A digital LED projector has a number of advantages over the more conventional bulb-based model, chief among them being ease of use, near-instant light start-up and portability. BenQ’s $1099.00 GP20 Ultra-Lite LED Projector includes all of these in its 720p resolution portfolio while at the same time avoiding the negative issues of low light, low contrast and limited features.

BenQ GP20 front shot

Setting up the GP20 can be done quickly, which makes sense since it’s portable enough to be tossed in the car for a drive to a friend’s house, or used at a hobby meeting or even as a hi-tech version of a “slide projector.” A short throw lens means that it doesn’t have to be very far off to throw a big image — getting a well lit 30″ projection on a wall while seated on a table or even a chair for example. Leveling the projector is simpler than most bulb-based models, due to digital projector’s inherently “throwing” their image slightly up instead of straight across. There’s also keystoning to “square” up the image, but as this degrades the overall resolution, I suggest avoiding this unless there’s no choice but to use it.

Inputs are varied enough to cover any contingency. HDMI/MHL gives the highest level of resolution, with a VGA/Component input along with those for a SD card, a USB drive and for use with a USB dongle (included in my case) for wireless transmissions. Acceptance of the WiFi tech is built into the GP20 so when I popped the dongle in at the menu setting, it took only moments to join my home network. The LEDs run cool, unlike bulbs, and also provides an even edge-to-edge light source with more a consistent color temperature (can be varied through the menu). The overall illumination can also be adjusted against the bias of a colored wall — the setting readjusts the light output to create a white balance despite the wall causing a color cast. It actually works too. The level of contrast is quite good in default mode, although the larger the image, the more “tweaking” it took to maintain this. Colors are very solid and the blacks quite acceptable, although this too suffered as the image size increased. The lesson here is to not make the image any larger than it needs to be.

BenQ GP20 WiFi screen

Another advantage of the LED illumination was that there was no fan noise to interfere with the internal stereo speakers — helpful as there is only 3 watts of amplification. Employing the SRS WOW audio format did increase the apparent volume but it doesn’t really create a surround effect — a direct result of the two speakers being so close to one another. I found it more effective to use the audio out to go into a portable audio speaker so as to gain more volume and which also allowed movement of the speaker relative to the audience.

BenQ GP20 remote

There’s no pretending that the image being projected was Full HD, but 720p is nothing to complain about. I played the Blu-ray black and white restored version of Orson Well’s Touch of Evil (Universal Studios) and was impressed by the gradations of the grey scale being rendered by the light engine. LED illumination approaches “pure” colors more accurately than other types of illumination and so as a result even the blacks were good — no grey color cast diluting the image or causing detail to be lost — the same results as in black and white being found when I played some color Blu-ray titles.  Of course the darker the room the better. That’s not to say the GP20 can’t handle ambient light, but it does bleed out some of the detail. My friend’s son wanted to try playing a video game on it, so we hooked the GP20 up to his PS3 and projected a big image on his wall. I noticed that there wasn’t any lag in game-play and more than enough detail to read small menus.

Bottom line: BenQ’s GP20 Ultra-Lite LED Projector is an efficient digital projector that provides a large image with good color and detail. That makes it suitable for casual home theater presentations and even more so for business/office application use.

Marshal Rosenthal

Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.

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