Epson MovieMate 30S All-in-One Home Theater Projector System: Overview
01/22/07 - Art Feierman
Back last April, I got a chance to review the MovieMate 25, Epson's first pass at an all-in-one projector for the home. The MovieMate 30s, is an evolutionary change, with minor performance improvements, but major improvements elsewhere.
Immediately noticeable is the change from the old MovieMate 25's white finish, to a much more attractive silver. (the MovieMate 25 reminded me of a large microwave oven).
Overall, image quality is very similar, and, of course I'll go into that in more detail later.
Perhaps the most notable improvement is in interfacing. Sadly, the old MovieMate 25 was limited to working with "low resolution" video signals - composite and S-video. The new MovieMate 30s, adds a computer input - a big enhancement, and equally important, it can now accept HD source information through that computer input, from any device with component video output - which is basically everything that can do hi-def. First thing I did was see if it would work with my HD-DVD player, and I'm pleased to report - no problem at all! It also worked easily with my laptop.
The MovieMate 30s sent to me, actually came in a big box labeled as a MovieMate 33s. An inquiry to Epson and my suspicions were confirmed. The 33s version that I received is a full "bundle", and when it arrived, included in the main box was a small, powered subwoofer. A separate box contained Epson's recently announced Duet tripod screen, that sets up quickly and can be opened for 16:9 or 4:3 viewing. More on that below.
Epson MovieMate 30s All-in-One Home Theater Projector System - Basic Specs:
MSRP: MovieMate 30s: $999, MovieMate 33s (with screen and subwoofer): $1,199
Technology: 3LCD panels
Native Resolution: 480p (854x480)
Brightness: 1200 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 1.15:1
Lens shift: Vertical: 50%, Horizontal: 25%
Lamp life: Up to 3000 hours (low power)
Built in digital DVD player: JVC, supports DVD, CD, and photo formats
Speakers: 2, 10 watt built-in speakers
Subwoofer (included with MovieMate 33s optional for 30s), 40watts
Screen: Epson Duet, tripod screen, opens to 65" diagonal for 4:3, 80" diagonal for 16:9 viewing - Screen weight 26.55 lbs.
Weight: 15 lbs. (Moviemate only).
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor
Ok, enough of the specs - more will be found in our database. Time to take a close look at the Moviemate:
Epson MovieMate 30s and 33s: Physical Tour
Normally I say "let's start from the front", but with the MovieMate, it's sometimes hard to figure out which is the "front". With most projectors the lens is up front, and the cable input areas are in the back... Well, you'll see, soon enough.
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We will start from the front, and in this case, that means the side with the lens. So facing the front of the projector, you can see the recessed zoom lens (1.5:1 ratio), mounted off center, to the right. The zoom is moderately short throw, allowing the front of the projector to be placed as close as 6.5 feet to fill an 80" diagonal 16:9 screen, like the one provided with the MovieMate 33s. Or, the projector can be as far back as 9.7 feet for the same screen. We normally talk 100" screens, so, to be consistant, that translates to about 97" to 146" from a 100 inch, 16:9 screen.
On the left, is an infra-red sensor for the remote. On the lower right, is the power receptacle, and master power switch. The rest of the goodies on the front, are hidden behind the large spring release door, below and to the left of the lens. Strangely this is where most things plug in! Rare is a projector that has cables being plugged into the "front".
Behind this input door, as you can see in this picture, are inputs for composite video (an RCA jack), S-video (DIN plug), and a pair of RCA jacks for stereo audio, plus two outputs - a fibre-optic for 5.1 surround sound (if you want to output the sound to your separate surround sound audio system, and an RCA jack to send the low frequencies to the separate subwoofer.
Moving to the right side (from the front), you'll find air intakes, and a filter door, plus a small door by the top center. Open that door (not hinged, the piece comes off), and you'll find the computer input (new to the MovieMate 30s, 33s)), a standard HD15 computer plug.
On the opposite side, you'll find the fan exhaust vents. At the back of each side, you'll also see the grill cloth for the two 10 watt speakers.
OK, let's check out the top of the MovieMate. Behind the lens are two recessed rings, one for focus, the other for zoom. Nearby are the dials for vertical and horizontal lens shift. The vertical is oriented front to back, the horizontal - left to right, making it simple to figure out.
There are two "idiot lights" nearby, for lamp and temperature warnings. Moving to the back of the top, you'll find the control panel. Looking at it from the rear, from the left, are the Power button and source select (one to power up, one to power down - it goes off virtually instantly), then come 4 buttons to control the DVD player.
Then comes the coffee "break" button, and then an image off and on button. The image off/on button is a nice touch - it allows the MovieMate to run without the lamp on, making the MovieMate 30s or 33s suitable for just listening to your CD's etc., without using up expensive lamp hours. (The MovieMate 25 also had this feature.)
Also on the top is the door to provide access to change the projector's lamp. (the release is on the top left side). Very handy, and easy to do.
Lastly, the back of the projector has the door, and open/close button for the built-in digital JVC DVD player. Right above the DVD player's door, is an led display screen providing status of the player and content. I better point out that there is also a headphone jack (stereo mini), very handy! I hooked up my wireless AR headphones and was able to listen to a movie, while the speakers remained silent.
The Bottom: The bottom has four rubber feet. Big complaint here - none are adjustable. When I first set up the projector, I set up the Duet screen, and "tossed" the projector on the cocktail table in front of our couch in the family room. The cocktail table is typically low - about 20 inches off the ground. Even with the full vertical lens shift, I couldn't get the image completely on the screen, I had more than a few inches shooting under the screen. I ultimately propped the front legs up on thick magazines. When I moved to the testing room, with a normal desk/table height (30 inches) to place the projector on, I was still in trouble. seems that even with full lens shift (vertical), the bottom of the projector needs to beno lower than 4 inches below the bottom of the screen surface. The Duet screen, I should note, is barely adjustable, height wise!
Let's talk the Duet screen for a second. The dual width setup is very nice, and it takes just seconds to switch from one width to the other. The downside of the Duet, is that it's fairly heavy - weighing in at about 26.5 pounds.
It really is a bit too much for a kid or small teenager to setup alone. (And the idea of the screen surface crashing into furniture is not a pleasant thought.)
Here are two more images of the screen, the first, showing the sissor type mechanism that allows the Duet to open to either size. The second, gives you a better look at the tripod, and how the screen slides on to the tripod's pole.
The subwoofer, provided with the 33s version, is very, very small. It is rated 40 watts, and actually did a pretty good job in our family room which is about 15x16 feet.
Epson offers an optional rolling case for those who want to transport the system around to a friends, or vacation home, or, whereever. For that matter, Epson markets it for dual use - also for basic business presentations, and that does have some merit as well.
That covers it for the physical tour, except of course, for the remote control, which will be discussed in the General Performance section.