BenQ Joybee GP1 projector review

3.5 out of 5
£499

For

On-board speaker, simple to focus and set-up

Against

File support through USB is a little hit and miss, you'll need extra cables

It is no surprise that BenQ have added a mini projector to their portfolio, joining the likes of LG and Acer in offering a projector that is small enough to slip into a bag, ideal for ad-hoc use or business trips.

Measuring 54 x 136 x 120mm and weighing only 640g before adding in the weight of the power pack or cables, it is certainly portable. Finished in a neat black and white livery it looks and feels like a good quality projector. To help keep your GP1 protected it comes with a padded case, a practical and welcome addition.

The powerpack is a regular 19V supply, the same sort that many notebooks might use, so as with the Acer K10, it would be simple enough to power this with your notebook (assuming you check compatibility in advance) or a universal powerpack.

In terms of connections the GP1 shuns the normal VGA offering. Instead you are presented with a bespoke connection and a supplied cable which offers you VGA and Composite connections. This cable is rather short, so if you intend to use the VGA connection, you'll likely have to pack an additional cable, unless you plan to place a notebook right next to the projector.

The Composite connection jacks will need an addition lead to connect them up too and adds a range of possibilities because you can hook up anything with a Composite video output. Stereo audio inputs are also provided, so it will accommodate pretty much any video source with sound, something that VGA alone won't do. As an optional extra you can buy an iPod dock, allowing playback from your iPod touch or iPhone.

Although there is a stereo input, there is only an onboard mono 2W speaker, but you do get a 3.5mm audio jack, so you could plug-in headphones or external speakers if you wish to increase the audio performance. That said, the provision of a speaker increases the range of possibilities available.

Besides this connection you also have a USB input. This USB connection allows you to attach a USB drive or digital camera directly to the projector, meaning you don't need a notebook for operation. File support is somewhat limited, but ArcSoft Media Convertor 3.0 is supplied to convert your video files to an appropriate format.

Plug in a USB drive and the GP1 detects it and presents a menu broken down into Photo, Movie and Settings. Flipping through into Photos will bring up the JPEG, GIF, BMP, TIFF files available to display, and Movie will also display those video files it can read, which BenQ tell us is MPEG1 and MJPEG.

However, other sites list a range of formats supported and report successes with playback. We found that AVI was the only format we had success with, including audio. With differing reactions being reported across the Internet, it looks like a case of seeing what works for you and converting where necessary.

The lens is adequately recessed in the housing meaning it will be spared scratches and smears with a large manual focusing control on the top, which is better than some we have seen, being quick and easy to pull into focus.

A useful horizontal auto keystone correction makes it easy to set the GP1 at an angle to give you plenty of height off the end of a table or tripod and keep the image square. A standard tripod screw mount is located on the bottom, along with a front foot that allows limited adjustment.

As with other mini projectors you are only looking at 100ANSI lumens in the GP1, so don't expect it to replace a dedicated home entertainment model. However, it is an LED DLP projector and the results are pretty good given the size of device.

There are various colour modes as well as an effective wall colour corrector, with some modes looking over-saturated, but adding a colour boost where some shades would simply be lost. Contrast is given as 2000:1 and we found that at times definition would get lost, especially when playing back darker video content. As this possibly isn't the primary purpose of the projector it might not matter as presentations and text come across clearly enough.

In a bright room the image is quickly lost, but we found that it was acceptable for presentations in dim rooms without having to resort to blinds. However, if you want to partner the GP1 with a DVD player or perhaps a Wii console to keep the kids entertained, then you are better off with the curtains closed.

Although the maximum image size is given as 80-inches (with a 3m throw), we found the best results were achieved from a distance of about 1.5m giving you an image of 40-inches diagonal. Obviously, the further back you get, the darker your room needs to be to get an image that is acceptable.

The native resolution of the projector is 858 x 600px and it will support higher resolutions scaled down, but you'll find the best results come from sticking as close as possible to the native resolution with your input; 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios are supported.

Control via the touch-sensitive (ish) buttons on the top is simple enough, partnered with clear on-screen menus. A positive press is met with an audible click, although we did find that sometimes it can be a little slow to respond. We like the fact that shutdown is only a double press of the power button and you are good to go.

The fan can be a little noisy, officially churning out 28dB, but given the unit's size it shouldn't be too much of a compromise to bear.

A small remote control is provided which is a little cheap in look and feel compared to the projector itself, but allows control without having to touch the projector. Set-up also allows rear and ceiling mounting, or both.

Verdict

Mini projectors aren't designed to replace or even compete with their larger brethren. But they do offer unrivalled portability, meaning you can easily slip one into a briefcase or overnight bag. The cost too is appealing, although those who want better performance for domestic use on a budget can get much more from a conventional model, especially for gaming or video playback.

As a business expense the GP1 is relatively affordable, but in the home we'd still prefer to go for some of the high-spec entry level projectors at a similar cost. Although we like the USB connection and the potential to go "PC free", format support is not nearly clear enough for our liking.