One of the hottest topics in the projector world these days is LED projection. In short, LED projectors use a group of light emitting diodes, or LEDs, in place of the traditional high-pressure lamp assembly. LEDs last much longer than traditional lamps, though as of now they are not typically bright enough to constitute a true replacement for high-pressure lamp technology.
The BenQ Joybee GP1 is an LED-based pocket projector designed for entertainment use. At $500, it represents an economical option for several nontraditional uses, such as taking it on vacation, hooking it up to a child's video game system, or even setting up a micro-theater in the car. With several innovative features such as iPod connectivity, the Joybee GP1 is an interesting projector with a low price.
Picture Quality.The Joybee GP1 produces a picture that is smooth, sharp, and easy to watch. Color temperature out of the box is too high, so you will want to make some adjustments if you plan to use it for movies or games, but color saturation is acceptable. Contrast is fairly low, but for casual use like children's cartoons or basic video games, it will suffice. You would not want to use it with a game requiring higher contrast, like Splinter Cell or Halo, however. Image sharpness is solid at native resolution, and still respectable at higher resolutions.
Highly portable. The GP1 weighs only 1.5 pounds, and is about the size of a small stack of CDs. This makes it easy to pack up and take along wherever you go. Even with the power brick and a video cable, the GP1 does not exceed 3 pounds total weight.
Nearly Silent. One common problem with many portable projectors is fan noise. Since the casework is so small, the noise of the exhaust fan is not muffled by anything, so small projectors tend to sound louder than larger models of comparable specifications. The GP1, though, is nearly silent at 28 dB. We often had trouble differentiating the noise of the projector from the noise of the ceiling fan, air conditioning system, or computer's fan. It is quieter than a myriad of other common room noises, and will not cause any distraction to your audience.
Tripod mountable. Since the Joybee GP1 has a fixed zoom and no lens shift, adjusting image size and location can be difficult. The easiest way to quickly and easily adjust the image is to mount the projector on a tripod, using the standard screw-in attachment point on the unit's base. This allows you to easily adjust height and projection angle, as well as being able to easily move the projector closer to or farther from the viewing surface. While a tripod is not included, inexpensive models are excellent for this application and are available at most retails stores that sell consumer-grade cameras.
iPod and USB connectivity. With such a small projector, you may want to watch a movie without attaching a DVD player or computer. The Joybee GP1 offers two options for this - iPod and USB playback. With iPod playback, the GP1 will play movie files stored on your iPod through a dock connection. Or, using a USB flash drive, you can play back certain types of movie files directly from storage media. The GP1 can only handle certain types of movie files, so you'll need to convert any media you have in order to use it, but GP1 does include a conversion utility if you do not already have one.
2W speaker. The projector does include a speaker. It sounds somewhat tinny, but one cannot expect reference-quality audio from a projector this small. Suffice it to say that the speaker will do if you are not using your own external speaker system or a set of headphones. And, speaking of headphones, the projector has a 1/8" audio out port, so you can use headphones even while watching media from a USB drive.
Odd resolution. The Joybee GP1 has a native resolution of 858 x 600 pixels, with a 1.43:1 aspect ratio. This resolution is nonstandard and a bit wider than traditional SVGA. As a result, you are unlikely to encounter any content which is truly "native" on this projector. 800x600 content actually leaves slight black bars to the left and right of the image, creating a pillarboxed effect. The real benefit to this format, though, is that a 16:9 DVD can be displayed at its native resolution of 854x480 without being compressed.
Lumen output. As we mentioned, the one factor that limits the use of LEDs in projectors more than any other is brightness. The Joybee GP1 is rated for 100 lumens of brightness - yes, you read that correctly, one hundred lumens. To its credit, we measured 96 lumens on our test sample, so it is at least living up to its specifications. However, in anything but a very dark room, you will want to keep the image size down in order to preserve some semblance of visibility.
Lack of "real" case. When a projector's chief virtue is portability, we like to see manufacturers include a good quality carrying case. The GP1 does have a case, but it is only large enough to hold the projector itself -- indeed, it is less like a case and more like a sleeve. You are on your own when it comes to storing the power brick and assorted video cables.
Restricted connectivity. The Joybee GP1 can be connected to a video source in three different ways - using a USB drive in the USB slot, using an iPod in the BenQ iPod dock, or using VGA or composite video via the included breakout cable. However, the breakout cable is only about eighteen inches long, forcing you to keep the projector and the attached device very close together. The connection from the cable to the projector uses a proprietary plug, so there's little chance of obtaining a longer one.
Proprietary iPod connection. BenQ sells an iPod dock for the GP1. If you own an iPod, you know that the standard connection cable uses USB, and may be wondering if you can simply plug the standard iPod cable into the projector. Sadly, this does not work. To connect an iPod to the Joybee GP1, you need to purchase BenQ's own iPod dock attachment, or an Apple iPod A/V Composite cable, which costs $49 from the Apple Store.
BenQ's Joybee GP1 is a new breed of pocket projector. With its LED lamp, it promises to light up your game room - or hotel room - for years to come. While it is not bright enough to be a true home entertainment projector, and connectivity requires a careful selection of cables, it is a great choice as a secondary projector for more mobile applications - especially at $499.