Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 3LCD Projector Review

An affordable 2D/3D video projector with some additional surprises.

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 video projector - Front View with Included Accessories
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 video projector - Front View Photo with Accessories. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 is a very affordable, compact, and stylish looking 2D/3D video projector from Epson that utilizes 3LCD technology as a foundation to provide 1080p native resolution, further supported by strong B/W and Color light output, and up to a long 5,000-hour lamp life in standard operating mode.

The 2030 also offers practical connectivity, including two HDMI inputs (one of which is MHL-Enabled), a combined VGA/Component input, a traditional Composite video input, and a USB input.

Continue reading the rest of this review to find out if the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030, is worth consideration for your home theater setup.

Product Overview

Features of the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 include the following:

1. 3LCD Video Projector with 1080p native pixel resolution, 16x9, 4x3, and 2.35:1 aspect ratio compatible.

2. Light output: Maximum 2,000 Lumens (both color and b&w), Contrast Ratio: up to 15,000:1 (when in normal power consumption mode).

3. Lens: F=1.58 – 1.72. Focal length 16.9 mm–20.28 mm

4. Optical zoom ratio: 1:1.2.

5. Projected Image Size Range: 34 to 328 inches.

6. Fan Noise: 37 dB db in Normal mode and 29db in ECO mode.

7. NTSC/PAL/480p/720p/1080i/1080p60/1080p24 input compatible.

8. 3D display capable using the Active Shutter LCD system, supported by Epson's 480Hz Bright 3D Drive Technology. Compatible with Frame Packing, Side-by-Side and Top-and-Bottom 3D signal input sources.

 

9. Inputs: HDMI, HDMI-MHL, Composite, combined Component/VGA, USB, and Wireless LAN (via optional adapter). Also, a set of analog RCA stereo inputs and a 3.5mm audio output is provided.

10. Keystone Correction: Vertical +/- 30 degrees (Auto or manual), Horizontal: ±30 degree (Slide bar)

11. Lamp: Ultra High Efficiency (UHE) E-TORL, 200 Watts power consumption, user replaceable.

Lamp life: Up to 5,000 hours (normal mode) - 6,000 hours (ECO mode).

12. Built-in mono amplifier (2 watts) and speaker.

13. Unit dimensions: 11.6(W) x 9.6(D) x 4.1(H) inches; Weight: 6.4 lbs.

14. Wireless remote control included.

15. Suggested Price: $999

Additional Components Used In This Review

Home Theater Receivers: Onkyo TX-SR705 and Harmon Kardon AVR-147.

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-103, OPPO BDP-103D Darbee Edition.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H

Roku Streaming Stick (provided by Epson for this review).

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 1 (5.1 channels): 2 Klipsch F-2's, 2 Klipsch B-3s, Klipsch C-2 Center , Klipsch Synergy Sub10.

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System 2 (5.1 channels): Monoprice 10565 5.1 Channel Speaker System (on review loan).

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell and Atlona interconnect and HDMI cables, as well as with the DVDO Air3 WirelessHD Adapter (on review loan).

Projection Screens: SMX Cine-Weave 100² screen and Epson Accolade Duet ELPSC80 Portable Screen.

Software Used Used to Conduct Review

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Brave, Drive Angry, Hugo, Oz The Great and Powerful (3D), Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Underworld: Awakening.

Blu-ray Discs: Battleship, Ben Hur, Brave, Cowboys and Aliens, The Hunger Games, Jaws, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, Oz The Great and Powerful (2D), Pacific Rim (2D), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Dark Knight Rises.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

Setup and Installation

Projector Placement: The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 is pretty is easy to place and set up.

Step 1: Install a screen (size of your choosing) or use a white wall to project on.

Step 2: Place projector on a table/rack or on the ceiling, either in front or rear of the screen at the distance from the screen that works best. Epson's screen distance calculator is a great help. For review purposes, I placed the projector on a mobile rack in front of the screen for easier use for this review.

Step 3: Connect your source. The 2030 provides wired connectivity (HDMI, HDMI-MHL, component, composite, VGA, USB), but also allows an additional wireless LAN connectivity option via optional Wireless USB WiFi Adapter.

Step 4: Turn on the source device that you plan to use - The 2030 will then automatically search for the active input source. You can also access the source manually via the remote control or use the onboard controls located on the side of the projector.

Step 5: Once you turn everything on, you will see the screen light up, and the first image you will see is the Epson logo, followed by a message that the projector is searching an active input source.

Step 5: Adjust the projected image. To fit the image onto the screen, raise or lower the front of the projector using the adjustable foot located on the front center bottom of the projector. You can further adjust the horizontal and vertical image placement using the Horizontal Keystone Correction slider located on the top of the projector, behind the lens, and/or Vertical Keystone Correction function accessible via the projector's menu system.

Next, use the manual Zoom control located above and behind the lens to get the image to fill the screen properly. Once all the above procedures have been done, use the manual Focus control to fine tune the image appearance and also select the Aspect Ratio you desire.

Video Performance

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 performs well, especially with HD sources, such as Blu-ray Discs. In 2D, color was very good, flesh tones were consistent, and both black level and shadow detail were more than acceptable, although not as deep and inky as a higher-end projector would be able to provide.

The 2030 can also project a viewable image in a room that may have some ambient light present, which is often encountered in a typical living room. Although there is a compromised in terms of contrast and black level in order to provide a sufficiently bright image in such a situation, the projected image do not look overly washed out until you turn on room lights.

On the other hand, when the lights are off, or the room has very little ambient light, that is more typical of a home theater viewing environment, running the 2030 in ECO mode (for 2D viewing) still projects plenty of light to produce an excellent cinema-like image on fairly large screen sizes (my main screen was 100-inches).

Deinterlacing and Upscaling of Standard Definition Material

To further check the 2030's video processing performance, I conducted a series of tests using Silicon Optix (IDT) HQV Benchmark DVD (ver 1.4).

Here the 2030 passed most of the tests but did have trouble with some.

There were inconsistencies in detecting some of the less common frame cadences, and although it passed most of the deinterlacing tests with flying colors, it was just fair on one of the basic tests. Also, although detail enhancement looked good from standard definition sources connected via the HDMI, the 2030 did not enhance detail as well with sources connected via the composite video input.

For a more complete rundown of the video performance tests I ran on the Epson 2030, refer to my Video Performance Report.

3D Performance

I used the OPPO BDP-103 and BDP-103D Blu-ray Disc players listed previously in this review, as 3D sources, in conjunction with a pair of RF-based Active Shutter 3D Glasses that were provided specifically for this review. 3D Glasses do not come packaged with the projector but can be ordered directly from Epson. The glasses are rechargeable (no batteries required). To charge them, you can either plug them into the USB port on the back of the projector, or you use an optional USB-to-AC Adapter.

I found that the 3D viewing experience was very good, with very little instances of crosstalk and glare. Viewing from a 0-to-45 degree angle from either side of the center of the screen provided the best experience, but 3D viewing was still good, as I viewed from as much as a 60-degree angle.

Also, the 2030 definitely puts out enough light, minimizing brightness loss when viewing through 3D glasses. The 2030 can automatically detect a 3D source signal, and switches to the 3D Dynamic picture mode setting which provides maximum brightness and contrast for better 3D viewing (you can also make manual 3D viewing adjustments). However, when moving to the 3D viewing mode, the projector's fan does become louder.

MHL and the Roku Streaming Stick

Another interesting feature that is been included on the Epson Home Cinema 2030 is MHL compatibility on one of its two HDMI inputs. This "upgrade" makes it possible for users to connect MHL-compatible devices, including many smartphones, tablets, and the Roku Streaming Stick directly to the projector.

What makes this very practical is that you can view content from your compatible device directly on the projection screen, and, in the case of the Roku Streaming Stick, turn your projector into a Media Streamer (we're talkin' Netflix, Vudu, Crackle, HuluPlus, etc...) without the cable clutter of have to connect an external box.

Also, once you plug in a Roku Streaming Stick, you can use the projector's remote control to navigate the Streaming Stick onscreen menu and apps.

Epson provided a Roku Streaming Stick to use for this review and found myself taking advantage of this convenience throughout my review period. The Streaming Stick has its own built-in Wifi connectivity (synchs to your own wireless network router) so access to content was just as easy as using a traditional Roku Box.

Audio

The Epson 2030 comes equipped with 2-watt mono amplifier and built-in speaker located on the rear of the unit. The audio quality is sort-of-like a tabletop AM radio, but for late-nite viewing (or even in a classroom or business presentation), the sound system actually provides intelligible audio for a small or average-size room.

On the other hand, for the full home theater experience, I would definitely suggest that you send your audio sources directly to a home theater receiver or amplifier.

What I Liked

1. Very good image quality out of the box. Very good color and detail with high definition material. Flesh tones very good and natural.

2. Very good 3D Performance - minimal crosstalk or motion blur effects.

3. Bright images in both 2D and 3D mode.

Acceptable viewing of both 2D and 3D when some ambient light is present.

4. Inclusion of MHL-enabled HDMI inputs (works with Roku Streaming Stick) and adaptable for Wifi connectivity for access to network-based content.

5. Remote works the Roku menus also - being able to plug in the Roku Streaming stick is a great addition - provides a content source without having to connect anything else.

6. Very Fast cool down and shut-off time. The start-up time is about 30 seconds and the cooldown time is only about 3-5 seconds.

7. Very affordable price point.

What I Didn't Like

1. 3D Glasses and Wifi Adapter not included (each requires separate purchase).

2. No Lens Shift (Keystone Correction only).

3. No Motorized Zoom or Focus Function - must be done manually at lens.

4. Noisy when shifting between picture modes and when switching between 2D and 3D operation.

5. Scaling detail of 480i signals better from HDMI input than from composite video input.

6. Underwhelming audio quality from built-in speaker.

7. Front adjustment foot a little imprecise - could be smoother.

8. Power cord connector to projector needs to attach more firmly - it is a little loose fitting.

Final Take

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 is a well-rounded video projector for the price. Its strong light output provides a great 3D viewing experience, as well as providing some added flexibility for rooms that may not be completely dark.

Also, the inclusion of an MHL-enabled HDMI input can turn the projector into a media streamer with the addition of an option Roku Streaming Stick, as well as provided a convenient way to access content directly from compatible smartphones and tablets.

Of course, not everything is perfect, I did find that there is noticeable fan noise when viewing in 3D or high-brightness modes, and other features found on high-end projectors, such as lens shift and power zoom are not included.

However, taking all into consideration, with its feature package, performance, and very reasonable price point, the Epson is an excellent value that is definitely worth consideration for a modest home theater or home entertainment setup.

For an additional look at the 2030's features and video performance, check out my supplementary Product Photos and Video Performance Test Results.