Since recent years, projectors have also jumped onto the bandwagon of “smart devices”. But the question is, how viable are they at being “smart”? In this review, we got our hands on the BENQ EW600 Smart Projector, which is supposedly so well-equipped that you can practically ditch lugging your laptops into meeting rooms from now on! Here’s why.
ps: We performed our test of this device in a darkened room to ascertain its 3500 lumens clarity at a range of 2 meters.
Design And Accessories
The BenQ EW600 looks just like any other standard office projector in the market. This includes its size and weight.
Turn to the rear and you would have your standard display and audio ports and a slew of USB ports (which we will come to in a bit).
It does seem like the design is meant to be as reminiscent of the usual office projector. Clad in white, it does blend into the mass market variants rather seamlessly. As such, it wasn’t designed to be a show-offy projector.
The usual BenQ logos are apparent but aside from that, you won’t really notice how “smart” it can be. And that can be a good thing if you’re looking for just a modest projector but one with extensive capabilities.
It comes with a remote controller, which looks nothing fancy but you would certainly use this often when navigating the operating system. Yes, the projector has an OS, which is Android-base and we will show you how it works below. You would also use the controller to type if you didn’t connect a keyboard to the projector.
Moreover, it comes with this USB drive, which is actually a wireless dongle. By connecting this dongle to a designated USB port (which can only be revealed by unscrewing the compartment with a screwdriver) only then can the EW600 connect to the internet. We’ll show you how.
Wireless Dongle Compartment
Now, if you want to go wireless with the EW600, the only way to do so is to connect the included wireless dongle at a special USB port that can only be opened with a screwdriver. It sealed for a good reason and we think it’s because, that is to prevent users from inserting the dongle into the two main USB ports – that may not result in any wireless connectivity as they are geared for data transfer and reading only.
Hence, by unlocking the compartment, the access to the special USB port is revealed – which is specially designed for the USB wireless dongle. Locking this inside also makes the overall form factor during use more streamlined and it also effectively protects the wireless dongle from any kind of accidental damage.
Dark Room Test
For this review, we transported the projector to a dark room in order to ascertain the clarity of the EW600’s 3500 lumens projection. But do note that its maximum resolution is 1080p Full HD and not 4K. Personally, we find that it actually has pretty good visual clarity as ran some Full HD trailers and they look quite good. We’ll come to that shortly.
Also, you don’t really require a dark room or space with a 3500 lumens brightness. It would work just fine under normal lighting conditions. It’s just that our studio’s walls are predominantly painted blue-green and the only white-colored wall is the one in the room.
Booting the EW600 up presents you with a series of settings, much like you would setup a smartphone or Smart TV. This includes prompting us for WiFi setup, which immediately connects the projector to internet wirelessly. Of course, the pre-requisite to this is to connect the wireless dongle first (as presented above).
Once that is completed, you will end up on the homescreen, which looks like this. As I mentioned above, the projector has its own OS, this is pretty much it. The navigation is fairly simple and you would navigate through the sections using only the provided controller.
Screen Casting and Mirroring
The EW600 is quite efficient at screen casting and mirroring. It’s one of the fastest ever screen casting I’d done with my smartphones.
On the iPhone, it’s really as simple as selecting Screen Mirroring and the EW600 is already enlisted as the device! This is quite speedy mainly because both devices are connected to the same WiFi network.
Most importantly to us, the mirrored visuals do not lag behind the actual smartphone. This makes controlling of the mirrored content as intuitive and fluid as possible.
We previously mentioned about watching Full HD trailers. Videos appear crisp and sharp with great colors even when mirrored. The projection range is 2 meters.
But it does not end with iOS devices. The EW600 readily allows you to mirror the screen of Android smartphones, Windows PC, MacOS devices – as long as they are all under the same wireless network. This even makes the HDMI cable obsolete.
We also tried the Bluetooth connection and it works! Pairing the projector with a Bluetooth speaker such as the Sony SRS-XB40 makes it possible to route audio the Bluetooth speakers. Of course, if you’re not fussy with the sound quality, the EW600 onboard speakers would suffice for normal use, such as presentations and meetings.
Android APK and Apps
Now, the EW600 gets better from here. You can actually install Android Apps through downloading of APKs, which can be accessed through the internet, all from the projector itself! The first thing we did was to utilize the pre-installed Firefox app to browse the internet so that we can search for more apps. Also, notice that it has WPS Office pre-installed too. It would be a very useful app (more below).
And yes, you can literally surf the net using the EW600 without a notebook or PC. Not even a smartphone! But to make life easier, I plugged in a wireless keyboard with a touchpad to make typing a much easier endeavor as compared to typing using the remote controller.
And through our browsing, we successfully downloaded the Zoom APK file, which we will then install onto the EW600.
Oh, and it’s also possible to download, install and run WhatsApp directly on the EW600! Notice the cursor? It also enables me to use the touchpad to navigate and click on buttons, just as you would with a computer.
But of course, if you choose to do so, then the WhatsApp on your smartphone will be deactivated in favor of the active app. But it’s really to show you that Android Apps can literally run without any problems on this projector.
Is it possible to perform video conferencing on the EW600? The answer is yes. With the Zoom app installed, we then plugged in a webcam (with microphone) to test out this feature.
And there it is! Zoom runs without issues! The clarity of the video and voice is also quite good and legible respectively, as was picked up by the person on the other end. Although this would highly depend on the type of webcam that you would use.
Accessing Office Documents and Presentation
With the WPS Office app, you can literally work on the EW600. Yet again, without a PC or notebook. You can create word documents and even open files, all directly using EW600. In such a case, it’s wise to connect a keyboard with it.
As for presentation files, it runs the PDF files stored in our USB flash drive effortlessly.
Furthermore, the EW600 is built to be compatible with many AMS cloud programs and applications. We accessed our Dropbox using the Dropbox app and downloaded some PDF files. Other compatible apps are Google Drive, OneCloud and more. It just proves that the EW600 is made to be extremely versatile with its smart features and cloud connectivity – without the need of external aid.
No WiFi No Problem
What if your WiFi is down or you can’t connect to the internet? Well, fret not. The EW600 lets you activate hotspot mode, which then allows for screen mirroring even without WiFi!
While the BenQ EW600 appears to be a normal-looking projector, hidden inside its humble body is a range of smart features thanks mostly to its Android-based operating system. And thankfully it’s also quite easy to use.
It allows for the quickest screen mirroring, Bluetooth connectivity, downloading of apps and actually using them. It performs well with a mouse and keyboard akin to a mini computer and you can browse the internet even participate in video conferencing with a suitable webcam.
We can only conclude that the EW600 Smart Projector is built to render carrying of notebooks into the meeting room an obsolete cultural practice. Mainly because it can practically do everything a notebook can.
It effectively creates a culture of minimalism where people would just converge in meetings with only their smartphones or a USB flash drive. Heck, you don’t even need them considering how you can access the cloud and download the files directly on the projector and run them. It also helps with cost-saving, as you don’t need a lot of setups to enable proper video conferencing!
Last but not least, the whole Covid-19 pandemic has been quite the problem and physical meetings are absolutely forbidden in some companies. And it’s worth mentioning that the EW600 Smart Projector can certainly make online meetings a tad more delightful with a larger “screen” and many-folds more convenient compared to a traditional projector. It’s not just smart but it’s keeping things safe!
It just feels like the way forward with projector technologies and we believe it already is!