The BenQ GV30 offers an altogether different take on the classic dull movie projector. The look of the GV30 is closer to a wheel of cheese – complete with holes over the speakers – compared to a traditional square projector. Nevertheless, it’s a cute battery-powered design. Moreover, it comes loaded with clever features designed to make it easy to enjoy movies on the big screen virtually anywhere you can find a flat white surface.
As well as 720p HD resolution and a maximum screen dimension of 120”, the GV30 has powerful 2.1 stereo sound, a super simple setup, and an Android TV streaming dongle to get you bingeing box sets in your backyard in no time.
But with so many great home projectors already available for around the same price, does the GV30 have the performance to back up the eye-catching design? Take a look at our guide to see how it measures up against the other best outdoor projectors, or keep reading to see how the GV30 fared during testing.
BenQ GV30: key specs
- Resolution: 720p HD
- Brightness 300 nits
- Screen size: 30"–120"
- Streaming: Android 9.0 TV streaming dongle included
- Projection angle: 135° with Auto Focus and Vertical Keystone
- Sound: 2.1 stereo
- Battery life: 2.5hrs
- Smart? Google Assistant voice control
BenQ GV30: set-up
If you buy a cinema-quality projector, the correct set-up is vital to create the best possible image. It takes skill and knowledge to get it right, but thankfully portable projectors have been (mostly) designed with ease of use in mind. The BenQ GV30 is an excellent example of a plug-and-play projector that had us up and watching Amazon Prime in less than five minutes.
Paper instructions were clear but minimal and required us to pop off the back of the device and insert the supplied Android streaming dongle inside. It’s a bit of an odd decision by BenQ, but it only took a minute.
Once connected, rested on its stand, turned on, and pointed at a wall, the onscreen menu – which will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used an Android smartphone – takes you through the various logins for your Wi-Fi, YouTube, Amazon Prime, etc. It’s all nice and straightforward, even if you need to enter a few passwords using a small remote control.
As for screen set-up, the GV30 virtually sets itself up, tweaking the focus, alignment, and keystone adjustments depending on its position. Tilt the projector up, and the sensors will adjust the screen size and shape accordingly. This is where the round ‘cheese’ design works brilliantly, meaning you can change screen position without having to stack it up on a pile of books, as is often the case.
As well as using the Android 9.0 HDMI dongle to stream wirelessly from phones, tablets, and computers using Chromecast and AirPlay, you can also plug in your laptop, Blu-ray, or games console into the separate HDMI socket, plug into the USB-C socket, and stream with compatible devices, use headphones via the minijack socket or stream music via Bluetooth.
BenQ GV30: performance
Once up and running, the GV30 was enormous fun to watch. We enjoyed big screen breakfasts in the dining room, a lazy Sunday morning watching terrible zombie movies in the bedroom, and Jedi fun in the garden with a white sheet and Obi-Wan Kenobi from Disney+.
It's portable, versatile, and easy to use, but it isn't perfect. Firstly, at 2.5hrs, the battery life is a little lacking, especially if someone wants to watch the latest superhero films and doesn't have a plug close by. Of course, these films are arguably too long in the first place, but that's not the point.
The second issue was that the image quality suffered in natural light. Even at dusk, the black tones were all but washed out. You can still enjoy the content, but it isn't as engaging as a TV would be, even if the screen is 90" wide. It's a shame as the 500 ANSI Lumen rating is higher than most and looks fabulous in a darkened room.
The fact it only has 720p resolution rather than 1080p or 4K isn't that much of an issue here, and we never experienced any pixelation, even when we stretched the screen size. Of course, images can look a little smoothed off around the edges rather than crisp, but we shouldn't expect pixel perfection on the patio. Fast action sequences also tend to blur, but this is true of most portable designs.
The sound quality, however, was really impressive, with the 2.1 stereo speakers (including an 8W subwoofer) delivering remarkable results, helping enormously to create an immersive atmosphere, with loud action sequences and conversations both crystal clear. They're also suitable for music streaming, with plenty of punch.
Irritatingly Netflix has not yet got round to making their services fully available on portable projectors like this, so if you want to watch the streaming platform, you will need a workaround. Again, these are an irritation, but you can plug your laptop or phone into the HDMI or USB-C port and stream that way, use Apple AirPlay, or in this case, sign up for the preloaded app which has access to Netflix. Annoyingly you will also need to use BenQ's Smart Remote app to control it, which is another faff, but you can get there in the end.
BenQ GV30: Design
The round design of the GV30 stands it out from the rest. It’s certainly more eye-catching than most, but a projector isn’t really designed to be looked at. The round design and supplied stand do, however, make adjusting the screen position straightforward. It’s a great example of where form and function happily collide.
It’s a bit too big to stash in your hand luggage - you need the Anker Nebula Capsule for that – but for at-home use, the 1.6kg design is easy enough to carry from room to room. We left the GV30 on a side table, and visitors commented on its design but assumed it was a Bluetooth speaker, not a projector. In reality, if we owned the GV30, we would keep it safe in the supplied protective case until needed.
BenQ GV30: sustainability & longevity
Projector power usage varies greatly, with the smallest designs using just 50W and the larger home cinema options pulling a whopping 800W. On the other hand, the BenQ GV30 uses just 65W power consumption (average), which is excellent.
The LED bulb used has a quoted lifespan of 20,000 hours in ‘normal’ mode and 30,000 hrs in ‘eco’ mode. This is pretty standard for a small LED bulb, and BenQ offers a warranty on their bulbs limited to 1 year or 2000 hrs (equivalent hours), whichever comes first. So chances are you won’t need to replace the bulb, but BenQ does offer a repair service if something goes wrong.
As is typical for small electricals, the GV30 is made in China. As a result, all the cardboard boxes can be recycled, although some unnecessary plastic will be heading to the landfill. We like that the robust storage box doubles as shipping protection instead of using more plastic.
BenQ GV30 vs GV1: a comparison
BenQ’s original, affordable portable speaker, the GV1, has a super compact design with an innovative tilting head. Unfortunately, despite costing less, it no longer keeps pace with its bigger brother. On the other hand, key aspects of the GV30 are significantly better, with higher resolution (720p up from 480p), brightness (300 ANSI Lumen instead of 200), and greater connectivity.
The GV1 is brilliantly compact, however, and offers a slightly longer 3hr battery life using only 23W of power, but if we had to choose, the GV30 would win hands down, even though it costs a little more.
BenQ GV30: our verdict
Stylish, reliable, and fun, the GV30 has been a pleasure to test. It rarely missed a beat, and the online menu system is refreshingly familiar as it mainly relies on Android. Furthermore, with Google Assistant built-in, we could just ask for content, which played instantly, which is a nice bonus.
There are loads of major streaming services available using the supplied Android dongle, and if you really need Netflix, you can find a workaround, even if it isn’t that straightforward. What is easy, though, is positioning the projector just about anywhere. The easily adjustable circular design and auto-adjust feature make the set-up brilliantly simple.
The only major issue we had with the GV30 is its performance in anything but darkness, with the image often looking washed out with even a crack of natural light in the room. It’s still a fun watch and great in the dark, but it would become irritating if you were thinking of swapping your TV for this particular projector.
About this review, and the reviewer
Chris is a UK-based freelance writer for Real Homes, providing a range of reviews and product roundups based on extensive testing in his own home. He has written for a huge array of titles, including WIRED, T3, Ideal Home, Tesco Magazine, and many more. A sample of the BenQ GV30 was kindly provided for review purposes. You can read more about our review policy in our guide about how we test products.