Epson Home Cinema 3020 - Review Summary
A Hot Product Award for the Epson Home Cinema 3020. It will share that award with its almost identical sibling, the HC3020e.
11/10/2012 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector - The Bottom Line
Writing about the Home Cinema 3020 really has been has been to a good extent, like reliving last year's review. Certainly the HC3020 looks and cooks like last year's HC3010, but with a number of small improvements, that add up up to a noticeably better, overall projector. I guess sometimes it really is the little things that count.
What we have here is a $1600 street priced projector, that is exceptionally bright, and that alone makes it a top choice for rooms that aren't fully setup as a home theater. You could say, "a projector for the rest of us", and it would be true. In my last home, I had a cathedral ceilinged great room, first with off white walls, then later, the walls were painted a rust color. This projector would have had no problem filling my old 128" diagonal Firehawk G3 screen, with a nice bright picture, with good color. This projector, calibrated measures a whopping1362 lumens (mid-point on the zoom), That's at least as bright as any calibrated projector under $10K that we measured until 3D arrived just 3 years ago.
What that means to "the rest of us" not creating a cave like experience, here's a projector that paired with the right screen for the room, can do a great job in most circumstances without sunlight streaming in. With about 2000 conservatively measured lumens in its brightest mode, there are only two serious contenders that are officially under $2000, when it comes to properly lighting up a room: Those two are the BenQ W7000, now $1999, but it's far more expensive when you consider it doesn't come with 3D glasses, has a 2000 hour lamp (vs 4000/5000), and a basic 1 year warranty. The other alternative is our favorite 2D only low cost projector from last year, the Panasonic PT-AR100U, which is back for another year. It would save you a few hundred dollars, and also have a shorter warranty. That folks is really it for very bright, and very good quality for the price.
If maximum brightness for 2D or 3D isn't that critical for you, due to good lighting control, or a smaller screen, there's just one more projector out there that I see as a serious contender. That of course is the Acer H9500BD which shared our Best In Class award last year with the HC3010. Not as bright, and what I call a little rough around the edges, it's a projector that hits its stride in more of a home theater environment. 3D isn't near as bright. There are a number of other respectable projectors out there, the ones mentioned represent the best in the price range. That's not to put down several really nice under $1000 projectors, they just aren't in the class of HC3020 or these others.
OK, that brings us back to specifics
Above, from Hugo - as you probably noted in other Hugo images in this review this entire movie has an antiquish sepia caste to it - as they say - it's the Director's INTENT!
I said this was Epson easy. You don't have to calibrate this projector to enjoy a real good picture. I realize very few of you will really consider spending the $300 - $500 to have it done. Don't feel bad. If you are willing to take 5 minutes to change a few settings in the menus, you can use our calibration settings. That's why we publish our basic and RGB settings. Most of you probably won't feel it necessary after just a few minutes of watching whatever, with your new projector, but should you decide or be curious, they are there for the taking.
If you like picking up the remote control, then unless you really are running out of lumens, I would suggest Cinema mode for movies, and Living Room mode for whenever you want even brighter - save Dynamic for "light emergencies".
For "the rest of us" who would prefer to have the same ease as with your LCDTV, just set the mode to Auto. it will switch modes as needed.
Above from Footloose (the remake)
Remember, these Epson Home Cinema 3020 projectors are geared first for family room type environments. If you do have the budget for something more expensive, and want a step up in quality, there's plenty out there, but in this price range, with this type of feature set, especially with light canon brightness, the Home Cinema 3020 is going to be hard to beat.
For those caring for 3D capabilities, in fact, most likely the two most interesting alternatives are going to be around $3000, and that would be the previously mentioned Panasonic PT-AE7000 and Epson Home Cinema 5010. Both are also bright projectors, with 3D. At the same price (roughly) as the Epson, is the Optoma HD33. Of the two, though, the Epson seems to be a much better value, brighter, more features...
Folks, if you don't know what movie the image above came from, it's time to broaden your knowledge of the old classics. You are looking at Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, in Breakfast at Tiffanys. (as they just enter Tiffanys). Very cool flick!
The image below, from the second Sherlock Holmes movie.
If you are going into a theater type environment, and don't need all that brightness, then two more alternatives are the just being discontinued (10/11) Panasonic PT-AE4000U and the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, which have been, without doubt, the best selling ultra high contrast projectors out there.
I'll mention one more, the BenQ W6000 for those craving for a fairly bright projector, with that DLP "look and feel". It too, is more in the $2000 range, but it's not quite as bright as the Epson.
After offering you some possible 2D only alternatives, I still think 3D is great stuff with something for most people.
True, most movies are not 3D, but, consider. The Avengers in 3D is a blast. I've been watching the new 3 Musketeers as well. Now there's a movie, that for most, just isn't worth watching in 2D. In 3D though, it sure is a far more paletable experience.
The Very Bottom Line on the Home Cinema 3020 projector:
The Home Cinema 3020 and 3020e are the only 3D capable LCD home projectors on the market under $2500! That means they get to take on a whole bunch of DLP projectors as the competition. With one or two exceptions, the Epson has those DLP's beat. Not at everything, but at so many things, that it's really no contest. So far, the best of the DLP competition under $2000 are the Acer and the BenQ W7000. The BenQ is about $400 more while the H9500BD is basically the same price as the standard HC3020.
The Epson easily beats both at brightness, and that's especially true for 3D. The Epson is also the projector that least needs any calibration - the best choice, right out of the box. No muss, no fuss! (I have no idea where that phrase originated).
We were already filming a "Video summary" of this review, before I wrote this summary page. In the video I concluded that the HC3020 is easy, so I dubbed it Epson Easy. (catchy, yes?) It just seemed to fit
The point is that the Epson 3020 tends look good. Some projectors are "rough around the edges" they tend to look good on some things, not quite right on others. This Epson is well balanced, it almost always looks good, that means you are focused on the content, not some aspects of the projector, and that's the way it should be. It's just easy to watch, be it movies, sports or general TV, and it's downright wonderful for 3D compared to the competition, far brighter, comfortable glasses, and more.
If you choose an Epson, then it's straight forward choosing which one, the HC3020 or the HC3020e. The only real difference between the Home Cinema 3020 and 3020e is the "e" offers wireless HDMI. (Note: WirelessHD is the official name of that standard.) Consider the HC3020e, if you can save money on wiring. Those who would have to open walls, close, and repaint them, to wire that HDMI to the projector (if you don't need to run any other sources cabling), will save some bucks. The WirelessHD transmitter that you put by your sources offers 5 HDMI input and a Digital Audio input as well.
Watching the HC3020 was always an enjoyable experience, as long as I wasn't mentally comparing it with a lot more expensive projectors. Afterall, for exactly $1000 more, Epson's own Home Cinema 5020UB, is similar in brightness, better, and more feature laden.
If the Home Cinema 3020 right about what you want to spend, you will be really hard pressed to find worthy competitor for your family room, media room, or bonus room world. If you are trying to put this projector in a dedicated home theater type environment for the same price, then it's got a couple of competitors to also consider.
Last year the 3010 received (tied) for our Best In Class award, which our highest award for under $2000 projectors. Note: There will be at least two more reviews of under $2K projectors coming up before year end. This year's HC3020 is even better than last year, especially at 3D. Unless I am amazing with something new in the under $2K range, (between now and when I start our annual comparison in February), it sure looks like at least a repeat performance for Epson with the HC3020.
Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector: Pros and Cons
Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector: Pros
- Brightest projector for both 2D and 3D we've reviewed to date under $2,000
- Auto mode makes projector as "easy" as an LCDTV, no fuss
- Handles very large screens for 2D viewing.
- Does a great job on medium sized screens for 3D
- 2 pair of 3D glasses included
- Very good overall color
- Skin tones are very good post calibration, not bad at all, even without
- Calibrates easily
- Some cool features including split screen, and USB slideshow features
- Improved lag times of approximately 50ms for playing of high speed games like first person shooters
- Very good shadow detail
- Excellent lamp life (4000 hours/5000 hours)
- HDMI 1.4a inputs (2) support for Blu-ray 3D content
- 3D glasses are now Radio frequency, and instant rechargeable
- Two 10 watt speakers provide respectable audio when not hooked up to a surround sound system, great out back for a summer festival, or in any room for a quick setup
- Dynamic iris for black level performance that's very good for the price range
- Excellent 2 year warranty with replacement program
- Excellent value proposition overall, especially for 3D
Image above, from Iron Man 2
Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector: Cons
- Black level performance is definitely "nothing to write home about"
- Older Epson 3D glasses (IR) not compatible with the new projectors
- Only front feet adjustable, and having rear adjustable would simplify for table top setups
- Minor 3D artifacts including crosstalk
- Lacks lens shift (also true about half of the competitors)
- Could be quieter in full power mode, though typical for a home "entertainment" projector
- Lacks CFI - creative frame interpolation
Above, Captain Pike, from the Star Trek movie
The Epson Home Cinema 3020 proves to be a most impressive projector for its relatively modest price.
That's my last thought as I finish, with the movie Open Range on (Robert Duvall, Kevin Kostner) over HDTV playing in the background. Nothing like a nice bright outdoor western scene to really dazzle the senses.
And with that thought, this review concludes.
Do check out our video summary as well. Not as much info, but more fun - at least for me!
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