Posted on September 2, 2017 By Art Feierman
Writing this one is easy. These same Epsons – the Home Cinema 2040 and Home Cinema 2045 – won this exact award one year ago. The projectors themselves haven’t changed a bit, but, if you’ve been on our site, you probably have noticed our recent “First Look Review” of their replacements – the HC2100 and HC2150, announced less than two weeks before this report published. We’ll be reviewing the new ones and telling you more about the differences in future reviews, but we couldn’t include the new ones for this report – they simply aren’t available yet for a real review.
I’ll summarize what the Home Cinema 2040 and 2045 have going for them, primarily by pulling in some comments from last year’s reports. There is one difference this year that’s very important, so let’s start there.
Until recently, the HC2040 had a list price of $799, and the HC2045 (which adds wireless HDMI) was $50 more. With the upcoming release of these projectors’ replacements, the price has plummeted nicely, and that was more than enough to cement their position for Best Value in our Entry Level category (of 1080p projectors).
Even Epson’s own site is selling them at much lower prices with them showing (today – Sept 1st, 2017) both on their site at $699.
Quick tip! – at the same price, buy the HC2045 while supplies last, there’s no downside!
The HC2040 has a lot of capability and features for the price, especially image processing. Of course, it should be no surprise that it does 3D and that it does a very good job with 3D content, notably the 3D Blu-ray discs I so enjoy.
Both models have enough horsepower to be reasonably bright on a 100” screen and you can definitely go larger for 3D. Many dedicated home theater room focused projectors typically lack the overall brightness to make the same claim.
Epson has a nice detail enhancement feature that’s pretty good, although not as sophisticated as the full Super-Resolution package on higher end models (the replacements will have more processing options). I like to point out that both the Home Cinema 2040 – and 2045 – have CFI, aka creative frame interpolation, aka smooth motion. That’s a feature found on very few sub $1000 projectors. Whether you’re like me and only use CFI for sports, or you like “smooth motion” on TV and other content too, it’s nice to have the option!
I’ve enjoyed tormenting several projector manufacturers for years, pointing out that CFI is most widely used on sports, rather then general TV. So, it’s a feature that should be more in-demand on these lower-cost home entertainment and entry level home theater projectors than it is on far more expensive models.
Most enthusiasts do not like CFI on their 24fps movies, and that includes me. One might assume that a projector like this Epson, working in a less than ideal room such as a living room, spare bedroom, or den is going to be used for sports and general HDTV viewing than a projector in a fully darkened home theater, where movies get top billing.
These Epson projectors come with especially good color, right out of the box. Most of the time, you’ll be using either Cinema or Bright Cinema modes (or their 3D equivalents).
The Epson is also very good at revealing dark shadow detail. Sadly (but no surprise), the black levels aren’t as good as the color, but then, you can’t expect that in the under $1000 crowd. With that said, note that the 3LCD Epson, even using a dynamic iris can’t produce blacks that are as black as most competing DLP projectors. With no ambient light present, that is a very noticeable thing. With some ambient light, the picture and the blacks will wash out somewhat, negating a lot of any difference, but, the projector with better blacks at best will still have an edge with that lighting present. On daytime scenes, there’s no noteworthy visible difference.
Warranty is about as good as it gets at this price point for the price – 2 years with 2 years of rapid replacement service. Most near the price have only a 1-year parts/labor warranty, although Viewsonic (the major exception) has a 3-year warranty.
Hardware wise, there’s a manual zoom lens with a typical amount of zoom for the price, lots of keystone correction, for respectable placement flexibility. Did I mention that at 5.7 pounds it’s “backpack” portable, in a pinch. There’s a built in speaker and an audio out. That makes it easy to drag it outside for movie night, or to output the audio to a bigger sound system if you happen to be streaming content into your Epson via MHL capable or other streaming solution (like Apple TV).
I like this Epson as a particularly good projector for the whole family, even if that family is just you. As I said last year, if you are looking for the last word in pure performance at this price, then I favor the BenQ HT3050, but for folks that just want a sweet little projector (that definitely visibly brighter/more powerful than the BenQ), no hassles, easy setup, and a good deal better warranty and support setup, this Epson is an especially good value the money spent. Yes, it has a very good feature set, but is especially good just being “plug and play” friendly. Plus, it has some hard to find features for the buck, like CFI, or wireless (on the HC2045).
Remember, every projector in the under $1000 is really pretty entry level. The differences between the best of these projectors at this price point is minimal compared to the best projectors under, say, $2000. Lots of trade-offs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find great happiness. I’ve recommended these models to so many people, and many (most of them) are not enthusiasts. They just want a “great little projector,” no hassles, that is well equipped and projects an great image for the money spent.
Plug it in, point it to your wall (or, far better, a screen), feed it a source, kick back, and enjoy! Bingo!
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