BenQ GV1: Portable and Fun
The BenQ GV1 is a portable projector that’s leaning into this new era of streaming.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are among the built-in apps on the GV1. And if you’re not in the mood for an outdoor movie night, you can wirelessly connect an Android smartphone to play Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on your wall.
The projector is the size of a pint glass, and fits well in a messenger bag or suitcase. But the novel thing about the BenQ GV1 is its neck.
It can bend back by up to 15 degrees thanks to an adjustable hinge. The combo of the GV1’s adjustable hinge and automatic keystone correction makes for a fast set up.
A universal tripod fitting is on the bottom of the projector, so you can put it at a precise height or angle. As luck would have it, I lost the quick-release plate for my tripod before starting this review. But after spending a few weeks with the BenQ GV1, I’m glad that I was tripod free.
It made me appreciate the adjustable hinge a lot more, and proved that the feature is really an innovation for a portable projector. You can set up the GV1 and start watching videos or playing games without having to lug around other equipment.
How I tested the BenQ GV1
Over a few weeks, I used the BenQ GV1 at home, then took it with me on a working vacation in Maine. The GV1 comes with a mesh carrying case for travel. I wanted to see how practical it was to take the projector with me.
The projector is designed for wireless casting from either a smartphone or PC. I used a Razer Phone 2 as a mobile device to cast streaming and gaming apps to the projector. A five year old ASUS laptop served as my PC for streaming purposes.
The GV1 is geared for an international audience. It comes with adapter plug heads compatible with electrical outlets in the U.S., Japan, EU, U.K., China and Australia. But for the purposes of this review, I focused on its streaming chops, and how it performed as a portable projector in the U.S.
I have reviewed a number of competing portable projectors in the last year, including the Nebula Mars II and the Nebula Capsule II from Anker. BenQ was generous enough to loan me the projector for this review.
Solid WiFi, Overall Performance
I tried the 5GHz and 2.4 GHz around my two-story condo and outside on my back deck. The GV1 has a remarkably solid WiFi connection.
My first round of testing happened in an open sun room on the first floor of a 2600-square-foot condo. The router was upstairs at the opposite end of the condo. I used the 2.4 GHz connection, and streamed an episode of Atlanta on Hulu without any interruptions.
I had a large, open wall to work with for a screen, so I scaled the picture to 100 inches and put the projector on a stool.
The GV1 does not project in HD, but it has a remarkably watchable picture resolution at 480p. BenQ says the projector’s maximum screen size is 100” inches. If you’re in a dark enough room, you can certainly go slightly beyond that and maintain a clear picture.
The GV1 has 200 ANSI lumens, so it’s designed to use in a darkly lit room, or at least during dusk if you are using it outside. The GV1 also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker for streaming music. I played a number of songs from my Spotify playlists and was pleased with added dimension the 5W speaker brought to the music.
Best Way to Stream
The BenQ GV1 gives you five options for watching videos or streaming apps. You can wirelessly connect to an Android smartphone (or iOS).
There is AirPlay connectivity. You can cast from a PC web browser, or plug in a device through the USB-C port. Aptoide TV, an Android-based software store, has apps for Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
The best way to stream on a GV1 is by using the USB-C cord that’s included with the projector. Streaming apps such as Netflix restrict screen mirroring to certain devices, and the GV1 is among them.
Those restrictions go away for the majority of the apps that I tested when I plugged the USB-C cord into my smartphone. You can use mobile apps to watch Netflix, YouTube TV, Philo, Tubi, Amazon Prime Video, Locast and a number of others.
If you cast Netflix from your PC, it works really well. The menu is easy to navigate and you’ll be able to cruise through your menu directly from the PC. A mini theater is at your disposal.
Hulu on mobile works great if you’re casting from a smartphone. The full screen looks as crisp and bright as you would expect from a quality projector. The user interface is excellent and responsive.
Casting Hulu from a PC is also very good. But if you try to use the USB-C connection with the mobile app, then you’ll likely get an error that’s likely caused by digital rights restrictions.
The GV1 does have built-in apps using Aptoide TV for some of the streaming platforms mentioned above. But the interface for a number of the apps on Aptoide TV are often difficult to use compared to your other options. (More on this later.)
Controlling the projector
There are two ways to control the projector. A control panel at the top of the projector has buttons for power, volume and toggling between projector mode and Bluetooth speaker.
The palm-sized remote control that comes with the projector makes navigating a lot faster. It’s responsive and has a decent range. I could sit from across a large room and control the projector easily.
There is a ring on the left side of the projector to manually focus. Getting your picture perfectly crisp will take a little practice. After using the projector for a couple of days, you won’t think twice about it — even if you’ve never had to manually focus a projector before.
The BenQ GV1 boots up quickly. Connect to a PC or smartphone is pretty easy. Just make sure the projector and the hardware you want to stream from is connected to the same home network. Follow the two-step instructions on the screen to start casting.
The battery runs for roughly three hours. A warning pops up on your screen when the battery power drops to 20 percent. You don’t have to operate just on battery power. I used the projector a number of times while it was plugged in.
Gaming on the go
The GV1 can make those games on your smartphone a lot more fun to play on a 100 inch screen.
When I started playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, it quickly became a crowd-pleaser over the course of a couple of nights vacationing in Maine. People felt compelled to come in the room, sit on a couch behind me, watch me play and reminisce about their old GTA adventures on a PlayStation 2.
Racing down streets and picking off large and small missions on a 100-inch screen made it feel a lot more fun and exciting to play. I kept the phone on a stand a few feet away from the projector. There was no lag at all even with some of the faster-paced, shooter style games. I had paired a Matricom gamepad to the phone.
Areas of Improvement
An HDMI port would also be a welcome addition to the BenQ GV1 so you could attach a Roku Streaming Stick or Amazon Fire TV Stick to open up the number of streaming options. It’s easy to imagine a lot of dusty game consoles (PlayStation 3 or XBox 360) getting a second life if you could hook them up outside during the evening hours of a summer barbecue.
I would also love to see Android TV software on the BenQ GV1. I made a similar suggestion last year while reviewing the Nebula Mars II, which also uses Aptoide TV software. The apps on Aptoide aren’t as reliable or easy to use on a projector as they should be.
A quick example: While trying to peruse the menu on Tubi, the bottom half of the screen was cut off. So you couldn’t see any of the categories such as Comedy, Drama and so on. Netflix works fine. But at times, it’s difficult to see what’s being highlighted while navigating through Netflix’s main menu.
Having said all that, I don’t consider either of these suggestions a deal breaker.
Is the BenQ GV1 worth it?
I like this projector very much, and I had a lot of fun testing it out. The BenQ GV1 is a very good deal at $349, especially when you compare the price against competing models.
The travel bag and variety of adapter plug heads makes it ready for international travel. But really, the adjustable hinge makes the GV1 truly portable because you don’t really need a tripod or other equipment that could weigh down your luggage or the bag you packed for a weekend getaway.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble