Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector - Image Quality
This MovieMate 85HD, being an all-in-one projector system, is so much more of a family friendly in-home or portable device, than a dedicated home theater, that we do not show near as many images, nor go into as much detail as we do for pure home theater projector reviews.
Remember that the process of getting an image off the screen, and on to your computer screen, requires many steps, each taking its toll on image accuracy. Take the images with more than a "grain of salt", there will be some color shifting, and it's pretty safe to say, that the projector itself will put images up on the screen that look better than any of these images that you view on your computer.
2/10/2010 - Art Feierman
Epson MovieMate 85HD Out of the Box Picture Quality
"Out of the box" picture quality is what you get with the MovieMate 85HD. There are only very limited controls. Even if we wanted to calibrate this Epson MovieMate, there are no controls for tuning color temp (just a choice of three presets). Yes, you can affect Brightness, Contrast, Tint and Saturation, and choose from the five color presets (Dynamic, Movie...) but that's about it...
So, how good does the MovieMate do?
For what it is, rather well. Look, if you are an "enthusiast" demanding the maximum picture quality for your dollar, this MovieMate isn't the ticket. You can buy 720p stand alone projectors (DLP models) from about $600 - $800, that is, for a bit less than the MovieMate (but without the all-in-one features). Those projectors mostly will have much better adjustment controls, and should, in the end, if calibrated, produce an image superior to the 85HD.
The thing is, your kids won't care, whether younger ones, or teenagers. Actually, you probably won't either. Let's take my 18 year old daughter for example. She helps out with the site, knows projectors pretty well, and their features. (She can spot CFI - smooth motion, when it's on, almost instantly. And she knows by looking, which projectors have what I call ultra high contrast blacks). My daughter's reaction to the MovieMate 85HD, nonetheless, would probably be something like this:
"Hmm, that's not a great picture - blacks aren't good, although it looks pretty good. Wow, cool - it's really bright..." And then she'd sit right down and watch a movie on it and not care at all, (or enough to complain) that it doesn't look as good as a top performing $2000 or $5000 stand alone projector. In fact she could pick up a better projector and hook it right up, if she cared, but wouldn't.
In other words, hard core, projector performance enthusiasts - this isn't designed for us... Although, in fairness, it seems to be the highest performance all-in-one projector around. Still, it might be perfect for our families, or something to recommend to friends who have no tolerance for the level of "perfection" we enthusiasts seek, demand, etc.
Below the different Color Temp settings:
Over all, I found Medium to be the best setting. Low will look good on some movies, but wasn't quite as well balanced - that is, natural looking although it is warmer.
The MovieMate 85HD is a versatile, all-in-one projector for regular folk!
And it actually does a respectable (for what it is) "out of the box" picture. Dynamic and Livingroom modes are slightly different, but are almost identical in brightness. Theater mode is less than half as bright, but has the better picture.
Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector - Flesh Tones
In Theatre mode, the skin tones are pretty good, especially for a relatively affordable all-in-one projector, and no calibration. Without the calibration controls of a more serious stand alone projector, you can't really do much of anything to affect the skin tones, but, as I mentioned above, most folks don't care. Hey, my wife's 40" Sony LCDTV spends all of its life in some Vivid mode, that is definitely more "over the top" and at least as inaccurate at skin tones, than this MovieMate, and I can tell you that that particular tiny 40" set cost more than the MovieMate 85HD.
The bottom line on skin tones is that they should be just wonderful for normal folks, and for that matter enthusiasts might not find them to be a problem either (if everything else about the MovieMate was enthusiast quality). Enthusiasts with families may even love the MovieMate - (especially if it keeps the kids out of the "big theater"). Take for example, these rather respectable skin tones from Casino Royale, The Fifth Element, and Invincible.
Epson MovieMate 85HD Black Levels & Shadow Detail
Black level performance leaves much to be desired. On the other hand, shadow detail is definitely pretty good.
Let's talk black level performance first. Although the MovieMate 85 claims 3000:1, it accomplishes its contrast with the help of a dynamic iris. That can lower blacks on really dark scenes, but over all, on brighter scenes, doesn't really bring anything to the party. Blacks show as fairly medium dark gray. I'm of course used to looking for nearly fully black blacks (very, very, very, dark, dark, gray). The combination of being an LCD projector with its inherent lower native contrast, and a low cost projector, leaves much to be desired on dark scenes.
In fairness, this projector is also, in Movie mode, about 2x as bright as the average home theater projector's "best" mode, and its "brightest" mode is well over 2x the average "bright" mode. That alone is enough to make for brighter blacks, even if they were far better.
Over all, even on average scenes, looking carefully, you definitely notice that blacks could be blacker. In a side by side with a good $2000 projector it would be no contest. Corolla vs. Porsche 911.
Yet for all of that, I watched much of the A-Team, and all of the Expendables on the MovieMate 85HD, and I survived without difficulty. (That's without difficulty, not completely without complaint - I am spoiled, after all.)
As you look at the just slightly overexposed image above, from the MovieMate 85HD, It really doesn't look bad! It's not, it's just that blacks can be a lot better. Consider this next image, from Epson's award winning, just over $2000, stand-alone Home Cinema 8700UB. Note that the blacks are drastically darker, although the MovieMate's image is only slightly more overexposed in general.
The Mitsubishi HC4000, at $1200 price point, is a rather excellent DLP home projector. Note, that the blacks aren't a whole lot different than the MovieMate's. However, note also, how much more overexposed the HC4000 starship is. If we were to lighten up the MovieMate's image so the starships were equally exposed, then obviously, the "blacks" of the MovieMate 85HD would end up a lot more medium gray - than black:
Sony VPL-HW15 (LCoS projector under $3K). I put this image in, because it has, perhaps the closest to the same exposure as the MovieMate 85HD, when it comes to the starship. The Sony has very good blacks (though not as good as the 8700UB), but the near identical starship exposure makes it a good image for comparison. Both the 8700UB and the Sony HW15 - or its newer version, the Sony VPL-VWPro1, are definitely enthusiast projectors:
MovieMate 85HD Shadow Detail Performance
Projectors with less than great black levels often sport excellent shadow detail abilities. The MovieMate 85HD is typical in that regard. For your consideration, the night train image from Casino Royale:
For comparison first is a similarly priced stand alone 1080p resolution projector, the Vivitek H1080FD. The MovieMate 85HD actually reveals a bit more detail in the shrubs above the tracks, on the right.
OK, below, Epson's own 8700UB, a projector we consider to have the best blacks of any projector under $2500, and excellent shadow detail, as well. There's way more detail in the shrubs of this $2000+ Epson, than with the MovieMate 85HD, but also notice how much darker all the darkest areas are. Here you are seeing why some of us are "into" great blacks. On a scene like this, the Epson 8700UB looks dynamic - lots of "pop and wow" factor. The MovieMate 85HD, and the Vivitek H1080FD, by comparison look rather washed out.
Of course, to the average non-hobbyist viewer, these all look pretty great to some degree or another.
Bottom line: Good shadow detail, plus black level performance that probably has to be considered very good among all-in-one - combo projectors. Definitely not an enthusiast's level of performance, but then Epson plans to sell this MovieMate to "the rest of us."
Epson MovieMate 85HD - Overall Color & Picture Quality
Overall, Epson has done a nice job for an all-in-one projector. Skin tones turn out to be pretty good, shadow detail too. The blacks - well I'm done beating them to death. If you want a projector for the family, for the kids, or just some portable you can drag around (I do know people - entrepenuer types who buy things like this MovieMate 85HD as a business solution). Actually, they use it occasionally for business, and the rest of the time at home.
Hey, if I can watch 3 hours of movies on the MovieMate, when the last three projectors I've been watching have been the Sharp XV-Z17000 - a $5000 3D 1080p home theater projector, the Epson 8700UB, my favorite projector in its class, and the $12,000 JVC RS60, their flagship, 3D, and quite possibly the best projector in its price range. I'm spoiled. Yet I can watch the MovieMate 85HD in a pinch.
Which means you can too, if it makes the family happy!
Over all, this Epson is just down right acceptable when it comes to picture, if you are considering its design goals and performance.
Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector: Performance, HDTV and Sports
1080p performance is always nice in a projector used for viewing what's mostly 1080p content (not all, I assure you ESPN still has some 720p channels, I believe).
Since the MovieMate is only 720p, you'll just have to settle for the "lower" HDTV resolution. Note that 6-7 years ago, the typical 720p home theater projector was about $4000 - $5000.. Now you can buy a 1080p projector from under $1000 (but, without big speakers, dvd player...)
Epson MovieMate 85HD Projector: Bottom Line on HDTV Sports
Lots of horsepower. 2500 lumens really can make a difference, if you are used to your own projector (a JVC RS20) which on a good day, with a brand new lamp can do about 800). What a difference!
Some of the images below were taken with ambient light down very low, but also are a couple with two of the rooms window shutters open enough to make it easy to read a newspaper anywhere in the room, and yet the MovieMate 85HD still does very well. For all of our sports and other HDTV viewing photos that were taken with more than minimal ambient light, Dynamic mode was used. I found the color to be a bit better than Living Room mode for sports viewing.
MovieMate 85HD Dynamic Mode:
Epson MovieMate 85HD Living Room mode:
Epson MovieMate 85HD Movie mode (best movie mode):