Review: BenQ Joybee GP1 Mini LED Projector

The BenQ Joybee GP1 LED projector is true to its name: it’s a joy to use. We at CyberTheater have been reviewing this mini projector over the last couple of weeks and have been pretty impressed with it.

Let’s start with a few specs: the GP1 measures 2.1″ x 5.3″ x 4.7″ (that’s 136 x 54 x 120mm for metric folks out there) and weighs in at just 1.4 lbs, or about 630 grams. This, however, does not include the AC adapter which in itself is a bit bulky – about the same size as your laptop AC adapter. The projector supports 100 ANSI lumens brightness. While this is unsuitable for typical boardroom use, you should realize that the GP1 is more for personal use than business. Put it in a dark room – ideally a home theater kind of setting – and the image quality is surprisingly good, even when projected on a wall. The Joybee GP1 features Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology by Texas Instruments and is equipped with 3LED light source.

Projected image size is between 15″ and 80″, ideal for a small to medium sized apartment or a nice little home theater in the basement. It features a CEA 30-pin connector (the Portable Digital Media Interface, or PDMI) and comes with a connector for your computer, RCA and a very convenient USB interface – more on the USB later.

The BenQ Joybee GP1 mini projector comes with its own carrying case, remote control, a 2GB USB drive, AC adapter and the PDMI cable. Along with it you get a CD containing the user manual and a quick start guide. Optional accessories include iPod/iPhone connectors.

The quick start guide is, quite frankly, more than sufficient to get you off the ground with connecting this baby.

The Projector
Housed in a cool-looking glossy white enclosure with a black top, the projector lamp is tucked in a recessed section on the body. The buttons on top do not protrude at any time, and since they are backlit, you won’t have trouble finding them in the dark. Focus control is also on the top, and even this doesn’t protrude: it’s placed in another recessed section. Overall, I was quite impressed with the way everything was fit in snugly.

If fiddling with the controls when playing a movie or your favorite TV series isn’t your thing (especially when you have a bunch of friends over), BenQ’s remote control comes to the rescue. Everything from keystone correction to source selection, and play/pause photos during USB reader mode, is available on the remote.

On-screen displays are available in several languages including English, German, Swedish, Japanese, Czech, etc.

Available Modes
The Joybee GP1 comes with the following built-in modes: brightest, PC, movie, photo and user (which is, as the name indicates, user-configurable). True to its name the movie mode was ideal for watching DVD movies and online TV. Being a bit of a LOST-oholic,  I enjoyed many an episode of the series – and the big screen experience was very enjoyable. Of course, the 2W speaker on the GP1 wouldn’t do it justice, so I had hooked up the audio to my home stereo system, and I suspect this made a big difference.

Depending on the color of your wall, you can choose appropriate settings for the best image quality. Some of the use cases covered by BenQ include sharing photos with family and friends, using the projector for bed-time stories, and in general, saving money by having movie parties right at home.

Test environments
I tested the Joybee GP1 in a variety of settings:

  • projecting on my apartment wall, which is beige in color
  • projecting onto a high quality screen
  • projecting onto a white wall
  • watching movies/TV on, photos from a recent trip, etc.

In each of the cases, the GP1 scored very well in image quality – but only when it was dark. Even light from the next room, say a kitchen, landing on the wall caused the quality to go down. Of course, you can very well blame it on the 100 lumens light source, but again keep in mind that this projector is more geared towards personal entertainment. Black levels are, however, faithfully reproduced thanks to DLP.

One of the things that I expected to work, but didn’t, was to connect my digital camera’s USB cable directly to the projector and trying to view the photos. The GP1 does not recognize the camera as a USB memory drive, unfortunately. However, my Canon faithfully came with A/V cables, and I plugged them in to the included CEA 30-pin connector and voila – I had my photos up on the wall. When you’ve got nothing better to do, you can also turn to Flickr and run slideshows of others’ photos – quite a nice experience. In a few cases, however, the photos were a bit saturated, especially pink hues.

The USB interface is pretty useful. You can load up the supplied USB drive with photos and movies. Even better, if you have a digital camera with an A/V cable, you can directly hook it up to the projector’s 30-pin connector and see photos on the big screen.

Power Consumption
At 60W power consumption, the Joybee is light on expanding your carbon footprint. Since you might very well be consuming the same amount of power in a well-lit room, the projector is easy on your electricity bill.

Final Thoughts
The BenQ Joybee GP1 is a versatile little projector, ideal for home entertainment. Although the on-board speaker leaves a little to be desired, connecting audio to a home stereo system makes a big difference. It’s definitely great value for money, especially considering a price drop (it’s now $499 against the previously announced $599).

With a 20,000-hour rated lamp life, you can easily enjoy several hours of entertainment every day. Get a tripod for the best way to position the projector in any room conveniently around the home.

Availability and Pricing
Priced at US $499, the BenQ Joybee GP1 Mini Projector is now available on pre-sale, and will start shipping as early as June 6, 2009. For details, head over to BenQ’s website.