Epson Home 20 Projector - Image Quality
As you look through the many images provided below, you should immediately recognize that, overall, the Epson Home 20 home theater projector does a very good job in terms of color handling. Unlike the more expensive Epson Cinema series, however, the Home 20 does not provide the level of adjustment controls, to fine tune the color. That said, for movie watching, the Epson's Theater Dark2 mode, it's best for movies, does a really nice job.
In a perfect world, for movie viewing, you want your projector to maintain a color temperature of 6500K (Kelvin). This should be consistant from dark to bright areas. Projectors typically are fairly consistant from mid - to all but the brightest areas, in terms of the temperature balance, and the Home 20 projector is no exception.
Our measurement of pure white (100% brightness - 100 IRE), proved to be a little warm - 6094K, and the darkest grays we could measure (30% - 30 IRE) were a little cool, at 7270. However, in the middle ranges, where most of the action is, the Epson Home 20 measured from 6300-6400, about as good as one could hope for, out of the box.
We also looked at the Living Room (brighter) mode, just at 100 IRE (full white) and got a measurement of 6585 (excellent).
Those are the numbers, so let's look at some images, starting with flesh tones. (I should note, that the Epson Home 20 has a flesh tone color control for fine tuning. Default is 3, and it worked fine). We left the flesh tone control at 3 for all images.
Epson Home 20 - Handling Flesh Tones
Note, in the image of Gandalf, above, I left in the letterboxing. If you have a good monitor, and lights are low, you can see that instead of black (or very nearly black), the letterbox area is more "dark gray". The Epson cannot match DLP projectors in producing near blacks, and, ultimately that also results in less shadow detail in dark areas.
Overall, the Epson Home 20 does a very good job on flesh tones. They are very natural with the 3 skin tone setting but some may want to try 2 or 4. The differences are not great. The default 3 setting in conjunction with Theater Black 2 mode, does tend to be just a bit strong on red, but, again, easily correctable to your taste.
I consider the ability to produce a good flesh tone to be one of the most important things for a home theater projector to exceed at, and the Epson does just that, out of the box. By comparison, the Optoma H27, definitely needs some color tweaking to get them right. Other competing projectors - BenQ's W100 and the more expensive InFocus IN72, also produce good flesh tones without fooling around with controls.
Epson Home 20 Black Levels
Sporting a 1000:1 contrast ratio (contrast ratio is the basis for judging the to handle black levels. It's not the only factor, but a good place to start. Most home theater projectors today start with contrast ratios of 2500:1, and some now exceed 10:000:1. The Epson's 1000:1, on the other hand, is low, very low. Inherently, LCD projectors do not do as well as DLP projectors when it comes to contrast, however more expensive LCD projectors, including Epson's Cinema series, use other technologies to further enhance contrast and black levels (and getting contrast ratios up to 4500:1).
Being perhaps the lowest cost entry level home theater projector, limits what Epson could do with the Home 20, in terms of those extra technologies. What it will cost, when viewing, is black areas that are very dark gray, but not as dark as DLP projectors it competes against. Our first image below is a normally exposed shot of a starship from The 5th Element. If you compare with some of the other projectors, you'll spot a few less stars here, and that the blacks aren't quite as black with the Epson Home 20. The 2nd image, below it, is the same shot, but overexposed, to reveal more about the "blacks".
You can see that the sky is not black, nor are we getting a black in the letterbox area at the top and bottom, compared to the black frame of the screen.
By comparison, immediately below, is the same image shot (also overexposed, intentionally) on Optoma's competing DLP projector, the Optoma H27. You'll immediately note that the blacks are much blacker, and the image is more striking between bright and dark areas The bright areas are at least as bright, but the dark areas are much, much darker:
Here, below, are some other images that will give you an idea of handling blacks and shadow detail: Sufficient to say that the Epson Home 20 doesn't do a bad job, it's just that it's DLP competition tends to do better.
To give you a better look at the Epson Home 20 resolving shadow detail, below are two images found in most recent reviews. The first is a normally exposed shot from Lord of the Rings. The areas on the bottom and left are dark and you can see little detail. This, however is mostly the fault of the limitations of my digital camera. To let you see, what the eye can see (in the shadow areas) when watching the Epson Home 20, the 2nd image is appropriately overexposed, revealing what is there to look at.
The Epson does a decent job, but if you look at the same overexposed image on some other projectors, you will see more detail, and more contrast, that makes the shadow detail stand out.
Moving away from movie content, the Epson performance improves. With gaming, sports watching, or even standard TV and HDTV signals that are non-movies, you have far less dark scenes to deal with (which is the Epson's achilles heel). Here are some images from HD sources (even though entry level projectors are not HD devices. The images come from D-VHS tape (recorded at 1080i), and sent to the Epson over component cables:
Two versions of the next image, of the Chrysler Building at dusk. The first is shot in Theater Dark 2 mode, and the second, in Livingroom mode, which is most likely the way you would watch HD non-movie source material:
The exposures of the two images were adjusted differently. In reality, the Living Room mode (below) is about twice as bright. I should note, also that the lower image is more representative of correct for this scene.
Epson Home 20 Pixel Visibility
Normally I would discuss the issue of Pixel visibility in the General Performance section, but with these lower resolution projectors (WVGA) like this Epson, the InFocus IN72, BenQ W100, and Optoma H27, it's significant enough that it does directly impact "Image Quality.
So, here are our last High Definition images. The Boathouse image can be clicked on for a much higher resolution image for your inspection, but more importantly, below it, is a zoomed in shot of the word Schukyll from the Boathouse image.
You can take a close look at the pixel structure there. The Epson, an LCD projector with more visible pixels than a DLP projector, requires you to sit way back to make the pixels a non-issue. Even the DLP's require a good amount of distance, but you can sit about 1/3 closer to have the same level of pixel visibility (and potential screen door effect.
By comparison, immediately below is the same closeup, shot from the InFocus IN72 projector
While ultimately the pixels are all the same size (854x480 pixels on the full screen), the Epson's are more distinct.
As a result as you back away from your monitor, you notice that the pixels become less noticeable quicker with the DLP InFocus projector. It's the same way in real life!
For the pixels to be pretty much a non-issue for the Epson, you'll want to sit about 2.5 times the screen width. So, if you have a 100" diagonal screen (87" wide), we are talking about 18 feet back. With a competing DLP, a bit less than 2 times screen width should provide similar pixel visibility - about 13-14 feet back.
Now, many people won't care about the pixels, they will just accept them as part of the picture (certainly you can see them on Plasma displays if you sit fairly close, yet people buy plasmas in droves). And those that really don't want to see the pixel structures, are all probably going to be happier by spending $1500 - $2000+ on a true HD resolution projector, which has 2.25x the number of pixels, and as a result they are much smaller, and harder to spot.
That about covers it for our Image Quality section. Time to look at General Performance aspects of the Epson Home 20 projector, including, it's menus, remote control, screen recommendations, and more.