Home Theater Projector Review: Epson MovieMate 72 LCD Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
Very cool. Epson's MovieMate 72 is one of my favorite projectors reviewed in the last year or two. It definitely fills a need, and does an excellent job of it.
Up until now, I haven't run across an all-in-one projector that I would have been really comfortable recommending to good friends. Now I have one. Sure, it's not perfect, but it does offer very respectable performance, great versatility, and all considered, excellent price/performance. At $1199 suggested retail, it should sell very well. When products like this come down to, say $600 - $800, they should fly off the shelves.
I've got it on right now, early afternoon, and it's in Living Room mode, filling my large screen, and the announcers and sports clips on Sports Center - in hi-def. Looks great!
I'm not going to get into how it compares to other all-in-ones. It's in a class of its own. Sure, the Optoma DV-11 can do better blacks (not drastically so), but I've got to go with the Epson for everything else, from brightness, to solidness of construction, to warranty, to sound quality (although you really do want to get a small subwoofer for any of these). The earlier Epson MovieMates pale by comparison, and their 480p LCD panels make pixel structure way to visible for my taste (even though kids could probably care less, and some adults as well.)
It is more interesting to compare Epson's MovieMate 72 with some stand alone projectors.
As noted before, its black level performance is its weakness, and off the top of my head, I can't think of a current stand alone 720p projector that doesn't at least slightly improve on the MovieMate in this regard.
However, it is brighter than most of the 720p projectors, with the exception of the Panasonic PT-AX200U, and Epson's own Home Cinema 400 (reviewing the Home Cinema 720 next, but it should be about the same). The Panasonic has noticeably more lumens, and the Epson Home Cinema 400, about the same.
One could debate the image performance of the MovieMate 72 compared to the lower cost ($899 - $999) DLP home theater projectors, all of which can do better black levels, but the Epson offsets its weakness in that area, with its really good out of the box performance, and brightness. It also offers far more placement flexibility, except of course, its not practical to ceiling mount a projector with a built in DVD player, even if the projector supported ceiling mounting.
The Epson MovieMate 72 simply covers all the bases. A good (not great) DVD player in terms of performance, the ability to handle sources all the way up to 1080p, whether from a hi-def external DVD player or your cable/satellite box. Add to that, decent audio and the ability to play music CD's, while offering the option to plug in a powered sub-woofer to enhance bass, or, instead, get higher quality full 5.1 surround sound via its Digital Audio out, so you can feed the high quality audio signal to a good surround sound audio system.
It is truly a system that the whole family can enjoy, since its overall picture performance is really very respectable, especially color handling. It would be nice to have more extensive color controls, but then again, this combination projector isn't intended to be the best under $1200 projector around, just a great little home entertainment projection system.
Epson MovieMate 72 projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Epson MovieMate 72 Projector: Pros
- Very bright (over 500 lumens in best mode, and over 1600 in brightest)
- True 720p resolution - a first for all-in-one projectors
- On board DVD player that can also play video CD's, standard CD's and music files
- Very good color balance "out of the box" without any tweaking needed
- Very good shadow detail handling
- Five preset picture modes
- Excellent build quality - it looks and feels solid
- Reasonably good sound system (but needs a subwoofer to complete it)
- Family friendly child controls (password protection; ability to prevent up to 40 designated titles from playing without entering a password, and to lock out the power button without password (still allowing the remote to power up), which prevents a small child from powering up, and staring into the lens when there's no adults around
- HDMI input as well as computer input (that can be used for component video)
- Ability to be used for music playing without the lamp on
- Very good sharpness
- 1.5:1 zoom best of the all-in-one projectors (so far)
- Can handle video and still images from USB sources, or even an iPod, Video iPod, or MP3 player
- Swivel design for ease of placement
- Reasonably portable
- Good, not great, documentation
- Excellent warranty of 2 years parts and labor - most all-in-one projectors have either a 90 day or 1 year warranty
- Multiple modes for sound, with separate sets for movies (drama, action, sci-fi and concert) and a different group for audio only sources (jazz, rock...)
- Good performance interfaced to a computer
- Lens is recessed, with sliding lens cover
- Adjustable sleep mode turns projector off when not in use
- Coffee break mode - pause mutes picture, leaves lamp illuminating the room
- Really easy to setup and use
- An excellent overall value proposition
Review continues below this advertisement.
Epson MovieMate 72 Projector: Cons
- User manual comes only on disc (hard copy too, would be better)
- Mediocre black level performance
- Remote is not backlit
- Menu features scattered from multiple buttons on remote
- No fine tuning R,G,B controls for tweaking color
- Not as much "pop" to the image due to limited black level performance
- Image noise performance from internal DVD player is acceptable but not great, with slight motion artifact issues on just the "wrong" scene. All image noise issues improve to very good with external hi-def sources (including standard DVD's played on a PS3)
Epson MovieMate 72 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp life (2000 hours in all modes but Theatre Black - which gets 3000 hours)
- Other than general functionality (DVD, speakers, remote), not much in common with other all-in-one projectors, due to superior performance
Epson MovieMate 72 Summary: The Bottom Line
I really like the MovieMate 72. That said, my 15 year old daughter, who tells me she needs one, won't be getting one for the holidays. Afterall, I have two rooms already set up with projectors. That said, this is a product that under other circumstances, I could own, and I am very comfortable recommending it to friends for their familyrooms, living rooms and bonus rooms as a family shared entertainment system. Our Hot Product Award is given to projectors and related products when they offer a value proposition that makes it a top choice for a significant group people. The MovieMate meets that standard - effortlessly.
(The image above is a night scene from Casino Royale - Blu-ray disc)
Kudos to Epson. In the All-in-one class of home projector systems, they are a class of one. They've done it right!