Projectors aren’t typically impressive to most of us, though that’s due to their high price and, well, our perception of classroom projectors. Those clunky things really are a thing of the past (unless you’re still in school), because today you can just plug your iPhone in and stream movies directly through the projector, no hassle. At CES, BenQ revealed the Joybee GP2 Mini Projector, which not only provides video out for your iPhone, but for any device you can think of. Or, even with nothing plugged in at all.
The Joybee GP2 is is a big step up from the GP1, which acted as an any-device projector utilizing a USB port and iOS 30-pin connector. It wasn’t really an any-device projector unless you had the right cable and had the device on and streaming, which for a projector may sound OK but will kill the battery life of cameras, laptops, and anything else with undue haste. So the GP2 makes one basic change that completely changes the way the projector handles media: it has more ports, including an SD-card slot reader, HDMI, standard USB and a USB-mini port. And, of course, the iPod dock on the top of the GP2.
These extra ports improve on the original not just by making it more accessible, but by releasing many external devices from handling data as intensly as on the GP1. Any computer with work with the GP2, either through HDMI or USB (though as we’ve seen in the past with USB-powered media streaming modules, USB isn’t suited for high-resolution video without a high-performance processor). Devices that use SD cards can remain powered off, and users need only swap the card into the projector. Devices without SD cards can also be plugged directly in using the USB port. If that means your phone, then you don’t have to worry about power, because it’ll charge the phone and stream the data to the projector.
The GP2 is very light and very easy on the eyes. The glossy top has a simple control scheme, and it’s small and weighs just 565g. When we get one in for review, it’s the sort of device I’d take with me on trips to watch TV shows or movies I normally store on my phone, instead of holding the relatively tiny display close to my face.
While the GP2 supports 720p video and recommends 44″ between the projector and a screen or wall, BenQ representatives told me that it’ll hold a solid image up to 160″ (the image can be up to 160″ diagonally). Even at 44″, that’s huge compared to a smartphone screen. BenQ promises 30,000 hours for a single bulb at regular brightness settings, which is about 3.5 years of continuous use.
The GP2 also has 4W speakers, which while minimalist are more powerful than today’s mobile devices. Everything can be controlled either through the dial control on the top of the GP2 or with an included remote. I was impressed with the picture quality on two videos that were playing back in BenQ’s suite at the show, Burn Notice and Moneyball. I’ll need to play with a unit more before I can verify the screen quality, especially indifferent lighting conditions, but from a preliminary look I was satisfied with the video quality.
The BenQ Joybee GP2 Mini-Projector is out now, and can be purchased today for $549 from Amazon, though I’ve already found some lower prices down around $470. It may seem pricey, but for a 720p home projector that can be used for just about any purpose, including business, office, home video, or even travel, the GP2 looks like the kind of projector we should see in classrooms today.