Hands On: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector with iDock
Big screen fun works with your iPhone, iPad, iPod.
July 30, 2012 by Grant Clauser

Review Epson MegaPlex MG850HD

One the best things about summer is that it makes my house bigger. I don’t mean that the wood is swelling. I mean that my backyard becomes an active part of my living space. When the weather is warm I spend as much time as possible outside, even if it just means chilling on my patio staring at the goldfish pond (they are nice goldfish).

Just because I’m outside doesn’t mean I have to give up on some of the cool things I do inside, like watch movies on a monster screen. Lately I’ve been using Epson’s MegaPlex MG-850HD projector to turn my backyard into an outside movie theater.

The MegaPlex MG-850HD is an LCD projector that’s a portable, self-contained cinema. Taking a projector outside (or anywhere) for a movie isn’t really anything new (Epson previously offered a projector called MovieMate with a built-in DVD player), but this projector includes stereo speakers and a dock to connect your iPhone or iPad. Just connect your iDevice, point it at something white, and you’re ready to go.

At Electronic House we profile many elaborate outside theater systems. We even covered one custom-installed outside theater that rose from hidden cavities in the ground at the touch of a button. Projectors for systems like that can cost well over $10,000 and aren’t for most people. The $799 MegaPlex is for most people.

While the MegaPlex isn’t specifically designed only for outdoors, it’s perfect for that use. First, it’s super bright. At 2,800 lumens, you don’t have to wait until the black of midnight to start the show, though the darker the night gets, the punchier the picture gets too. The other benefit of a bright projector is that it can light up a larger screen from a greater distance than a dim projector.

The MegaPlex is designed more like a boardroom projector than a home theater projector—by that I mean that everything you need is easily accessible when it’s sitting on a table. Projectors designed for hanging from a basement ceiling tend to hide more of their controls. On the front of the MegaPlex you get a manual lens cover, manual focus and zoom, plus a manual keystone adjustment which can be changed from horizontal to vertical keystone in the setting menu.

The entire back of the projector is taken up with speakers and the iDevce dock (which can be tucked away when not in use). There are a couple of hidden panels that coner inputs such as HDMI, USB and component. There’s also a headphone output if you don’t want your neighbors to hear the lousy stuff you watch in the backyard (note: that also makes it easy for people to sneak up on you in the dark).

I first tried out the MegaPlex indoors in my basement theater on a 120-inch Seymour Screen Excellence 4K screen. The MegaPlex has a steep upward throw like a boardroom projector, so it sits below the screen level. The projector has an adjustable foot in the front for height and two screw feet in the back. There’s no lens sift (of course there isn’t at this price) so you’ll want to be careful lining it up and getting it at the correct level, if you’re a perfectionist. If you just want a watch a movie without fussing, then play with the keystone adjustments until it’s close enough—really, this projector is just for fun, so don’t take it too seriously.

I first watched a movie from a Samsung Blu-ray player via the HDMI connection. I put it into the cinema setting in the picture menu and made a few eyeball adjustments, but I wasn’t really out to judge this projector in the same way I judge dedicated theater projectors.

Detail was pretty good, but this isn’t a 1080p projector. At 720p (actually 1280 x 800) it’s still high definition, but if you’re accustomed to 1080p from a premium projector, you’ll notice the difference. Colors overall were good, but the black level wasn’t the projector’s strongest point.

Still, I want to be fair—this is an $800 projector, with an iPhone dock, with speakers…

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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