- Highly portable, splash-proof, and drop-proof design
- Good light output and color accuracy for its product class
- WiFi and Bluetooth wireless built in
- Some playback limitations when streaming content apps via iOS and Android devices
- Aptoide TV interface is frustrating to use
The BenQ GS2 projector is attractive and highly portable, and offers a suprisingly accurate image with enough light output for a cozy nighttime backyard movie.
The development of LED as a projector light source over the past few years has led to some strides in portable projector performance. Projectors were either small and dim or bulky and bright-ish. Now we're seeing small 400-600 ANSI lumens projectors well under $1,000. The $599 BenQ GS2 is one of those projectors. It's an update to the GS1 that came out in 2017, but you wouldn't know it by looking at it. The cosmetic design is completely different and, in my opinion, an improvement, although the design concepts behind the two projectors are similar: small, portable, durable, and wireless.
The most important features for a portable projector are, not unexpectedly, its portability and the set- up capabilities. The cube-like GS2 is 5.7 x 5.5 x 5.5 inches (HxWxD) and weighs only 3.6 pounds. There's a built-in stand that can adjust up to fifteen degrees and has a tripod screw hole to attach a mount plate. I should note that the tripod screw hole is a bit shallow, so my standard tripod mount plate couldn't secure flush to the projector base, causing the projector to wobble a bit if touched. Both auto keystone and auto focus can be accessed through the menu or, in the case of focus, with a single button press on the remote. Both do a decent job, although I needed to fine-tune the keystone and sometimes the auto focus took two or three attempts to get the picture as good as could be. As always, it's best to set up a projector so no keystone adjustment is necessary, but with small portable projectors that's not always possible. It's good to know that the built-in adjustments can accommodate.
The BenQ GS2 has a tan rubberized exterior and is designed to withstand a light rainfall (up to 0.12 inches per minute) if you happen to be caught outside when it starts. It's also drop resistant up to 1.6 feet. Connections are kept hidden under an attached cover on the right side of the GS2 that can be easily pried open. Under the cover you'll find a slot for the included WiFi dongle that can live in the port with the door closed (it's required for wireless and Bluetooth connectivity), an HDMI 1.4a with HDCP 1.4 port, USB-C and USB 2.0 connectors, and a 3.5mm audio output jack. You can play media via the USB 2.0 port or use it to connect a keyboard or mouse. It also supplies power, so you can connect a streaming stick to the HDMI and power it with the USB 2.0 slot, which could be a viable alternative to the Aptoide TV app store (more on this below). My Roku Streaming Stick+ was a tight fit into the HDMI, as the width of the stick causes it to rub against the bottom edge of the connections bay (though short HDMI extension cables to address this situation are cheap and plentiful online). With a streaming stick connected, the cover that normally keeps the ports protected needs to stay open so they're no longer protected from water (this is, of course, true if anything beyond the wireless dongle is connected to any of the ports on the GS2).
If you want to keep that connection door closed, there's the option to share content wirelessly from mobile devices or computers on the same wireless network. On the home screen are three boxes to guide you through wireless projection setup—one for iOS, one for Android, and one for PC. While I was able to connect all three types of sources, there are limitations. Screen sharing on iOS and Android works with no issue, as does playing videos through YouTube. But playback stopped or got caught in a loading wheel when trying to use Disney+, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video. Playback through my PC worked flawlessly.
An internal battery gives up to three hours of projection under certain conditions—that is, with the light output in Battery mode, Vivid TV picture mode, audio at 50 percent and playing from the GS2 (not an external speaker), Bluetooth on but not connected to another device, and the GS2 connected to a wireless network. The power cable thoughtfully attaches to the back of the GS2 with magnets, so if someone accidentally gets caught on the cord it will come loose without toppling the projector. On the top are three LED indicators that signal when the projector is charging and provide a rough sense of battery capacity. The LEDs are also used to signal Bluetooth connectivity and a handful of error codes.
Also on the top of the projector are menu navigation controls including a power button, directional pad, OK button, menu button, back button, and home button. They occasionally required more than a single press to register a response and it also caused the projector to wobble a bit when pressed, so I stuck with the remote. All of the same buttons are on the slender and lightweight remote, in addition to volume control and a focus button that enables the auto focus feature with a short press and brings up a cursor on screen with a long press. The cursor can then be moved around with the directional pad, albeit slowly.
There are times that the cursor is of absolute necessity, though, if you plan on using the Aptoide TV apps. I wasn't able to sign in to Netflix without it, as once I advanced to the password field, the directional pad was stuck on the enter button of the keyboard. Switching to cursor mode allowed me to enter my password, but was a slow and arduous task. As we've previously reported, the apps available in the Aptoide store, which is a huge number, don't always deliver the same quality video you'd get from other platforms. In the past, the Netflix app via Aptoide has maxed out at 480p. It doesn't look like that has changed, though here it looks like 480p upconverted to 720p. And sometimes the apps just don't work at all. With Disney+, I was able to download the app, sign in to my account, and browse through the available content, but nothing would play. Restarting the app or the projector never fixed the problem.
The native resolution of the BenQ GS2 is 720p (1280x720) from the 0.3-inch DLP DMD, although it can accept signals up to 1080p. The Osram Q8A LED light engine provides 500 ANSI lumens of rated light output with a life of up to 30,000 hours in Eco mode and 20,000 hours in Normal mode (the brightest lamp setting on the GS2). BenQ lists its maximum projected image size as 100 inches diagonal, which requires the fixed-zoom projector to be placed 9 feet, 5 inches from the screen. (To determine the throw distance for your space, check out ProjectorCentral's BenQ GS2 Throw Calculator.) Beyond that size, the on-screen brightness starts to suffer and absolutely requires a dark viewing space.
Included with the BenQ GS2 is a great soft-sided canvas case with a Velcro divider that splits the interior into two spaces—one for the projector and one for accessories. The brown and tan colors of the bag stylishly match the design of the projector. The top zippers up and there's a soft handle on the top of the bag for easy carrying.
Key Features List
- 1280x720 (720p) native resolution
- Accepts and displays signals up to 1080p
- Osram Q8A LED light source
- Up to 30,000 hours in Eco (20,000 in Normal mode)
- 500 ANSI lumens
- IPX2-certified for use outdoors
- Drop resistant up to 1.6 feet
- Wireless connectivity with included dongle
- Streaming apps through Aptoide TV market
- Casting supported via iOS and Android devices
- Bluetooth speaker mode
- Battery provides up to three hours of viewing time
- Carrying bag included
Display Modes. The BenQ GS2 has seven picture modes—Bright, Vivid TV, Cinema, Sport, Camp Fire, Bed Time, and User. BenQ says of Camp Fire mode that "Being slightly brighter than Cinema mode, it is suitable for playing movies in the outdoors where there is a small amount of ambient light at night." Bed Time has "well-balanced color saturation and contrast, slightly darker than Cinema mode, this mode is designed for creating a comfortable mood similar to a warm-toned night lamp."
We would expect an inexpensive portable projector like this one to come from the factory with something less than perfect color accuracy, but a close look at the GS2 with my instruments was surprising. Using Calman calibration software from Portrait Displays, an X-rite i1 Pro 3 spectrophotometer, and a Murideo Six-G pattern generator, I was able to determine those descriptions above were pretty spot on. The Cinema mode was overall the most accurate picture mode. In the Warm color temperature setting and Normal light mode, Cinema came closest to hitting the Rec. 709 color space. Red and magenta measured a tad oversaturated, and the blue hue was a little off, but all color points measured at a DeltaE of 4.0 or under. (DeltaE is the numerical indication of deviation from perfect—values of 3.0 or less are considered to be acceptable and difficult to notice faults.) Grayscale DeltaE was a bit higher, averaging 6.0, due to white being a little cool and luminance in the midtones being slightly elevated, none of which is surprising given how the GS2 is designed to be used. Still, it had very good performance for a portable projector. And the grayscale accuracy—and, to a lesser extent, color accuracy—could be improved more simply by changing the light mode to Eco. The grayscale DeltaE average dropped to 4.2 and the slightly blueish tint to white diminished.
Bright picture mode, in Normal light setting, puts out the most light of any of the picture modes. I measured a total of 404 ANSI lumens, which is 96 lumens (or 19%) under the published specs. Like the brightest mode in many projectors, it has a heavily cyan tinted white, and its red, magenta, and blue are very oversaturated. Keep in mind that most LED projectors, including this one, appear brighter to the eye than their ANSI measurements would suggest. You can read more about this phenomenon here.
The LumiExpert setting automatically adjusts the light output based upon the ambient light. There's a light sensor for this feature on the top of the projector. I found that no matter what, even in a room with some light, the image was always darkened with this feature on. Given the projector's limited brightness to begin with, I don't recommend using it.
Viewing. As mentioned previously, the GS2 is a 720p projector, so in a world that's filled with 1080p and 4K displays it will look a little soft, especially towards its max projected image size. That isn't to say the BenQ GS2's picture is unnaturally soft. In fact it looks quite sharp for a 720p projector. The pasties during Pastry Week on The Great British Baking Show looked delicious. Detail on the crimps were easily evident (at least on those that were crimped properly by the bakers) and the colors of the variety of stuffing—the green of parsley, brown of caramelized onions, and dyed yellow of smoked haddock—all looked realistic and mouth-watering. For a show such as this, the GS2 put out enough light to watch during an afternoon with the curtains open.
I used my Roku Streaming Stick+ for some of the time to access my Netflix account and ran into some HDMI handshake problems due to the HDCP. At first I could get audio from The Great British Baking Show, but no video. After a reboot, the handshake worked and I was able both see and hear.
For darker fare, such as The Haunting of Hill House—a show that uses shadows for dramatic effect—nighttime viewing was essential. The shadow detail can't hold up to ambient light, and the elevated midtone brightness flattens the image somewhat. Out of the box, the default brightness setting of 50 crushed the blacks, so I needed to increase it to 64 for better shadow detail. At night though, the GS2 does a good job heightening the tension and keeping you engaged.
The built-in speakers are about as good as one could expect for a 2-watt pair in a small enclosure. They're heavily voiced to the midrange, so dialogue is easily intelligible. There's no substantial bass response so explosions or thumping music are missing depth. Volume output isn't particularly loud, but can get to a decent level without significant distortion. In short, they're passable for most content and a nice feature for such a small projector, but for a more engrossing auditory experience you'll need to attach a separate speaker system.
All of us are looking for a change of scenery and some relief from being trapped inside during the majority of 2020, even if it's just the backyard. The portability and easy setup of the BenQ GS2 makes impromptu movie nights, whether they be outside or in the kid's room before bed, quick and easy. For home theater, even portable home theater, the 720p native resolution is on the low side and there are frustrations with the Aptoide TV interface. Those can be addressed with an inexpensive streaming stick or wireless connection with a mobile device or computer on the same WiFi network, though. At $599, you're getting comparable light output to portable projectors in the same price range, but with the BenQ GS2 you're also getting a projector that's attractive and durable.
Brightness. In Bright picture mode with light mode set to Normal (the brightest of the light modes) and LumiExpert turned off, the BenQ GS2 measured 404 ANSI lumens—81% of the published 500 ANSI lumens spec. In Eco light mode, light output dropped by just over 21% and in Battery Mode it dropped by 44%. Color brightness measured at 99.4% of white.
The display modes measured as follow:
BenQ GS2 ANSI Lumens
Brightness Uniformity. Brightness uniformity measured at just under 87%. Any variation across the screen was barely perceptible with a full white field and negligible with real-world content.
Fan Noise. BenQ lists the noise level of the GS2 in Normal light mode at 31 dBA and 29 dBA in Eco mode. It's whisper quiet and I could only hear the slight whine of fan noise coming from the back vent of the projector if my ear was within inches.
Input Lag. With a Leo Bodnar 1080p lag tester, I measured input lag on the GS2 at 37.7ms. It's enough to feel with any reflex-based game, such as Overwatch or Mortal Kombat, but it's fine for casual gaming.
- HDMI 1.4a with HDCP 1.4
- USB 2.0
- Wireless dongle port
- 3.5mm audio out
Calibrated Settings. As an inexpensive portable projector the GS2 has only the usual basic controls for picture adjustment. My final preferred settings are below, though best results and the ideal settings may vary based on the viewing conditions.
Picture Mode: Cinema (or Bed Time)
Light Mode: Eco
Color Temperature: Warm
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our BenQ GS2 projector page.