The best TVs, especially when you’ve got a crowd in the room, are big TVs, and home theater projectors make the best big TVs.
But really good projectors can be expensive, complicated to setup and require a dedicated space. So what do you do if you want a really big TV only occasionally? Epson’s PowerLite 2030 is a good compromise—a bright, relatively inexpensive home entertainment projector that can be setup in minutes.
The PowerLite 2030 is a 3-chip LCD 1080p resolution home video projector that falls into the budget category at only $899 (street price tends to be a bit less). While it can be hung from a ceiling for permanent in-room use, it has features that make it more suited for occasional uses as a tabletop projector or for outdoor movie nights.
The two main highlights of the Epson 2030 are its easy setup and its bright picture. It you’re using it on a tabletop, out-of-the-box setup takes about a minute. There’s an adjustable foot on the front which you can use to raise the image. After manually zooming and focusing the picture, a slider on the front lets you adjust keystone to square up the sides. As always, using a keystone correction feature is not the ideal way to fix an image as it impacts resolution, but I’m going to guess that a lot of people using this projector won’t be so picky.
Being an entry-level projector, I wasn’t expecting a lot in the way of detailed picture controls, but it actually offers a decent amount of options. The 2030 includes seven built-in picture modes. Cinema mode is the one to use in a dark room for the most accurate picture. You can further tweak gain and offset in RGB, but if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re better off leaving that alone.
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The Epson’s 2,000 lumen rating means that, even in a fairly bright room, you can still get a watchable picture. The amount of light that comes out of this little projector is indeed impressive. In fact that’s one of the features that makes the 2030 ideal for an occasional outdoor movie. Take it in the backyard and aim it at a portable screen. You don’t even have to wait until full dark has come to start watching the movie.
That much light output in an inexpensive projector does come with a little tradeoff. The 2030’s black levels are not cinema quality. Compared to Epson’s 5030 (which is more than twice the price), the 2030 produces more washed out blacks with less shadow detail. BenQ and Optoma DLP projectors in the same price range as the Epson 2030 offer better blacks, but they also can product the rainbow artifact common to single-chip DLPs, and they’re not as bright.
3D video looked good, with minimal bothersome crosstalk, though the picture was a bit less bright when viewed through the glasses. Note, that this projector doesn’t come with any 3D glasses in the box.
The Epson 2030 includes two HDMI inputs, including one that is MHL-enabled, which means that you can connect it to MHL-compatible smartphones and tablets or the Roku stick. In fact, connecting a Roku stick makes the 2030 a very compact all-in-one projector ready for streaming media wherever you place it.
Another feature that makes the 2030 good for occasional use is the built-in speaker. While’s it’s only rated at 3 watts, I found it loud enough for a couple of people sitting on a sofa to hear when listening from a few feet away. If your plan is to take it outside to entertain a yard full of people, then you’ll need a supplemental audio system.
The 2030 is probably not what you want if you’re looking to install a projector for a dedicated home theater space. It’s bright, detailed and the colors are well saturated for this price, but the mediocre shadow detail won’t satisfy someone who wants a showcase home theater. The lack of lens shift and the small zoom ratio mean that ceiling installation can be a bit tricky. For an inexpensive projector to permanently install, I’d suggest looking at Epson’s 3020 (about $1,500) or higher model.
Epson PowerLite 2030 Home Entertainment Video Projector
• Projected Output: 2D, 3D, Full HD 1080p
• Pixel Number: 2,073,600 dots (1920 x 1080) x 3
• Color Brightness (Color Light Ouput): 2000 lumens1
• White Brightness (White Light Output): 2000 lumens1
• Aspect Ratio: Native 16:9 widescreen
• Native Resolution: Native 1080p (1920 x 1080)
• Resize: 16:10, 4:3
• Lamp Type: 200 W UHE
• Lamp Life:
• ECO mode: Up to 6000 hours2
• Normal mode: Up to 5000 hours2
• Throw Ratio Range: 1.22 (Zoom: Wide) – 1.47 (Zoom: Tele)
• Size (projected distance): 34” – 328”
• Keystone Correction: (Vertical: ±30 degrees; Horizontal: ±30 degrees)
• Contrast Ratio: Up to 15,000:1
• Color Reproduction: Full-color (1.07 billion colors)
• Color Processing: Full 10-bits
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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.