Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector - A First Look Review
It's true, I got a sneak peak at the new Epson projectors including the Home Cinema 3020 - under Non-disclosure agreement, about a week before CEDIA. That gave me a few days to organize my thoughts, regarding how the new Epson home projectors compare with last year's projectors. As I write this, I'm in transit to Indianapolis for CEDIA where I'll get another chance to view the Home Cinema 3020 and its siblings. -art
9/5/2012 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 3020
This year we move to the Home Cinema 3020 from last year's 3010. This new projector and it's almost identical twin, the 3020e, are first, and formost "family room/living room" type projectors. Have a dedicated theater? Sure, you can use it there, but this projector is especially good at being bright, and therefore more able to deal with rooms with ambient light. As you might guess, this year's Home Cinema 3020 is an evolutionary improvement over the older home projector. The HC3020 projector basically looks, and cooks like the 3010, but there are a number of subtle and seemingly not so subtle improvements. While the HC3020 claims to be slightly brighter than the 3010, the increase is from 2200 to 2300, not exactly a dramatic jump in brightness.
Epson promises review units of the Home Cinema 3020 or 3020e as soon as early units are available. I suspect that we will receive both 3020 and 5020 models in September, or early October, and will pound out the reviews asap.
Home Cinema 3020 Specs and Features
- Brightness: 2300 lumens (both color lumens and white lumens - see our Color Lumens video for what that means
- Contrast 40,000:1 - same as last year, for 2D
- Contrast 40,000:1 - 3D contrast and blacks dramatically improved (iris now operates in 3D
- 3D and 2D, new 2D to 3D conversion
- Wireless HDMI on the 3020e model (see related reviews)
- 480hz LCD panels for a brighter image (and other benefits
- Split screen capability
- 2 year warranty with replacement program for both years
- 1.6:1 zoom lens
- Includes 2 pair of 3D glasses (active shutter) 3rd party glasses available
- 13.2 pounds
Although the price is still unknown, Epson simply says (of course) that the Home Cinema 3020 will be extremely competitive. Both the Home Cinema 3020 and 3020e will price below $2000. Last year, the 3010 was $1599, and the 3010e - $1799, however, last year the 3010e did not include 2 pair of 3D glasses. This year all 5 new Epson's come with two pair of their new, lighter, rechargeable 3D glasses.
We will update this article with the formal Epson pricing as soon as we learn what it is (tomorrow at the show).
Home Cinema 3020 Picture Quality
My first look at this projector (off-site) was in a conference room, with white walls, etc. That wasn't going to let me really get a close look at the subtleties of Picture Quality performance. As a result, Epson concentrated on showing what was new, or improved. Much of that related to operation in 3D.
Still, overall, this projector comes with 5 2D preset modes, with names like Dynamic, Living Room, and Cinema. Dynamic is definitely the brightest, and as is typical for 3LCD type projectors a bit too strong in terms of greens and yellows. When the Home Cinema 3020 comes in for review, we'll see how Mike's usual "quick cal" of Dynamic mode - (sacrificing minimal lumens for better color) stacks up with the not quite as bright, but better Livingroom mode. A dynamic iris improves black level performance overall, but keep in mind that if that's your interest, Epson's more expensive Home Cinema 5020 and 5020e are dramatically better at blacks, and likely still offer the best blacks of any under $5000 projector. (That said, a lot of new HT projectors at CEDIA this year, we shall see if Epson stays on top.)
Like it's predecessor, the HC3020 should put up a dynamic image with lots of white and color lumens for, say, sports viewing, or your favorite Discovery HD programming. Switch to Cinema, though, for the very best color (less bright) for quality movie viewing, that should impress, expecially if you are watching your movies at night with good lighting control.
The Epson Home Cinema 3020 is a light canon. That's great for 2D viewing but really makes a difference when you put on those 3D glasses!
Home Cinema 3020 3D Projector
Most of the improvements for this year, relate to 3D operation (not all, though). Most significantly, is the major change relating to dynamic features. Last year, the dynamic iris did not work in 3D, this year, for the 3020 models it does. The net, net, the 3020 should produce significantly darker and better blacks when viewing 3D than its predecessor was capable of.
While we're talking 3D, the glasses are a definite improvement. The new glasses look similar to last year's but not the same. More to the point, they are noticeably lighter (and the old ones were already pretty light for active glasses). I wear glasses and found them comfortable.
The real news with the 3D glasses is the switch from lithium battery power to rechargeable. No more batteries to change (roughly every 75 hours). Not surprisingly, the life between charges isn't as good as disposable battery powered glasses. Epson says "up to 40 hours".
Considering few of us will be watching 3D more than even 10% of the time (unless you have lots of small children), 40 hours isn't bad. Better still, though - and I love this: Epson says that if the battery wears down, you won't have to postpone/reschedule your movie while it recharges. According to Epson - plug in the 3D glasses for just 3 minutes and they will get enough charge to make it through a 3 hour movie.
Now that is cool! (I wish I could get 3 hours of fresh talk time, if I plugged my iPhone in for 3 minutes.)
Epson is also now offering some decent 2D to 3D conversion. So far I'm still not a fan of taking typical 2D content and converting it to 3D. On the other hand, if you want to show those 2D video clips from your camcorder or iPhone/iPad/andoid, in 3D, you can do that, and that is a family cool feature.
We were extremely impressed with the 3D and 3D color, overall last year, good color, and one of only 2-3 really bright (say "bright enough" 3D projectors out there). We therefore expect everything else to be at least as good as last year.
Home Cinema 3020 General Thoughts and Features
Once again, you can still "rock the house" - or the backyard, as the Epson Home Cinema 3020 comes with two 10 watt speakers. That is enough to fill your average living room or family room with some serious volume. (If you go with the 3020e with wireless HDMI, you won't even have to drag your blu-ray player into the back yard when you are showing movies out there. More on that on our "First Look" of the Home Cinema 3020e.
Split screen capability. OK, I know that it's hardly a must have feature, but for those that are interested, it does work. When the Home Cinema 3020 comes in for full review, I plan to really use split screen this year. Half the screen for watching football from my DirecTV box, and the other half hooked up to my MacBook or iPad, showing all my Fantasy football info and team!
Unless there are some surprises, the new Home Cinema 3020 should assume the same role as the older version, which is to say, to be one of the dominent under $2000 projectors. Aggressive (we assume) pricing, slightly improved brightness, and a lot of 3D enhancments, should assure that, especially since in this price range (under $2,000), we're not likely to see many new competitors. Of the major players in home entertainment projector space in this price, not much is expected this year at CEDIA. Of the DLP projector manufacturers, Acer, BenQ, and Optoma aren't even showing at CEDIA, so expect nothing new from them in this fall / winter product cycle. Panasonic has a new projector, but that's their PT-AE8000 which competes with Epson's more expensive HC5020, not these affordable HC3020 projectors.
Certainly, from what I know about what should be coming this fall so far, the Epson Home Cinema 3020 (and 3020e), are likely to be the strongest 3D capable, family room / livingroom oriented projectors this year. Sure, there's some good competition, including the impressive Acer H9500BD, but nothing else will come close, for example, when it comes to 3D brightness, and brightness, for 3D, is sort of like black levels for movie fans - hard to get enough.
That's pretty much it for now. If the wireless HDMI which can really simplify, is of interest to you, check out the Home Cinema 3020e "First Look". Much is the same as this article, but we do cover the benefits of it's Wireless HDMI abilities, and the improvements Epson made to it since last year.
OK, stay tuned for the Home Cinema 3020 review. We will advise you when we know that the projector is en route.