Epson MovieMate 30S All-in-One Home Theater Projector System: Overview

Here’s one that is really just about the stars, also from The 5th Element – I often use this image to demonstrate the effects of scene lighting and dynamic irises, so there are some images on other reviews you can compare it with:

You will find far more stars on other projectors.

Black levels, however are not about star fields, so lets now look to a rich dynamic image from Starship Troopers. The MovieMate does a pretty impressive job here!

All considered, the MovieMate 30s/33s does a respectable job on shadow detail – within the limits of the lighter black levels the Epson produces. Here are a few images good for comparing shadow details, starting with Sin City:

And this scene of the convertible, also from Sin City:

In fact, not bad at all!

Below are the usual two images from Lord of the Rings, for looking at shadow detail. The first is “normally exposed”, the second, overexposed, so that you can see the level of shadow detail in the dark areas in the shed on the right, and along the bottom. Although not as rich in color as some other projectors the shadows do reveal a very respectable amount of detail. You may, of course, enlarge these images by clicking:

 

normally exposed
overexposed

OK, one more space scene, this time from HD-DVD again, Space Cowboys. (While I doubt that few would consider buying the MovieMate, and then springing big bucks for an HD-DVD player, think that the HD-DVD’s output should be almost identical to a good HDTV signal, something many will have, if not now, shortly.

This last scene is from AeonFlux. The dark table and bright fruit etc, make a “more typical” dark scene than, the my usual space scenes. As you can see, the MovieMate does create a very reasonable image, blacks certainly appear black enough, and bright colors jump out nicely, as one would expect from a projector like the MovieMate, which has very good color saturation:

MovieMate 30s, 33s: Screen Door Effect, and Pixel Visibility

I normally cover this topic in the General Performance section, but, with the MovieMate, being 480p resolution, pixel visibility is a bigger issue, and becomes part of overall image quality.

Last year, when I reviewed the MovieMate 25, I felt the pixel visibility and resulting potential screen door effect (SDE), was a deal breaker for many. Quite honestly I agonized over whether to give the older MovieMate our Hot Product Award. Had pixel visibility not been such a major issue, giving the award would have been a slam dunk. But, because of it, I came very close to denying the Epson the award.

And I’ve been on the fence again. I issue our award for products that should prove to be, at least a small but significant sized percent of the buying public, the best projector for their requirements and budget. The fast growing all-in-one projector market is starting to explode, with lots of buyers, and I’m sure there are many who won’t care about the pixel visibility, but personally, at this level of visibility, it drives me crazy, and seems to cloud my judgement.

With higher resolution (720p and 1080p) projectors, pixel visibility, at worst, can be described as “barely visible” or “if you are looking for it” or “on the right scenes you can spot the pixels” (or movie credits). Most people sit at a distance far enough back that pixel issues are minor.

Time for some images to illustrate the issue. First, is this Warner Brothers emblem (from the start of Space Cowboys – which is why it’s monochrome – like the beginning of the movie.

Click to look at an enlargement. BTW, on some displays (LCD) you may pick up your own screen door effect. Try zooming in or out if you run across the problem. (And that’s true of any number of other images you have seen so far.)

Perhaps more to the point – the next image is a closeup of the necklace from a scene in Phantom. I normally use this for sharpness, but here it doubles to show the level of visibility of the pixels. You can see the full frame (way above), to give you an idea of how close we’ve zoomed in on the necklace. Click to enlarge:

But when you drop down to 480p projectors – pixels are going to be very visible, and more so with LCD projectors than DLP projectors (DLP chips always have had a less visible pixel structure at any given resolution.) The image below, is a full frame, from AeonFlux on HD-DVD, but the enlargement is cropped much closer, showing perhaps 25% of the total frame. Again, it allows you to easily make out the pixel structure.

With the Epson MovieMate projectors, pixel visibility is always there. Even if you are sitting, say 12 feet from their modest 80″ diagonal screen, they are immediately visible. Now, to some, this is probably no more of an issue than the phosphor patterns on their old conventional TV sets – just part of the the picture. I don’t think the average kid in their bonus room will care either (never can tell about those fanatical game players though).

I should also note, that pixel structure is also very visible on the lower resolution plasma TV’s (that make up the bulk of the 42″ plasma market) at normal seating distance, and that hasn’t stopped the world from buying 10s of millions of them, so maybe I’m the one a bit “over the top”, on this issue.

So, while the MovieMate has plenty going for it, the pixel visibility issue is one you’ll have to decide on for yourself. This is a fun system, and not for movie fanatics looking for ultimate image quality. And, that considered, it should work well for many, the question is – will it work for your family?

MovieMate 30s, 33s Projector Sharpness

No problems here at all, within the limitations of the 480p resolution. Everything appears “razor sharp”. I would have to say that the optics are easily capable of everything the MovieMate can throw at them. If you walk up to the screen, the pixel masks are so clear it does look like you could could precisely cut them out.

Here’s one more image, from Aeon Flux. You’ll find a similar frame on most recent reviews, it is a good test for overall sharpness. Look at the detail in her hair especially above her forehead, and straggling hairs as well. The other item is her eyes. Of course you can’t compare Yugo’s with Bentleys, but if you want to see a real difference, compare the “gleam” in her eye, on the MovieMate, with one of the 1080p (All $4000 or more) projectors like the BenQ W10000, or Optoma HD81

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