendable job of presenting a watchable image.
I really enjoyed my time with the TH671ST. The short throw lens makes setup a breeze and the gaming performance is the best I've experienced in a projector at this price point. Of course, the TH671ST has plenty of muscle to drive large screens in even less than ideal ambient light environments but you might be surprised at just how competent this unit is in a completely dark room as well. Overall, this is a compelling little projector and one that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to anyone looking for a versatile, high quality, short throw solution.