Wireless Presentations at a Touch of a Button: BenQ Instashow WDC10 - Full Review

Review by Young Jeohn

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PROS

  • Plug & Play - works straight out of the box

  • Highly secure (128-bit AES encryption)

  • No apps to install

  • Saves money - no IT or maintenance expenses

  • No lag

 CONS

  • Compression artifacts (in video mode)

  • Possibility of cropped output (on TV screens)

  • Price tag is high


Need to make a presentation on a huge screen? Do it wirelessly & securely with the BenQ InstaShow WDC10. It’s portable and great for use in conference rooms where multiple people are trying to connect to that one projector or monitor. It removes the limitation of having to be close to the projector (due to the length of the video cable) and has the added advantage of built-in system security (128-bit AES encryption) preventing hacks and unauthorized access to the content being presented.

The interesting thing is, it’s not exclusively just for work either. Yes, it’s meant for presentations, powerpoint slides and stuffy penguin suit activities. But BenQ have quietly put in a button that allows for a rather smooth playback of video - which means it’s possible for gamers to connect to a huge screen simply by plugging in an InstaShow Button. If your lips just made a “whoo...” noise, then join the club. Things are looking mighty exciting, especially if you’re a suit by day and a closet gamer by night.

STYLING / DESIGN

BenQ haven’t skimped on the industrial design, for which they’ve won multiple awards. It’s extremely attractive to look at, and built well for the functions they serve. The system has 2 major components:

  1. The InstaShow Host which stays connected to the video output (projector or monitor)

  2. The InstaShow Client (or “Button”) that you plug into the source (like your laptop)

In the box you get 1 Host and 2 Buttons to get you started. It’s a really heavy box by the way, so you’d be expecting these things to weigh a ton - but no - they weigh next to nothing! All that weight comes from the cradle, which holds the two Buttons. It’s beautiful to look at; made of a gray metal on the outside with nice rubber feet on the bottom to keep it from sliding away and to protect your table. The weight is to keep the cradle from tipping over after you’ve put the Buttons and cables in it to keep things together.

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THE HOST

The Host has two (removable) antennas enabling good wireless connections and gives it a “rabbit ears” look. It’s also got 4 mounting options that let you attach it practically anywhere - the first being rubber feet. With this, you can bring the system anywhere and plop it on any table top. The second is a velcro strap that you can wrap around any table leg or a pole. The third and fourth are more permanent - screws for the wall or ceiling (if you have a projector on a ceiling, this would be ideal) or double sided sticky for things you wouldn’t (or couldn’t) screw into, like under an expensive oak table or a brick wall.

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It’s housed in plastic to keep it lightweight and has a professional look to it. On the back, you have three ports: an HDMI input, micro USB (for power) and ethernet (updates & firmware). On top, there’s a power button that doubles as a status indicator by using different colored lights.

 

THE CLIENT (BUTTON)

The Button is a small square that fits in the palm of your hand. There are two cables extruding from the corner; HDMI (for input stream) and USB (for power). It seems to have more heft than the Host, and has a good amount of rubber on the bottom to stay put on any flat surface.

Like the Host, the Button has a big round button on top that doubles as a status indicator.

USABILITY / FUNCTION

The BenQ InstaShow almost works like an auction. You hand people paddles, and when they want to make a bid, they raise their paddles. With the InstaShow, you give people a Button that they plug into their laptop. When it’s their turn to present, they press it to connect to the Host - which happens almost instantly. From a user’s point of view, that’s the extent of their participation; plug it in, press a button. It’s really that easy to use.

IN PRACTICE

Both the InstaShow Host and Button have status indicator lights around the big power button. Once they’re plugged into some power, you’ll see one of three colors:

  • Red - Getting ready (booting up)

  • Green - Ready! (Paired and waiting to activate)

  • Blue - Active on screen

You’ll see a red light the minute power is plugged in, telling you that it’s waking up and looking around for a Host or Button to connect to. This happens automatically, and when it finds one, the light turns green. The InstaShow can connect up to a maximum of 16 clients (8 more than its nearest competitor), so you can have 16 people in a room with green lit Buttons ready to present.

Any of those Buttons can become active when a user presses theirs, turning their light from green to blue. It’s like playing tag, hot potato or using a token ring system - only one presenter can be “it”. And if you want to see who “it” is, look for the person with the blue light. It opens up possibilities for the class clowns amongst you to play hooky and take over, but everyone would know who it is. You’d have to quickly press the button again to disconnect yourself back to green. Whew, that was close - almost got caught!

It’s your turn!

It’s your turn!

THE HOST DOESN’T NEED YOU

The Host is powered via micro USB, so you can connect it to a projector or monitor’s USB port (if it has one) or use the included charger otherwise. A powerbank would work too if you want. Once it’s plugged in, it’ll stay on and keep its eyes open to automatically connect any Buttons in range. The really cool thing is that it doesn’t need any interaction from you. It just works, so you can mount it to the ceiling and not worry about it.

Power options

Power options

THE BUTTON “KINDA” NEEDS YOU

Ok, the Button doesn’t *really* need you until you have to present on screen - everything else is more or less automatic. The cables aren’t that long though, so if you have a laptop with USB and HDMI ports on opposite ends, you’ll need an extender cable to make it reach. Luckily, BenQ provides you with one (though I kind of wish they provided you with two for the 2 Buttons they include.)

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STARTUP TIMES - GUSSYING UP VS TAKING STAGE

Getting ready for a party takes time - you have to shower, do your hair, pick your clothes and some fashionable shoes... but this party-goer, aptly named InstaShow, is super fast (like a monk - no hair to mess with, one uniform and one pair of monk-approved sandals.)

Boot up times are 30 seconds at most. The Host is up, running and ready to receive in under 20 seconds while the Button will start up and look around for a Host to connect to. If there’s a Host waiting, I’ve observed exactly 23 seconds for a Button to both boot up and connect. But when there isn’t one, you’ll see the poor guy blinking red for 30 seconds after it’s searched around and shrugged its shoulders. It’s like being the only person to show up to the party of the year. A very sad party indeed.

However, you happen to be pretty popular and surrounded by other Buttons. When it’s your turn to show off your moves, you’re literally teleported to center stage, replacing the other guy within 2 or 3 seconds of pressing your button. It’s near instantaneous.

SECURITY

There’s a lot going on that you don’t see behind the scenes. The first thing is the lack of an app, which was done on purpose. Not only is it more convenient not to have to install one (like we need any more apps that we’ll never use after that one time), but you don’t need to worry about what that app may be doing - like sending data from your computer to some unknown server in the cloud - because they’re not going to tell you that.

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The architecture calls for using a separate and hidden SSID network that doesn’t need to be connected to the internet or a corporate network, making it a safe island or sandbox where the receiver can’t be seen. It doesn’t matter what operating system connects to it, there’s no configuring required, no network to join... and on a deeper level, the InstaShow uses the 802.11ac wireless protocol with WPA2 AES 128 bits of encryption to stop the baddy hackers in their tracks. So basically what they’ll be seeing won’t be your company secrets - they’ll be seeing a garbled mess they can’t make out.

If this was a simple consumer product, a lot of this wouldn’t matter to you. But if you’re working in a corporate environment where you’re showing confidential information, you really don’t want to risk losing company secrets. This is also true if you’re a top gamer and you’re doing, say, a fundraising demo at a gathering - you’re cool fragging people to show’em how it’s done, but you might not be ok with them hijacking a high quality rip of the video stream and posting it on god-knows-where. That’s your gameplay, and perhaps something you had recorded as you played to broadcast on your own channel.

All of those risks are a moot point with the BenQ InstaShow.

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PERFORMANCE

I think it works great! The wireless antennas (of which there are 2) carry data rates up to 867Mbps via 5GHz on the IEEE 802.11ac protocol . Meaning you get full hi-def at 1920 x 1080p video and 16 bit 48KHz audio - with no problems for the most part.

There are 2 modes available, the first being video mode when you turn it on. You may notice some artifacts that are common in highly compressed jpg images in this mode, but unless you’re watching solid blocks of color, it isn’t too noticeable.

On static screens that DO have solid blocks of color with minimal or no movement (like powerpoint presentations, word documents and your operating system desktop), you should choose presentation mode which cleans up these artifacts nicely, but don’t refresh quickly enough for smooth video playback. And you can do this by pressing the really small button on the side of the presenter’s Button.

The InstaShow handles movies easily, and interestingly it can deal with games just as easily too. You won’t get super high frame rates or the quickest response times of high end gaming monitors, it’s true. But for most people who aren’t e-sports competitors (and couldn’t tell the difference between 4 ms and 2 ms response times), this will work just fine as you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

I can see this being used in a gaming tournament at an anime or comic convention with the main systems (PS4, Xbox One, et. al.) connected to Buttons for instant switching. It’s a quick & easy solution for the organizers who won’t have to ask building maintenance to keep a tech person around all day long, just in case. Or maybe you’re building a man cave with a ceiling projector for your home theater. Getting the InstaShow should remove the costs for adding cabling in the walls and give you flexibility to place your HTPC anywhere you want.

Speaking of placement, BenQ says the system has a maximum range of 8 meters (about 26 feet) to keep a good connection. I’ve gone as far as 20 feet with great video and audio running consistently (and my apartment is really small so I couldn’t test from farther away - sorry guys.)

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES

SCREEN CROPPING ON TVs

If you’re connecting your Host to a large screen television, you may see cropping around the edges. This is a well documented phenomenon that almost all tv’s exhibit (a Google search will confirm it), but BenQ has been able to quelch this behavior on several makes of existing tv’s.

I encountered this problem too, but found a work-around by luck. If you see cropping after you connect, use your tv’s remote to change input to live tv and change it back to HDMI. I got full screen without cropping by doing this. If it doesn’t work, you may have to go into your tv’s settings and set a custom resolution manually.

A STUTTERING PS3

Gaming on a big screen with a PC was fun, but when I connected my PS3 to see if that would work, I got a consistent stutter every four seconds or so for both video and audio at the same time. That made gameplay very annoying, but strangely enough, it only happened once. I’ve been trying to emulate this again, but the worse I got was a two or three stutters when the game started loading. Everything worked fine after that.

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I’m still puzzled about this one, and am still trying (unsuccessfully) to recreate the issue.

CONCLUSION

The BenQ InstaShow WDC10 is hands down one of the easiest (and securest) ways to show documents and videos in conference room settings where multiple people need to connect to that one projector or monitor.

Granted, it’s an expensive proposition at just under US $1,000 a set (for a normal consumer like myself), but what you’re paying for in addition to convenience is the advantage of built-in system security. If preventing hacks and unauthorized access to the content being shared is high on your list (as is for businesses, banks and enterprise) it’s a small price to pay for lowering the risk. Highly recommended, put it on your audition checklist!

FINAL RATING: 5 of 5 stars

5 - Styling/Design
5 - Usability/Function
4 - Compatibility
5 - Performance 


What the starts mean:
5 - Excellent (up there with the best, no flaws/issues)
4 - Very Good (better than expected, may have minor flaws)
3 - Good w/caveats (works, but has some issues)
2 - SMH (serious issues, needs major improvement)
1 - 0_0;; (just... why?)

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More Info: www.BenQ.com
 (Test unit provided by BenQ for this review.)

Check prices: https://amzn.to/2WZxy7C —Amazon affiliate link