Late 2005 saw the introduction of a new product category in home-theater projectors: the all-in-one. Epson's MovieMate 25 is a good example; this projector system comes with everything needed to create a basic home theater, including a DVD player, speakers, and even a portable 80-inch screen. At $1,200, it offers nothing short of a complete theater in a box, and with the included screen, it delivers more on paper than the
The boxy, white MovieMate 25's design is derivative of Apple's spare minimalism, although the projector is quite a bit bigger than a Mac Mini at 13.4 inches by 12.2 inches by 7.1 inches (WDH) and 15 pounds. It lacks both a handle and a carrying bag, making it less convenient to tote than its competitors. The MovieMate 25's look is exceptionally clean, although we were dismayed that the connection panel door can't be closed when cables are present. There's also no place to stash the remote. With the lens at one end and the DVD player's disc drawer at the other, the projector is not suited for bookshelf or ceiling setups.
With only minimal controls on the Epson MovieMate 25 itself, the backlit remote control is where the action is. It has keys for every major function, such as mute, treble, and subtitles, as well as manual adjustments for brightness, contrast, color saturation, tint, and sharpness. While the button arrangement is generally logical, we frequently found ourselves hitting the pause button instead of play due to their odd placement. Of the four projection modes, the best was Theater Black, which produces the richest image. One of our favorite features, called Break, fades the screen to white and pauses the DVD so that you can answer the phone or take a bathroom intermission. Oddly, it has a coffee-cup symbol next to the button.
Like the Cinego D-1000, the Epson MovieMate 25 is designed to be set up close to the screen, making it perfect for transforming a small apartment into a theater. Setup is eased by the projector's 1:1.5X optical zoom and up-down and right-left mechanical lens shift controls that let you get the image size and position just right. Be careful with these controls, however, because they can distort the image when dialed out to their extremes. The Epson also has digital keystone correction but lacks the automatic keystone adjustment that the latest projectors provide. Because none of the four rubber feet are adjustable, you may have to jury-rig supports--DVD cases work nicely--to get the image situated properly on the screen.
The lens is safely recessed, although the untethered lens cap is sure to be the first thing that gets lost. Based on three Epson LCD panels, the MovieMate 25 has an 854x489 native resolution, which should be enough fully resolve wide-screen DVDs (4:3 content drops down to 640x480 resolution). While most viewers will primarily use the projector's built-in DVD player, Epson did include additional inputs. There are RCA composite-audio and composite-video plugs as well as an S-Video connector for connecting a TV tuner, a VCR, or a gaming console, but the MovieMate 25 lacks high-definition HDMI and computer VGA inputs--unlike the Optoma, the Epson can't accept HD sources. While the MovieMate 25's standard-def native resolution can't really do justice to HD sources, we'd still like to see high-def input capability, since HD sources--including game consoles--would still look better than standard-def S-Video or composite sources.
Great for impromptu screenings, in our tests the Epson MovieMate 25 was able to get an image onscreen in less than 30 seconds after turn-on, but it took another half a minute for the lamp to fully warm up and get to full brightness. Despite having a somewhat hot exhaust of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, the unit shuts down in just 11 seconds, so it can be quickly stowed away. The included 80-inch-diagonal screen is a nice touch, but we were disappointed in its quality; it is full of ripples, and it leans forward, making it tough to get a hard focus. The built-in speakers never really get loud enough to annoy the neighbors, but there is an optical digital audio output in case you want to jack the projector into a surround-sound audio system.
According to test patterns, the Epson MovieMate 25 couldn't fully resolve DVD, and that did come across as some softness in the films that we watched. Details were also often obscured by screen-door pixel structure, which appears as a fine grid overlaying the image. The grid is most visible up close, which is frustrating for a projector designed for small spaces, and the effect was more noticeable than on the Optoma DLP projector. Still, the Epson ably showed the rich color of the initial ape scenes in 2001: A Space Odyssey and all the facets in Spiderman 2, as well as captured the quirky feel of the opening credits of Napoleon Dynamite.
If you're watching before nightfall, plan on pulling the blinds down because the Epson MovieMate 25 delivers only about half of Epson's 1,200-lumen brightness rating. The uniformity of the image was generally good for LCD, although we did notice a pronounced dimmer spot on the left side. While the unit generally projects smooth video with minimal background artifacts or moiré patterns, there was noticeable flicker coming from complex patterns, and the projector lost some shadow detail, particularly the sequence at the beginning of Alien that scans the underside of the ship. Depth of blacks was OK for an LCD but not up to the level of the Optoma.
The projector's default color temperature was a little on the warm side in Theater Black mode but still fairly accurate. Blacks have a decided purple cast to them, while skin tones are slightly oversaturated. While you can dial back the Saturation control a notch or two, there's no way to adjust color temperature. Despite nearly perfect reds, the accuracy of other colors was a bit disappointing, with yellowish greens and brownish yellows.
The good news is that, unlike the MovieTime DV10, the Epson MovieMate 25 didn't suffer any false contouring and had smooth gradations between dark and light images, even in hard-to-reproduce sunrise scenes. The bad news is that due to its low resolution, screen-door effect, and image-processing problems, details such as cloud texture and individual bricks in a wall can get lost.
The JVC-made progressive-scan DVD player did an excellent job of 2:3 pull-down, but some images suffer from jagged edges. In addition to audio CDs, it worked fine with CD-Rs that contain digital music or photos, and even video CDs and DVDs. On the downside, it rejects DVD+RW or -RW media.
The MovieMate 25 comes with a two-year warranty, exactly what Optoma and RadioShack provide for their projectors, although the screen is covered for only a year. Rated at 3,000 hours, or the equivalent of more than 1,000 feature-length films, the 135-watt lamp will likely last the life of the machine for most but comes with a 90-day warranty. Replacements cost $200, or a reasonable 7 cents per hour of use, but you'll need to reset the lamp life clock manually after swapping bulbs.
Overall, we found a lot of issues with the MovieMate 25's image quality, but that's to be expected from a relatively inexpensive projector that's designed to do so much. We rated the image a notch lower than the Optoma's and one higher than the Cinego's, but it soundly beats both models in terms of features--thanks to the included screen--and overall design, assuming portability isn't tops on your list. For those who want to watch a DVD with minimal fuss, the slick Epson MovieMate 25 sets the standard.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,003/6,925K||Average|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 487K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.644/0.341||Average|
|Color of green||0.287/0.628||Average|
|Color of blue||0.15/0.047||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|