BenQ GV30 Review

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BenQ’s innovative GV30 delivers 720p video, robust audio, and streaming in a projector you can carry from room to room on one finger, and point at any convenient surface to use as a screen. It also works as a Bluetooth speaker.
The $599 BenQ GV30 has one of the more innovative projector designs we’ve seen. Roughly the shape of a 7-inch wheel of cheese, with a built-in bump where the lens is, it sits on a magnetic stand that keeps it from rolling away and lets you effortlessly rotate it up or down to adjust the image height. A finger-sized loop makes it easy to carry, complete with the base, and it can survive a drop from table-top height without damage, according to BenQ. Add in the highly watchable image, Android TV for streaming and Chromecast, and the ability to work as a Bluetooth speaker, and it’s hard not to be impressed. All it lacks is sufficient brightness to throw a large image in ambient light. The Miroir Synq M189 ($349.99) remains our pick among portable streaming projectors, but there are plenty of reasons to consider the clever, capable GV30.
The GV30 is built around an RGBB LED light source, rated for 30,000 hours in Eco mode or 20,000 hours in full power mode, combined with a diamond-layout 720p DLP chip. However, in my tests it negotiated a 1080p connection by default with video sources, which means it behaves like a 1080p projector with slightly soft focus. The brightness is low enough that you may not notice the softness or lost detail at the image sizes you’re most likely to use.
BenQ rates the projector at 300 ANSI lumens. But to get the brightest picture, you have to use a color mode that’s noticeably green-tinted. For modes with better color accuracy, the brightness is lower, and it drops even further if you use a power mode that extends battery life. The best that can be said for the brightness is that it’s sufficient to be useful.
The brightest power mode, and the default setting for AC power, is Normal. It’s also available when using the built-in rechargeable battery, which isn’t true for many portable projectors. The default setting when using the battery is Low Power, which is rated for 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on the volume, brightness settings, and even content. There is no battery life rating for Eco or Normal modes. For most of my viewing tests, I used the Normal power mode.
The GV30 weighs 3.5 pounds, not including the external AC adapter, and is 4.7 inches wide. The spec for height is 7.7 inches measured at the point where the lens and control panel stick out from the overall wheel shape. The 7.3 inch “depth” in the specs is the diameter of the rest of the wheel. BenQ says the projector was designed with indoor portability in mind, and rates it as drop-proof for up to 27.6 inches, which is table-top height. If you carry it at your side with your finger through the loop, you’re probably holding it in the neighborhood of 25 inches above the floor, so BenQ is basically saying you don’t need to worry too much if the loop slips off and the projector goes thunk.
Rotating the projector on the base allows projection over 135 degrees vertically, but if you place the base at the edge of a table, you can actually go a bit further, from nearly straight down (to project on the floor) to straight up to the ceiling. Keystone correction to square off the image is on by default, though you can use manual correction instead.
Initial setup is less straightforward than it could be. To get to the hidden compartment under a panel on one side for the Android TV dongle, you have to pry the panel off using a pick-shaped plastic piece. Instructions are in pictures only, and I’m not sure I could have decoded them if I weren’t already familiar with similar panels on laptops. (A BenQ representative later pointed me to an instruction video that shows the process.) Once the compartment is exposed, you plug the dongle into the HDMI port, connect the USB cable that’s already in the compartment for supplying power, and snap the cover back on.
With the dongle in place, you can plug in the AC adapter, turn the power on, wait for the auto-focus to finish, and then set up the Android TV, which requires a Wi-Fi network with an internet connection.
After the initial setup, using the projector is a matter of optionally plugging in the AC adapter and/or an additional video source, turning the projector on, and pointing it at a screen or any handy flat surface. As is typical for portable models, there is no optical zoom. Digital inputs include a second HDMI port and a USB Type-C port on one side of the projector. The control panel near the lens includes buttons for volume, power, and switching to and from Bluetooth speaker mode. However, you can’t control any other settings if you misplace the remote.
Audio quality and volume are both impressive for the GV30’s size and price. The 2.1-channel chamber speakers, with two 4-watt tweeters and an 8-watt woofer, deliver full-bodied sound without the tinny quality so common in small projectors, and the volume is high enough to fill a large family room. If you need still better audio, there’s also a 3.5mm stereo audio out port for connecting an external sound system, but the built-in audio delivers easily enough volume and quality for casual viewing or for serving as a capable Bluetooth speaker.
Each of the GV30’s six picture modes allows adjustment for brightness, contrast, color saturation, and sharpness. As already mentioned, the brightest mode, Bright, has a noticeable green tint. You’ll want to avoid it unless you absolutely need the projector’s top brightness to project a larger image or combat ambient light.
Cinema mode has the best color accuracy, which makes it the best choice for watching brightly lit digital or live video. The accuracy of Game mode is nearly as good, and it does the best job of holding shadow detail, making it the best choice for games and for movies and video with dark scenes (or even dark areas in otherwise bright scenes).
For my viewing tests, I used Game mode along with Normal power mode. Color accuracy was easily good enough to be acceptable even to those with a critical eye. I didn’t see any colors that were obviously off, even in our test clips, which I’m very familiar with. I saw some loss of shadow detail in dark images, but I could still make out what was going on even in the most challenging scenes.
I was also impressed that the GV30 does an excellent job of avoiding rainbow artifacts. I typically see these red-green-blue flashes easily, when present, but didn’t see any during my tests, even with our test clip that tends to show them. However, our standard advice still applies: If you find rainbow artifacts bothersome, be sure you can return the projector without a restocking fee, so you can test it out for yourself. Also note that there’s no 3D support.
I measured input lag with a Bodnar meter as being a little faster than BenQ’s spec for 1080p, 60Hz, at 43ms. Even the 51ms stated in the spec should be acceptable to most casual gamers.
The GV30’s image in Normal power mode and Game picture mode was roughly a match for what I expect from a 250-ANSI-lumen lamp-based projector. Using an 80-inch 1.1-gain screen in a family room, it delivered nicely saturated color with the lights off and was quite watchable in low levels of ambient light, but it wasn’t bright enough to stand up to daylight streaming through the windows. Don’t expect to take this portable projector outside for showing backyard movies unless your neighborhood’s nighttime ambient light level is very low or you’re willing to scale the image down to 30 or 40 inches.
If the BenQ GV30 were a bit brighter, it would be ideal for indoor room-to-room portability. As it is, it’s still a seductively attractive choice with plenty of useful features. If you want a larger image than it can give you in any given level of ambient light, and you don’t need to hide a streaming stick inside the projector, consider the AAXA M7, a native 1080p projector that’s bright enough to serve as a permanent TV substitute in a family room. If you don’t need portability, consider the InFocus IN118BB, which is lamp-based and brighter still. Or, if you want streaming with no dongle showing and would rather pick your own streaming stick, consider the Miroir Synq M189.
All that said, the BenQ GV30 offers a lot for the price, even in a crowded field of capable machines. If it’s bright enough for your needs, it’s easy to recommend.
BenQ’s innovative GV30 delivers 720p video, robust audio, and streaming in a projector you can carry from room to room on one finger, and point at any convenient surface to use as a screen. It also works as a Bluetooth speaker.
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M. David Stone is a freelance writer and computer industry consultant. He’s a confirmed generalist, with writing credits on subjects as varied as ape language experiments, politics, quantum physics, and an overview of a top company in the gaming industry. David has significant expertise in imaging technologies (including printers, monitors, large-screen displays, projectors, scanners, and digital cameras), storage (both magnetic and optical), and word processing.
David’s 40-plus years of writing about science and technology include a longtime concentration on PC hardware and software. Writing credits include nine computer-related books, major contributions to four others, and more than 4,000 articles in national and worldwide computer and general interest publications. His books include The Underground Guide to Color Printers (Addison-Wesley) Troubleshooting Your PC, (Microsoft Press), and Faster, Smarter Digital Photography (Microsoft Press). His work has appeared in a number of print and online magazines and newspapers, including Wired, Computer Shopper, ProjectorCentral, and Science Digest, where he was Computers Editor. He also wrote a column for the Newark Star Ledger. His non-computer-related work includes the Project Data Book for NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (written for GE’s Astro-Space Division) and occasional science fiction short stories (including publications in Analog).
Much of David’s writing through 2016 was for PC Magazine and PCMag.com as a Contributing Editor and Lead Analyst for Printers, Scanners, and Projectors. He returned in 2019 as a Contributing Editor.
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