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HP ep9012 Instant Cinema review: HP ep9012 Instant Cinema

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The Good Built-in DVD player and 2.1 channel sound. Support DTS and Dolby 5.1 audio output. Bright, sharp image.

The Bad Very heavy at 10kg. Some controls aren't intuitive.

The Bottom Line An all-in-one projector providing everything you need to quickly set up a cinema at home.

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The built-in DVD provides the 'instant' component of this machine and is a world first. Just add movie. Meanwhile, a crisp image and, perhaps more importantly, impressive sound capabilities create an experience that is as close to a cinema as you can carry.

Design
You may, however, need both hands to lift this hefty unit. The HP ep9012 (part of the ep9010 series) is big and beautiful at 50cm x 40cm x 30cm and weighs in at 10kg. It can be moved from room to room easily enough, thanks to the large rear carry handle. And transported to a friend's place or function centre, with about the same ease of hauling a trolley-style suitcase. Fortunately, it comes with just such a piece of luggage, custom designed for the projector's striking shape.

The Instant Cinema could have been inspired by sci-fi flick robots. Or, perhaps one of the early sketches made by iMac designers. It's bold, curvaceous and clad in a polished white shell. But then, with a $5000-price tag, buyers would want something to that stands out from regular home theatre hardware.

Features
It's certainly quicker to get going than most devices. Just plug it into the power and press go. The projector warms up in less than a minute. It takes more time rearranging the furniture or delegating popcorn duty.

The sound from the ep9012's built-in speakers is more than enough to fill large rooms or a small function centre - all from it's built-in stereo speakers with 2.1 channel sound and 30-watt subwoofer.

It can support DTS and Dolby 5.1 if plugged into a home entertainment system, however there's no need to fiddle with cables or other equipment if you'd prefer not to. The projector holds its own and belted out floor-rumbling sound when we tested it (in a packed restaurant). Turn it up to annoy the neighbours or blast conference attendees awake during boring presentations.

Performance
The bright, sharp widescreen image is attributed to Digital Light Processing, which is a collection of technologies marketed for reducing image noise and enhancing clarity. The projector's six-segment colour wheel is optimised for entertainment rather than business. It has been designed with a view to projecting richer and deeper colours. HP hasn't bothered with a white segment, which is standard for business projectors.

The ep9012 can support images from TV, computers and other sources of input, but the integrated DVD player is the main attraction. The player can handle various DVD standards, VCDs and CDs. It can play MP3 files and display still JPEG images - so you can treat (or torture) friends with an ol' fashioned holiday slide show.

Controls such as Focus, Zoom and Keystone are central, located on top with the DVD buttons. Most of these are intuitive. Skipping forward and back by chapter is straightforward, however the fast forward and reverse controls are not so clear. It was one of two aspects necessitating a quick look in the manual.

The second instance came when the unit encountered a glitch and refused to turn on. We reviewed a pre-production model, which is not necessarily indicative of the quality of retail products. In most cases, if the projector doesn't start, users should simply unplug the power, wait 15 seconds and try again.

Ever had an ATM eat your credit card? Interestingly, the ep9012 has no manual ejection mechanism for the DVD tray. While users can change the front-loading light bulb themselves, if something goes wrong with the projector, its back to HP to get that movie out.

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