REVIEW: BENQ GS-1 PORTABLE PROJECTOR
All the indications point to a long, dry sweltering summer ahead of us. Which is why I got so interested in the new BenQ GS-1 portable projector that was attracting quite a crowd at this year’s Melbourne International Hi-Fi Show.
Click below to open the StereoNET Digital Magazine review, otherwise read on.
Price: $999 RRP
A heat-soaked spring is sending the mercury North in Melbourne. So far north, records are tumbling as the city swelters through night after night of balmy, humid weather.
That’s OK. We have a plan to help us survive the sweltering heat that bakes our old weatherboard home.
Most Melburnians have a strategy to combat heatwaves. Ours involves an entertaining ritual to get the family through hot, languid summer nights.
As the mercury climbs, we charge the battery on our portable projector and by the time night falls and the humidity is so intense you could dive into it, we make ready to hit the great outdoors.
Well not the greater Aussie outdoors, just the deck area overlooking our backyard. We get our lounge chairs out of storage, fill two old plastic buckets with ice for the drinks, stash cartons of icy poles in the freezer and then, we settle in and play movies through our tiny light machine.
Sometimes friends or neighbours and their kids also keen for a distraction from the steamy heat cauldron, drop in to keep us company and enjoy the movies and the company.
We’ve had our little BenQ projector for a couple of summers. Typically we’d beam the images on a portable, pull down screen. But that’s been stored so well, no one can find it, so we employ a white bed sheet as the surrogate screen and tack it to the back wall.
With the arrival of a warmer than normal spring, all the indications point to a long, dry sweltering summer ahead of us. Which is why I got so interested in the new BenQ GS1 portable projector that was attracting quite a crowd at this year’s Melbourne International Hi-Fi Show.
The BenQ room was buzzing with compliments. Most of the punters I talked to said the same thing: “It’s a no-brainer for the backyard or patio in summer.’’
But just as many saw the role of the GS1 as a “kiddy pacifier’’, meaning it was bound to be whisked away into a bedroom by any teenager and a horde of friends.
A notion that hits the mark based on our experience. Our BenQ JoyBee GP3 short throw mini projector seems to disappear into our children’s bedrooms. Not just in summer but throughout all the seasons. Though it’s obvious that once winter arrives, the GP3 gets heavy use.
TV shows are the main fare fed to the GP3. The kids host weekends where they engage in a surfeit of programs with Breaking Bad, Sex And The City, The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones featuring heavily.
When the battery peters out, the kids are smart enough to resort to mains power. This keeps the shows playing while the GP3 recharges. When we first got the GP3, the iPhone dock was indispensable. But new iPhones means we’ll need to hardwire using an adapter.
The kids can get programs to the GP3 via USB or SD card. Sometimes their mates will bring content on USB, but typically they’ll stream to the GP3 via a Mac laptop.
On the deck, it’s similar. We’ll use a Mac laptop, but for long viewing sessions, we hardwire our portable, palm-sized Samsung Blu-ray/DVD player called The Pebble.
The point is, you don’t need to get hung up on wireless streaming when you have several other reliable options on the GP3 and more lately, the new GS1.
Which begs the question: would I shell out the $999 asking price for the GS1? The short answer is: Yes if we didn’t already own the GP3, a portable projector that continues to deliver everything we need.
And yes, a GS1 would be even better. It has better picture quality than our GP3 and is much brighter with its 300 ANSI lumens doubling what the GP3 can generate.
No small point because this brightness level delivers a 60-70’’ picture size at a range of one-metre compared to the GP3’s 40’’ image.
The GS1 will even project a 100” picture if you’re willing to sacrifice a little brightness and resolution.
And when the mates are around enjoying a coldie or two, size, as they say, engenders the best bragging rights.
It also looks better than the GP3. We love the orange finish of the supplied removable cover that gives the GS1 an element of fun - and protection.
Styling aside, the GS1 is a doddle to use and set up, but can be a pain in the butt interfacing with some devices wirelessly. The GS1 supports both wireless and Bluetooth connectivity.
But it is loaded with a 4.4 Android operating system so you’ll have to load the .apk files for apps you need manually. In practice, this turned out to be a chore, and it worked sometimes and failed often. BenQ needs to address this glitch sooner rather than later.
As for the Wi-Fi, it runs on the 2.4GHz band and is compatible with 802.11b/g/n. It uses a four-core CPU has 8GB of storage; half of it used for apps.
The GS1’s 720p resolution is delivered by an Osram LED lamp and DLP technology. A fixed focal length model means the GS1 lacks zoom. But the point is you can feed the GS1 images measuring up to 1080p and down to 576i/50, but the latter’s picture quality won’t have you jumping around for joy. As for the aspect ratio, it’s 16:9.
The GS1’s contrast ratio is 100,000:1 while brightness measures 300 ANSI lumens. As for lamp life, you won’t be changing yours in a hurry because BenQ says it’s good for about 20,000 to 30,000 hours.
With the battery the GS1 measures just 146mm wide, 66mm high and 140mm deep. As far as its footprint goes, it’s no more than a CD jewel case. That’s how little house space it needs. So it’s truly palm-sized and a featherweight as well at 970g.
Inputs comprise one HDMI (with MHL), Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Outputs are a single USB 2.0, USB 3.0 and one microSD slot.
Strutting its stuff to a cast of thousands
On the first balmy weekend after our review sample arrived, there wasn’t a breath of wind stirring, but the humidity was high. I invited a bunch of my audio buddies over for drinks and movies.
They arrived in good spirits and we unpacked several slabs of cold ones and parked them in several ice-filled buckets. The fridge was stacked with Drumsticks and icy poles. Fare for thirsty, good blokes on a languid night.
The GS1 attracted plenty of comments. Several of the lads had already sampled it at the recent Hi-Fi Show where it was well demonstrated by BenQ’s Regional Sales Manager, Matt Walker.
Most were complimentary about its size and styling. Others seeing it for the first time offered the comments: “So orange you’d never lose it,” and “Is that a BenQ GS1 in your pocket or are you just happy you’ve bought a new McIntosh MA8900 integrated amp?”
Audio buddies talk audio. But this night was all about the company, friendship, and movies. Via text messages, we’d agreed that the content for the evening would be spaghetti westerns.
So I ensured I had a batch on my iPad ready to feed the GS1. We configured the GS1 using the AirPin(PRO) app and via DNLA, cast the mirrored screen of the iPad.
The GS1 has a number of picture modes. We used the one tailored for starlight.
First colts to bark into action were those used during the railroad scene at the start of Once Upon A Time In The West. It must be said, the built-in sound system of the GS1 won’t rattle windows and shake walls, even if you add an external speaker. Our recourse was to use the 3.5mm output connected to my B&W Zeppelin. Problem solved.
Once Upon A Time In The West deserves to be watched on a huge screen. But given the occasion, a 60-inch image beamed to my loaner, budget, portable pull-down screen kept everyone happy and watching even if the movie was punctuated by plenty of non-stop, good-humoured banter.
We moved on to a Fistful Of Dollars by which time the battery was getting to the last third of its charge and the picture brightness level was plunging. Again, no sweat. We plugged the GS1 into an external power point and got on with the show.
The last movie, before we pulled up stumps was The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
It has to be said that picture quality on all three movies wasn’t the brightest, or the most detailed, didn’t have the best contrast or the greatest range of colours.
No, you won’t be able to count the strands of hairs on Clint Eastwood’s beard or the individual beads of sweat on his horse.
Those wanting these qualities need to pay more for projectors further up BenQ’s range. But the thing is, you’ll lose the portability of the GS1 and the fun factor of nights like these where the GS1’s picture quality is more than adequate and after a few drinks, really pleasing.
And that’s the whole point of the GS1. I can imagine one providing hours of viewing pleasure on a camping trip in the real, great Australian outdoors. You can’t put a price on that. It’s no wonder grey Nomads are youngins alike are flocking to the GS1.
The GS1 got the big thumbs up from the lads who thought it punched way above its weight and puny sound system notwithstanding, provided a pleasurable viewing experience.
This coming from a bunch of audio dudes, is high praise indeed.
For more information visit BenQ.
Further reading: Projectors & Screens Forum
One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, Peter was formerly the Audio-Video Editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades. One of the most-respected audio journalists in Australia, Peter brings his unparalleled experience and a unique story-telling ability to StereoNET.
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