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The BenQ GS50 outdoor projector is durable, smart (it will turn off the light if a curious toddler gets too close to the lens), and also delivers on both image quality and audio.
BENQ GS50 SPECS
|Rated Brightness||500 ANSI lumens|
|Native Resolution||1920 by 1080|
|Maximum Resolution||3840 by 2160 60Hz|
|Inputs and Interfaces||USB-C, HDMI 2.0b|
|Dimensions (HWD)||5.7 by 6.1 by 7.3|
BenQ calls the $799 GS50 an outdoor projector. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it inside, but it does mean it has some features that make it particularly appropriate for your backyard. In particular, it’s IPX2-rated, which means it won’t be hurt by an unexpected light rain shower. BenQ says it will also survive a 2.3-foot drop, which is about the distance from your hand to the floor. The more expensive and brighter Epson EF12 remains our top pick for the category, with slightly better water and drop resistance. But the GS50 is still worth a look, and it doesn’t hurt either that it offers 1080p resolution, Android TV streaming, good image quality, and robust speakers.
Enough Battery Life to Get You Through a Movie
The GS50 pairs a 1080p DLP chip with an RGB LED light source rated for 20,000 hours in full power mode or 30,000 hours in Eco mode. However, it can accept up to 4K (3,840 by 2,160 pixels) 60Hz input and also supports HDR10 and HLG, so in some ways behaves like a 4K projector with soft focus.
BenQ rates the projector at 500 ANSI lumens. As is common, the brightest color mode has an obviously green bias, so you won’t want to use it except when you absolutely need the brightest image possible. In addition, the projector drops automatically to a Low Power mode, a step below Eco Mode, when switching to battery power, which also lowers brightness. You can switch back to Eco or Normal mode if you prefer, but the battery won’t last as long. BenQ rates battery life at 2.5 hours in Low Power mode with the volume set to 15 (out of a maximum 50) and “playing content from a USB device or YouTube via a stable Internet connection.” There is no battery life rating rating for Eco or Normal power modes.
Can You Solve the Dongle Puzzle?
The GS50 weighs 5.1 pounds, not including the external AC adaptor, which puts it in the middle of the 4-to-6 pound weight range for current room-to-room-to-backyard portables. At 5.7 by 6.1 by 7.3 inches (HWD) it’s roughly the shape of a lunch box, with a handle on one side. It also comes with soft carrying case that looks even more like a lunch box.
Initial setup is harder than it should be. The compartment for the bundled Android TV 9 dongle is on the top of the projector, near the rear. Sliding the cover off is easy, but there’s so little free space beyond what the dongle itself needs that I found it hard to hold the dongle at the right angle to insert into the HDMI port. After finally getting it connected, I then had to deal with a thin rubber grommet that surrounds the outside edge of the compartment. The grommet had come partly off when I removed the cover, and I couldn’t find any way to put it back in place without dislodging it again every time I tried to replace the cover. I finally gave up and removed it altogether.
BenQ later confirmed that the grommet is needed to give the GS50 its full IPX2 water resistance, so if you can’t successfully position it properly with the cover closed, the projector no longer qualifies as IPX2 even if you have the attached rubber covers in place over the ports. I count this particular combination of grommet and cover as poorly thought out. Beyond that, even if there were no issue with the grommet, installation would be a lot easier if BenQ simply shipped the projector with the dongle already installed.
The good news is that the Android TV setup is standard, with Wi-Fi as the only connection choice, and once everything’s set up the first time, using the projector is easy. Connect the AC adapter (or not, if the battery is charged) and video source, turn it on, and point it at a screen or any handy flat surface. As with most portable models, there is no optical zoom, but there’s an automatic focus, which in my tests delivered as sharp an image as the lens is capable of.
Digital inputs on the left side panel include a second HDMI port with ARC support, a USB-C port for mirroring, and a USB-A port for reading files from USB memory. All are hidden under a protective rubber cover that stays attached to the side when you remove it from the ports. Four buttons on top let you turn the projector on and off, activate a Bluetooth speaker, and adjust volume. All other adjustments require the remote or a BenQ app on your mobile device. Note that you need the remote to give commands to download and set up the app, so be sure to get it working before the remote goes missing.
Although you can connect an external audio system to the 3.5mm stereo audio-out port, there’s little need to. The onboard chamber speakers, which include two 5-watt midrange tweeters and a 10-watt woofer, deliver impressive quality and volume for such a small projector.
Good Color Accuracy and Contrast
The GS50 offers six predefined picture modes, each of which lets you set brightness, contrast, color saturation, sharpness, and color temperature. The green bias in bright mode makes it best avoided unless you absolutely need the projector’s top brightness for the image size and ambient light level. However, most people will consider all of the other modes at least usable for movies and video, although Day Time mode tended to wash out colors in my tests. Cinema mode offered the best color accuracy, making it the preferred choice for my viewing tests. For ambient light levels and image sizes that need higher brightness, Living Room loses only a little color accuracy in exchange for higher brightness.
For viewing a 1080p, standard dynamic range (SDR) input using the Cinema setting and Normal power mode, color accuracy was good enough that I didn’t see any colors that were obviously off. I saw some loss of shadow detail in dark scenes in our test suite, but I was able to see enough to tell what was going on in the scene. I also found that adjusting the brightness level delivered more shadow detail without raising the black level.
When using 4K HDR10 versions of the same movies we use for 1080p tests, the GS50 automatically switched to its single HDR picture mode. However, the image wasn’t in the same league as with 1080p SDR input. Scenes dominated by midtones looked dark and dull, as if seen through a gray filter, and the projector doesn’t offer the usual setting—often called HDR brightness—to adjust for differences in the ways individual movies or sources implement HDR. So while the projector supports HDR, it delivered better-looking images using SDR input.
Very much on the plus side, the GS50 doesn’t show many rainbow artifacts. I see these red-green-blue flashes easily, but saw only a few in my tests. As with any single-chip projector, if you find rainbow artifacts bothersome, buy from a dealer that allows returns without a restocking fee, so you can test it out for yourself. Also note that there’s no 3D support, and the input lag is suitable for casual gaming only. I measured it with a Bodnar meter at 42ms for 1080p 60Hz and 62ms for 4K 60Hz.
Image brightness in Normal power mode and Cinema picture mode was roughly a match for what I expect from 400 ANSI lumens, able to light up a 90-inch 1.0-gain white screen in a dark room or at low levels of ambient light. At higher ambient light levels, plan to use smaller screen sizes, switch to a brighter mode, or both.
Note too that the GS50 includes some features aimed specifically at family use, including an eye protection setting to automatically turn off the light if a toddler or pet gets too inquisitive, and a slide switch that keeps the projector from obeying commands from the remote if small children start playing with buttons. However, it still reacts to the Google Assistant button, and it puts a big “Panel Key Is Locked” message on the screen for the other buttons.
Average Quality, Standout Outdoor Features
In most ways, the BenQ GS50 is a bigger, higher-resolution, and brighter cousin of the 720p BenQ GV30, which you should consider if you want similar capability at a lower cost. Among the 1080p competition, the Miroir MS1200S offers higher brightness at a lower cost, while our Editors’ Choice pick in the category, the Epson Mini EF12, offers even higher brightness and is guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts.
However, the BenQ GS50 stands out for outdoor use. It’s one of the few projectors that claims a rating for water resistance or drop protection, and its three-year warranty is two years longer than any of the other models mentioned here. That makes the GS50 both more likely to survive rougher treatment and covered for longer if something goes wrong, a combination you may want if you need a projector for regular backyard use and camping trips.