Posted on April 1, 2009 Art Feierman
This is an in-depth review of the Epson Home Cinema 700, a 720p resolution home entertainment projector. It has just been posted, and will be further proofed and a few additional images will be added.
In the image below, of the Home Cinema 700, the lens door is closed (right side).
Let’s start by defining what type of person is most likely to purchase and enjoy the Epson Home Cinema 700 projector. It certainly isn’t a typical home theater projector. Because the Home Cinema 700 is atypical of most projectors, this will be a long overview.
The Home Cinema 700 is a home entertainment projector, rather than the more widely accepted definition of home theater projector. Before I get into that concept, the Home Cinema 700 is virtually identical to the Epson Powerlite W6, their similarly priced, and least expensive widescreen business projector. That’s why its native resolution is 16:10 (1280×800) rather than the usual 16:9 (1280×720). The HC700 (and the W6) are WXGA, just slightly more vertical pixels to match up with today’s widescreen laptops and PCs. That makes it particularly viable for dual usage, what we call a “crossover” projector.
Click to enlarge. So close. To make things interesting, if you plan to use this unit as a business projector, check out Mike Rollet’s simultaneous review of the Epson W6, which acts as a business projector. Thus, two reviews of essentially the same projector, but one with a business/education use slant, and then this review, focused on home use. Can you tell which is which by looking? (Only by the model number listing on the top, and a couple of changes in the menus!)
Consider this, that Epson now has two low cost 720p (or WXGA) projectors in their line-up. Each is targeted at a different type of user. The Home Cinema 700 is aimed at the casual user. I’m referring to someone who just wants a nice projector capable of projecting onto a large screen, or working on screens of all sizes in rooms that do not have full lighting control, and that person isn’t an enthusiast – hobbyist. While the overall picture quality is pretty good, those really into picture quality performance will not be seriously considering the Home Cinema 700. Most users who buy an HC700, I suspect, will place the Epson projector in a family room type environment, or perhaps a kids bonus room, not a dedicated home theater with dark walls, and full lighting control.
Those really into sports (and caring less about movies), will definitely be drawn to the Home Cinema 700, and especially, its low cost. This Epson does a very nice job as a projector for sports viewing with a fair ambient light present. It may also appeal to gamers looking for a very bright projector.
The image immediately below was taken while projecting about a 90″ diagonal image with the room fairly bright. (two downward facing 65 watt lights about 8 feet from the screen, in a 10×17 foot room with an 8 foot ceiling). A typical projector would be badly washed out in the same circumstances, although there are a few higher performance projectors that are about as bright. (We’re talking 4 or 5 projectors out of 50+, spread out in price from $1000 to over $6000.)
By comparison, Epson’s Home Cinema 720 (click for review) is a more typical 720p “home theater” projector, and targets those much more serious about overall picture quality. The biggest single difference in picture quality between these two, is black level performance, which is definitely not a strength of the 700. The Epson Home Cinema 720, for a couple hundred dollars more, is the more suitable for those with a dedicated home theater, yet is almost as bright as the Home Cinema 700, when comparing brightest modes. The 720 has a color filter for optimizing “best” mode performance, (at the expense of roughly 2/3 of the maximum lumens), while the “best” mode of the Home Cinema 700 is about twice as bright. Even in brightest mode, however, the 720 does better black levels than the 700 in best mode, and that should set the tone of the difference between them.
The strengths of the Home Cinema 700 are brightness and low cost, as well as a low cost of operation, and a great warranty. Picture quality is very acceptable for the non-enthusiast, but it won’t attract those looking for the best overall picture quality.
As such, the Home Cinema 700 doesn’t directly compete against the best known 720p projectors such as the Panasonic PT-AX200U, the Epson Home Cinema 720 the Sanyo PLV-Z60, and the InFocus X9. More similar to the Home Cinema 700 are projectors like the Optoma HD806, a more expensive 1080p projector, but similar in terms of overall picture characteristics, including lots of brightness (and so-so black levels). It also might be considered a competitor to the more expensive, but also bright Optoma HD71.
So, why buy a Home Cinema 700? Certainly budget comes into play. With a MAP price of $799, that number basically represents the highest price you will see on the 700. It’s not that you can buy one for drastically less than that, but this Epson projector should prove to be the lowest cost, current model 720p projector you will find.
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