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Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector - Image Quality 2

Posted on July 16, 2013 by Art Feierman

Epson Home Cinema 3020 Black Levels & Shadow Detail

While Epson's $1000 more HC5020UB has the best (blackest) blacks we've ever seen in an under $3000 projector, the Home Cinema 3020 is not remotely in its league. In reality black level performance for under $2000 projectors is just average. 

There are several projectors selling for under $2000 that can do a much better job at blacks.  If there's one area where we really could have appreciated the HC3020 performing better, it has to be black level performance.  Yes, it's a family room type projector, where lighting usually isn't near perfect, but even in such rooms, better blacks can be appreciated, even if no where near as much as in a dedicated home theater.

Below our starship image comparison from The Fifth Element.

Black Levels Comparison

Epson Home Cinema 3020
Acer H9500BD
Optoma HD33
BenQ W1200
Viewsonic Pro8200 projector
Mitsubishi HC4000
Sony VPL-HW50ES (LCoS projector $3,699)
Vivitek H1080FD ($899)
BenQ W7000

Acer H9500BD:  This projector shared our Best In Class award last year, with the older HC3010. As was the case last year, the Acer - which had the best black levels in the price range, still does a better job on blacks than the newer Home Cinema 3020:

BenQ W7000: The BenQ is more of a home theater projector than a home entertainment one.  It definitely does better on blacks - it is one of only two under $2000 reviewed projectors, that we consider "ultra high contrast."

Shadow Detail Performance

Below is a favorite image for looking at dark shadow detail. It's also a good test of black level performance. While as already noted, the black levels of the 3020 are only average, that definitely is the case for dark shadow detail. Look at the shrubs on the right and behind the tracks, and also in the darkest portion of the woods, that there's plenty of dark shadow detail. Most of the projectors' images below crush the darkest detail more.

Shadow Detail Comparison

Epson Home Cinema 3020
Epson Home Cinema 3010
Optoma HD33
Acer H9500BD
Viewsonic Pro8200
Mitsubishi HC4000
BenQ W6000

Epson Home Cinema 3010:  There may be some color shifts, but the shadow detail is about identical.

Optoma HD33: Definitely not quite as good.

Acer H9500BD:  Better blacks, but not quite as good on dark shadow detail

BenQ W6000: Ultra high contrast, 2D, $2000+

Sony VPL-HW50ES:  A big bucks top performer that's easily twice the price.

Black Level and Shadow Detail Performance: Home Cinema 3020 Projector - Bottom Line

As a family room projector most owners will find the black levels to be acceptable, and the shadow detail to be rather excellent.  Black levels performance though, is not likely to inspire serious enthusiasts looking to put the HC3020 in a dedicated theater / cave type of room.

No one's going to complain about the shadow detail, but if you are really into black level performance, as I am, you'll have to weigh this one relative weakness against the many benefits.

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