You usually don’t expect a front projector to come in a box more suitable for a ream of printing paper. And yes I am “old school” in that I pretty much automatically expect a lot of packaging because of all the “delicate” components — like the bulb — a projector has. So much for these illusions, because taking the BenQ JoyBee GP2 Mini Projector out of the box shows why it doesn’t need transportation help: LEDs and electronics make for a durable traveling companion.
Why travel? Because the compact nature and design of the GP2 makes it so (as Captain Picard might say). So I’ll treat it like I would my smartphone and carry it around without any special coddling — but sure I will put it in the padded, semi-rigid case (along with the accessories) while moving it from one place to the other.
But before doing any of that, let’s inspect this under 2 pounds guy. Since there’s a 3LED, DLP projection engine being used for illumination, I don’t have to worry about replacing a bulb or the errant bump to the chassis. But there are a few rules to follow in using it, as I discovered.
To begin with, there is a fan that goes on when the light is exiting the non-zoom lens. It’s quite minor, decibel-wise, but even this little bit can muffle the built-in 2 watt stereo speakers a bit. Carrying an extra pound or two in the way of powered speakers to connect to the headphone output takes care of that nicely.
Now the same right side as the headphone output finds an audio input and two USB sockets (one full sized and the other micro), along with a PC/AVI slot and an HDMI port. The HDMI lets you take advantage of the 1200 x 800 resolution (that’s 720p), which is quite impressive for a projector so tiny.
The back has a SD card slot with a plastic cover, and on the left is the focus wheel. That’s it.
The top is where all the good things come together. A touch-sensitive control panel — buttons surrounding a direction pad — lights up once the power comes on. Closest to the back is where the Apple connector slot lives — if you don’t have Universal insert plates, you need to be very careful inserting an iOS device like an iPhone or iPod. It’ll fit but will be a bit wobbly.
Speaking of wobbly, don’t use the top mounted controls if you can avoid it and go with the slightly larger than credit card-sized remote instead. It’s true that there’s only an infrared sensor on the front of the Joybee GP2 Mini Projector, but in most cases you can bounce the signal off the surface that is being projected on and back onto the sensor.
The Joybee GP2 Mini Projector also has a “short-throw” lens. This means that you don’t have to be as far back as would be the case otherwise in order to get a large image. But you do have to level the projector to keep the image sane — there’s a leveling riser on the bottom to aid in this, and you will have to move the projector in the different compass points as needed. A digital keystone feature will let you “square” the image electronically, but the image degrades as a result. Avoid doing this in all but the most extreme situations.
The menu for the Joybee GP2 Mini Projector is simplified as befits a projector that can be quickly set up and used in just about any location. Once the illumination comes up fully (less than a minutes on average), you can tool around the settings. Decide whether you want to listen to music, look at videos or photos or view documents — that’s right, you can load in Powerpoint, PDFs and the like and use this projector as a presentation device. Minor tweaks can be done to the way the unit operates — for example, you can “tell” it when the wall being projected on isn’t white so as to compensate. There’s not much to do really, but then again there’s not much need for doing it either.
When it comes to the content, you’ve the choice of using the 2GB of internal memory (fine for music but fills super-fast if a HD file is loaded), streaming directly from a computer (meaning you can mirror a laptop really), or using the Composite or HDMI to take video from a video source device like a Blu-ray player. Of course there’s also that Apple dock at the top back as noted earlier.
To put the Joybee GP2 Mini Projector through its paces, I’m going to have some fun (imagine that!). I saw the 3 Stooges movie recently with my friend Steve and he said that his son was old enough now to watch some of the “real” Stooges in action. So I brought the GP2 over to his place, having first transferred digital files of some of my Stooges discs to a flash drive. I popped the drive into the USB socket on the projector and turned it on. I then spent about 6 minutes lining up the image with the white poster-board Steve had put on the wall until the image filled the poster-board. Focus was then adjusted, as was leveling courtesy of a digital leveling meter and some bits of cardboard. I have to say that the LED light engine makes doing all this easy with the illumination as you don’t worry about damaging a fragile bulb.
The Joybee GP2 Mini Projector looks good, really good, with the black and white Stooges we watched — but as expected it was hard to hear the dialogue. Which is why I had a portable powered speaker in the car’s trunk, just in case. That was the only beef we had — certainly none with the big and contrasty image.
But what about color? I decided to simulate an outdoor “movie night” by taking the projector into his backyard. I snapped the optional battery pack onto the bottom of the projector. No wires to worry about and it had been fully charged earlier using the same power supply that runs the projector off the AC current.
We then spent some time aligning the projector’s illumination with the side of his white garage. I put my iPhone 4 into the dock, first having turned the projector off, and then turned it back on. I then demonstrated for the guys how you could maneuver through to listen to music or bring up videos and project them. They looked pretty good, but I wanted to see how much “oomph” the Joybee GP2 Mini Projector could do with full HD. So we grabbed the Blu-ray player from inside and hooked it up to the HDMI socket using a long extension cord (we also decided to run the projector off the AC at this point since the battery looked like it was getting a bit tired). We then proceeded to run Die Hard all the way through — to everyone’s amusement. On the business end of things, the image from the projector did a great job — although the contrast and brightness did suffer a bit from the ambient light outside and the fact that we had a 60-inch plus image being projected. I suggested we move the image in a bit to “tighten” it up, but was vetoed. Still to complain about watching a big image like this outside with as much image clarity as it has is stupid.
Bottom line: The BenQ Joybee GP2 Mini Projector will run you $599, but for that you can really run…as in taking this portable pretty much anywhere you want to project a big image. Add the capabilities for using it with external video players or a PC, or via the built-in Apple dock, internal memory storage or a USB thumb drive or SD card, and it’s hard to see a circumstance where you have content that wants to be seen big and doesn’t have a way to get there. With the BenQ Joybee GP2 Mini Projector, the content will get there in style.
- LED illumination near-immediate
- Apple dock
- Great for gaming
- Touch-sensitive controls require very firm push
- IR sensor on front of projector only
- Speaker volume minimal
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.