Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD 3D Projector Review


The Epson Home Cinema 2030 LCD 3D Projector In Use

No matter what the price point of a projector I review, I subject it to the same torture tests. I look for Blu-ray content that tests black levels, gamma, color, fast motion, rapidly changing brightness levels, and clarity. While I expect more expensive displays to look better, there are fundamentals that even the lowest-priced projectors can and should have.

Typically I run all the benchmarks and calibrate before watching any content. While I got great numbers for grayscale tracking, gamma and color were not as solid. I was curious to see how the picture would look with actual content. Well, I was not disappointed. The Home Cinema 2030 looked just as natural and bright as its more expensive brethren in the Ultra-Black line. Black levels are definitely not on par with those projectors but optical clarity, color, and brightness are quite good here.

Before I watched movies, I tried out the Roku stick Epson sent along. It was just like using the same device on an HDTV. It has its own remote so once you create an account, you can check out all the streaming services it offers. I use Netflix so I checked out a few titles from my queue. Their quality has improved tremendously in the last year or so and everything I tried looked great. As always, your particular Internet connection will determine the compression rate. I have 60 Mbps courtesy of Bright House so while it's definitely not Blu-ray, it looks pretty good; especially the high-def content.

I started my Blu-ray viewing with Fried Green Tomatoes, a transfer that while solid, does exhibit a fair amount of softness and film grain. There are also nighttime scenes that test a display's ability to render fine shadow detail. When viewing these, the detail was there thanks to the 2030's flat gamma tracking but the blacks weren't quite black. Using the auto-iris on Fast helped to improve contrast. It makes a significant difference and I recommend using it all the time. Clarity-wise, the image looked as good as it could for this particular transfer. Noise was kept to a minimum and clarity was far better than I'd expect for a $900 projector. Thanks to a decent lens and the spot-on convergence of my press sample, the image was crystal-clear.

Next I watched Baraka which is a definitive example of the film-maker's art. This title has no digital content whatsoever. It's nothing but an exquisitely-shot 97 minutes of 70mm film greatness. There are lots of long scenes where all you see is the sun rise or people getting off and on a subway. When the camera is stationary like this, you can really see detail and light in a unique way. Here I could see the 2030's iris working a little. During one sequence, the sun rises over bluffs in a desert. It was easy to notice difference in speed between the sunrise and the iris' action. It wasn't a rapid pumping, just a subtle flicker. Overall I'd say it works pretty well, aside from it being a little noisy. That's a good thing because you really need it to get the most out of this projector.

To give brand-new content its due, I watched Thor, The Dark World next. This movie has many dark murky scenes that frankly don't look that great even on a reference-level display. Here I was surprised a little. While blacks weren't rich and deep, I could see detail without straining and the lower contrast didn't really bother me. The impression of depth and dimension was quite good in fact. Contrast ratio is not the only thing one should consider when buying a projector. In the HC2030's case, clarity and color detail make up for a lack of dynamic range.

I finished up my 2D watching with another dark title, Terminator Salvation. Again the shadow detail was excellent despite the overall grayish look to the image. I know many projector buyers are looking for maximum contrast but even though the 2030 doesn't render great blacks, it still provides an extremely compelling image. Not only is the color superb, detail and clarity are far better than any other sub-$1000 projector I've watched.

With the tremendous brightness available from the Home Cinema 2030, I had high expectations for 3D movies. Again, I was not disappointed. I've watched a fair number of 3D displays, both projectors and flat panels. In all cases, the brighter displays look the best. With active systems, you're looking at as much as 80 percent less brightness in 3D. To succeed here, you've got to start with a lot of light; it's just that simple. And crosstalk isn't really an issue now that 3D has been out for a few years.

I started with a CGI title, Wreck-It Ralph. This is a good to test for crosstalk because it employs a lot of depth cues; more than many other animated films. I'm happy to say I saw no artifacts whatsoever. If you delve into the 2030's 3D menu you'll find a 3D Brightness control. I suggest leaving this on Medium. Setting it to high opens up the glasses a bit and does provide more light but at the expense of visible crosstalk artifacts. There's plenty of light already, trust me!

I'm not sure I'll ever review a 3D display without watching Avatar. Say what you want about the story but as an experience, there's just no equal. This is why you want a big screen. When you have bright clear 3D at 92 inches diagonal, the sense of immersion is tremendous. This was another title that elicited the adjective "compelling." If you pass out the glasses to your friends and cue up Avatar, you will wind watching the entire movie whether you planned to or not! Go to Page 5: On The Bench