Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD 3D Projector Review

ARTICLE INDEX

The Design of the Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD 3D Projector

This is easily the smallest projector I've ever reviewed. At just over six pounds, it's also the lightest. The chassis is made from a high-impact white plastic that seems fairly resistant to jostling and to fingerprints. You can easily stow the HC2030 in a backpack or small duffel. The lens is offset to one side opposite a small exhaust vent.

On top are enough controls to operate the 2030 without the remote. Above the lens are manual controls for focus and zoom along with a sliding door that eliminates the need for a separate lens cap. Another slide bar adjusts horizontal keystone. The big thing missing here is lens shift which is not something you'll find on any sub-$1000 projector. The lens has no throw offset so to get a square image without using keystone correction, you'll have to place the projector in line with the center of your screen.

On the back is a complete set of inputs. In addition to two HDMI 1.4a ports, there's VGA, composite, and USB, which is a first for me. The USB input will accept a LAN adaptor or a thumbdrive with picture files, but the easiest streaming solution is to plug a Roku or Chromecast dongle into HDMI 1 which supports Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL). This is the first projector I've seen with this feature.

The zoom range is fairly small so you're a little limited in the distance versus image size ratio. The manual gives you a guide to typical screen sizes and tells you the throw distance range. While it's easier to set up a projector with lens shift and a wide zoom, I didn't really have any trouble adapting the HC2030 to my theater.

The technology here is Epson's familiar 3LCD engine with C2Fine imaging chips. It's tuned more towards high light output rather than a large dynamic range. Epson expects, and rightly so, that the 2030 will be used in less-than-ideal projection environments. And with the whole lotta light I measured from this diminutive box, I'd say they've done a good job. It'll still look best in the dark but you can plop it on your coffee table and project an impressively large image on your living room wall with ease.

The feature list almost makes one think they're reading about an HDTV. There's 3D of course but the addition of MHL and USB inputs with network capability means this is the first projector I've seen that you can stream to. In fact with a wireless USB LAN module (sold separately), and free software, you can do it easily from a laptop. Epson sent me a Roku stick to plug into the MHL port; which is much easier since the interface and networking hardware is all built into a thumbdrive-sized device.

MHL is also a first for a projector in my experience. This interface is popping up on pretty much every new HDTV and a lot of computer monitors too. It allows you to connect a smartphone or tablet and stream from it. And the 2030 will charge your device while you watch. If you have a Netflix account for example, just call up your favorite movies on your phone and watch them projected up to 328 inches!

I also mentioned a built-in speaker. This eliminates the need for a separate sound system when you need complete portability. The speaker is small and only has a 2-watt amplifier so it's fine in a pinch. The HC2030 has analog audio output in the form of a 3.5mm mini-jack so if you have powered speakers handy, that's your best option.

The remote is quite different from the ones I've seen in the past from Epson. It's extremely compact, which isn't surprising given the projector's intended use. What is surprising is that it is not backlit. I know the HC2030 is a budget model but is backlighting that expensive to implement? Ergonomically, the small form factor means the buttons are tiny and close together. Fortunately their different shapes make it fairly easy to operate without looking. It is also very powerful. I could point it just about anywhere and the projector would respond. It provides all the functionality of Epson's larger remotes like discrete input keys and one-button access to the iris and picture modes plus volume and transport controls. If your source works with HDMI-CEC, you'll only need a single remote to control everything.

Let's set the HC2030 up and check out the menu system. Go to Page 3: Setup