Epson Home Cinema 2040 and 2045 Projectors – A Review
HOME CINEMA 2040 AND 2045 SPECIAL FEATURES: CFI, MHL on HDMI, Miracast (HC2045 only), Dynamic Iris, Detail Enhancement, 3D, Speaker and Audio Out, Lamp Life/Cost
CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation
Often simply referred to as “smooth motion,” CFI, aka Creative Frame interpolation is the technique for taking videos shot at slower frame rates and applying algorithms to smooth out the unevenness caused due to the frame rate not being fast enough for our eyes to see it as perfectly smooth. While this is particularly true – not smooth video – when watching most film based videos and movies which are typically 24fps, CFI tends to change how our brains view the content, resulting in a look that is often referred to as “the soap opera effect.” As a result, most enthusiasts would not use CFI for movies, but may find it a great choice for viewing sports where the smoother motion is really appreciated, especially when following the action.
I’ve always taken the attitude that CFI was a nice extra, but since most of us see movies as the primary reason for going large screen, one that was not critical. For those valuing sports viewing however, CFI can certainly be considered more important.
What’s strange in the industry, is that one would think the less expensive home projectors, the ones that are very bright, such as these Epsons, would be the ones most likely to “need” CFI. Those projectors tend to be (best I can tell) used more for general purpose viewing than the more expensive models. With expensive projectors in dedicated theaters, I suspect movies dominate. In a living room, it may well be that sports, or Game of Thrones, etc., dominate over movies. Thus, While most $2000+ projectors have CFI, one would think that people spending $500 to $1500 who don’t have a dedicated theater, would be the ones who would use it the most.
Bottom Line – these Epson projectors, by having CFI which almost no competitors around the price offer, will have a special appeal to sports fans. For that matter, many people will like it for normal, more general HDTV viewing. Watch it with movies? Your call, but it so changes the feel of the movie, that the normal expression associated is that using it defeats the director’s intent. For example, In the Bourne movies, the camera is intentionally very jerky through almost all scenes. With CFI engaged, the feel of those scenes definitely visibly changes. The director probably put all that in to enhance the feeling of action, so using CFI to smooth some of that out, will change, perhaps the whole tempo of a scene.
MHL on HDMI
Welcome to the wonderful world of streaming! These Epsons have MHL capability on one of their two HDMI inputs. (One out of two is the standard way its done, on virtually all projectors with two HDMI inputs.)
With MHL – or Mobile High definition, you can simply plug in a streaming stick – such as a Roku, Amazon Fire, Google stick etc. These give the projector direct access to content on the internet. For example Roku offers dozens (hundreds?) of different services filled with content, starting, of course with Netflix. The beauty of MHL is you simply plug in the streaming stick into the HDMI port, and use the stick’s remote control to choose what content you would like to watch, to subscribe to channels, etc.
“It’s a very millennial” thing. My daughter and her room-mate, in NYC, for example, is currently using a pocket projector in her apartment. They have no LCDTV. Both of them typically watch programming on their laptops, and sometimes their phones. But, now, when there’s something special worth watching on a “decent” or larger sized screen, such as a good movie with beautiful scenery, or a really big action flick, they can have a big screen solution. They both have their own sticks, and they could just as easily plug one of them into these Epsons to watch Game of Thrones, or whatever floats their boat, with a wall sized image.
MHL with streaming sticks are just as handy for people with larger projectors – or LCDTVs as a primary source of content instead of paying for satellite or cable. (Some streaming services – for example Netflix – do cost money too!)
Bottom line – the ability to work with streaming sticks and other MHL devices, which includes many phones and tablets, is an excellent new option. This isn’t remotely unique to Epson, most home entertainment projectors launched in the last year offer MHL, but it may be a feature you want.
Miracast and Intel WiDi
This is an interesting option found on Epson’s HC2045. Some laptops, computers, and tablets now offer Miracast by Intel. This provides a similar capability in many ways to MHL, but there’s one big difference. By building in the Miracast into the HC2045, you don’t need to use one of the HDMI or other ports to access the content from your device. Instead it’s received wirelessly by the Home Cinema 2045, from the properly equipped device.
Basically Miracast let’s you share your device’s screen – that is, show the same thing as seen on the devices screen, by projecting it with the Epson projector. From one standpoint Miracast is a bit like Apple TV, but it is internal, not an external box. Nice touch. The large majority of folks at this time don’t have Miracast devices, and even if they do, there’s MHL and Wifi or other wireless as other alternatives for many things. Still, if you know you have a device that has Miracast / WiDi built in, you just might want to fork over the extra $50 for the HC2045 instead of the HC2040. That’s the only difference between the two.
Epson provides a dynamic iris to lower black levels (and the overall image brightness) on dark scenes. Dynamic irises do nothing on bright scenes.
This is a very effective technique for improving the viewing experience, although it’s not as good as having higher native contrast. As 3LCD projectors (at least entry level ones) can’t match the native black levels of single chip DLP projectors, this is an equalizer, but ultimately, the best DLP’s under $1000 will still do better on those darkest of scenes.
That said, the dynamic iris makes these Epsons more competitive compared to the DLPs than if they lacked their irises. No matter how you slice things, however, none of the lower cost projectors are even remotely a match at black levels on dark scenes with the best over $2000 projectors. In that sense, the DLPs and 3LCD projectors in the under $1000 range, when compared with a projector like the $1999 HC5025 or the $2299 HC5030UB, are far more similar to each other than those more expensive projectors.
Over the last few years, Epson has added detail enhancement controls to most of their home projectors. These give you greater perceived sharpness and details than without, but there are always some trade-offs. Epson’s detail enhancement works very nicely, and is especially nice on things like sports.
Even for movie viewing, however, you with modest Detail Enhancement settings, you will see a difference that you perceive to be sharper and more detailed. Is it pure, that is, is it really revealing more detail? Not really, consider this to be similar to a normal sharpness control, except it provides more perceived improvement, with less artifacts. Definitely a good thing to have.
3D on the Home Cinema 2040 and 2045
You will enjoy 3D on these Epsons. They’ve got the brightness for 3D that many projectors lack. You see, 3D eats up lumens. When you are viewing 3D you have at best, about 1/3 the brightness of 2D. Put these Epsons into 3D mode and in the brighter 3D mode (of two) you’ll have enough lumens to not feel like the picture is too dim at 100″ diagonal, a problem for most.
There are small amounts of crosstalk with the 3D on these Epsons. For that matter there’s at least a small amount of crosstalk on any non-DLP projector doing 3D. DLPs are cleaner, but most in the price range either aren’t as bright – with good color, as the HC2040, or they are very bright cross-over projectors – with sufficient brightness, but basically business projectors with other limitations as trade-offs. I’m a big fan of 3D viewing, and the HC2040 I’ve been using does a very respectable job, overall.
Speaker and Audio Out
The Home Cinema 2040 and 2045 both have a rear facing speaker with sufficient volume for movie or TV viewing. The sound is far better than what you would expect from a laptop’s speakers, and probably comparable to many $30 to $50+ small bluetooth speakers. That makes life really easy if you are moving the projector around, perhaps taking all under six pounds of it on vacation to the cabin, or perhaps the backyard movie night.
But, the sound is, of course no match for any respectable stereo or home theater sound system. The good news is that there’s an audio out jack that will let you output the stereo sound to external powered speakers or a separate sound system. Mind you, if you are plugged into an AV receiver, or even a cable box or satellite box, you can feed the sound from those devices right to any sound system you have. The ability to output audio comes in handy if you want to: a) output the sound accompanying the video that you are bringing in via a streaming stick. b) Output the sound coming in directly from a DVD or Blu-ray player. c) Other similar devices.
What’s missing: I’ve been bitching to manufacturers for 4-5 years that if they put an audio output jack on, they should leave the option of outputting the audio through the jack, while also allowing the speaker to play the sound. This would allow people to rely on the internal speaker for the bulk of the audio, but plug in an inexpensive powered sub-woofer to drastically enhance the bass. That will make one heck of a difference (having a sub-woofer) on any action flick, since no small speaker like the ones found in home entertainment projectors, will have any real bass at all. That would be nice, but I’ve yet to see anyone offer the option.
Epson claims 4000 hours at full power, which is at least average, and a well better than average 7500 in Eco mode. Note, please, that some projectors claim more in their Eco modes by offering features that dim the lamp when the content isn’t changing, etc. In other words, if you forget about the projector, while on, and there’s no source, they will dim the lamp. You can, with these Epson projectors have them automatically turn off after a period of no content. Just remember to compare “apples to apples”. For those of us who press pause on a show, and forget about the projector, the auto power off won’t help, but the other technique will reduce lamp life.
Bottom line – great lamp life, even better price. Online pricing seems to be only $79, whereas some competitors lamps can cost 2x 3x or even 4X. A quick look online for example shows the BenQ W1070’s replacement at $249, and their HC1200 at $349. Optoma’s HD141X is $179. Ouch. In all cases I’m quoting for official Epson, Optoma, and BenQ lamps.
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