BenQ TK700STi Reviewed at $1,299.00
Product Name: BenQ TK700STi
Product Description: 4K DLP Projector
Design - 9/10
Video Quality - 9/10
Ports & Connectivity - 8.5/10
OS, Apps and Features - 8.8/10
Price / Quality - 9.3/10
Reviewed at $1,299.00
- Extremely sharp 4K images
- Low input lag even at 4K output
- Good brightness
- Android TV
- Mediocre black levels
- No wide color gamut
- No lens shifting and limited zoom
- Noise higher than optimal
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With the arrival of 4K, game projectors were scarce and while TV manufacturers were pushing the gaming capabilities of the new TV releases more and more every year, projectors felt like they were left in the past. We have a feeling that this starts to change as more and more gaming projectors appear and manufacturers seem to focus more in offering better gaming experiences than before. As such in our BenQ TK700STi review we will be looking at such a gaming projector that promises to offer an amazing 4K gaming experience at an incredibly low cost.
This is not the first gaming projector we are reviewing but until recently there was a problem. There were almost no projectors that could display 4K resolution with an input lag low enough to be considered good for serious gaming. This was only achieved by cutting the resolution to 1080p levels. We recently reviewed the Optoma UHD35 which promised similar features with incredibly low input lag and the TK700STi we have here today seems to take things even further.
But let’s see quickly what BenQ is offering here. The TK700STi is a 4K pixel shifting projector that comes with the usual DLP technology that is optimized better for gaming but can also be used for movies. It can display 4K@60Hz or can go as high as 1080p@240Hz but we will talk about all this in more detail down the article. What differentiate the TK700STi from the Optoma UHD35 is its smart functionality that features Android TV along with many smart features like voice control and online streaming making it a more all around solution.
The BenQ TK700STi comes with a price tag of $1,300 which is exactly the same as the Optoma UHD35 so it starts to become clear the price category these 4K pixel shifting gaming projectors are aiming at. Does the BenQ manages to surpass the competition? Keep reading to find out…
Everything about the TK700TSi design is about portability. This is one of the most compact 4K gaming projectors and BenQ made sure to include everything such a feature requires.
As far as its size the TK700TSi measures 12.2 x 4.3 x 9.6 (312 x110 x246 mm) and weights just 6.83 lbs (3.1 kg) making it easy to carry around to a friend’s house. Not that it cannot be used in a dedicated room but it was made in such a way to meet other needs.
The projector comes with a two color combination, white at the top and bottom and grey front face breaking the otherwise monotonous looks of many other competing brands. The outer shell is all plastic but BenQ has made the top with a nice texture that makes it more interesting than having a gloss surface that is more of a fingerprint magnet.
The TK700STi follows the usual asymmetrical design with the lens being placed on the right side of the front face with a small square that hides the IR receiver siting just next to it.
Ventilation seems satisfactory as the whole right side, as we look the projector from the front, is being used to let cold air in while on the left front corner there is where the hot air comes out. In general a pretty standard cooling solution that keeps the projector at normal temperatures.
On the top side, exactly above the lens, we find the controls for the zoom which gives the projector a 1.2x optical zoom and also lens focus. One thing to keep in mind is that the projector is missing any lens shifting so initial placement is made harder by this fact especially if you don’t have enough space to move the projector around.
At the top side we also get the built-in controls which feature a pretty standard layout. There are three LED indicators for power, temperature control and lamp condition with the power button sitting right next to it. Below we find the second IR receiver in case you want to wall mount the unit while on the right there is the usual circular navigation controls. Below that there are three buttons for back, menu and picture mode selection while on the right there is a source selection button and ECO blank in case you want to hide the screen picture.
At the back we find all the connecting ports grouped together and we will talk about them in the appropriate section below. The projector is using three, one at the front and two at the rear, tilt-adjustment feet in case you plan on putting it on a furniture and want some easy and fast placement calibration.
As for the lens that is being used, the TK700STi has a throw ratio of 0.9~1.08 for a throw distance of 2.4 feet up to 19.6 feet essentially making this a short throw projector. In terms of size the unit can project a 30″ ~ 300″ diagonal image but keep in mind that there are certain limitations. As we already mentioned the projector is missing any lens shifting and if you combine that with the relatively small 1.2x zoom then placing it correctly can be a real challenge.
BenQ has added a few features that can help with that and the most obvious is keystone correction. But we would advise against that unless absolutely necessary as keystone correction will surely downgrade the resulting image and also adds latency which any gamer would like to avoid. Also keep in mind that keystone cannot work with Game mode in case you were planning to use these two at the same time.
There is also picture rotation although we fail to see who would use this instead of balancing the adjusting feet correctly unless the surface you want to place it on is far too steep which you shouldn’t try placing it on the first place.
The projector is rated by BenQ at 34 dB normal mode and 28 dB in Eco mode but what we measured was higher than this. In normal mode we measured 39.6 dB and in Eco mode 37 dB. Noise usually comes from two sources in these 4K pixel shifting projectors. The cooling solution and the 4K pixel shifting technology. That’s why usually these projectors are slightly louder than native 4K ones.
In terms of real usage the TK700STi was indeed audible from a distance of 5 feet. During heavy action scenes or with loud gaming effects that noise was covered completely but when there were more silent or dialogue driven moments a humming can be very noticeable. Now how bothering this is, it’s completely a personal thing. In our case we cannot say that we would go crazy over it but we would definitely like it to be more silent.
In terms of lamp life we get the usual numbers as the 240 watts lamp can last up to 4,000 hours in normal mode or 10,000 hours in Eco mode. There is also a SmartEco mode that lasts 8,000 hours and LampSave mode that last even more up to 15,000 hours and these two modes dynamically adjust lamp brightness depending what is on screen in order to achieve such high numbers.
As for the remote that is included with this one we like what BenQ did as it has the design and feel of a smart device. Its white color along with its rounded sides does make it feel more futuristic while BenQ has limited the number of buttons included making it feel less cluttered.
The most prominent is the navigation controls in the center with certain functions buttons above and below that. There is also a Google Assistant button in order to use the projector’s voice control functionality. Keep in mind that while the remote is IR based for its commands, in order to use the voice control functionality you have to pair it to the projector through Bluetooth.
Overall it’s a pretty nice remote and exactly how a smart device remote should be. Easy to handle with few buttons to avoid clutter and nice looking.
In terms of the technology that powers the TK700STi these low cost 4K projectors share the same kind of technology in order to present an image that can rival a real 4K resolution projector. Under the hood, once again, we find a single 0.47″ 4K UHD DMD DLP chip from Texas Instruments that is responsible for displacing a full HD 1080p image in four different positions at very high speeds in order to produce the full 4K image that is very close in clarity and quality to a native 4K image.
For those that don’t know what pixel shifting is, it was created by manufacturers in order to bring down the cost of 4K projectors by offering similar quality at sub-$2,000 levels. Nowadays we have 4K pixel shifters that are even close to the $1,000 limit so compared to a $5,000 native 4K projector the price difference is huge.
These pixel shifting projectors are usually distinguished in two different categories depending the type of pixel shifting technology used. There are projectors that shift the image only in two positions and these use slightly larger chips and are a bit more expensive while those that use the 1920 x 1080 x 4 technology tend to be cheaper without any meaningful loss of quality.
In general if you are considering a 4K projector but you are unsure about going for a pixel shifting unit we would say that its main strength is offering very close quality to a native 4K model but at a fraction of the cost. So if you are worried about your budget, a pixel shifter is ideal and you get a lot of value for money. As such the TK700STi indeed can render images so crisp and full of details that with bare eyes it’s hard to understand that what you see is not in reality a real 4K resolution image.
If there is one weakness these type of projectors have is that due to the high speed of the shifting technology noise is always higher than native 4K projectors so it’s always advisable to make a test hearing by yourself to determine if it bothers you or not.
4K UHD / HDR Content
A film that we tend to try out in our projector reviews is Aquaman in 4K UHD as it is a rather colorful and bright film and offer many opportunities for each projector to show its strengths, or weaknesses if you like. First of all lets get the obvious out of the way. Because there are many that will say that a pixel shifting projector is not a true 4K one what we can tell you is that if a number is all that matters then yes, the TK700STi is not a 4K one.
But looking at the image at hand we challenge anyone to spot any meaningful differences in image clarity, sharpness and detail between this projector and a native 4K one. And this is a characteristic of not only the Tk700STi but for many low cost pixel shifting ones. Yes, this is not native 4K but in the end does it really matters when it is so hard to understand the difference with naked eye? We believe not and this is why these affordable 4K pixel shifters have become so popular compared to native 4K ones. The combination of low price with excellent image detail is unbeatable.
But it is not only image clarity that will impress you. Color performance was great even if the projector cannot push past the Rec.709 color space. Skin tones looked very close to natural while we didn’t notice any obvious banding. Highlights were impressive enough even if not on the same level as some top LED LCD TVs.
The obvious weak point here was the black levels and how bad this will look also depend on the room light conditions. In a completely dark room blacks will look washed out and even if you are not bothered very much with black performance its inability to go darker will be more than obvious. The more light your room has the more it will mask this problem. It is not something that can be completely go away but things definitely look much better with some ambient light present in the room.
In terms of contrast ratio BenQ is rating the TK700STi at 10,000:1 which is not all that surprising when we are talking for a DLP projector of this price category. When you are a gamer you will pay more attention to a projector that can provide you a low latency/fast response experience rather than the best contrast/black levels that ultimately you will not get at this price.
When you are watching HDR content the projector will switch to the appropriate HDR display mode and from there you can decide which HDR picture mode you like the most. BenQ offers two different modes with HDR10 and HDR Game the ones available. If HDR Game is selected then the Game settings unlock from which you can select between FPS, RPG and SPG depending the kind of game you are playing.
Talking about HDR projectors things are more or less standard across the board. As such we get the HDR10 which is the basis for 4K UHD playback along with HLG which is used for live broadcasting. No Dolby Vision or HDR10+ here but with most projectors having limited brightness capabilities there is not much to be missed by these two.
Full HD / SDR / 3D Content
Obviously it’s not all about 4K content so we also tried some 1080p material and as we always do we used our Blu-ray copy of Oblivion for this test. In terms of overall details and image rendering the 1080p image still retains a lot of information even with the reduction in resolution. Texture surfaces, cloth composition and skin imperfections are still very much visible retaining all their characteristics to a very pleasing degree.
Colors were great even if you are not planning in diving deeper into the projector’s color calibration settings, although it would be wise to do so as the unit can go the extra mile and provide even more accurate shades than what it can out of the box. We didn’t see any banding during our testing while once again the obvious letdown was its mediocre contrast and less than stellar black levels.
There is no magic sauce here really and the TK700STi display all the same problems as many other low cost 4K DLP projectors in the past. It has its strengths and weaknesses but seeing the overall picture, the unit is a real capable one in this price and if you have your expectations at check it will certainly surprise you in a pleasant way.
3D is very much dead in the TV market but has found a home in the projector market where it remains very much alive and get a lot of support from manufacturers. The TK700STi is capable of recognizing a 3D signal and switch to the appropriate 3D mode automatically. Keep in mind that when viewing 3D content brightness always takes a hit due to the nature of the image but the projector has enough brightness to compensate for that. So if you are still fond of your 3D collection rest assured that the TK700STi will do just fine here.
But there is a catch here. The projector should probably be advertised as 3D ready as it cannot do 3D out of the box. Instead you will have to send it to BenQ for an update in order for this to work which will surely add a lot of frustration for those still interested in this feature.
Let’s see next how the TK700STi performs with colors. The projector comes with a 8-segment color wheel which means it uses two sets of red, green, blue, and white segments. BenQ has rated the unit at being able to cover 96% of the Rec.709 color space which practically means this is not a wide color gamut projector. Does this make a big difference? Well, we wouldn’t exactly say that as you will not going to be able to tell the difference by just looking at the projector by itself but it is a fact that should be mentioned.
And by our measurements BenQ’s claims are really close to the real numbers as we managed to measure 95.3% coverage in the Rec.709 by using the projector’s default settings.
As we usually do, we will talk in more detail about the available color modes in our next section of the review but in terms of color performance and accuracy we would suggest you to use the Cinema mode as this gave us the best results in terms of brightness output, contrast, color gradients and realistic color volume without the need for any calibration making it the best out of the box option to choose from the available ones.
The Cinema mode can still be tweaked for the better but even without any adjustments it can be good enough for those that don’t want to mess with image calibration settings. But while using the Cinema mode was a no brainer as it tends to be the most accurate one in these low cost projectors what surprised us was that the Bright mode was good enough also.
You see, in most 4K projectors of this category the Bright mode may be the brightest but also has a green tint and cannot be considered very accurate in terms of color reproduction. The same applies in the TK700STi but the difference is not as huge as in other competing models and in all honesty many may even find it bearable and actually usable. We still do prefer the Cinema mode but for those that look for the most brightness output the Bright mode is more forgiving than other brands.
One last thing to mention here is that as with all projectors that use color wheels there is a chance that you will be prone to see a rainbow effect which can be bothering to some. Not all people can see it and in our case we didn’t see it but some small percentage do see it and can be really bothering so make sure you are not prone to this or at least make sure you make a test run before purchasing in order to determine if it is a problem in your case or not.
Brightness / Picture Settings
Next is our brightness test and according to BenQ the TK700STi is rated at 3,000 ANSI lumens. Keep in mind that there are many factors that can affect brightness on a projector, with different lamp hours for example, so the numbers we provide are only for giving you a general idea of the projector’s capabilities and yours may differ in the end.
When watching SDR content the available modes include Bright, Cinema, Game, Living Room, Sports and a User defined. There are more available like 3D, HDR10, HDR Game and HLG but these are enabled automatically when the appropriate signal is used.
As always we use the widest angle along with Bright mode in order to get the maximum brightness and in this case we got 2,617 lumens which is good but still a bit far from the 3,000 lumens rating that BenQ claims.
We already mentioned above that the Bright mode may not be the most accurate but is still more acceptable than what we had seen in other projectors. Cinema, Game and Sports modes came extremely close to each other with Cinema coming in second with 1,682 lumens while Game and Sports at third place with 1680 lumens.
For SDR content we would still suggest you to use the Cinema mode which is the most accurate one but if you will use the projector in an extremely bright room then the Bright mode can still be considered a good and accurate one even if not as good as the Cinema mode. For HDR content as we mentioned above you cannot choose as the projector will switch to HDR mode as soon as it recognizes the appropriate signal.
Lastly the projector also uses BenQ’s LumiExpert feature, which adapts the picture brightness to the ambient light conditions of the room. This can be a useful one in case you are using the projector in different light conditions in day and night and you don’t want to change the picture settings every time to the corresponding light conditions.
Black Levels / Contrast
If there is one common characteristic among all these low cost 4K DLP projectors then this would definitely be their mediocre black levels. If you came here reading about the TK700STi and expect some short of miracle in this part then you will be greatly disappointed as the unit performs more or less as all other similar technology projectors in this price range.
Blacks are definitely not good looking more greyish that real blacks and this problem can be more evident the less ambient light there is in the room. That’s why the TK700STi may not be the most ideal projector for a dedicated home theater with low light conditions or for a completely dark room. On the other hand the more light in the room, the more this will help mask this weakness.
Keep in mind that we are talking about a gaming projector and BenQ never marketed the TK700STi as a unit for the dedicated home theater so you cannot blame BenQ for this. Also the projector is missing a dynamic iris that could potentially help here so the problem becomes even more apparent. Obviously the problem is more evident in certain scenes like when displaying space scenes where the grey-ish blacks are very noticeable and can be very distracting. On the other hand with colorful and bright lit scenes you are not going to pay so much attention to this.
No surprises to be honest here. These cheap 4K DLP pixel shifting projectors always had problems with deep black levels and the TK700STi follows the same pattern. Don’t expect to get much deeper blacks in this price unfortunately and it’s something all projectors of this class have as a characteristic with small differences from each other. If you really want better blacks you will have to go much higher in price, there is no other way around it.
Into our input lag tests now and this obviously is one of the most interesting parts of our analysis as the TK700STi is being marketed as a gaming projector with incredibly low input lag numbers. Does the numbers that BenQ provide hold any truth? They indeed do and it seems that we start to see more and more options in the projector market that can claim numbers close to what we see in smart TVs the last few years.
BenQ has actually provided real numbers regarding its input lag and from what they have publicly released they claim that the projector can go as low as 4ms in 1080p@240Hz with Game mode enabled. The highest number seems to be at 4K@30Hz with a still respectable 33ms.
Now as far as our measurements we were able to get an input lag of 16.8ms at 1080p@60Hz which is almost the same as what BenQ claims. In 4K resolution at 60Hz input lag was also similar at 16.8ms which is amazing for a lag free experience.
One thing to note here is that the TK700STi actually outputs a 4K image with these numbers. The reason why we mention this is because some projectors we had seen in the past, in order to be able to achieve so low input lag numbers, would switch off the pixel shifting tech and actually output in 1080p resolution even if the incoming signal was in 4K. At least BenQ explicitly mentions that these numbers are achieved with 4K output.
The projector is missing any kind of VRR technology but this was to be expected. There is also no 4K@120 output or anything above that. All these omissions have to do with the fact that the TK700STi is missing HDMI 2.1 ports as the available HDMI 2.0b cannot supports such high bandwidth signals.
As in all our reviews, we connected our PS5 to the projector and used our copy of F1 2021 for a few laps. For this test we tried out both fidelity and performance modes which gave us 4K@60Hz and 1080p@120Hz signal respectively. To be honest in both modes we couldn’t detect any sluggish behavior or slow response and all our commands would immediately register. Overall we could not be more happy with how the unit performed and is indeed a great projector for gaming use.
It is a common thing among projector manufacturers to promote these units with this 240Hz number. It seems that they think it looks cool to slap high numbers like these in order to attract more attention. But when it comes to gaming these high refresh rates can only be achieved in certain conditions.
First of all this high refresh rate can only be used with PCs as no gaming console can support such a high number. The PS4 and Xbox One X have certain limitations due to the HDMI 2.0 ports they use. As such the PS4 can do 1080p@60Hz while the Xbox One X can go as high as 1080p@120Hz. The new PS5 and Xbox Series X can go as high as 4K@120Hz which is cool but there is a problem. As we just mentioned above the TK700STi can go as high as 4K@60Hz as it misses HDMI 2.1 that could potentially allow it for higher refresh rates in 4K resolution.
But it’s not all about gaming as the projector is very good with movies motion also. Keep in mind that the projector does not support 24Hz (24p) content natively and uses 3:2 pulldown which may result in some people noticing some judder. It is not so much to be consider bothering but it is definitely there and some purists will surely notice it.
Overall motion handling on the TK700STi was great and most of the content we tried on it looked crisp, full of details and no information missing even with most fast action oriented scenes. Yes, the projector is focusing mostly on its gaming virtues but this doesn’t mean it is not strong with movies playback.
Ports & Connectivity
The TK700STi seems to come with a very basic port layout which is unusual even by BenQ standards. We tend to find more ports available even in these cheap offerings but for some reason BenQ decide to exclude many of them here.
What we actually get is a couple of HDMI ports, an RS-232, an audio output mini-jack and a USB. That’s all! Both HDMI ports are HDMI 2.0b/HDCP2.2 which means they can support up to 4K@60Hz signals or 1080p@240Hz. One of the HDMI ports also supports ARC which means you can pass audio to an external audio device if needed. As for the USB port this is a USB 2.0 but is used only for power delivery and not for connecting external storage.
One last thing to mention here is that we also find the QS01 HDMI Media Streaming port which includes another HDMI port in combination with a USB power port. These two are used exclusively for the QS01 HDMI Media Streaming which is an Android TV dongle that enables all projector’s smart functions. Now why this was included separately and BenQ didn’t intergrade this into the projector itself is unknown and obviously it’s a strange design decision.
There are some clear omissions in the TK700STi like no trigger ports which can be said to be the most obvious one. For a projector it’s not clear why such a handy port is not included but we guess that was decided due to the portable nature of the projector itself. But having one available would be such a convenience and would greatly up the value of the unit.
Also there are no HDMI 2.1 ports which results in the projector not being capable or receiving anything above 4K@60Hz. With the latest consoles now supporting 4K@120Hz it is about time we see manufacturers release projectors which are HDMI 2.1 equipped.
As for wireless connectivity the projector comes with built-in WiFi that supports 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4G/5G) and Bluetooth 4.2.
OS, Apps and Features
The projector comes with Android TV essentially making it a smart projector with many functions we find in today’s smart TVs. If you have used the Android TV user interface in the past then you will feel right at home as there is no difference here. All this is due to the inclusion of the QS01 Certified Android TV Dongle which you connect at the back of the unit and allows the projector to gain all its smart functions.
Now keep in mind that you actually have two menus. The one can be accessed by pressing the projector menu on the remote and the appearing menu is the usual you see in any projector and allows to change all settings like colors, image adjustments and picture modes among others.
The second UI is actually the Android TV UI and this can be accessed by pressing the home button on the remote. This will bring the Android TV interface which allows you to use all the available smart features and streaming services available.
Overall navigation in the Android UI felt very smooth with the TK700STi. We didn’t notice any lag or slow down during opening and closing various apps and the general feel was great and very pleasing. Now, in terms of support the TK700STi brings with it all the streaming apps you would expect from a device that has Android TV.
Big names like Youtube, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV, Vudu, Hulu and many more are all present along with many music apps like Spotify and Tidal. Unfortunately the remote comes with only two dedicated buttons with one being Amazon prime which is a usual one and the other being FamiLand Kids Channel which is an odd one. The only notable omission is Netflix but at least there are other non direct ways to display it with the projector.
There is also Chromecast support which means you can stream content from any Chromecast enabled device to the projector. And here is the solution, a temporary at least, to the missing Netflix app. You can cast Netflix from a PC using a browser or another device that does support it to the projector itself. BenQ provides detailed instructions on how to do this and at least it is a solution, even if not the best there is. Voice control is also available with Google voice search and Google Assistant which can be activated from the dedicated button in the remote.
There is also on-board audio that surely ups the TK700STi’s capabilities as a compact, portable unit. According to BenQ the projector uses treVolo and Bongiovi DPS (Digital Power Station) technology, which incorporates its patented algorithms with 120 calibration points that optimizes any audio signal in real time to add depth, clarity, definition, presence and enhanced stereo field imaging.
In reality you shouldn’t expect much from a single 5 watts audio system. It will do just fine for providing the basics in a room that doesn’t have a better audio system but it cannot offer any kind of immersion. The projector comes with five different sound modes to choose from with Cinema, Music, Game, Sports and User the ones available. There are small differences between them but don’t expect any major changes in the audio fidelity or general dynamics of its output.
The projector proved to be a very consistent Android TV device. Its navigation was smooth and app support was plenty. The missing Netflix app does hurt its overall score but all things considered the general consensus was more positive than we were hoping it to be.
BenQ is no stranger when it comes to good quality, low cost projectors. And the TK700STi seems to continue this trend. The last few years we were really missing some good 4K projectors that could combine good gaming features, input lag low enough to be considered good for serious gaming and all these at a price that can make it available to a bigger audience.
The projector has many things to offer, much more than its gaming nature may show. It can display very sharp images even if these are not native 4K, colors were great even if it does not support wide color gamut, motion performance was more than satisfactory and its gaming features which incudes some crazy low input lag numbers even at 4K resolution will certainly please most gamers that consider this projector for their entertainment needs. If you add the included smart TV functionality along with its Android TV interface then what we have here is an excellent all around solution.
Obviously when you slap a price tag as low as $1,300 then corners have to be cut. As with most DLP projectors of this category black levels are more grey-ish than real blacks which is typical behavior. Also the limited zoom and no lens shift makes placement harder than it should be while its noise can be considered higher than what we would like. Lastly the missing Netflix app can be considered a big omission especially when you want to call your projector a smart one.
In the end the BenQ TK700STi may mostly aim for the gaming audience but can certainly be consistent no matter its use. Yes, in dark rooms it will show its most major weaknesses but in most other cases it has a lot of virtues that up its value considerably making it an excellent low cost solution either you want it for gaming or family use.
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