Epson Home 20 Projector Review – Overview

Light Leakage

The Epson Home 20 does leak small amounts of light from vents, etc. The amounts are negligible and do not hit the screen where it could affect viewing. No problem here!

Audible Noise Levels

Performance here is pretty typical. In Theater Black I and II (lamp would be on low power) the Epson is fairly quiet, but not close to the quietest, but acceptable.

In full power mode (all other modes, including Theater Black, the Epson is fairly noisy. This is common among projectors. The noise level in these full power modes is rated at 32 db, not a great spec. The best can do about 28 db in full power. The Epson does, about 27 db in low power, while the very best are around 23db. Still none, of the direct price competitors are overall significantly quieter.

Projector Brightness

Although rated 1200 lumens, the Epson is fairly bright, but not overly so. We measured and came up with (in best, Theater Black 2 mode) 386 lumens. In it’s brightest mode; Livingroom mode, that just over doubled to 788 lumens.

Unlike some competing projectors there is no separate lamp brightness control. The lamp runs in low power only in Theater Black 1 and 2, and at full power in all other modes.

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Lamp Life and Replacement

The lamp is rated 3000 hours, in Theater Black 1 or 2, and 2000 hours in other modes. If you switch modes back and forth, your lamp life should fall somewhere between those two numbers. Remember, keeping filters clean, is an important part of getting good life out of your projector lamp. With dirty filters, projectors run hotter, and burn out lamps much faster. The cover of the lamp assembly is on the top, easy to get to, and it also means, that if you ceiling mount the Epson Home 20 projector, you won’t have to unmount it to change the lamp.

One other piece of really good news, the replacement lamp has a suggested list price of $199, well below the typical $299 – $399 for most projectors in it’s class.

Epson Home 20 Projector Screen Recommendations

With the Epson’s relatively limited contrast ratio and black levels, my first thought would be to recommend a gray surface screen, such as those offered by Da-Lite, Elite, Stewart, and others. These screens appear to be a medium to light gray in color and are high contrast, designed to lower the black levels, while still being close to full brightness on whites and other bright areas. As an added benefit, these high contrast gray surfaces also are better than most other screens at rejecting ambient light from the sides.

If, however you have more than a little ambient light to deal with, and need brightness as well, I would suggest a light gray high contrast screen (like the Stewart Firehawk or equivilent). The gray surface is lighter, but you still get to reject a good amount of ambient light.

For those, however, less interested in movies, and more interested in things like sports, and regular (and HD) TV programming, you could take another approach, especially if ambient light is a problem. That would be to go with a higher gain screen, such as Carada’s Brilliant White (gain of 1.4), Stewart’s StudioTek 130 (gain 1.3, but it’s really too expensive a screen to match with an under $1000 projector), and Da-lite’s HC Da-Mat surface.

These will give you plenty of brightness. You can even (if you don’t have people sitting far to the sides, go with even more gain, such as Optoma’s Greywof screen with 1.8 gain (1.8 times brighter than a normal white surface.

Bottom line, you can enhance the blacks and contrast if needed, and also reject some ambient light, or go the opposite direction, and not worry about the black levels, instead going after the brightest possible image.

Calibration

Due to the lack of advanced controls of R,G,B color, there was no good way to perfect the image, from its already very acceptable defaults. Theater Dark 2, in particular provides an overall very good color balance that should satisfy the vast majority of buyers of an entry level home theater projector. In this regard, it is similar to BenQ’s new W100, which just started shipping as of this review. Two other competitors offer far greater controls: InFocus IN72, and Optoma’s H27. The Optoma needs the control, because the out of the box color definitely is off, and needs adjusting and at least a basic end user calibration that can be accomplished with a $39 disk like AVIA’s.

The Skin Tone adjustment is a nice touch. Although for most movie viewing I found the default 3 setting (in Theater Black mode) to be best, depending on content, I occasionally found settings 2 and 4 to be useful in a few cases.

The Epson does however – in Theater Black 2, come with Brightness set a little high, causing some loss of highlight details. I found decreasing the Contrast by 2 (or better, 3), made for a much better solution.

Image Noise

This was slightly surprising, as generally, I have found LCD projectors to have less noise than DLP’s. In this case I compared (using the Silicon Optix HQV disk) the background noise of the Epson and the Optoma H27, and found them to be very close, with the Optoma being a tiny bit better (not enough to care about, or, for that matter, to notice, except when comparing two projectors in the same environment

I also ran the HQV test on the Epson looking at jaggies and motion noise artifacts. The Epson did not do well on either test, but then, neither did the other 2 entry level projectors I have tried that disk with. I suspect that all 480p (low resolution) projectors will do relatively poorly in this regard, as the larger pixels would inherently make them perform poorly on the jaggies test. (Note: I have output 480p from my Oppo DVD player to both entry level and 720p projectors. Since the 720p projectors do much better, and they have to upscale, which the 480p projectors do not, that is my basis for believing that the poor marks I am getting on all 480p projectors are simply due to them being lower resolution and therefore having bigger jaggies. I will note that the Optoma H27 did do better than the Epson on the motion noise test – panning across a grandstand, the Epson showed more noise patterns than the Optoma (sort of like moire patterns, for those familiar).

That takes care of the performance section. Take a quick look at Epson’s great warranty, and then you can check out our summary, with Pros and Cons.

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