You’re adding a TV to the playroom so the kids can watch Nickelodeon while you’re glued to football in the family room. For $500 you can plant a 32- or 37-inch flat panel in there … but wouldn’t an 80-inch screen be sweeter?
That’s the question BenQ is hoping you’ll ask, and it answers with its Joybee GP1 Mini LED Projector.
The GP1 is not intended to be the centerpiece of a dedicated theater. It doesn’t even project in native high-def, though it downconverts very well. Rather, BenQ has crammed this compact product with features that embrace its portability and flexibility, while providing the wow of a mammoth image compared to most secondary room TVs.
Don’t have a projection screen? Don’t worry. BenQ isn’t expecting everyone to own one. It presents “Wall Color” as the first setting under the Picture menu, so if your wall isn’t white you can optimize for light yellow, pink, light green, blue and blackboard options.
My screenless media room was ideal. The GP1’s portability comes into play, because the lens does not zoom. That may be a drawback, but you create the image size based on its placement. BenQ says it can project images up to 80 diagonal inches, but the best position in my room produced an uncompromised 90-inch picture.
You can connect video sources through the rear multi-input socket, which offers VGA and composite inputs, plus a connection for an optional iPod dock and cable, or the USB reader slot. Hooking up a Cambridge Audio DVD player to the composite input was no problem, but I wanted better image quality through component cables.
The manual made it seem simple to do via a VGA to component adapter, but I encountered difficulty obtaining such a device. Once acquired, the system was smooth going, and a selector on the small remote made toggling between sources painless.
Keystone image correction proved easy with up/down remote buttons, while plentiful menu settings for each video source—including several user memory presets—let you calibrate to multiple viewing tastes. I found myself fine-tuning settings such as brightness and color temperature as I moved from DVD to HD DVD and from HD cable to PC sources.
Three major benefits of the GP1: super quiet operation, long lifespan and ambient light playback. The projector was barely audible despite the fact that I was sitting less than a foot away. Actually one thing that was good about its proximity to me is that I found you do need to adjust the focus quite a bit when changing sources, which some people may find annoying.
With its LED light engine, you need not worry about lamp replacement, however, and its 100 lumens worked well even while one of my four ceiling lights remained on.
The GP1 delivered crisp, realistic images with vivid colors, especially reds, blues and greens. The green of Boston Celtics uniforms, for example, appeared striking and deep, while jungle and sky images on Lost episodes looked textured and bold.
And though the resolution isn’t native HD, the GP1 accepts 720p and 1080i signals, rendering the content from my Toshiba HD DVD player and a Vizio Blu-ray player on a large scale with natural detail. When I did add an Elite Screens EZ-Frame 92-inch regular matte white screen to the wall, the picture from the Joybee offered some additional pop and improved contrast.
Guests didn’t mind that the picture wasn’t “true HD.” They were too busy gawking at its size—and asking me again, How much did you say that cost?
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Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com
and Electronic House magazine.