As you might guess from its name, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e is the second-generation version of the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010e , which is still available at this writing. What you may not guess is that 3020e offers all the same strengths as the 3010e, plus significant enough improvements to make it a runaway pick for Editors’ Choice. Indeed, it’s our first Editors’ Choice in the category of budget-priced 2D and 3D projector for home theater and home entertainment.
Home theater projectors are meant for traditional home theaters, with theater-dark lighting. Home entertainment projectors are meant for living rooms and family rooms with ambient light, which means they can substitute for a large-screen HDTV. The 3020e offers a range of brightness settings that lets it serve nicely in either role.
Beyond that, the 3020e offers all the same strengths as the Epson 3010e. It’s one of a very few sub-$2,000 projectors to claim full 1080p HD in 3D as well as 2D, one of two (along with the Epson 3010e) to offer WirelessHD as a connection choice, and it’s one of the few that’s built around an LCD, rather than DLP, engine. This last distinction makes it one of the few inexpensive 3D projectors that is guaranteed to be free of rainbow artifacts. (More on that later.)
Note that 3020e is one of two nearly identical models. According to Epson, the only difference between it and the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020 ($1,599 direct) is that the Epson 3020 doesn’t support WirelessHD, so you don’t have the option of connecting to it wirelessly. The 3020e not only supports WirelessHD, it comes with a WirelessHD transmitter that you can plug HDMI sources into to send images to the projector.
Other than comments about WirelessHD, in short, everything in this review applies to both models. And if you don’t plan to connect the projector wirelessly, the 3020 can give you the same projector for less money.
As with the Epson 3010e, the 3020e lacks the lens shift feature that you’ll find in many of Epson’s home entertainment and home theater projectors, including, for example, the 2D Editors’ Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350. That leaves you without much flexibility for positioning the projector vertically or horizontally relative to the screen unless you’re willing to take advantage of digital keystone correction, which can add artifacts to the image. On the other hand, the 1.6X zoom lens gives you lots of flexibility as to how far you can put the projector from the screen for any given size image.
If you don’t take advantage of WirelessHD, setup is standard fare, with two HDMI connectors plus VGA and both component and composite video ports. One of the key improvements over the 3010e, however, is that the WirelessHD transmitter can accept five HDMI inputs instead of one. That means you can connect, say, a FIOS or cable box, a Blu-ray player, and a game console, and still have two extra ports left over without having to run any cables (other than a power cable) to the projector itself.
Epson says that the WirelessHD connection will work with the supplied transmitter located as far as 33 feet from the projector. In my tests, I connected from about eight feet. The connection worked well enough overall, but when changing between FIOS channels with different resolutions, re-establishing the connection often took long enough to try my patience, at more than 10, and sometimes more than 15, seconds. In real-world use, I’d probably prefer a wired connection for TV, and try to limit the WirelessHD connection to Blu-ray players and other sources that don’t change resolution very often.
Image Brightness and Audio
Epson rates the 3020e’s brightness at 2,300 lumens. Even when using Eco mode for the lamp and the Cinema preset, which offers the lowest brightness, the projector is easily bright enough in theater dark lighting for a 130-inch diagonal image using a 1.0 gain screen.
The image can also easily stand up to ambient light in a home entertainment context, in a family room or living room. In full-power mode for the lamp and using the brightest preset and maximum zoom setting for the lens (with the projector about 7.8 feet from the screen), the 3020e was easily bright enough in my tests for an 82-inch diagonal 1.0 gain screen even during the day, with bright sunlight streaming through windows and skylights.
Also demanding mention is the 3020e’s audio, which is one of the features that helps make it appropriate as a home entertainment projector. (Most home theater projectors assume you’ll have an external, high-quality sound system.) The two stereo 10-watt speakers offer enough volume to fill a family room along with the level of quality you’d expect from a good flat-panel HDTV.
There’s no audio output on the 3020e itself. If you’re using wired connections to the projector, this makes it a little harder than it should be to use an external sound system. However, the WirelessHD transmitter offers both HDMI and optical audio outputs, which lets you automatically switch the audio going to an external sound system when you switch video sources. Unfortunately, you can’t take full advantage of this unless you connect all of your video sources wirelessly.
2D Image Quality
Image quality in 2D is excellent. For our 2D tests, we use both DVDs upscaled to 1080p and Blu-ray discs. Not only did I not see any serious problems in any of the test clips, but the most demanding scenes looked as good as I’ve ever seen them with any projector. Quite simply, the 3020e did an excellent job with issues from skin tones, to noise, to shadow detail (detail based on differences in shading in dark areas).
Also very much worth mention is that because the 3020e is an LCD projector, it doesn’t show rainbow artifacts, with bright areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows. This is always a potential issue with DLP-based projectors like the directly competitive Optoma HD33 because of the way single-chip DLP projectors create color.
The rainbow effect is of special concern for home theater and home entertainment, both because rainbow artifacts tend to show more often with video than with data, and because they can be far more annoying when they show repeatedly during a full-length movie than during a short business presentation. For anyone who sees these artifacts easily, as I do, LCD projectors like the 3020e offer a tremendous advantage. Keep in mind too that one or more guests you invite over to watch movies or sports may see the rainbows far more easily than you do.
3D Quality and Other Issues
The 3020e supports HDMI 1.4a, so you can connect directly to a Blu-ray player, FIOS box, or the like for 3D. It’s also bright enough to give you a reasonably large 3D image that can stand up to the ambient light in a typical family room or living room. I watched a full-length 3D movie in complete comfort using an 82-inch diagonal screen.
Image quality in 3D offers the same strengths as with 2D for the features that both modes share, including color quality. And unlike the 3010e, I saw no crosstalk with the 3020e. Overall, the 3020e offers the most comfortable 3D viewing experience I’ve had outside of an IMAX theater. And I pointedly include Real3D theaters in that comparison.
There are certainly some improvements Epson could add to the projector—a significant lens shift like the one in the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 leaps to mind—but most would drive the price up significantly. One notable exception would be an audio output port on the projector itself, which earns a spot on my features wish list, but that’s about it. In most ways, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3020e is the 2D and 3D home entertainment projector I’ve been waiting for, it’s an excellent low-cost 3D home theater projector as well, and it’s an easy pick for Editors’ Choice.
More Projector Reviews:
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, S-Video|
|Computer Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI|
|Rated Contrast Ratio||40000|
|Rated Brightness||2300 ANSI lumens|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc