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BenQ GV30 review: A portable projector that puts convenience first

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
524
inc VAT

Smart and easy to set up, with decent picture quality and impressive sound

Pros 
Flexible design
Likeable HD pictures
Impressive stereo sound
Cons 
720p resolution
No Netflix or deep, inky blacks
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The BenQ GV30 is a different take on the portable projector. It’s nowhere near as compact as its main rivals and it has a somewhat unconventional design.

At first, it looks like a squat, round unit with a single, weird square corner, but it’s actually designed to sit vertically in a circular base. All the connections are on the right-hand face, while the other side pops off to stow a bundled streaming stick inside. It even claims to feature a built-in 2.1 Bluetooth audio system.

This might sound odd, but the GV30 is actually a pretty clever portable projector, delivering decent sound and a more flexible, easy-going approach to projecting, even if you don’t get the best picture quality around.

BenQ GV30 review: What do you get for the money?

This is a 720p HD projector with an LED lamp partnered with a tiny 0.23in DLP chip. It has built-in stereo speakers, including a woofer and a mid-range tweeter on both sides, and it has a single HDMI 1.4 input on one side, along with a USB Type-C port that doubles for charging and DisplayPort input. It also has a built-in Lithium-Ion battery, allowing it to run for up to two-and-a-half hours without its charger (with the emphasis on the “up to”).

It's a fairly chunky unit by the standards of most portable projectors, measuring 185mm deep and standing 196mm high. At 1.6kg in weight, it’s not as easy to sling in a bag or backpack as, say, the 740g Anker Nebula Capsule II. However, BenQ bundles everything inside a rather neat, compact carry case, and you don’t need to bring anything else with you to start streaming films or TV shows. That’s because BenQ supplies the GV30 with an Android TV streaming stick that fits inside its own compartment within the projector housing.

Remove a side panel, connect the stubby micro-USB cable and plug the stick into the internal HDMI port, and you’re good to go. Both the projector and the streaming stick work with the same remote control.

READ NEXT: The best 1080p and 4K-ready projectors on the market

BenQ GV30 review: What does it do well?

In the world of portable projectors, convenience and ease of use tend to trump performance. Luckily, it’s here where the GV30 is particularly strong. Plug in the mains adapter, turn it on and set it running, and it practically sets itself up, including focusing, alignment and keystone adjustment. There’s very little work involved in getting a decent picture.

In fact, the auto-focus and keystoning is probably the best I’ve seen from any portable projector, and that’s especially important on this model. The design enables you to tilt the GV30 at a wide range of angles, so that you can have it projecting straight on from a stand or coffee table or pointing upwards from the floor. You can even aim it at the ceiling.

Normally my heart sinks when I get a projector running some form of Android TV; it’s often an awful cludge, running old, hobbled versions of the main streaming apps with an interface that looks like it comes from another era.

BenQ’s streaming stick is different, to the extent that its Android 9.0-based software supports the Google Play store, and it looks and feels like Google’s old, official version of Android TV. It comes with Amazon Prime, Disney+, YouTube and a handful of other apps pre-installed, and they work just as well here as on more mainstream streaming sticks. It’s relatively slick, it’s easy to use, the settings sit where you expect and work as you’d expect and, what’s more, the remote supports voice control, although it’s better at launching apps than finding content.

READ NEXT: These are the best portable projectors you can buy

Yet the GV30’s biggest strength is its performance. Don’t get too excited: this is a 720p projector with a brightness level of 300 nits, and in our tests that translated to roughly 40 to 50 nits reflected from the screen. With the brightness ramped up to anywhere near full, you lose nearly all your black levels and most of your contrast, so you’re better off in the 50 to 60% region. Plus, with a throw ratio of 1.2 it’s more short-ish throw than short throw, needing 3m of distance to fill a 100in screen.

Within those parameters, though, the picture’s pretty good. Colours are surprisingly rich and vibrant, while 1080p and even 4K content looks crisper and more detailed than the 720p resolution would suggest. There’s no way I’d want to use the GV30 for all my movie viewing, but for ad hoc Saturday night movie shows it’s a winner.

In fact, I’d put the GV30’s pictures above those of 480p models such as the Viewsonic M1 and the original Anker Nebula Capsule and on a par with, if not better than, the Anker Nebula Capsule II. Only 1080p portables, such as the Viewsonic M2 and Anker Nebula Solar, pull ahead. I also installed the Stadia app on the BenQ and found the GV30 made a decent ad hoc gaming option with a Stadia controller partnered up.

Just as crucially, the sound is a serious step up from the average. Again, there are some caveats. There’s only so much stereo effect you can get from a small unit, and the bass still isn’t all that impressive. Yet there’s more weight, detail and dynamic range here than I’ve heard from other portable projectors, even if the sound starts to fall apart a little if you push the volume past the 60% mark (although it’s already pretty loud at this point). As a budget all-in-one mobile cinema, the GV30 works rather well.

BenQ GV30 review: What could it do better?

Okay, so I have some grumbles. There’s not enough brightness to really be visible in daylight, even with the curtains drawn, and at night, dark areas look murky. Daylight viewing also seems to trip the auto-focus sometimes, causing it to focus, then blur, then focus again, with a BenQ target superimposed over what you’re watching. And, while Bluetooth audio output should be a plus, I found lag with the two pairs of headphones I tested, and no way of stripping that out. You’ll have to use the 3.5mm headphones/audio to keep the sound in sync.

Most seriously, there’s no Netflix app. You can’t install it from the Google Play store and I couldn’t get it to stream over Chromecast from a phone. Even using a Miracast app to mirror the phone screen resulted in audio playback with no visible image. You can get around this by plugging in your own streaming stick, and this might be worth doing anyway, as you’ll get an even more modern interface and a more comprehensive lineup of apps.

The projector’s battery life could also be improved. You might be able to stretch it out beyond two hours in the dimmer eco or low power modes, but with the brightness at any truly usable setting you’ll see it running out of charge in roughly 60 to 90 minutes.

BenQ GV30 review: Should you buy one?

The battery life and lack of Netflix are both issues, but otherwise, the GV30 does a decent job. After the initial setup, you can get it up and running almost anywhere in minutes; it will take you longer to erect the screen. For once, the built-in streaming features work well, and the picture and sound quality are better than you’re going to get from many smaller options.

Where picture quality is more important, there are better options for similar money, including the Anker Nebula Solar and Viewsonic M2. But if you’re happy with a solid HD picture, decent sound and easy setup, the BenQ GV30 has everything you need.

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