Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 review:

Epson's projector is cheap and not too bad

Connectivity: In addition to the onboard speaker, the 2030 includes two HDMI inputs with (MHL), A/V, PC, two USB ports (one for updates and another for playing digital media), and an audio-out connection.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality
The PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 offers a decent picture given the price, with OK black levels and shadow detail. The unit is capable of quite high light output for the money and will work in a dimly lit room. The 3D playback is very good, though you will need to buy glasses separately. Color is a little lackluster, though, particularly lacking in regard to red and skin tone saturation.

Comparison models (details)
BenQ W1080ST Short-throw DLP projector
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 5030UB (reference) 3LCD projector

Black level: Unless you're paying a pretty penny for an LCD projector, one of the first picture quality elements that will suffer is black level. While the automatic iris of the Epson 2030 does help a little, as a unit it's not able to better the contrast offered by a DLP at the same price.

The Epson's dynamic iris is only able to lower black levels so much. I found if there are a few bright spots in the middle of a dark scene, the overall black level suffers. This was evidenced in the scene from "Driver" where Irene grasps Driver's hand under the vacillating street lights (30:29). The BenQ W1080ST, which lacks an iris, was much blacker here (roughly twice as black according to our handheld meter), though both had about the same level of shadow detail.

Switching to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II," the Epson was a little worse at shadow detail than the BenQ, eking out less detail from the clifftop scene. The BenQ gave better definition to the figures -- they actually had volume and space around them -- and you could see a little farther into the murky background. However, while there was a slight green tinge to the blacks of the BenQ the 2030's were more neutral.

Color accuracy: Even with the use of the CMS, it wasn't possible for the Epson 2030 to match the BenQ W1080ST, much less the Epson 5030 for color performance. Compared with the rich reds and and skin tones the BenQ gave "Star Trek," the Epson looked a little drab, though the yellow-green grass and the pale blue San Franciscan sky looked the same on each.

On my first viewing of "The Tree of Life," the mother's face looked sickly via the Epson compared with the BenQ, and even after I went back to the Epson's CMS and tweaked it, her lips looked a little too blood-red next to her even whiter skin. The Epson 503 and BenQ alike made Jessica Chastain look altogether more alive.

Video processing: As a budget projector, the Epson 2030 does a pretty good job of both maintaining cadence for Blu-ray 24p content and successfully displaying interlaced 1080i material. The model lacks any type of motion compensation capabilities, and so its motion resolution was ultimately low at only 320 lines. Gamers may also want to look at a competing product if they want ultrafast response times -- the Epson recorded a relatively slow and arguably noticeable lag of 47.2ms.

Be aware that the digital keystone also adds jagged edges to lines, so setting the projector up directly in line with the screen is your best option.

Uniformity: While the Epson was able to successfully mask light leakage from the vents at the front of the unit, its uniformity was worse than the "leaky" BenQ W1080ST. The image on the unit we received was brighter in the middle on a white screen and noticeably darker on the bottom right-hand side in particular.

Bright lighting: Despite having the same light output rating as the BenQ W1080ST (2,000 lumens), the Epson was able to squeeze out a little more brightness with a maximum of 64.2 lumens on its brightest setting. While not "accurate" in terms of color, it was able to do this without the greenish-whites of the BenQ. If you want a projector that can be used in a well-lit room, you'd need a much higher-powered machine than this, but it nonetheless produced a watchable image in a less-than-optimal environment for bright scenes.

3D: Though it's a fairly flimsy reason to buy a projector, the Epson features standout performance in 3D playback. Our "Hugo" test scene was solid-looking 3D and not too "poppy," with only a small amount of crosstalk on Hugo's outstretched hand. This is impressive, as even expensive 3D TVs can foul up this test.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.026 Poor
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.24 Average
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.833 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.829 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.26 Good
Avg. color error 3.261 Good
Red error 3.58 Average
Green error 3.757 Average
Blue error 4.277 Average
Cyan error 3.292 Average
Magenta error 1.714 Good
Yellow error 2.947 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 320 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 320 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 47.2 Average

What you'll pay

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