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.
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After choosing the proper location for my Home 10, I was ready to
make video connections. The Home 10 provides a component video input
(for DVD and HDTV) as well as S-Video and composite inputs. Even though
this is an entry-level machine, don't skimp and connect your equipment
with S-Video or (egad!) composite cable. The component input will give
you the best picture possible with the Home 10, so spend some money on
decent cables, because they will probably last longer than all of your
other components. For this review, I connected a Pioneer DV563A DVD
player using the new Silver Serpent Reference component video cables
from BetterCables.com, and they performed quite admirably.
This is probably as good a time as any to say this... Epson, what
were you smoking when you designed the remote control for this unit?
When I found this little fella in the box, I felt sorry for him. He
looked small and frail and quite unsure of himself. For some reason,
Epson thought it a good idea to pair the Home 10, an average-sized
machine, with the smallest remote this world has ever seen. About the
size of a box of matches, it actually fits into a custom-made slot on
the rear of the Home 10. Storing the remote inside the projector? Cool.
Making it so small that it could easily get lost beneath a pin cushion
(let alone a seat cushion)? Not cool.
With my DVD player and Samsung HDTV receiver connected, the Home 10 was
ready to get down to business. The first thing I noticed is that the
Home 10 is very quiet - always a good thing in my book. Using its
Theatre Black mode, colors on the Home 10 appeared relatively accurate,
though I did tweak a few settings here and there using Digital Video
Essentials. Watching a few chapters of the Superbit edition of Hollow
Man (a movie that should have been so much better), skin tones looked
natural, colors were pleasing (but not particularly vibrant), and Kevin
Bacon's internal organs looked precisely the way I imagine they should.
Black level and shadow detail is the Achilles' heel of any LCD
projector and the Home 10 is no exception. Blacks were more of a dark
grey. There was definitely a loss of detail inside the caves of Pirates
of the Caribbean. Though the picture was much clearer and more
colorful, these same pluses and minuses held true when I watched my
weekly dose of Smallville in high definition. Before you start thinking
I was unimpressed with the Home 10, let's take a look at that price tag
again. For $1,299, the Home 10 performs extremely well.
Make no mistake; the Epson PowerLite Home 10 is an entry-level
machine. It has a fairly low resolution and it's lacking the bells and
whistles of more expensive projectors, such as a DVI input and
Picture-in-Picture capability. My suggestion to Epson: "go to eleven."
(It would be ONE better, wouldn't it?) Things I'd like to see on the
Home 11 include a DVI input, improved contrast, and a remote control
designed for grown-ups. But until Epson goes to eleven, the Home 10 is
a slam dunk in the bargain projector marketplace. With the Home 10,
Epson set out to deliver big screen entertainment on a rock bottom
budget and has succeeded marvelously. And to get on my soapbox again, I
like the Home 10 simply because it doesn't try to play outside of its
strengths. It does one thing and it does it well. Bravo.
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to add paper to my laser printer/copier/scanner/fax machine/telephone.
Epson PowerLite Home 10
Brightness: 1000 ANSI Lumens
Resolution: 854 x 480 (16:9)
Contrast ratio: 700:1
Lamp life: 3000 hours (Theatre Black mode)
Vertical keystone correction
Inputs: (1) Component,
(1) Composite, (1) S-Video
Audio input w/built-in speaker
Dimensions: 15.8"W x 4.5"H x 11.6"D
Weight: 7.9 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years (w/replacement)