Epson Home Cinema 3020 Home Theater Projector Review

Frame Interpolation - FI - smooth motion

The Home Cinema 3020 has simple 2:2 frame interpolation. That will run your 24 fps movie at 48, which helps some folks out, with a type of motion smoothing , that doesn’t impact most folks. What people find these days on higher end projectors is typically CFI, where a unique frame is created between each two regular ones (or sometimes 3 frames between each pair)…

This Epson only has the basic 2:2 pull-down, not CFI. Mind you the Epson Home Cinema 8350, Mitsubishi HC4000 and other popular projectors around the price range all lack CFI. It’s a feature typically starting on slightly more expensive projectors, right around $2000.

USB Slideshow

You can connect a USB device to the Home Cinema 3020.  When you do the USB input menu comes up.  Interestingly, unless you do plug into the USB in the back, there’s no sign of USB on the input menus (which seems odd).  Once there, you can run slideshows, complete with a host of settings, for example you can have it play photos in alpha numeric order or by date.  You have control of the time between slides, and can select from a choice of disolves and other effects.  This is easy if your projector is on a table top, but you’ll have to run a USB extension cable (obviously) if your projector is ceiling mounted, unless you are tall, or your ceiling’s low.  Definitely a nice extra feature, and a rare one.  Epson’s got experience, they’ve been doing this on their all-in-one projectors like their MegaPlex MG850.

Home Cinema 3020 Audio Abilities

A pair of 10 watt speakers definitely get the job done for movies, sports etc., should you not have a separate sound system.  True – just two speakers, not surround sound.  And of course, there’s no low bass!   The sound won’t “replace” a several hundred dollar HTIB – home theater in a box – that has 5 or more speakers and a subwoofer, but it does get the job done.

The Home Cinema 3020, if I must complain lacks an audio output, a feature found on a couple of other home entertainment projectors.  Thus, should you want to add a subwoofer, you’ll need to pull your audio signal before it gets to the projector.  That’s always doable, although an audio out would have been a nice touch. If you were planning a movie night out back, it would have been simplest to have the output jack, so you could hook up a small powered sub-woofer, but as I said, there are work arounds, including pulling power directly from your blu-ray player…

Home Cinema 3020 Projector: Dynamic Iris

A dynamic iris is the key on most projectors to improving overall black levels on darker scenes, and the resulting improvement in the viewing experience. We discuss the Home Cinema 3020′s black level performance on the Image page, but, again, it should be mentioned that with the HC3020 and HC3020e, you may engage the dynamic iris when in 3D modes.  That’s a major plus, correcting my biggest “complaint” about last year’s HC3010.

Please note the image below. The image below is an example of where a dynamic iris won’t have a real affect. Although part of the image is very dark, there’s enough bright areas in the scene, that the iris doesn’t dare shut down, or at least not more than a little.  It’s that same brightness overall, that will also mean that most folks wouldn’t notice any real improvement in the dark areas. It’s the darker scenes with almost no bright areas where you want the best blacks the most, and where dynamic irises help the most. (End of lesson!).

Home Cinema 3020 Lamp Life

It doesn’t get much better than this. In terms of lamp life. Epson is claiming that the Home Cinema 3020 lamp will last 4000 hours running at full power, and 5000 hours in eco-mode.

1.6:1 Zoom Lens

In an effort to pack more performance in the 3020 series while keeping the costs down, Epson has gone to a lower cost lens system. It offers less zoom range (the 1.6:1) than the Fujinon they’ve been using for years with its 2.1:1 zoom. The Home Cinema 3020′s zoom lens still has more range than most other under $2000 projectors. The lower cost, 2D only Epson Home Cinema 8350 remains in the lineup with its 2.1:1. None of the DLP’s can match that older Epson, except some far more expensive ones (most DLP’s are between 1.15:1 and 1.5:1). The Home Cinema 3020 lacks lens shift, as do all the projectors I can think of, under its price point, except for Epson’s own 8350, and Acer’s H9500BD.  With 1.6:1 zoom lens the Home Cinema 3020 – and the 3020e – still offer plenty of front to back placement range, for either mounting or table top.

A few more features will be addressed later in the review, including during our discussion of the Epson Home Cinema 3020′s menus.

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