Not long ago I was faced with an incredibly important decision that I had to make: whether I should hang a projector or a television in my game room (first-world problems). This particular game room was many years in the making, at least in my own mind, and I wanted to make sure it was perfect.
Well, it’s not perfect, at least not yet, but it’s getting really, really close. And, faced with that decision I had to do a fair amount of research into projectors, projector screens, and their benefits and shortcomings when compared to televisions in a given space. This, I hope, is a collection of those that you can use as you consider your own purchase.
The projector is the Epson Home Cinema 2100 1080p 3LCD projector, and is in a line of Epson projectors that range from $359 to $2,000; the difference between those being largely how you would use the projector—meaning, aspect ratio, image size, resolution, and brightness.
I won’t bore you with a paragraph about the specs, but as the name suggests, this projector is intended first for cinema, so it may have a place in your home theater setup. Its native resolution is 16:9 widescreen, which makes watching most streamed content a joy. (Interesting tidbit, movie theaters typically project in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, which is much wider…and while you won’t have an identical movie theater experience with this projector, it’s a little better than seeing the typical black bars at the top and bottom of your television.) And, it doesn’t stop at 16:9. The projector can also scale its image for other aspect ratios, including 4:3 and 16:10.
Next, to image size, the Epson 2100 can project an image up to 132” on the diagonal, provided you have the depth in your room and no obstructions in order to achieve this. And, if you want to project an image that size, you’ll either need a really blank wall or a really big screen. The screen, by the way, is not necessary, but it definitely makes the experience feel a bit more legitimate.
For my setup, I picked up a relatively inexpensive screen from Amazon, under $75, that gives me a 99” diagonal, which is really, really big compared to the largest TV in my house at 49” (and, another side note…if you do buy a projection screen, make sure it comes with mounting hardware—or that you buy it separately). There are plenty of options out there for projector material that can be mounted for a stationary surface, even for paint that can provide a similar surface as a projector screen, but I found that projecting on walls was not as good as the experience with a dedicated screen; it seemed to have something to do with the material.
Next is brightness; the Epson 2150 gets pretty darn bright. Any home theater buff will tell you, a good projector setup is just as much about controlling the room’s ambient light as it is the screen or the projector, but your projector’s brightness definitely helps contribute to a good overall experience. The 2100 projects up to 2,500 lumens; this seems to be an ideal amount for a home theater setup.
Actually getting the thing setup was a bit of a task; the quick start guide included with the projector certainly helped, but be sure you plan on making some slight adjustments before each watching session, and be prepared to tinker with the settings on the projector, the placement of it, and the height of the screen until the projected image is as perfect as you can get it. I will say, though, that there are a lot of “software” settings on the projector that can easily adjust for physical environmental aspects like the placement of the projector and screen. Years ago, any projecting device relied heavily upon the distance from the medium and being perfectly perpendicular (in three-dimensional space, the correct term is “orthogonal”) to it; newer projectors are great at making some of these adjustments with software and lens modifications.
As far as testing the projector is concerned, my setup just had it sitting on a small end table, which was good enough to get a good handle on its capabilities. I first wanted to determine how dark the room needed to be, and to my surprise, a fairly well-lit room was good enough for brighter programming like sports and sitcoms; however, to get the full experience on more cinematic programming, near- or total-darkness is the way to go. Darker images became increasingly difficult to see as the room’s ambient light increased.
When it comes to resolution, as the name suggests, the 2150 is good enough for 1080p viewing; a 4K projector is available in Epson’s Home Cinema line but at the steep price of $2,000.
I’ll admit, I was reluctant to pick this up because I knew pricing wouldn’t come down to just the projector (retailing at $849). In order to make it a great experience, you’ll need a decent projection surface, an audio output device (if you have a home theater, using those speakers will be great), as the onboard speakers in the projector are extremely limited in performance. All that said, I’m happy that I did. Watching projected images is much easier on your eyes, and my family loves the giant screen (probably more than I do). Even watching YouTube videos, something my kids do in excess, is more enjoyable for them, as is gaming.
Still, I think you can probably get similar performance for less. If I were to suggest this product, I would do so with the condition that you should pick it up discounted if at all possible (for instance, on Epson’s website at the time of posting this, you can get it for $150 less than the retail price). But overall, it has performed well, I have no complaints except that the onboard speaker could be a bit more powerful and sound a little nicer. It’s extremely bright, relatively easy to set up, and the onboard fan is constant, so any fan noise blends well enough into the background. And, if you have the other component pieces to make it an awesome home theater experience (screen, light control, and audio)—this projector will definitely satisfy your entertainment expectations.