Not as lilliputian as a pico projector nor as big as an ultraportable, the BenQ Joybee GP1 Mini Projector is well suited for business users who want to travel light, but still need to show clients a crisp, bright presentation. At $499 (currently on sale for $399), the GP1 is a good deal, but a few changes would make it even better.
Measuring 5.5 x 4.8 x 2 inches and weighing 1.2 pounds, the GP1 is slightly larger and heavier than the Dell M109S (4.1 x 3.6 x 1.5 inches; 0.8 pounds), another mini projector with an LED light source. Still, it easily fits in the palm of your hand. We just wish the power brick were smaller--it's the same weight as the projector itself. While the Dell M109S is squared off at every edge, the GP1 has smooth, rounded corners. It's encased in white plastic except for the top, which is a glossy black.
A silver ring protruding from the top makes it easy to adjust the focus. The top of the Joybee GP1 features an indented circular panel of touch controls backlit in blue, and is easy to see in the dark. However, you have to know exactly where to press--not on the icon itself, but on the edge of the circle--otherwise, nothing will happen. The lack of haptic feedback makes it all the more tricky.
We preferred using the credit card-sized remote: its small rectangular rubber buttons made it easy to change any function, as well as launch presentations and movies from an attached USB drive.
On the back of the GP1 is a port for its 15-pin connector, which branches off to a VGA port and composite connections. Also on the back of the projector is a USB slot and a 3.5mm audio output. At the bottom front, a small foot can be turned to raise the image. However, when the foot is fully extended, the 15-pin connector in the back of the projector raises the back edge of the GP1, causing it to wobble. There's also a screw hole for a tripod.
An optional dock that connects to the 15-pin port lets you play music, videos, and photos using an iPod.
Upon first plugging the projector in and moving it around, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the device is smart enough to know when it's being tilted up or down vertically, adjusting the image automatically so that it's not keystoned. Menus were simple and easy to navigate. While the SVGA (858 x 600) GP1 has a native aspect ratio of 4:3, it automatically changed to 16:9 when an external source (like most laptops nowadays) had the same ratio.
The GP1 is rated at 100 lumens (twice that of the Dell M109S) and a 2000:1 contrast ratio; within a few feet of the wall, we found it plenty bright, even with overhead lights on. Movies, our notebook's desktop, and PowerPoint presentations were all crisp and colorful. From three feet, the GP1 projected an image that was 24 inches in diagonal. At a distance of 10 feet, the image was 6 feet across diagonally. However, at the latter distance, we needed to turn off the overhead lights in order to view images comfortably.
You can also use the GP1 sans notebook. We plugged a USB drive into the back of the projector, and a simple menu launched where we could select photos or movies to play from the drive. Within seconds we were looking at pictures and watching movies stored on the drive. Sadly, the GP1 can't natively play PowerPoint presentations; you have to convert them to JPGs first. However, you can create a slideshow on the projector itself, as it lets you select the interval between slides and the transition type.
Be warned that the GP1 gets fairly warm: even with the fan blowing full tilt (quite noticeable in a quiet room), the bottom of the projector by the lens reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit after just a few minutes.
The BenQ GP1 is a very capable projector for those looking to travel light. Its brightness is more suitable than pico projectors for business presentations in larger rooms, and the $499 price makes it half as expensive as larger (albeit much brighter) projectors. While we wish its power brick were smaller and controls easier to use, it's a solid little accessory.