With many HDTV screens creeping up to 80-inches in diameter, are home cinema projectors still as desirable? We tested the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010, available from Future Shop for $1749.99 and made it the centre of our home theatre system, here's what we found out.
The considerations of choosing a projector over a HDTV flat panel are a bit different.
You need to consider space, distance from the projector source and where it will "throw" the picture for maximum clarity and size (something that will require constant calibration) as well as the location of the screen and the projector itself.
This is a lot to consider while in the HDTV world, variables are limited to the size of the screen, whether it will be wall mounted or not and the general placement of chairs and speakers.
Still, if one has the space, a properly set-up projector can bring that true cinema feel to a home. We set up the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 3D Projector in our living room and used a large portion of our white wall as we didn't have a projection screen.
We managed to stack the projector on a table over our cable box, a Samsung Blu-Ray player and hooked it up to our Apple TV as well as our XBox 360 and our notebook via VGA. The Epson has a good selection of ports with HDMI, DVI-D, VGA and multiple video / audio inputs.
There are only two HDMI ports however, which is a shame since many home theatre setups require plugging in to various devices and HDMI is the preferable way to do this since it integrates HD quality signals and audio. As a result of this limitation, we found ourselves fiddling with the dual HDMI port while connecting the projector to various devices depending on what we wanted.
This isn't too big a deal when the projector is set on a table but since a lot of these are designed to be mounted on the ceiling (where cable management is paramount) it is an issue we wouldn't want to deal with. 4 HDMI ports would be ideal for this sort of set up.
The Epson does offer a workaround with a wireless HDMI solution which helps keep things a bit neat but that is still a one-to-one HDMI port.
Other than this, set up is fairly easy and most users will probably spend most of their time getting the size and clarity calibrated to their liking.
Real Home Theatre
Call me old fashioned but there is something magical and engrossing about watching a great film with a projector. It may be the little rituals, the dimming of the lights, the gathering and silence before the movie begins that helps drive the anticipation.
With a proper HD projector, watching something together with friends and family just becomes an event, just add buttered popcorn.
The PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 did not disappoint. We played some classics like Fritz Lang's Metropolis, The entire Star Wars saga on Blu-Ray (complete with all the embarrassing revisionist touches by George Lucas), Blade Runner Director's Cut on DVD (which looked great by the way) as well as Michael Mann's cops and robbers classic Heat.
Aside from movies, we watched a lot of TV, mostly sports which looked spectacular on a 80" equivalent diameter and various Netflix shows like BBC's Merlin.
We also used the Epson for gaming with the Xbox 360 and some games like Forza 4 were stunning but others, like NBA 2K10 were a bit sub par and not everything was in focus (frames where they showed crowds in the stadium were pixelated for some reason).
The true strength of the PoweLite home Cinema 3010 is really for watching movies. It is the next best thing to being in a theatre and the quality and depth of colour, crisp picture and superb resolution is simply astonishing.
We didn't even have a proper sound system set up and relied mostly on the projector's own speakers or, when running movies off a PC, we used a Jawbone Jambox which worked admirably.
High end home theatre projectors are pricey. Aside from the projector and the bulb, there are other 'incidentals' that must be considered.
You will require space, a folding screen, costly replacement bulbs andtime for constant tweaking. specially if you want all your devices to connect via HDMI. Once you get all the elements in place, the picture quality, size and immersive experience you get in return is priceless. I revisited my favourite movies and discovered new details and nuances that I missed before.
For serious cinephiles who want the closest thing to a true theatre experience at home and who are willing to build around the projector and add a proper sound system, lighting and seating then they will be rewarded by a sublime big screen projection viewing experience with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 as the centerpiece.
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