Epson Cinema 550 - General Performance
Cinema 550 Remote Control
The Epson Cinema 550 remote is well laid out, with key menu features directly accessable without having to go through the menu. Some of those include Aspect Ratio, Color Mode (Theater Dark, Theater, Living Room, etc.), Gamma, Contrast, Color Temperature and more.
The Backlight button is at the very bottom where you can't help but find it. There are also separate buttons for each source (Component, HDMI, S-Video, etc.).
The Epson also has storable user defined settings that can be called up from the Memory button near the top. Immediately below the Memory button is the Menu button.
Right below that are your four arrow keys, nicely spaced out with the Select (enter) button in the center, and the Escape button on the lower right.
Overall, one of the best remotes, with plenty of range, easy to find everything after a few hours of playing even without hitting the Backlight button to light it up. I should note too, that the backlight is plenty bright, unlike some projectors' remote controls that are backlit but dim enough to still be a nuisance in a fully dark room. Also all buttons are labeled so they light up with the backlight. unlike some remotes that label some buttons but others are labeled on the remote itself and not readable in the dark, even with the backlight engaged.
The first, nice thing about the Epson menus, is that all the main menus are visible, while you are looking at any of the first level of sub-menus. On the right you can see the Picture menu, and to the left of the Picture Menu choices you can see all the other key menus: Image, Settings, Memory, Info and Reset.
The Picture menu first gives you a choice of color presets, including Theater Black 1 and 2 (quietest mode, best contrast, darker picture, designed for movie watching in a darkened room, as well as other settings designed to handle more ambient light (Theater, Living Room and Dynamic).
Input Adjust offers a sub menu with access to another menu for adjusting white and black levels and one for contrast and brightness.
The Color Adjust menu, offers all the control any "tweaker" would want, including a Color Temperature control with presets every 500 degrees kelvin, a few presets for adjust skin tones, as well as a full set of RGB and RGBCMY(red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow)
Most users will never go into the two menus above, unless they plan to calibrate their projectors, or want to tweak them "by eye".
You can also turn on/off the Auto Iris of the projector from the Picture Menu.
Other Epson Cinema 550 menus include the Settings Menu, where you can adjust Keystone Correction (avoid if at all possible), putting in your own logo (when there is no source signal - how about a family picture, text, or anything you think is cool to display. Projector orientation is also on the menu (front projection, front ceiling (inverted projector) projection, rear, etc.
The Epson Cinema 550 home theater projector offers an impressive nine separate memory settings, so go crazy, you can have some settings for a completely dark room, (ie Movie, TV, sports), others when there is more ambient light, and still others for your brightest usable room settings.
Most of the key menu functions, such as color presets, memory recall, and aspect ratios are accessable from the remote. For example selecting the presets let's you navigate through them with the remote's arrow keys. This is a lot faster than on some projectors, where each time you hit the button it advances to another setting, which can be very time consuming if each time takes a couple of seconds.
Basic recommendations: A gray screen will help lower black levels. But a high contrast white surface (or near white) will work best for dealing with ambient light situations, and should be ideal for larger screens, and sports and TV watching. If you are going under 100" diagonal, and have a dark walled room and can fully darken, I would recommend the gray surface. At 100" or larger, go with the lighter surface.
Projector Lamp Life
Epson rates the lamp at 1700 hours at full power, but movie watchers rejoice; in the Theater Dark modes it jumps to an impressive 3000 hours, rivaling or exceeding all but a handful of other home theater projectors.
In the Theater Dark 1 and 2 modes, the Epson 550 is virtually silent. Use the other, brighter modes and it does get a bit noisy, but then, if you are watching a sitcom, or a sporting event, would you really care if you could hear its only slightly detectable noise.
As already mentioned, the Epson offers both vertical and horizontal lens shift, with excellent adjustment range - more than other projectors we have tested. The lens itself is a 1.5:1 zoom, which also offers you a lot of range in where you can place the projector from the screen. Unless your room is really long and narrow, you should be able, if desired, mount the projector on your back wall.