Portable projectors are a fun niche of the display giving tech we can enjoy now: able to be taken out and about for entertainment on trips and even used successfully to give work presentations in different environments. They certainly can be some of the best projectors going, and even some of the best outdoor projectors, too, given their portability.
And while the BenQ GV1 won't be replacing your best gaming TV any time soon, it’s definitely easier to lug around than a screen of similar picture size. It can be used as a Bluetooth speaker or a display, through wired or wireless connection to a wide range of devices, and it’s priced at the cheaper end of the mid-range of current projectors. As a result, it’s definitely more than a novelty purchase but not so expensive you need constant use to get your money’s worth. But what's it actually like to use?
Design & Features
The GV1 is robust for a small plastic unit and feels like it would stand up well to being thrown into a bag – crucial for a portable unit. A small carry bag is provided which will protect a little from damage in transit. The top is hinged so you can tilt it up (but not down) when placed on a low table. The auto-keystone feature quickly adapts to however you set the tilt too. The physical design is great, it’s very sleek and clean. The only physical drawback is that the zoom control is small and fiddly. Fine-tuning it to a sharp picture feels like cracking a safe.
The only wired connections are for the power lead and a USB-CTM port (a converter for standard HDMI connections is included), and a connector at the bottom for a standard tripod stand.
Performance & Practicalities
Connection to phones, tablets, and PCs is done over a wifi connection and works well with a home network. It’s certainly easier than using the interface to type search terms into YouTube. But when out and about, connecting directly to the projector requires using its built-in wifi, which will prevent your phone from being able to use its data to stream and you would have to watch a pre-downloaded video. On the plus side for the adventurous watcher, the advertised three-hour battery life for watching video is realistic, especially with the use of the power saver options.
The remote works well even when pointed at the image rather than the projector behind you, very handy for those of us who do this by instinct! Wat's less helpful is the lack of a backlight which is irksome. Using the D-pad to input a network password or to log in to Netflix is always frustrating, so it was a relief to see that the SmartControl app can be used as a control and keypad over wifi. The relief was short-lived though: the iOS app looks very old and isn’t optimised for a current screen size while the projector didn’t respond to the keyboard input. As with most devices running Android OS or modifications thereof, some iOS apps are simply not compatible, but most of these (like Netflix) can simply be downloaded to the projector itself from Apitode (although not the full Android Play Store).
The BenQ GV1 easily passes the key examination for any projector: it is bright. Even with all the lights of my living room on, the picture was not just watchable but vivid. This is seriously impressive for a pint-sized projector (literally, it’s the size of a pint glass). Running off the battery will, understandably, switch by default to a less bright setting but it’s still very watchable. The picture is clear but not flawless: you can see the grid of dots making up the picture if you place it about two metres away from the projection surface and the image is big but not huge. It doesn’t give the home cinema experience of some projectors, but that’s not what this small unit is about. It’s more for a YouTube binge or a casual TV show, and you’ll be able to get a good look at every contestant’s offering on the Great British Bake Off.
The fast action and bright colours of Fall Guys is a great test for a projector’s gaming capabilities. The image looks great although almost sickly sweet (the Vibrant-TV setting was a bit too vibrant ). But, crucially, input lag does seem to be an issue. Initially, I thought my form was worse than usual, but there’s just enough lag to be noticeable when timing is of the essence when playing games.
For a unit advertised as a usable Bluetooth speaker, the sound is clearer than many projector speakers, but it simply isn’t loud enough and even struggled to be heard over the fan of a PS4 at times. As there’s no audio output and carrying around something like the best computer speakers too rather negates the point of being a portable unit, this would be a real downfall if you’re watching with others or trying to distract noisy children with The Wiggles. If you use it as a speaker while watching on a tablet there’s notable latency, so stick to screen mirroring instead.
Overall - should you buy it?
The build quality and brightness of the BenQ GV1 are great, especially at the price and size. Physically it’s perfectly built for portability but it’s fiddly to set up in a new location and input lag stops it from being perfect for quickfire party games. Once it’s up and running there’s plenty it does very well and if you want something to casually project YouTube or Netflix this is perfect, as long as you don’t need the weak speakers to fight against other volume sources.