What ever happened to the spork? I think everyone who went to elementary and middle school has a special place in their heart for this most peculiar of culinary instruments. Is it a spoon? Is it a fork? Yes. And yes! Like so many objects in life, the spork is a tool that serves multiple needs but lacks a clear sense of purpose.
Especially in today's marketplace, where "convergence" is the buzzword on everyone's lips, there are fewer and fewer products built for a specific purpose with a clearly identified target audience. Nowadays, it seems like every product is trying to appeal to everybody and frankly, it just lessens the experience for everyone. While a certain amount of convergence can be a good thing (I don't think my wife could live without her coffee maker/grinder), I would rather buy a product that does one thing and does it well. I like a product that knows its limitations and doesn't attempt to be something it's not. The new Home 10 projector from Epson is just such a product.
The PowerLite Home 10 is an entry-level LCD-based front projector with a stunningly low price of $1,299. Put another way, the Home 10 is a HDTV-compatible device capable of delivering a 100-inch, 16:9 picture for around a thousand bucks. Boasting a quick and easy installation, "set it and forget it" display technology (LCD) and a 3,000-hour bulb (using Theatre Black mode) the Home 10 is an ideal choice for anyone just getting into front projection. Does it do everything perfectly? No. Does it look as good as a $5,000 projector? No. This is an entry-level machine with an entry-level feature set and (most importantly) an entry-level price tag.
Though not a feature per se, the $1,299 price tag on this machine is certainly unique. At the time of this writing, I know of only one other projector designed for theater use with a lower price - the InFocus X1, which currently sells for $999. On paper, the X1 is actually the more attractive of the two, sporting a slightly higher resolution (800x600) and a much better contrast ratio (2000:1). Given a choice though, I'd go with the Home 10, because the X1 uses a "2x" speed color wheel in its DLP engine, which can generate a nasty rainbow effect for anyone that is remotely susceptible to this annoying DLP artifact. While I would argue that on a still image, the X1 paints a prettier picture, the Home 10's LCD technology makes for a more enjoyable (and rainbow-free) experience when watching movies or television.
Above I mentioned a "quick and easy installation." This is due in large part to the Home 10's excellent zoom capabilities. For a projector in this price bracket, Epson's inclusion of a 1.5x zoom is an unexpected treat. A 1.5x manual zoom means you can adjust the size of the image +/- 50% from a fixed distance. This gives you tremendous flexibility in placement of the unit, and it also means you can throw a 100-inch image from as little as eight feet away! Throw distance and zoom capabilities are critical when choosing the right projector, and the Home 10 delivers here in spades.
Epson will deliver a replacement unit to your home in the event that your projector fails within the warranty period (a generous two years). The hope is that you will never have to look at your warranty card, but it's nice to know that if your projector craps out three weeks before the Super Bowl, Epson will get you up and running again in time for the big game.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
As with any front projector, proper placement of the Home 10 is critical if you want to be happy with its performance. There are a few things to keep in mind here. First, the Home 10 has a relatively short-throw lens. This means that you can't place the projector all the way in the back of room and still have a modest sized screen up front. Due to this unit's low resolution, I would suggest mating the Home 10 with a screen of 92 inches or smaller. Going much beyond that will result in a dimmer, more pixilated image than you really want and as it is, the Home 10 is not designed for large-scale installations. Also, because the Home 10 is a LCD unit, it has a pixel matrix (or "screen door") that is visible if you sit much closer than twice the width of the screen. If it were me, I would pair this projector with a six foot wide 16:9 screen and I would sit at least twelve feet back to avoid seeing the pixel grid.