BenQ's PC-less, lamp-less portable projector reviewed

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The Benq Joybee GP1: a PC-less, lampless-less portable projector

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For those who just can't wait for the convenience of a projector built into their phone, the BenQ Joybee GP1 may be the answer to your portable projection prayers. Small enough to fit neatly in a suitcase (or hand bag), the GP1 can project from a range of portable devices, including iPhones and USB thumb drives. The GP1 has a sleek and modern design, and feels sturdy and light enough to be carried around all day - making it perfect for the modern mobile office, which often excludes a PC.

Pros

One of the features that makes the GP1 stand out is its USB input, which allows you to display photos and videos off a range of portable devices, including USB thumb drives and portable hard drives. This means you don't have to lug a PC around with you to use the GP1. Supported video formats include MPEG4, MJPEG, XviD and 3ivX.

There are also D-Sub and Composite inputs, allowing you to connect the GP1 to a PC, DVD player or gaming console. A detachable iPod/iPhone docking station is also available, but unfortunately must be purchased separately.

A 2W speaker is built into the unit, which is great for a quick presentation. There's also a PC audio output if you want to hook it up to some external speakers for better quality sound (i.e. if watching a movie).

Another great feature of the GP1 is its instant start up time. And no need to stress if you discover that the wall you are projecting onto is not white - the GP1 has color correction for 5 different wall colors (light yellow, light green, blackboard, blue). Also, the tile adjustment foot and auto keystone allow the GP1 to project symmetrical images, regardless of whether you're putting it down low on a coffee table or up on top of a shelf.

BenQ claims that the GP1 projects at 120% of NTSC (your average projector may only project at 55% to 80% of NTSC). This means that the GP1 will deliver bolder and more deeply saturated colors, making GP1 a good choice for photographers, artists, or anyone else who requires a broad color gamut.

The GP1 uses LEDs as a light source (instead of a traditional bulb) giving it over 20,000 hours of lighting life. BenQ claims that the Joybee draws 30% less power than competitor models, and uses less than 1W when in standby mode - making it an energy efficient choice.

The GP1 can project an image of up to 15-80 inches (at 4:3 - 16:9 is also available), which is great for projector of its size.

Cons

The main drawback that I found with the GP1 was its lack of support for different audio codecs. After playing a range of files off a thumb drive, I found that the video loaded fine, but most audio codecs weren't recognized. This is a real shame considering that one of the best features of the GP1 is its capability to play files via USB. Of course, this is not an issue when using the D-sub or composite ports.

I asked BenQ if a firmware upgrade with better audio support would become available, and was told that although no date had been set, the development team is working on resolving the issue. In the meantime all units will be shipped with a video/audio converter included.

While the USB input is built into the GP1, a separate cable is required for the composite and D-sub inputs. The need for a separate cable is unfortunate and adds a bit of bulk, but I guess this is the price that you pay for the convenience of such a small piece of technology. The power supply is also rather heavy/bulky, and would probably take up as much room in your bag as the GP1 itself.

Alone, the GP1 weighs 1.4lbs, yet with the power and input cables it weighs in at nearly 3lbs. The GP1 itself is a similar size and weight to a stack of 5 CD cases - 5.35 by 2.12 by 4.72 inches.

BenQ refers to the GP1 as a pocket sized projector, and while it is small and light enough to fit effortlessly into a a small briefcase or hand bag, you would need to be wearing exceptionally large trousers for it to fit into your pocket.

The verdict

Overall, the GP1 is a good quality, solid little projector. It offers a range of applications - being a great companion for today's modern contractor or business person who wants to do impressive presentations on the move. It could also be a great way to show off your latest home videos and photos at the next family function. I'm looking forward to seeing a firmware upgrade that allows it to handle more diverse range of audio codecs.

The Joybee GP1 Mini Projector is available in the US, the UK and Germany, and is expected to launch in Australia soon. It retails in the US for $499 MSRP.

BenQ has setup a competition where anyone can enter a short and fun story (doesn't have to be GP1 related), with a YouTube link or image to win a free GP1 plus cash awards.

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