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Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 LCD Video Projector Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 August 2007
Article Index
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 LCD Video Projector
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The Downside
The Home Cinema 1080’s positive attributes combine to produce a very attractive high-definition picture, but a couple of issues differentiate its performance from that of a higher-end 1080p projector. The first of these is in the detail department. I was generally satisfied with this projector’s detail with HDTV and HD DVD sources. Out of the box, at the default sharpness setting, the projector was able to render the finest horizontal and vertical lines in my HQV HD DVD test pattern, although the lines were a little dimmer than those of the most detailed projectors I’ve seen. Unfortunately, I also noticed a good deal of edge enhancement, through both the component and HDMI inputs. Edge enhancement adds false detail to an image, artificially sharpening edges and introducing unwanted information to the picture. It’s one of those traits that video reviewers and enthusiasts find bothersome, but the average viewer often doesn’t notice it and sometimes even prefers it. I was able to get rid of most of the edge enhancement by turning down the Epson’s standard sharpness control, but the result was a noticeable drop in detail, especially when moving from -4 to -5. At this point, the advanced sharpness controls came in handy, allowing me to more precisely address the issue, but loss of fine detail was still a concern at the lower settings. If you mate the Epson with a larger screen, this issue will be more obvious than it was on my screen, so you’ll want to experiment with the sharpness controls to find a happy medium between detail and edge enhancement.

Another potential concern with a larger screen is the Home Cinema 1080’s light output. As I said, I was content with the projector’s brightness and contrast ratio on my modest 67-inch diagonal screen, but those numbers will decrease as your screen size increases. Epson says this projector is capable of a screen size up to 120 inches, but the image will get much dimmer at that size, mandating that you only use the projector in a completely dark room. With these issues in mind, I’d say the Home Cinema 1080 is best suited to a screen size of 80 inches or less. Hey, an 80-inch 1080p image for $2,999? Good luck finding that in a flat panel. Add $1,000 to $2,000 for a good screen, and you’re still getting a deal.

One final issue may have been specific to my A/V gear. The projector’s HDMI input would not sync with my Motorola BMC9012 cable box’s DVI output. I occasionally have minor sync problems when using this output with an HDMI-equipped display, but it’s been a long time since I didn’t get a picture at all. When I routed the DVI signal through my Geffen 1x3 HDMI distribution amplifier and then fed it into the projector, it worked fine. I’m not sure whether this has anything to do with the fact the projector uses the new HDMI v1.3 connection, but HDMI 1.3 is supposed to be backwards-compatible with DVI and older HDMI outputs.

All in all, the Home Cinema 1080 would be quite an impressive performer at twice its price. Given its aggressively low price of $2,999, it is an absolute steal that should lure large plasma clients to get a front video system instead. I expected Epson to make more sacrifices than they did, both in features and performance, but for the most part, they kept true to high-level video industry standards. The Home Cinema 1080 may lack some of the precision and robustness of a higher-end 1080p projector, but it certainly holds its own with those $4,500-$6,000 models I mentioned at the start. Whether you’re building a budget home theater room or simply want a big-screen 1080p display for your living room (and don’t wish to sell a kidney to go the flat-panel route), the Home Cinema 1080 is definitely worth your very, very serious consideration.

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