Epson Home Cinema 3020 Home Theater Projector Review
HC3020 Lag Times - Gamers rejoice
Last year’s Epsons, both the 3010 and 5010 projectors, were considered slow for First Person Shooter type play. Lag times ran around 80ms. Our gamer / projector bloggers – Scott and Pete say that anything around 50 ms or better is acceptable for “fast play” As it turns out, I measured this year’s Epson HC3020, testing with my Macbook Pro using FlatPanelsDK’s timer and a good quality 8 foot HDMI cable.(Here’s the website page: http://tft.vanity.dk/inputlag.html). Mind you this compares relative lag times. My gamer/projector/bloggers play the games. I think their opinion is generally more useful than lag times, at least when the lag times aren’t minimal (under 20 ms).
The Home Cinema 3020 measured at either 49 or 50 ms in each of a half dozen test photographs of the Mac screen and the projected timer. You have to switch the projector into fast processing, and turn off a variety of controls to get it that fast. I had the iris off, Super-Resolution at 0 turned off auto 3d detction and other things. I don’t know exactly which settings are having an effect on lag, but I just took a minute or so, turned off everything in sight, and voila 50ms. (BTW, the HC5020 measured exactly the same.)
Now I realize that 50ms isn’t exactly perfect, there are projectors with lag times down around 10 ms. Panasonic’s $2999 PT-AE8000 I was able to measure in at about 35 ms, on a quick first pass, so by turning off more things, it might even be quicker. I’m finding out soon enough.
Bottom line, even most very serious gamers will find this Epson suitable. I should point out that both of our gamer bloggers own older Epsons which they game with. Really, to my knowledge it was only last year with the all new 3010 and 5010, that lag times became an issue for gamers. This was a case where I was able to pass along complaints from gamers about the last generation. The result is good news for this year’s gamers! Don’t take my word for it. I’m taking the HC3020 and the HC5020 projectors that are sitting here, and getting one to each of the gamers for a much closer look, and opinions from guys who are serious gamers, not some amateur like me. They should have their blogs posted before Thanksgiving.
Split Screen viewing
The Home Cinema 3020 lets you select two different sources and put them up side by side, either with both images the same size, or the one you designate, to be larger than the other (about 2:1).
There’s the same catch as last year: You can’t feed it two different HDMI sources. That is because there is only 1 HDMI circuit in the projector (shared by two inputs). (That is the case in virtually all projectors.) That means you will need a second source, and if you want hi-res there, you are looking at either component video or analog computer signals. Just pointing all this out to you. It’s no sweat if you aren’t mounting the projector and have a temporary setup. It’s always easy to run another wire as long as they are outside of walls. If you are wiring, though, and not sure, add a component video, analog computer, or a pair of USB cables (the analog computer also carries component, so the most flexible).
I didn’t do split screen this year. I tried it last year, and it worked just fine, feeding HDMI to one “screen” and component video to the other.
If you are willing to run the extra set of cables, it sure is a lot of fun for some applications. You can watch a movie while your kid is playing a game on the other side of the screen. The kid can listen to sound through his head phones. Or, more to my taste, two football games at the same time, or what I actually did last year. I put one football game up on one side, while following my fanstasy football team on the other side, connecting my Macbook Pro.
Home Cinema 3020e WirelessHD
This is a feature found on the Home Cinema 3020e projector not the base HC3020, and is discussed in a separate page about the 3020e. The short version though is that the Epson can receive wireless HD signals from the transmitter that is included. Place the transmitter by your (HDMI) equipment, and you don’t need to run an HDMI cable to your Epson projector. Very cool, and for those who have older theaters without HDMI wiring, a potential huge cost saver. The new transmitter for this year sports 5 HDMI inputs, plus a digital audio input. That should meet almost everyone’s needs.
Home Cinema 3020 Projector 3D
3D on this Epson projector is better than last year’s – way better. Not only is this Epson about as bright as it gets – key for 3D, but Epson has made a change I really pleaded for.
Before I say more, the Home Cinema 3020 comes with two pair of their new, much lighter RF active glasses. They are similar in shape to last year’s but, as noted, much lighter, weighing about 45 grams (aboug 1.75 oz.), about the same as fairly light weight sun classes. I find them comfortable over my regular glasses. In fact they weigh only about 25% more than my half frameless – very light – glasses. Although they are still a lot heavier than the lightest active glasses I’ve encountered (for the PT-AE8000, those weigh an amazing 26 grams), they nicely fit my rather large head.
They also are a good bit brighter than the Panasonic’s glasses, best I can tell. I’ve viewed both projectors in 3D, side by side, switching glasses back and forth as quickly as I could. The Epson – with both projectors set on the middle glasses setting (a menu item on the projector, not a switch on the glasses), proved significantly brighter, although viewing both images without the glasses, the two projectors were about identical in brightness.
Below – the new RF, rechargeable 3D glasses. The image below it shows the power and pairing controls.
I have heard (rarely) talk about some folks being fatigued by active glasses 3D systems, but 3D glasses have come a long way in the last 3 years. I can watch for hours and hours, so I have no way of judging. I hope that such fatigue is no more common than the rainbow effect, in which case, most folks don’t have to worry about it at all.
No problem with any types of 3D in my collection. Blu-ray 3D, ESPN 3D, N3D, and 3net channels. As to gaming, I’ll leave that to my gaming bloggers. The Epson should work well with the various consoles for 3D.
Sharpness looks great in 3D on Blu-ray 3D, but on most of the DirecTV content, the image is softer. In some cases the source material may be 720p, not 1080, but I believe its a sacrifice being made for bandwidth, as only Blu-ray 3D uses frame packing, to output two frames in the space of one, to keep resolution up.
Color accuracy – looks pretty good. As with most 3D the image seems to have more saturation than 2D. Skies are sometimes a touch too intense. Of course you can always turn down the color saturation.
Bottom line on 3D: 3D viewing with this Epson projector is a much improved experience compared to last year’s model. It really comes down to a number of small things, making for a major improvement:
- Significantly brighter – likely mostly due to the new glasses
- Signficantly improved black levels thanks to the dynamic iris now available (your choice) for 3D viewing
- More comfortable – much lighter glasses
- RF instead of IR means you don’t lose sync with the glasses if you look away for a couple of seconds (such as talking to a friend)
- Rechargeable glasses – no need to keep buying those lithium button batteries
- Best thing – if the glasses run out of charge, only 3 minutes for enough charge to watch a whole movie
- One of last year’s two best affordable projectors for 3D is now overall my favorite for 3D in the price range
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