Epson Home Cinema 3020 Projector - The Bottom Line
Writing about the Home Cinema 3020 really has been has been to a good extent, like reliving last year's review. Certainly the HC3020 looks and cooks like last year's HC3010, but with a number of small improvements, that add up up to a noticeably better, overall projector. I guess sometimes it really is the little things that count.
What we have here is a $1600 street priced projector, that is exceptionally bright, and that alone makes it a top choice for rooms that aren't fully setup as a home theater. You could say, "a projector for the rest of us", and it would be true. In my last home, I had a cathedral ceilinged great room, first with off white walls, then later, the walls were painted a rust color. This projector would have had no problem filling my old 128" diagonal Firehawk G3 screen, with a nice bright picture, with good color. This projector, calibrated measures a whopping1362 lumens (mid-point on the zoom), That's at least as bright as any calibrated projector under $10K that we measured until 3D arrived just 3 years ago.
What that means to "the rest of us" not creating a cave like experience, here's a projector that paired with the right screen for the room, can do a great job in most circumstances without sunlight streaming in. With about 2000 conservatively measured lumens in its brightest mode, there are only two serious contenders that are officially under $2000, when it comes to properly lighting up a room: Those two are the BenQ W7000, now $1999, but it's far more expensive when you consider it doesn't come with 3D glasses, has a 2000 hour lamp (vs 4000/5000), and a basic 1 year warranty. The other alternative is our favorite 2D only low cost projector from last year, the Panasonic PT-AR100U, which is back for another year. It would save you a few hundred dollars, and also have a shorter warranty. That folks is really it for very bright, and very good quality for the price.
If maximum brightness for 2D or 3D isn't that critical for you, due to good lighting control, or a smaller screen, there's just one more projector out there that I see as a serious contender. That of course is the Acer H9500BD which shared our Best In Class award last year with the HC3010. Not as bright, and what I call a little rough around the edges, it's a projector that hits its stride in more of a home theater environment. 3D isn't near as bright. There are a number of other respectable projectors out there, the ones mentioned represent the best in the price range. That's not to put down several really nice under $1000 projectors, they just aren't in the class of HC3020 or these others.
OK, that brings us back to specifics
I said this was Epson easy. You don't have to calibrate this projector to enjoy a real good picture. I realize very few of you will really consider spending the $300 - $500 to have it done. Don't feel bad. If you are willing to take 5 minutes to change a few settings in the menus, you can use our calibration settings. That's why we publish our basic and RGB settings. Most of you probably won't feel it necessary after just a few minutes of watching whatever, with your new projector, but should you decide or be curious, they are there for the taking.
If you like picking up the remote control, then unless you really are running out of lumens, I would suggest Cinema mode for movies, and Living Room mode for whenever you want even brighter - save Dynamic for "light emergencies".
For "the rest of us" who would prefer to have the same ease as with your LCDTV, just set the mode to Auto. it will switch modes as needed.
Remember, these Epson Home Cinema 3020 projectors are geared first for family room type environments. If you do have the budget for something more expensive, and want a step up in quality, there's plenty out there, but in this price range, with this type of feature set, especially with light canon brightness, the Home Cinema 3020 is going to be hard to beat.
For those caring for 3D capabilities, in fact, most likely the two most interesting alternatives are going to be around $3000, and that would be the previously mentioned Panasonic PT-AE7000 and Epson Home Cinema 5010. Both are also bright projectors, with 3D. At the same price (roughly) as the Epson, is the Optoma HD33. Of the two, though, the Epson seems to be a much better value, brighter, more features...
Folks, if you don't know what movie the image above came from, it's time to broaden your knowledge of the old classics. You are looking at Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, in Breakfast at Tiffanys. (as they just enter Tiffanys). Very cool flick!
If you are going into a theater type environment, and don't need all that brightness, then two more alternatives are the just being discontinued (10/11) Panasonic PT-AE4000U and the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, which have been, without doubt, the best selling ultra high contrast projectors out there.
I'll mention one more, the BenQ W6000 for those craving for a fairly bright projector, with that DLP "look and feel". It too, is more in the $2000 range, but it's not quite as bright as the Epson.
After offering you some possible 2D only alternatives, I still think 3D is great stuff with something for most people.
True, most movies are not 3D, but, consider. The Avengers in 3D is a blast. I've been watching the new 3 Musketeers as well. Now there's a movie, that for most, just isn't worth watching in 2D. In 3D though, it sure is a far more paletable experience.