Review: Epson PowerLite Home 10+ LCD Projector

[A condensed version of this review can be found at Projector Central]

If you walk into any major retailer these days you’ll see the future of television. Wider. Clearer. More expensive. We’re at the very beginning of the shift to high definition, but not all of us can afford to make that leap today.

However, watching a movie on a 32" TV is painfully bland. The only way I’ve found to spice up the experience is to sit as close as possible and crank up the sound system. That works for a while, until you get a glimpse of the amazing new home entertainment options.

As a film fanatic, the clarity and wide aspect ratio of these HD units are a dream come true. But with prices still in the $3,000+ range for a 60" or larger diagonal image (plus DVD player, cabling, furniture, satellite receiver and programming upgrades), I decided to look for a standard definition solution that I can enjoy today without having to take out a home improvement loan. And why go HD now when my DVD’s are all standard def and the high def versions are still unavailable?

After eliminating the large TV’s above $2,000, the choice came down to HD CRT projection vs. LCD or DLP projector. Taking into account the issues of poor viewing angle, excessive bulkiness and weight and inevitable discontinuation of the CRT units, I realized that a low-end projector would be the best choice. But which one should I get?

This was soon decided for me back in September 2005 while shopping at Sam’s Club. They had the Epson PowerLite Home 10+ LCD projector bundled with a portable 80" diagonal screen for $998. Based on my research, this was an unbeatable price. Positive reviews of this projector were in abundance across the Web, and now after living with it for 4 months I can give my own impressions.

The Epson PowerLite Home 10+ is a very nice entry-level, budget projector. I ceiling-mounted the 10+ in a dark basement family room, and the image is sharp and bright. The 800:1 contrast level is better than I expected from an LCD projector (I read that Epson is conservative about their contrast ratings, and I believe it), though total image quality is dependent on the quality of the source material. Modern, big budget movies shot on high-contrast film or digital look best.

The fan is extremely quiet in the two "Theater" modes. It’s much louder in the modes intended for watching TV in a brightly lit room, though most TV programming is so annoyingly manic and loud that the fan noise is soon forgotten. On the expensive LCD projection HDTV’s I looked at, satellite/cable TV looked horrible. I was pleasantly surprised that satellite TV (Dish Network) looks great even with an S-video connection, but for DVD a component cable is essential. I noticed lots of pixelization in some scenes when I connected my progressive scan DVD player using S-video. The component connection cleared it up.

Though the lower resolution of the 10+ (854 x 480 pixels) causes the "screen door effect", this can be lessened by increasing your viewing distance (or decreasing the image size) and softening the focus slightly. I was bothered quite a lot by the SDE until I figured out these tricks, and now it’s at an acceptable level.

For anyone with limited space, the 10+ will project an 80" image at about 6.5′ from the screen. Keystone correction controls let you square up the image even if the projector is sitting on a low table and pointing upward toward the screen. And the nifty portable screen can be easily stored away after each use if necessary.

Overall, my whole family is pleased with the 10+. We have yet to explore its other uses such as computer display and gaming, though this versatility alone is a good reason to go with a projector. If you’re looking to set up a modest home theater and can find a good deal on this projector, I highly recommend it. [As of this posting, Sam’s Club in Roanoke, VA still has the 10+/screen bundle–now at a low $799!]  But if you can afford an additional $500 or so, you should consider a higher resolution projector.

This certainly ought to serve us well until HDTV’s can boast larger screens for less money, and until HD content gets ramped up over the next few years.

PROS:

  • Provides a bright, clear image with accurate colors.
  • Throws a big picture within a small space.
  • Outstanding for standard satellite TV viewing.
  • Quiet operation in "Theater" modes.
  • Excellent value overall, especially with the inclusion of a portable screen.
  • Replacement bulbs are inexpensive compared to other projectors–only $150 online!

CONS:

  • "Screen door effect" at viewing distances closer than ~14′ with a 60"+ image.
  • 2 dead pixels out-of-the-box, but they’re not distracting.
  • Depending on the quality of the source material, some dark scenes appear muddy and lack detail.
  • Remote is not very useful.

www.epson.com

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