Epson MovieMate 30s, 33s Projector Review: Summary, Pros, Cons
I should start off, by reminding readers of the difference between the MovieMate 30s and 33s. The MovieMate 30s is the basic projector, with built in DVD player and speakers. The 33s, is a complete bundle, which not only includes the projector, but has a small 40 watt subwoofer packed in the same box, and also ships with Epson's Duet, an 80" diagonal 16:9 aspect ratio tripod screen (or 65" diagonal when set up with a 4:3 aspect ratio for watching traditional TV or video games.
In between the time I started writing this review last week, and finishing it, I happened to be at the local Costco. Sure enough, they had a number of MovieMate 33s bundles in stock, they even had a demo setup, (as if you could get any idea of its performance on a screen that couldn't even have been 24" diagonal).
The Epson Moviemate is, overall, an excellent "all-in-one" home projector system, with lots of pluses going for it, and really, only one significant minus.
The MovieMate 30s/33s, resolved some shortcomings of the older MovieMate 25, which include the new projector's ability to handle hi-def inputs (and computer signals), thanks to the computer input on the side. Two separate inputs would have been nicer, but most can live with the current configuration.
The MovieMate has a really good warranty, and Epson, an exceptional reputation for reliability and suport.
Colors are rich and dynamic, flesh tones come across very well.
The only real issue I have is with the Epson's pixel visibility, which is typical for a low resolution 480p (same as DVD), LCD projector. Whether this is a deal breaker for you - you'll just have to decide. Myself, I would be happier with a similar resolution projector using DLP, where the pixels inherently aren't as visible, or with a smoothing technique, like the Smooth Screen Technology Panasonic puts into its higher resolution home theater projectors.
MovieMate 30s, 33s Pros, Con's and Typical Capabilities
- Rich colors, very good dynamics
- Solidly built
- Good color accuracy "out of the box"
- Good price performance (complete with sub-woofer and screen, at Costco, for $999)
- Easy enough to operate
- Bright, or rather especially bright! Enough to handle a fair amount of ambient light on a moderate sized screen, like the included Duet
- Excellent warranty
- Epson reliability and support
- Plays music (CD, MP3, etc.,) and photo files as well as DVDs
- Can play music without wasting lamp hours
- Flexible positioning thanks to zoom lens and lens shift
- Audio is pretty good with that subwoofer plugged in (2 audio profiles as well)
- Parental controls!
- Ability to output 5.1 audio to an external A/V receiver if available
- Looks better in silver than old white (micro-wave looking) MovieMate 25
- Duet Dual shape screen
- Pixels are very visible
- Remote would be better, if backlit
- Portable in concept, but rather bulky, no included carry case
- While sound is impressive for what the system is, it's still not going to match a good "home theater in a box" surround sound system.
- Black levels, and contrast ratio
- Visible pixels (to be expected on any 480p projector)
- Remote control, overall, functional, but not spectacular
- Lamp Life
- DVD player
What are the alternatives to the MovieMate 30s, 33s?
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If you are looking at an all-in-one, Optoma is still shipping its original MovieTime DV10 (the DV11 is due out in the spring). The big advantage of the DV10, is that it is DLP based, so pixels are a bit less visible, and contrast/black levels are slightly better. The Epson, though has better balanced color out of the box, and is built solidly, whereas the MovieTime DV10 has a very plastic almost flimsy feel to it. The Optoma is more suited for "portability, weighing about half as much, being much smaller, and coming with a carry bag.
Or, go the "separates" route - which I would tend to favor. You could consider a very affordable 480p DLP projector like InFocus'es IN72, and then add a Home Theater in a Box surround sound audio system, with DVD player, and a screen. You'll probably find that the cost for all of that is within $100 or so of the Epson 33s bundle.
Better still, choose one of the new 720p low cost stand alone projectors - my choice would be Mitsubishi's HD1000U although Optoma's HD70 is a good alternative.
The separates route doesn't make for an instant setup solution, nor one easy to move around, but will appeal to those favoring that extra image quality over convenience and integration.
Bottom Line: For an "all-in-one" the Epson has just about everything it needs, to do a good job. It's also probably about as childproof as anything can be. If it weren't for the pixel visibility factor, I would be raving about the MovieMate 30s and 33s, but as it is, that one aspect is enough to dampen my enthusiasm. The big question, is that important to you? The only clue I can really give you, is to relate to my days of owning a company that sold home theater projectors... We sold a number of 480p projectors - both LCD and DLP, and though I felt the same way, then, as now about the pixels, I can tell you that returns were rare, indeed. It would seem that what is a big deal to me, doesn't seem to be much of a deal breaker for most people looking for a solid entry level, solution.