BenQ Joybee GP1 Ultraportable Projector
At a Glance
At 1.4 pounds (3 pounds traveling weight), the compact BenQ Joybee GP1 ($499 as of 8/7/09) is the second-smallest LED projector in the group of seven projectors (four lamp-based and three LED-based) that we tested for our recent ultraportable projectors review. It has most of the basic functions you need for making presentations, but its brightness rating of only 100 lumens makes it a better choice for very small groups than for large conference rooms.
The GP1's native resolution of 858 by 600 means you need to use a computer running at SVGA resolution to obtain the sharpest image possible when making presentations from a PC. Like the Samsung SP-P410M, this model is capable of playing slides, photos, and videos without being attached to a computer. Using its built-in media player (an integrated USB reader slot), you can supply the content on a USB flash drive or another mobile storage device. The GP1 also has a modest-sounding 2.0-watt mono speaker, but you'll probably want a more-powerful audio source when viewing DVDs and other videos.
The GP1 took sixth place in our overall ranking of the ultraportable projectors we tested for our roundup, mostly owing to its modest features, limited usability, and comparatively low performance scores. In image-quality tests the GP1 earned a rating of Good for overall performance. It took fourth place on text, fifth on graphics, and sixth on motion tests. The GP1 displayed legible lettering in most tests, but its low brightness made reading small, light-colored text on dark backgrounds more difficult. In graphics tests the GP1's lack of brightness caused it to lose details in dark areas, and in motion tests it produced similar results. Compared with projectors that had more powerful light output, the GP1 generated highlights that weren't as bright, and its details in shadows and dark areas weren't as discernible.
Like other LED projectors designed to be placed relatively close to the screen, the GP1 is simple to set up. Its fixed-focal-length lens (no optical zoom) is easy to focus, its single tilt-adjustment foot is adequate for aiming the projector at a raised screen or wall, and the unit has a tripod mount for more flexible positioning. A single multi-input cable provides connections for VGA and composite video with audio, but its short length (3 feet) means you can't place the GP1 far from a computer when using its VGA connection. BenQ also sells an accessory iPod Dock with a cable ($75 extra, not tested) if you want to hook the GP1 to an iPod or iPhone for displaying digital photos, videos, and other media.
For access to the on-screen display and image adjustments, the projector has a touch-sensitive control panel that's fairly easy to use, and it includes a convenient Mode button for choosing one of the five preset picture options ("Movie," "Photo," and so on). Alternatively you can use the card-size remote to access the on-screen display, as well as to control the media player functions (to navigate a slide show or run a video, for instance). The compact remote is not quite as easy to use as a larger remote, however. One nice feature: The on-screen display has both a simple mode and an advanced mode, so you can display just the essential options (such as brightness and contrast) or show a longer list of adjustment controls.
As with the Samsung SP-P410M, the GP1's most important feature is its built-in USB reader port, which gives it the ability to serve as a stand-alone projector and deliver PC-free presentations. In testing this feature, we found that the GP1 did a decent job in playing media from a USB flash drive. It was able to display PowerPoint slides only as still images, with no animation or special effects (such as moving text across the screen). It also played video and music files only after we used a media-conversion application (Free Time Format Factory, provided on the bundled CD-ROM) to change various media files into the limited formats that the GP1 supports. Aside from those quibbles, though, the GP1 did well at displaying presentations and other images without a computer attached.
The BenQ Joybee GP1 is a decent choice for small-group presentations with or without a PC, as long as you can control the lighting conditions and use the device in a dimly lit or darkened room. Its main competitor is the Samsung SP-P410M, which is brighter and has a longer LED lamp life--30,000 hours versus 20,000 hours--but the Samsung also costs about $250 more. For budget-minded business travelers with limited needs, the GP1 is good enough to serve as a slide-show display unit for one-on-one presentations, small sales meetings, and other modest gatherings.