PARTY IN THE PARK

BenQ GS1 por­ta­ble 720p pro­jec­tor For­get the old sing-song round the camp­fire, with the GS1 you can up­grade to bigscreen movie en­ter­tain­ment...

Sound+Image - - Contents - Stephen Dawson

BenQ’s por­ta­ble pro­jec­tor oers movies on the go.

Well, that’s quite the change. The last two BenQ pro­jec­tors we’ve re­viewed have been mas­sive Ul­tra HD home cin­ema de­signs. The BenQ GS1? It’s barely larger than my hand, and so por­ta­ble it even has its own recharge­able bat­tery. Out­door fun as the sum­mer ap­proaches? Let’s do it. Equip­ment First, this is a 720p pro­jec­tor — its res­o­lu­tion is 1280 by 720 pix­els. It uses an Os­ram Q8 LED as the light source, and DLP tech­nol­ogy to gen­er­ate the pic­ture. And it has a fixed fo­cal length, with no zoom, and a max­i­mum bright­ness of 300 ANSI lu­mens. I in­clude that last spec be­cause it has an im­pact on pic­ture size. BenQ talks about a 60-inch pic­ture size from a range of one me­tre, which is prob­a­bly about right, although you can stretch it a lit­tle more if you like, es­pe­cially if power is plugged in. But re­ally, any pro­jec­tor can project to pretty much any pic­ture size it can keep fo­cused. What lim­its things is how bright you need it.

BenQ also spec­i­fies a con­trast ra­tio of 100,000:1. There’s no lens shift or zoom or any­thing like that, just the fo­cus con­trol. Which makes sense. You’re never go­ing to in­stall this pro­jec­tor some­where, so to make the pic­ture big­ger, just pull the pro­jec­tor fur­ther away from the screen. There is key­stone cor­rec­tion in case some an­gle is un­avoid­able, but I’d strongly rec­om­mend that you find a way to get the pro­jec­tor in the right po­si­tion in­stead. Key­stone ad­just­ments waste pix­els, and with 720p you don’t have too many to waste.

The lamp, be­ing LED, has a long life. It’s rated at 20,000 hours run­ning at max­i­mum power, and longer in Eco mode.

There is one HDMI in­put. This sup­ports MHL, which makes sense in view of the por­ta­ble na­ture, so you can plug the rare MHL-sup­port­ing phone into it for play­back. There are also two USB sock­ets (one of them USB 3.0) and one mi­croSD card slot.

There are two more el­e­ments of con­nec­tiv­ity: Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth. The lat­ter is for con­nect­ing an ex­ter­nal speaker, or there’s a 3.5mm socket for au­dio out. There are two small speak­ers built in, each with 2W of power avail­able, so an ex­ter­nal speaker is a bet­ter way to go.

You don’t need to use the bat­tery pack. but if you do, it just clips in place and is charged via the pro­jec­tor. This also has a USB socket which can charge other de­vices, like the phone that’s play­ing. The lithium-ion poly­mer bat­tery has a ca­pac­ity of 16000mAh, around five times that of a typ­i­cal An­droid phone. BenQ says that the pack is good for 300 charge cy­cles, tak­ing around 3.5 hours to fully charge from empty, and will run the pro­jec­tor for three hours at 150 ANSI lu­mens.

There’s a bright orange rub­ber bumper that wraps around the whole thing to give it some pro­tec­tion. BenQ en­vis­ages it be­ing used out­doors, on hol­i­days and such. The whole thing is mildly splash-proof — ‘IPX1 drip proof’ says BenQ, so don’t leave it out in the rain.

It comes with a neat carry case, with room for all the bits, and with a slim BenQ style re­mote con­trol with the usual keys, plus vol­ume and a sur­pris­ing ‘Home’.

Per­for­mance

The first sur­prise here was that the the set-up menu was clear and eas­ily view­able even though I had my room lights on. I’d kind of ex­pected that the pic­ture might be very dim.

Sec­ond, the guided five-step set-up in­cluded con­nect­ing to my Wi-Fi net­work. Why? Be­cause this is a pro­jec­tor at­tached to an An­droid de­vice — a skinned one to hide some el­e­ments of An­droid, but none­the­less An­droid (ver­sion 4.4). The Wi-Fi is sin­gle 2.4GHz band 802.11b/g/n com­pat­i­ble. The An­droid side of things is pow­ered by a four-core CPU. There’s 8GB of stor­age, of which a bit over 4GB is avail­able to use for apps and con­tent.

And sure enough, once I’d fin­ished the set-up, the pro­jec­tor dis­played a home screen based on An­droid. Which ex­plains the Home key on the re­mote. It has been cus­tomised and cut down — no ac­cess to the Google Play store, in­stead you can get more stream­ing apps and games and pro­duc­tiv­ity tools from the BenQ App Mar­ket. There was a range of un­usual things, though none of our lo­cal TV catch-up ser­vices, no Net­flix nor Stan. There is YouTube (im­ple­mented via the web browser). The front page has some­thing called ‘BenQ Smart’, which dis­played a QR code to send my phone to the Play store for the BenQ Smart Con­troller app (An­droid only). This was a quite com­pe­tent net­work-based re­mote con­troller with both nor­mal ar­row and num­ber but­tons and a touch-pad for mov­ing an on-screen cur­sor.

The pro­jec­tor’s own re­mote was a lit­tle trick­ier, re­quir­ing the an­gle to be just so. In the end, I plugged the don­gle from a USB key­board and mouse into the pro­jec­tor, and used them to con­trol it. They worked very nicely. The browser worked very well; web pages snapped up quickly.

Fi­nally, and the best part of this pro­jec­tor’s smarts: it runs an app called AirPin(PRO). This al­lows the pro­jec­tor to be a de­vice which you can cast stuff to. It worked with DLNA — re­ceiv­ing video and pho­tos from my server us­ing an app. I could cast the screen of an Oppo A77 smart­phone to it, but not my Sam­sung Gal­axy S7. My Sam­sung Gal­axy Tab 3 would dis­play its con­tent to the pro­jec­tor, but not mir­ror its screen.

And equally use­fully it worked per­fectly ac­cept­ing the mir­rored screen of an iPad mini 4, sent via Air­Play.

As a pro­jec­tor it made a colour­ful and us­ably bright pic­ture up to at least 70 inches when viewed in a dark room. There was a very slight bow in the pic­ture, with the mid­dle be­ing a touch higher than the edges, but not so much as to be dis­tract­ing.

The black lev­els were nat­u­rally very good, in part be­cause the pic­ture is less bright than usual. Reds were a touch stronger than nat­u­ral but could be tamed via the con­trols. There are sev­eral pic­ture modes, in­clud­ing one for use un­der star light, and one for use when there’s a camp fire!

Con­tent up to 1080p was ac­cepted, and down to 480i/60 and 576i/50 was ac­cepted. The scal­ing from 1080p/24 down to 720p was quite smooth; in­deed, the whole pic­ture was smooth, with very lit­tle screen-door ef­fect.

Dein­ter­lac­ing of 576i/50 was pretty medi­ocre. It had bit of an at­tempt at de­tect­ing film ver­sus video-sourced, but plumped heav­ily for the lat­ter though oc­ca­sion­ally it got con­fused and ac­tu­ally cre­ated brief flashes of comb­ing on film-sourced con­tent. Per­for­mance was about the same with 1080i/50, but with­out comb­ing. Ide­ally use a source good for high-qual­ity pro­gres­sive-scan con­ver­sion. But it was clear that the pro­jec­tor was dis­play­ing at 60 frames per sec­ond and not 50, as ev­i­denced by jud­der.

I ran it on bat­tery to see how it would hold out. Rather well, though it drops the out­put to per­haps half bright­ness (although the sub­jec­tive re­duc­tion is not as great) when switch­ing over. At that level I got a good three-and-a-half hours be­fore the pro­jec­tor gave up and switched it­self off.

One fi­nal note. This is an An­droid de­vice. For nor­mal use turn the vol­ume con­trol down to zero, or go into the set­tings and switch off sounds for no­ti­fi­ca­tions. There were a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions when I jumped as the pro­jec­tor de­cided to alert me to some­thing!

Con­clu­sion

If you want a pro­jec­tor for real home cin­ema, this is not it. But if you want to get a pic­ture the size of a large TV in a small por­ta­ble pack­age — and yes, for hol­i­days and camp fires! — the to­tal weight here, in­clud­ing bat­tery, is un­der a kilo­gram. Surely you need look no fur­ther.

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