For years I’ve wanted a decent projector setup but have never found a picture quality that rivals the best TV tech such as OLED. I drool over 3-chip laser projectors that cost more than some automobiles and massive systems at the multiplex that rival the cost of some homes, but the home projector market really hasn’t been my priority. There’s something to be said about having that BIG image at home, and given the trick up the BenQ GP500 projector’s sleeve, I was super excited to give a modern unit a try. How did it stack up? Read on to find out!

Specifications of the BenQ GP500 projector

  • Image: 1 chip DLP, 1,500 lumens, dynamic contrast 100,000:1
  • Resolution – 3840×2160
  • LED lamp – 20,000 to 30,000 hours
  • Aspect ratio – 16:9 (4K HD)
  • 3x manual zoom, powered autofocus assisted by front-facing camera
  • 2 m – 4.4 m distance to the screen, 102 cm – 509 cm optimal image size
  • Size: 18 cm x 26 cm x 27 cm, 5.4 kg
  • 4 internal speakers
  • Audio out: mini jack, optical, eARC
  • HDMI 2.0 (HDCP 2.2), 2 x USB, wireless networking/streaming (supplied with Roku stick)

Setting up the BenQ GP500 projector

To BenQ’s credit, the setup of this projector is extraordinarily simple and it’s essentially a plug-and-play instant home cinema. Thanks to built-in test patterns and a front facing camera, all you need to do is to aim at a screen (or, if you must, a white-painted wall), adjust the manual zoom slider, and you’re pretty much set.

The model comes with a Roku stick for streaming that you install inside the unit, making this truly an all-in-one device that you can dial in and just take to wherever you want to watch. I was testing as part of an existing home theatre setup so I didn’t bother with the stick, but it’s nice that the internal HDMI port and USB charger can work with many models. Just a note—this particular model doesn’t support one of the most popular streaming services.

The projector is designed to work in front of you rather than rear-mounted, so it’s best if you can accommodate it on a coffee table or small rack in front of your seating position so you can get the most out of its other remarkable feature.

Powerful built-in audio—the real magic of the BenQ GP500 projector

Not to bury the lede too much, but what truly sets the BenQ GP500 apart from the competition is that it’s really two devices in one. First, it’s fundamentally a capable projector, able to play back up to 4K images with terrific quality.

Its second magic trick is its audio capabilities, which makes this an even more remarkable device. With four built-in, powerful speakers, you’re essentially getting a powered Bluetooth speaker that rivals many standalone products. If you wish, you can stream right from your phone music, skipping some of the images and simply having it rock with room-filling sound.

Of course, for movie fans, the whole point is to have engaging sound that syncs well with the images being projected. Here the BenQ GP500 does a terrific job of creating a wide soundstage that rivals the size of the picture. It uses various processing modes so you can tweak the sound. In installations that are a bit more challenging, you can even target it to be left or right of the seating position. The audio can be tweaked to emphasize one channel over another to bring back a “phantom center” regardless of where you place it.

It’s for audio reasons that the projector works best situated in front, though you can place it wherever you wish, especially if bypassing the internal audio when set up as part of a full surround sound setup. What I love about the unit is the ability for it to live primarily within a home theatre environment. Given its portability and capabilities, you could also drag it outside for a drive-in-like outdoor experience or maybe another room showing off images during a party while blasting tunes. It’s this unique flexibility that really makes the BenQ GP500 shine.

Sound quality of the BenQ GP500 projector

Given its small size and relatively lightweight chassis, I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity and impact of the built-in audio of the BenQ GP500. While there is a small amount of fan noise to contend with in a super quiet room, it’s clearly been designed to be close to seating position and not distract from the soundtrack of what you’re watching. Torture test soundtracks did show off some limitations, and the crazy low bass in the likes of Blade Runner 2049 did make for more rattle than a true bass thump. Still, for the vast majority of viewing the sound was pleasing and clear, easily delineating between the film’s score and effect noise and dialogue.

For some, this will be more than sufficient, and I’ve certainly heard purpose-made sound bars that did not approach the audio quality of the BenQ GP500. Still, what I love about this model is the option an owner has to either use built-in audio when it makes sense (during a meeting when connected to a laptop, say, or in that outdoor screening space), while still reserving the ability to turn off the built-in audio playback and have it work as a very respectable projector. It may be indulgent for this to work in addition to a full home theatre setup, but I was excited about the potential, even if I only got to keep it for a short period of time!

Picture quality of the BenQ GP500 projector

Rated around 90% of the DCI-P3 colour space, the GP500 provides a decent, immersive image on your big screen that’s more than sufficient for sports events, casual viewing, etc. While HDR content is supported, even the highest-end projectors do not resolve the same contrast ratios of modern “regular” TV sets so you should adjust expectations accordingly. Blacks are slightly grey and murky, while specular highlights do manage to shine brightly.

Skin tones of a variety of shades and sources looked decent, though again, even dialling in as best as possible using test discs made it adequate if not exceptional. Clarity is excellent, and thanks to the autofocus capabilities you’re always assured that it’s dialled in perfectly. This is a very good mid-range projector, commensurate with its competition. And, while not reference quality, it certainly can provide impact simply in terms of its very large presentation.

3D support: another selling feature for fans of stereos and stereography

Beyond the audio and regular picture modes, I was extremely pleased to see that the unit does allow for the projection of 3D discs and files. For many, this isn’t a big deal at all, but one of the things I gave up moving to my latest OLED was the ability to playback these titles. No modern television set is capable of 3D playback no matter what budget you spend.

While I wasn’t able to test (the optional active shutter glasses are purchased separately), I was able to confirm that both 3D Blu-ray and files of a server/laptop were able to be processed successfully, provided you force the unit into 16:9 picture mode. I would buy one of these for this alone, making it a backup for 3D playback in my main setup, and a perfect augmentation in other rooms where the built-in audio would truly sing.

Final thoughts on the BenQ GP500 projector

I’m privileged enough to be able to get to review a number of terrific products here, but it’s rare that I come across something that truly changes the way I feel about an entire market segment. I love how the BenQ GP500 serves many purposes, while never sacrificing quality for flexibility. The fact that it can be used with or without the built-in audio is an absolute boon, and the robust audio output functionality shows that the option to bypass was always at the front of mind for the designers.

It’s a very capable model that’s super easy to use and blasts out audio more than good enough for most general watching. When you want to take it up a level the projector is there to do the trick, making it a strong consideration even for someone such as myself with a robust existing system.

I really, really like this projector and can think of many ways I’d love to make use of it. It’s off to the next reviewer, unfortunately, but I have firmly placed it on my own want list. It’s a device that, until I had a chance to test drive, didn’t know how much I was waiting for. It’s such a terrific solution.

The BenQ GP500 is available now at Best Buy.

Jason Gorber, M.A., is a film, technology, and media journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the managing editor and chief film critic at That Shelf and a regular contributor to POV Magazine, SlashFilm, and CBC Radio. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years, is an avid collector of music, movies, LEGO and many other aesthetic and technical treats.

375 COMMENTS

  1. Camera with test patterns is a useful feature as I would use the portability piece, especially with off to the side placement

  2. My favourite feature of the BenQ GP500 would be an array of so many different things but the one that stands out the most would be imagining a 509 cm optimal image size. WOW!!! a 200 inch screen, wow!!!

  3. The built in audio is my favourite feature. Makes it easy to move around without lugging around a whole set up.

  4. My favourite part of the BenQ GP500 is that I don’t even need a screen, I can use a white painted wall which opens up more possibilities for seating a lot of family to watch

  5. I LOVE everything about this projector! if I had to choice one feature it would be The powerful built in speakers.

  6. This projector would be ideal for showing movies to neighborhood kids this summer. Can’t wait to set it up for movie night. The first movie on my list would be the classic, Sound of Music.

  7. My favourite feature is the 2D auto keystone that enables the projector to automatically correct distortion in the image along its X and Y axes.

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