BenQ tries to make a rare compact, computer-independent projector. (September 6th, 2009)
BenQ is no stranger to the office projector space and its new pocket projector, the Joybee GP1, packs some innovative features. Boasting a lampless LED light source and a built-in USB video reader, the Joybee is designed to be a one-size-fits-all but also budget pocket projector. Could the Joybee really offer real portability without sacrificing image quality and ease of use?
Product Manufacturer: BenQ
- Small and lightweight.
- Good price.
- USB reader is convenient.
- Bulb-free DLP.
- Simply not bright enough for most situations.
- Awkwardly placed controls on remote and projector.
- Relatively low resolution.
box contents, design, and feature set
The Joybee ships with a power supply, a remote, a soft carry case, some manuals, and a very short video input cable. The projector itself is small, but not quite as small as the promotional pictures would make it seem. While the Joybee is certainly not pocket sized, it's noticeably smaller than most projectors. Other than the focus knob on the front of the projector, there are no other moving parts on the unit. We found the focus easy to adjust, and it offered a good range of focus lengths.
On the top of the Joybee there is a set of touch sensitive buttons that are used to control the menus without the remote. We found the buttons to be less than easy to use, as they often required several presses for the projector to register the action. On the back and sides of the Joybee are a USB connection, power plug, video-in connection, and an audio-out connection. On such a small unit it's hard to complement or complain about the plug placement, but none the less these were easy enough to access.
The remote is small and can control all of the features on the projector. The buttons on the remote were only marginally easier to use than those on the top of the projector but we managed to make our way around the menus after spending a few minutes getting used to the remote's sensitivity. The menus allow you to adjust keystone settings, compensate for painted walls, access media from the USB reader, and control other basic settings. The menus aren't too easy or too difficult to navigate for loading content (mostly JPEG photos), but the controls on the remote are placed awkwardly and navigating the buttons on the remote is unintuitive. We kept reaching for where we expected a button to be naturally placed only to find it somewhere else entirely.
picture quality and usability
We tested picture quality under two different settings. First, we viewed content during the day in our office with the lights off and the shades closed. The picture below is from some of the BenQ test content we played. Overall, the picture is washed out as the Joybee's 100 ANSI lumens of brightness just aren't adequate for viewing content during the day or with any ambient light at all.
Our second picture quality test was watching a DVD in a darkened room. DVD picture quality was average as the slightly larger than SVGA resolution (858x600) is nothing special. The lighting was less of an issue with the darkened room, but more brightness was certainly still needed. The colors in the movie didn't seem well defined, but the video was smooth with no noticeable artifacting. One very annoying part of the DVD viewing experience was that the auto keystone feature kept readjusting the keystone shape as the scenes changed. We're not sure why the software felt the need to continually change the image dimensions as the projector was sitting still the whole time. The result was a very jumpy video box that was both annoying and awkward.
While the projector and the remote are small and would travel easily, the accompanying cords would appear to defeat the purpose of buying such a small projector. The power cabling and video cable alone (assuming you're connecting a video source and not using the USB drive) are the same size as the projector. While we applaud the small size of the Joybee proper, it would be nice to see a sleeker set of cables to go with it.
The concept of a small projector that can project video and pictures sans computer is attractive. The idea of a lampless projector that doesn't need its lamp replaced after a year or two is also appealing. Unfortunately, barring the small size of the Joybee and the USB video reader capability, there isn't too much to love. 100 lumens just don't result in enough projector power, and controls on both the projector and remote are troublesome. If a small projector that can play content without a notebook is all you need, the Joybee fits the bill; without those specific desires, though, you may want to keep looking.