Projectors

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e LCD Projector

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The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e LCD Projector In Use

For this review, I watched some familiar content; 2D Blu-rays that I had seen recently on my reference Anthem LCoS projector. With all 2D titles I tried out the 3D-conversion feature. Epson provides brightness and depth controls to help you tweak the image to your liking. While the 3020e did a passable job with most content, there's still no substitute for native 3D Blu-ray. In the case of the discs I watched, the conversion did not enhance the experience; it just provided a different one.

Men In Black 3 is the typically excellent transfer most modern films enjoy with rich bright colors, excellent contrast and exquisitely fine detail. Epson projectors have always impressed me with their sharp lenses and the 3020e did not change this pattern. In fact for such an inexpensive model, the lens performed well above average. I did observe slight panel convergence errors in test patterns but actual content looked fantastic. During close-ups of Tommy Lee Jones' deeply textured face, I could plainly see the subtle changes in camera focus as he talked and moved. The overall image was bright and punchy; not surprising given the 21 fL peak output I achieved after calibration. My only nitpick was the black level which was more like a dark gray. Even in bright scenes, black objects weren't quite black and there wasn't quite the pop I'm accustomed to seeing in higher contrast displays. The auto iris never called attention to itself. I couldn't hear it working unless there was no sound and I couldn't see any sign of its operation either. I left it on for all my viewing.

Prometheus is a great torture test for black level detail and dark scene contrast. The 3020e fell a bit short on this movie. Detail was all there thanks to the accurate and flat gamma tracking but the image never dropped below a dark gray tone. I employed the auto iris on both its normal and fast settings, and there was an improvement but not enough to mistake for an LCoS projector. I was running the 3020e in its eco (low-lamp) mode. I wish there had been a manual iris feature because then I could have set the lamp on high and closed down to achieve better contrast. As delivered, I couldn't set the brightness any lower without crushing detail. Color resolution was excellent, even in the almost monochromatic landscapes of the alien world.

Dropping in an older film, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; the 3020e impressed again with its excellent ability to render detail. While a high-end DLP is the ultimate in front projection sharpness, this affordable LCD projector stands up extremely well. I could see the Blu-ray's added edge enhancement clearly (shame on you Paramount) but faces and clothing looked fantastic. And the bright image really put a shine on the older material. There was a little grain but it never intruded.

Moving to 3D, I grabbed two uber-familiar titles, Grand Canyon Adventure and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. I quickly discovered that you have to cue up your 3D title (so the 3020e switches to 3D mode) BEFORE turning on the glasses. If the glasses are on already, they won't pair. Once I settled in, I enjoyed a bright and sharp 3D experience. Light output is the most important factor in a good 3D presentation and the Epson has plenty of it. There are two 3D modes, Dynamic and Cinema and both use the bulb's high output mode. The fan noise increases as well, though not intrusively. Cinema mode looked very accurate and you can calibrate it separately if you want. Crosstalk was not evident in either film and the 3D effect was very deep and realistic. The included glasses were nice and light and didn't create any pressure points on my nose or ears. I also liked that they had a real power switch rather than a toggle button. That way you know they're on just by feeling. Whether you're watching live-action or CGI content, the 3020e does 3D extremely well.