Feature Articles

Best of Mobile Gadgets: Tech Awards 2022 Editor's Choice Results (Part 1)

By Team HardwareZone - 15 Apr 2022

Best Portable Projector

Best Portable Projector

Smaller portable projectors have become all the rage lately, probably exacerbated by the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic where people needed more screen options without spending on a physical display. Additionally, now that Singapore is opening up its borders and easing up both travel in and out of the country, it's a great time to consider a projector for group experiences. These battery-powered, go-anywhere devices come ready with everything needed to keep a family entertained.

While mini projectors have been garnering steady growth and interest for some time, for this year, we focused our sights on truly portable projectors that aren't too heavy on the wallet, and thus feature at least 720P native resolution. They should also come with short-throw capability (not the same as ultra-short-throw), incorporate an internal battery for untethered usage, built-in speakers to enjoy the media played back, have access to online streaming services, ports to hook up further media options and be somewhat rugged to weather internal and outdoor use.

Of course, the underlying criteria is for products to be released within the last year to make the cut. After sifting out several models, these are the qualifying nominees.

Nominees:

    • ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1
    • BenQ GV30

     

    And the winner is...

    The BenQ GV30.

    While its rounded design is unique and eye-catching, it allows the BenQ GV30 to tilt in its magnetic cradle to an appropriate angle for viewing. You could even point it up to the ceiling if you wish, as it has 135-degree freedom of projection angle. The BenQ GV30 feels sturdy and well-made, and the attached strap makes it easy to carry around. The ASUS Zenbeam Latte no doubt has the cutest form factor, but as you'll soon find out, the BenQ GV30 tops ASUS in almost every other aspect.

    With connectivity options like HDMI, DisplayPort, Wi-Fi, USB-C, and Bluetooth, setting it up was very simple, and all you had to do was follow the onscreen instructions when powering it on the first time. Speaking of setup and usage, its autofocus and auto keystone correction takes any guesswork out of nailing a perfect image, and it adapts to where you're pointing really fast.

    It also comes with Android TV to stream Netflix, Disney+, and Viu, so content is never an issue, nor needing to cast your phone's screen for media streaming. For such ad-hoc use, Apple Airplay and built-in Chromecast lends it well for smartphone mirroring needs. The projector's accompanying remote is also a delight to use, and the projector responds quickly, be it for adjustment controls, UI navigation and more.

    The GV30’s picture modes allow the user to adjust for brightness, contrast, colour saturation, and sharpness. Depending on where you intend to playback, these easy controls allow you to get more out of your projection in a jiffy to your desired preference.

    To complement your visual experience, the BenQ GV30 packs a 2.1-channel speaker system featuring dual 4W speakers, an 8W subwoofer, a 3.5mm audio out jack, and can even work as a standalone Bluetooth speaker. The raw audio power wattage might sound unassuming, but we easily found that the built-in audio easily delivers enough volume and quality for most viewing needs. Furthermore, the clever 270-degree audio output design within its housing allowed the projector to envelop you in sound easily, no matter where you're seated. For example, you could be seated anywhere behind the projector, and you would have no issue enjoying the media played back.

     

    Our test findings

    It was a mixed bag of results during our testing for the BenQ GV30, but that's mostly because we often test high-end equipment that far exceeds this portable projector class of devices.

    We liked the connectivity options, easy setup, and multitude of streaming options that further augment the casual gaming options thanks to the Android TV operating system. The network setup was also straightforward. From there on, we were able to easily stream content via our test PC and streaming services like YouTube, Disney+ and more.

    For our video tests, we watch a series of videos in 4K resolution to test out the projector's processing chops to rescale it to its native 720p output resolution. Some test scenes include a drone flying into and over a beach, underwater reef footage, and scenes from movies and TV series like Top Gun, Frozen 2, and Locke and Key. 

    At just 300 ANSI lumens output, the GV30's LED-powered light source DLP projection is largely unusable in bright environments. While the Daytime preset adds some artificial brightness to the image, for a brighter result, you will certainly want to use this projector in a darkened room for best results or during the night when the environment is darker in general.

    The underwater reef test footage benefitted from being a slightly darker scene with darker backgrounds.

    For a portable projector, in the right lighting, it delivers a watchable image. Our underwater scene was clear to watch with no washed out or overly saturated colours. While our drone beach scene was clear, I felt the colours were slightly washed out compared to the source. To be fair, BenQ did say it was designed to take in 1080p video signals and output them at 720p. As such, our 4K videos could be pushing what it was designed to tackle.

    The bright sunlight slightly washed out some of the colours.

    It was during our Top Gun test that the GV30 excelled. The playback was sharp with no pixelation or tearing despite the fast action onscreen. The sound, though… was perfect. The speakers on the BenQ GV30 delivered an immersive sound experience that I’ve rarely enjoyed from mere portable projector speakers. I wasn’t even tempted to try to attach it to external speakers. A testament to BenQ's Trevolo audio department and engineering.

    This looked and sounded perfect. Pardon our manual projector screen's chain getting in the way of the projection screen area.

    We further tested the BenQ GV30 in a darkened room and played shows like The Mandalorian off Disney+. The projector definitely has the ability to output a bright enough image up in the 60 to 80-inch range, though the 720p native resolution limit is what's most likely going to grab your attention - at least until you start streaming your show, and that's when the GV30's captivating audio will keep your focus on the plot line rather than having you thinking about the screen resolution. Overall, run time on battery lives up to its official 2.5 hours of untethered use, enough to last most movie runs or watch a few episodes from an engaging show.

    Overall, the BenQ GV30 is the best portable projector due to its connectivity options, features, official Android TV ecosystem, playback, and excellent sound.

    Scoring Breakdown
      BenQ GV30 ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1
    Design 8.0 8.0
    Features 8.5 7.0
    User-friendliness 8.5 7.0
    Performance 8.0 6.0
    Value 8.0 7.0
    Overall score 8.0 7.0
    Price S$869  S$759

    For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed in the References section below.

     

    References

    • ASUS ZenBeam Latte L1 review coming soon
    • BenQ GV30 review coming soon
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