One of Epson’s least expensive 1080p projectors for 2D and 3D, the LCD-based Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 leaves out advanced features that you’ll find in pricier models—including lens shift, for example, which lets you adjust the image position without moving the projector. However, it adds MHL-support, so you can, among other things, plug in a Roku Stick for streaming TV. More important, it makes little to no compromise on image quality, making it a shoo-in as Editors’ Choice for 1080p home entertainment projector.
Like the 720p Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD, the 2030 is indeed a home entertainment projector rather than a home theater projector, despite the home cinema part of the name. The two giveaways are the rated brightness and the built-in audio system.
By definition, a home theater projector, like the Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5020UBe, is designed almost exclusively for permanent installation in a room with theater dark lighting. The dark room requires a low brightness level for the screen sizes typical for home use, and there’s no point in including an audio system since most home theater projectors are installed along with external, high-quality sound systems.
Home entertainment projectors, in contrast, can serve as a substitute or supplement for a TV. They have to be bright enough to stand up to the ambient light in a living room or family room, and generally include their own sound system. The 2030′s 2,000 lumen rating puts it solidly in the home entertainment category. In addition, its built-in sound system is a match for a typical large-screen TV, with good to excellent sound quality and enough volume for a small family room or living room.
Another potential role for a home entertainment projector is to use it as a portable, which also benefits from built-in audio. If you don’t want to install the projector permanently, you can store it away when you’re not using it, move it from room to room, or even use it in your backyard or take it a friend’s house. At 6.4 pounds, the 2030 is well suited for this kind of use as well.
Setting up the 2030 is standard fare, with the projector offering a 1.2x manual zoom to give you some flexibility in how far you can place it from the screen for a given size image. For my tests, I used a 78-inch wide (98-inch diagonal) image, with the projector 94 inches from the screen.
Connectors on the back panel include two HDMI ports along with the usual VGA and composite video ports, with the VGA ports doubling for component video. In addition, there’s USB A port so you can show files directly from a USB memory key. One of the HMDI ports is MHL-enabled, so you can use it for, say, a Roku stick or other MHL device, and use the other for a Blu-ray player or a cable or FIOS box. Both support all of the HDMI 1.4a 3D formats. Other ports include an audio out for an external sound system.
2D and 3D performance
For the 2030′s native 16:9 aspect ratio, 2,000 lumens is bright enough for a roughly 115-inch diagonal image in moderate ambient light with 1.0 gain screen. For a smaller screen size or lower light levels, you can choose a setting with lower brightness, like Cinema mode, set the lamp to Eco mode, or both.
One of the key advantages for the 2030 over DLP-based competition is that it’s guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts. These are always a potential problem for single-chip DLP projectors, because of the way they produce colors, and they can be annoying for anyone who sees them easily. Three-chip LCD projectors avoid the problem because they use a different approach for creating color.
Quite apart from being rainbow-free, the 2030 did a near-excellent job on image quality for 2D video in my tests. The projector handled skin tones well, color quality was excellent, and the image was appropriately crisp for HD resolution. I saw some minimal to moderate noise in solid areas in some scenes and some slight jitter when the camera panned across the scene in one clip, but neither was obvious enough to consider it a serious problem.
Very much on the plus side, I didn’t see any posterization (shading changing suddenly where it should change gradually) and saw only a slight loss of shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas) in scenes that tend to cause those problems. The 2030 includes an auto iris, which closes down to help make blacks darker in dark scenes. Auto-iris features can sometimes be distracting, with a visible lag before they react when switching to a scene with different lighting. However, I didn’t see any lag at all with the 2030.
For 3D images, the 2030 offers essentially the same strong points as in 2D for all the issues that both modes share, including color quality. It also did well for issues specific to 3D. I saw no crosstalk and only the slightest hint of 3D-related motion artifacts. However, Epson doesn’t provide any of its RF 3D-glasses with the projector. This helps keep the cost down, but if you want 3D, you’ll have to buy glasses. Epson’s are $99 each, with compatible versions available for less.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 is an impressively capable projector for the price, particularly if you want it for 2D only. If you want to use it for 3D, the extra cost of the glasses effectively raises the price, but that’s offset somewhat by a long lamp life, at 5,000 hours in Normal mode and 6,000 hours in Eco mode. That helps minimize the running cost, which also helps make the projector Editors’ Choice. If you’re looking for a low-cost 1080p 2D and 3D projector, and particularly if you want one that’s guaranteed not to show rainbow artifacts, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 may well be the projector you want.
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||15000|
|Rated Brightness||2000 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc