Epson Home 20 Projector Review – Overview

Summary

This is our third review of an Epson home theater projector in the past 8 months. Previously we reviewed the higher resolution Cinema 550 and the Pro Cinema 800, finding both to be very impressive, and both picked up our Hot Product Award.

The Home 20 projector by comparison, has demonstrated some strengths, but overall, is not as strong a contender in the entry level market as the other Epsons proved to be compared to their competition.

On the plus side, the Epson is a fairly bright projector, and, like it’s more expensive siblings, it has particularly good color out of the box. Menus are easy to use as well.

Where we most found the Home 20 lacking, is in the highly visible pixel structure. A couple of years ago, there were several entry level LCD based projectors, and LCD has always had more visible pixels than that of the DLP powered competition. With an entry level projector having only 854×480 pixels – less than half of the higher resolution 720p projectors, pixels become an issue. Unless you sit far back, in this case, very far back, the pixels are easily visible.

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I have a problem with that, and I believe so do many buyers. This may be why entry level home theater (or home entertainment) projectors are now almost all DLP models. Even with the DLP projectors you still need to sit fairly far back for the pixels to be a non-issue.

I also wasn’t very impressed with the Epson remote. It is small and solid, but the buttons are very small, and there is no back light. You’ll need to memorize the layout to use this remote in a darkened or near dark room.

Let’s look at the list of Pros and Cons:

Pros

  • Very bright in Dynamic and Family Room modes
  • A physically good looking projector
  • Out of the box color accuracy
  • Epson warranty and support – 2 years parts/labor
  • Lens shift – vertical and horizontal, though we would have liked enough vertical lens shift to allow the projector to sit on a low table below the bottom of the screen
  • Menu layout and ease of use
  • Zoom lens range greater than the competition, for placement flexibility

Cons

  • Pixels very visible at almost any seating distance
  • Fan noise fairly loud (33db) in all but Theater Black 1 and 2 modes
  • Small, non-backlit remote, with small buttons
  • Lack of DVI or HDMI digital inputs
  • Black levels and contrast ratio (1000:1 is best)

Typical Performance

  • Price performance – the Epson sells for about $999 but currently has a $200 rebate to make it highly competitive
  • Lamp life (3000 hours in low power modes, 2000 in bright modes)
  • Noise level in Theater Black 1 and 2 modes (28db) is reasonable

Those that need a bright projector, for general viewing with a fair amount of lights on in the room, may find the Epson to be a good choice. That may also include gamers projecting from their X-Boxes and PlayStations, and sports watchers,

Serious movie watchers are more likely to be better served with one of the similarly priced DLP projectors out there, such as the new BenQ W100 ($899), or Optoma’s H27, which is also low cost but at end of life (and probably not available by the time you read this). Optoma has not yet announced it’s replacement. The InFocus IN72 is a much more expensive DLP projector (until very recently, it typically sold for around $1299), is another excellent choice, but it really isn’t in the same price range.

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Overall, the Epson is a very good projector – for an LCD model. The problem is that I have a hard time recommending LCD based 480p projectors primarily because of the visible pixel structure. It’s going to be up to you to determine if the visible pixels are an issue. If you can get past them, or don’t mind sitting back about 2.5x the width of your screen (for a 100″ screen – about 21 feet) where the pixels are no longer visible), then the Epson should be on your radar. And, if that works for you, it’s tough to beat Epson’s warranty, and their reputation for reliability and support.

Bottom line: Despite the limitations mentioned, the Epson Home 20 is a very good projector for people who want an entry level projector with acceptable overall performance, but also one that works well right out of the box, and one backed by the best warranty available!

Considering that you get an 80″ screen and a $200 rebate off and probably a discount from the $999 suggesting selling price, the Epson looks to be the lowest cost real home theater projector solution out there. That tends to allow many to forgive a few failings elsewhere!

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