BenQ GV1 Portable Projector Review
Pat Pilcher tries out movies on the move with this personal portable projector…
GV1 Portable Projector
AUD $599 RRP / NZD $679 RRP
Portable projectors are an excellent idea for anyone wanting a simple projection option without clutter, fuss and complexity. Because it is battery powered, the BenQ GV1 can easily be carried about, and getting it set up is a complete doddle. This means that it will let you continue a binge-viewing session even while slaving away over a hot BBQ. If you haven’t experienced this before, it’s quite a thing.
You’d expect any product such as this to be geared to ease of setup and use, and the GV1 scores well in this respect. Getting a dose of peeper-pleasing cinematic goodness on-the-go is as simple as connecting a smartphone, laptop or tablet. This can be done using the bundled USB C cable or going wireless. That said, your mileage will vary depending on what streaming services and hardware you’re using, of course.
The GV1 is an intriguing looking widget and not something you see every day. Fresh out of its box, I did a double-take and wondered if the folks at BenQ had actually sent me a portable speaker by mistake. Further inspection thankfully revealed that yes indeed, the GV1 really was a projector – even though it looks a lot like a Bluetooth speaker. To this end, it does have its very own miniature loudspeakers and batteries in its lower half, while its upper half houses all the projection bits.
These are separated by a gold stripe, which makes the GV1 quite a stylish looking piece of hardware. As you would expect, it’s also relatively compact, being 80mm wide, 155mm tall and 80mm deep. A generous battery also adds some heft to its weight (708g), necessary for movie-length fun, but this is still light enough to carry around without ruining your day. Designed primarily for portability, of course, this little bit of kit also comes supplied with a fabric carry bag to stop it from getting scratched up inside a laptop bag, and so on.
BenQ has smartly realised that those in a portable projection situation won’t always be in an optimal projection environment. Because of this, the company has considerately engineered a hinge into the projector’s case. This allows it to tilt by up to fifteen degrees, and this makes a massive difference to screen placement issues – which aren’t easy to resolve at the best of times. The GV1 can also be mounted onto a standard camera tripod for improved stability, another really thoughtful feature.
On its top, the GV1 has four buttons which are intuitively arranged into volume up/down controls, along with power on/off. Last but by no means least is a control to toggle between projection and speaker modes. Located on its side is the focus adjustment. Auto-keystone capabilities also make sure that projected images are correctly aligned.
On the connectivity front, BenQ has kept things as simple as possible. There are only two ports on the GV1’s rear, a power input plus a USB C socket for hooking up DisplayPort compatible smartphones, laptops and other gadgets. BenQ bundles a USB C to USB C cable, and it is also possible to connect a USB C memory card reader/USB stick; doing this allowed me to view stored photos and videos. An HDMI or even mini HDMI adaptor would have also been a useful addition for anyone wanting to hook up gaming consoles, or older and non-display port compatible gear. Given the range of widgets you might want to connect to the GV1, the lack of HDMI and dongles is a real limiting factor when it comes to connectivity options. Because of this, doing some homework before purchasing is recommended.
In use, it threw out an 854x480-pixel image (or 480p in video geek-speak). It can handle resolutions up to 1920x1080 but will downscale them to 480p. Projected images looked crisp, and colours seemed accurate too. A customised version of Android powers the GV1, and BenQ has added in the Apitode app store. This handily meant I was able to install YouTube and a bunch of other apps and could then run them natively on the GV1, reducing cable clutter. This is a genuinely handy feature.
When setting up the GV1, I found it is also a good idea to remember to unpack the bundled slim remote as it proved vital for navigating through the initial OS setup options. I say this because I discovered that that the four controls built into the top of the GV1 cannot be used to navigate system menus. While this is a curious oversight, the one thing that repeatedly annoyed me was that the remote had to be used when hooking a video source into the USB C port. You have to press the ‘OK’ button on the remote before the USB C video source is projected. Hopefully, a future firmware update will address both these issues as they strike me as being pointless irritations. The actual remote may be compact and intuitively laid out. Still, as the projector is more often than not likely to get used in dark environments, the lack of illuminated controls is an odd omission.
For Apple and Android users, getting the GV1 up and running is dead easy. Once it is powered up, connect it to the same Wi-Fi network as your phone/computer/tablet, and you can stream content using Apple AirPlay or Google Cast. If your device or streaming app doesn’t support AirPlay or Google Cast, you can plug it into the GV1 using the bundled USB C cable. That said, your gadget must support DisplayPort. Connecting my Huawei P30 Pro saw its screen mirrored and projected.
Connecting via USB C was a lottery. While my Huawei P30 worked like a charm, several other older Android phones that lacked display port compatibility refused to co-operate. This meant I had to install Google Home and cast to the GV1 (which generally worked a treat).
Hooking my SurfaceBook to the GV1 also saw it mirroring screen contents. With Google casting, I was also able to stream via a Chrome browser tab or from Amazon Prime Video just like I would cast to a smart TV. In all instances, projected content was bright (200 ANSI Lumens) and reasonably colour-accurate when the GV1 was connected to the mains. When running on its internal battery, brightness levels dipped but still delivered a viewable image. With it running on battery I found its best output happened in a dimly lit room and unsurprisingly improved significantly in darkness.
The GV1 was at its best when about a metre-and-a-half away from a screen or wall. This saw it projecting a 40” image. While it can technically project an image up to 100″, I found doing so happened at the cost of definition. Even so, this was fine for the sort of situations it’s likely to find itself being used in – it wasn’t designed for drive-in movies.
On the audio front, the GV1 comes with a 5W internal speaker. While this is ample for a quiet and smallish room, of course, it struggled outdoors. As the GV1 was able to pair up with a Bluetooth speaker, weak audio was never a problem. For night-time viewing, I was also able to pair a set of Bluetooth headphones and keep noise to a minimum. Battery life was also just shy of the three hours stated by BenQ’s bumf with typical use – just about enough for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but it will struggle with anything longer…
Overall then, the BenQ GV1 is an attractive, easy to set up, go-anywhere portable projector – one that’s ideal for those looking to boldly binge view where no home cinema has gone before. It’s likeable, well designed and decently built with sensible features and an attractive selling price. Still, some connectivity issues might put off prospective purchasers – the lack of an HDMI port and DisplayPort requirements means that you will need to your homework to ensure it plays nicely with your gear. Well worth a look, if you’re a mobile moviegoer.
For more information, visit BenQ.
Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Stuff as well as Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.