Best in Class, Runner-Up, 3D and 2D Projector (Tie): Epson Home Cinema 3020, 3020e
Check out the Projector Reviews TV: Video Summary of the Epson Home Cinema 3020
We liked last year's 3010 models that these HC3020(click for full review) projectors replace. While improvements in general are subtle, the Home Cinema 3020 and 3020e address my one loud complaint last year.
The Epson 3020 (click for specifications)impresses as a true light canon. Its lumens measured actually 2031 maximum lumens (and 1362 calibrated lumens at mid-point on the zoom lens). We're talking a projector designed to tackle a family room. Sure, put this one in your cave if you want, but like the Panasonic, it has been been "built" to endure brighter rooms than almost all other home theater projectors can deal with, and still impress.
Note there are two versions of the Home Cinema 3020. The Home Cinema 3020e is a few hundred dollars more, but adds wireless HDMI to the mix. This is a real benefit for some. There is a minor downside. HDMI, which always takes long to sync (due to HDCP protected content), takes a little longer by the addition of wireless.
Black levels of these Epson projectors aren't a match for the Acer H9500 above or the Sharp XV-Z30000 below,, but comparable to pretty much any of the other competition at or below its price. Shadow detail is very good. Image sharpness is also not quite as good as the better DLP projectors, but that's primarily attributable to the Epson's "3 chip" 3LCD design, vs. the single chip DLP projectors. Epson offers a 1.6:1 zoom, not the same as the 2.1:1 zoom of the HC8350 or the HC5020 series. . Overall sharpness is reasonably good for a 3 panel or chip device, although I would say the HC5020 is a tad sharper..
If you want 2D and 3D, and you have a family room environment, where you either can't fully control ambient light, or want enough on for socializing, say, when watching sports, you won't find a better projector than this Epson, without spending more. More would get you to the Epson 5020 or the Panasonic PT-AE8000, or perhaps the BenQ W7000.
The color accuracy of the Epson is a highlight. Epson tends to have greens overdriven a bit if you don't calibrate the individual colors. This year we did a CMS calibration resulting in very pleasing color. Look for the CMS settings to be published in the Subscriber area when we launch our redesigned site early summer. Color accuracy is not an issue. I would put the Epsons and the Acer on par with each other this year in terms of color accuracy.
For sports viewing (room lighting notwithstanding), the Epson has the power to look great. As noted, "best" color is available at almost 1400 lumens, and there's more good looking (but not great image color) in the brighter modes should you need it. This Epson lacks the CFI, to smooth motion. That feature is rare, so far, on lower cost projectors - but that Acer does have it.
For 3D, the Epson is much improved. Overall, the picture hasn't changed much but for one thing. That one thing really annoyed me about the older version. Last year you could not engage the dyanmic iris in 3D. Thus black level performance in 3D is dramatically improved this year. While this Epson doesn't offer the best blacks near the price, allowing the iris to function offers serious improvement in 3D viewing. especially on very dark scenes. Thank you for the "fix."
Adding to the Epson's strong points, is their 2 year warranty with replacement program for both years. Epson support is also just about legendary.
This Epson gets a solid tie with the Acer, all things considered. Each definitely has its own advantages, with, in my humble opinion, the Acer has the slight advantage in a theater or cave environment, and the Epson the king, in a family room, living room, bonus room world where ambient light is a reality, at least some of the time. The significant difference in 3D brightess, also makes the Epson the favored projector for those who plan on 3D viewing as a small, but important part of their viewing pleasure.
Compared to the Sharp, however, the Epson's key advantage is being much brighter. Most other things favor the Sharp. However, don't forget the Epson Home Cinema 3020e with it's wireless HDMI, which can be a real problem solver for some.
The Epson has perhaps the best sound of those with speakers. A pair of 10 watt speakers pushes out a respectable amount of volume. That makes it a good choice for those who move their projectors around. You know, such as for summer movie nights in the back yard.
Bottom line: The Home Cinema 3020 is, killer projector for your living room or family room or... Well balanced color, good blacks for the price, very good shadow detail, very good remote control, great warranty, and of course, outstanding brightness... make the the Home Cinema 3010 an example of an excellent value proposition. The HC3010 is not be perfect - nothing of course, is, at this price point. That said, the Home Cinema 3010 is at least good at just about everything, plus all that 2D brightness, and it's got the brightest 3D anywhere near the price. Translated: This Epson gives you a lot of performance for the price, a top choice for anyone spending under $2500 who wants bright 2D and 3D.
Why a tie for Runner-up this year when it tied for top honors last year? These Epsons are improved, but the recent change in price on the Sharp XV-Z30000 to a street price that dips under $2000, is the culprit.