Epson Home Cinema 2030 Projector Review

Epson Home Cinema 2030 - Overall Color & Picture Quality

The color starts out impressive, and if you care to, you can further improve it.  Bright and medium lit imagery looks great.  As you would expect, really dark scenes will suffer from the type of black level performance one expects on projectors in the $1000 price range.  They just won’t have the “pop and wow” factor of significantly more expensive “ultra-high contrast” projectors.

But then this projector was built for your media room, your family room, living room, spare bedroom or garage, not a fully darkenable home theater with dark walls, etc.   Shadow detail was just fine, equal or better than most of the competition, so no issue there.

Time to mention the Gamma.  Gamma determines how bright the mid brightness parts of an image are compared to the brightest and darkest.  A gamma of 2.2 recommended. If the number is lower, such as the Home Cinema 2030′s 1.62 gamma, then the mid brightness parts of an image appear brighter.  That works well around ambient light but the higher 2.2 is gives you an overall darker, richer balance that works well in a dark room on a movie.

Since this is an engineering sample, I’ll be checking to see if full production versions have a higher Gamma than this unit.  That’s the kind of things one might hope for in final firmware upgrades.

Remember I complain a lot about black levels – it’s my thing – my “holy grail”.   So let me put it this way.  If you are a black level fanatic, you aren’t going to be happy with this Epson or, for that matter, any under $1500 projector we’ve reviewed.  So, while I can name two or three $1500 or under projectors that have anywhere from a miniscule to a modest black level advantage, we’re not talking game changer, nor are we talking about differences that matter at all if your room isn’t fully dark.

The Epson Home Cinema 2030 in fact, is at its best doing battle with ambient light, as you can see from the room shots in the HDTV section below.

I would therefore say this.  Great picture, lots of “pop”.  Awesome wow factor, for $999.  Acceptable on dark movie scenes, as are most of the competition, but unless you are going caving (really dark) that doesn’t really matter.

From a practical standpoint note that LCDTV’s are famous for lousy black levels.  They pump up some incredible specs, but when push comes to shove, blacks are why the hard core enthusiasts prefer a plasma display over an LCDTV.

All considered, the massive brightness, a very nicely sharp image, and some pretty good color, make this one of the most serious home entertainment projectors around.  No one in my family – nor most of my friends, have the slightest issue watching this projector as they have over the last almost two weeks since it arrived.  Hey, until a really dark scene shows up, even I forget what I’m watching.

Epson Home Cinema 2030 Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports, including 3D

The Home Cinema 2030 loves HDTV – especially sports.    The one caveat – if you are watching a dark movie on TV, then the same issues regarding black levels apply, if less so.

Football though, this time of year, gets a large chunk of my 3D viewing. Then there’s also those Discovery HD and similar type programs, and music concerts on Palladia.

Note please:  Football images are all taken with shutters mostly open, and rear lights turned on.  It’s a bright, sunny day outside.  As you can see from the image immediately below, the shutters are fully open in that photo, and the picture is still very watchable.  You just can’t get away with that with a 1000 lumen projector.   Even the non-football HDTV images are taken with the shutters partially open, allowing ambient light to hit the screen from both the side and the back.

The one feature the HC2030 projector lacks, in terms of sports viewing, is CFI – creative frame interpolation – often referred to as smooth motion.  Of course, very, very few projectors under $2000 offer this feature.  As I’ve said dozens – if not hundreds of times, I consider CFI to be a nice feature to have, but one I, and most, can live without.  I’m watching the Penn State vs. Nebraska football game right now as I write this, and I’m not missing CFI, although I’d probably have it turned on, on the low setting if I was using the more expensive HC5020 which does have it.

Watching the HC2030 in Living Room mode, the picture is bright, good color, and very dynamic.  I’ve got the shades partially open, and the room’s rear lights turned on.  The game looks great - vibrant!

Notice how much more dynamic looking and how much more pop the Dynamic mode offers.  Then remember, that we shot all of these other HDTV images except that one using the less bright Living Room mode (even though Dynamic is better at cutting through the ambient light we allowed in the room).   Also of note, Dynamic above was with default settings.  On our Calibration page, we have Mike’s “Quick-Cal” which further improves the picture while costing less than 10% of maximum brightness!

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Visual Apex 
Visual Apex
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