If you have $1,000 burning a hole in your pocket you could opt for an LCD TV, or, as CNET's Geoff Morrison might advise, you could spend it on a projector.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 is one the least expensive 1080p LCD home-theater projectors. It also includes a number of features unusual at the price, including 3D playback, MHL compatibility, an onboard speaker, and full color and grayscale controls.
Picture quality is decent for a cheap LCD projector, though the black-level benefits of the automatic iris are still minimal when compared with the DLP picture of the BenQ W1070 and BenQ W1080ST. Color is a little lackluster, and the combination of a long throw and lack of manual lens shift means your placement options are limited. On the other hand, 3D playback is very good, and the Epson's brightness is powerful enough to be visible in a dimly lit room.
Despite its faults, the Epson 2030 manages to do a lot with only a minimal outlay.
While the Epson 3020 and higher-up projectors have a sci-fi look, the budget models are a little more pedestrian in appearance. The white 2030 shares the same basic chassis as the PowerLite 730HD but adds a beefier lens. Compared with the chunky 3020, the 2030 is much more coffee-table-friendly, measuring 11.69 inches wide by 9.72 inches deep and 4.25 inches high. It has an angled front exhaust port to prevent light from leaking onto the screen -- a feature the competing BenQ W1080ST doesn't offer.
The remote that ships with the 2030 isn't as comprehensive as the model that comes with the more expensive projectors, but it does have a volume control and playback controls for the MHL connection.
|Projection technology||LCD||Native resolution||1,920x1,080 (1080p)|
|Lumens rating||2,000||Iris control||Yes|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Lens shift||No||Zoom and focus||Manual|
|Lamp lifespan||Up to 6,000 hours||Replacement lamp cost||$99|
|Other: Additional 3D glasses (model ELPGS03, $99 list)|
The PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 adds a couple of extra features from the cheaper 720p PowerLite 730HD. Firstly, Epson claims this is the first full 1080p LCD projector for under $1,000, and secondly, it is still one of the first with an MHL port. MHL was "big" at CES 2014, but apart from the Roku Streaming Stick, there haven't been any other streaming products that use the technology. MHL was originally designed to enable customers to connect their smartphones via an HDMI cable to their TV, but with devices like the Chromecast enabling wireless connections it's debatable whether MHL will truly take off. The fact that the 2014 Roku Streaming Stick dispenses with MHL altogether is especially telling.
As a budget offering, the inclusion of 3D playback is surprising, but having to buy active glasses separately is a little annoying. Thankfully, the projector is Full HD 3D-compliant, so any compatible glasses will work.
Want to hear your movie without hooking up a speaker system? The Epson also has an onboard 2W speaker at the back of the unit.
Setup: The setup options include a 1.2x optical zoom, automatic vertical keystone correction up to 30 degrees, and an "easy-slide" digital horizontal correction. The unit has adjustable feet on the front and back for leveling purposes.
Picture settings: The projector comes with four different picture modes, including Dynamic, Living room, Natural, and Cinema. When activating 3D content the projector offers two more modes, 3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema. For advanced setups, the projector offers a two-point grayscale, and a Color Management System (CMS).