Light output. Epson's projectors often exceed their lumen specifications and the Home Cinema 2030 is no exception. The projector's Dynamic mode, which is the brightest mode available, measures 2172 lumens on our test sample out of a rated 2,000 lumens maximum. Dynamic mode has a green bias, making it ill-suited to content that requires accurate color such as HD film and video. But it does a good job of cranking out the lumens for, say a Super Bowl party, when image brightness is more important than color fidelity.
Living Room mode, at 1670 lumens, has none of Dynamic mode's green push but it is still cooler than normal, measuring around 7800K average in our color temperature tests. This cool tint can help to cancel out the yellow tint of ambient light created by incandescent lightbulbs or compact fluorescent bulbs made to mimic incandescents.
Cinema mode measured 1441 lumens on our test unit, and in factory default settings has an average color temperature of about 7200K. The Home Cinema 2030 has full color controls, so it is relatively easy to balance Cinema mode for the ideal 6500K color temperature. Doing so on our test unit did not result in much loss of light output. Cinema mode has the best dynamic range and black level of any default image mode, as well, making it the best choice for film and video when the room lights are off.
For true dark-room home theater viewing, all of the Home Cinema 2030's image modes are more than bright enough. If you wish to lower brightness, say to use the projector on a smaller screen, reducing lamp power cuts light output by 32%, bringing Cinema mode to 948 lumens on our projector.
Contrast. Home video projectors do not produce the deep, dark black levels of home theater projectors because they are intended to be used in ambient light. However, some home video projectors have potential for crossover home theater use, and the Home Cinema 2030 is one of them. It includes an automatic iris which is active by default in Cinema mode, reduces black levels in dark scenes, giving the impression of overall higher contrast. The Home Cinema 2030's iris is quick and quiet during operation, though it can be heard if you sit very close to the projector itself and have the sound turned off.
As far as dynamic range is concerned, the Home Cinema 2030 turns in a respectable performance, though it does not quite match some of its similarly-priced competition based around DLP technology. The Home Cinema 2030 preserves shadow detail well and does not crush blacks or blow out highlights, but dynamic range is not the projector's strongest suit.
Color. In factory default calibrations, the Home Cinema 2030's Cinema mode has a slight bias toward blue and green, resulting in an average color temperature around 7200K. This is fine in rooms with some ambient light, but if you want an ideally balanced picture for viewing in the dark, you may want to make a few adjustments.
Epson Home Cinema 2030 RGB levels, Cinema mode, factory defaults
The Home Cinema 2030 includes full color controls. White balance is adjusted using the projector's RGB Gain/Offset controls while color gamut can be calibrated using RGBCMY hue/saturation/brightness controls. The latter require a color meter and some software, so most folks will opt to leave them alone. It doesn't hurt that the Home Cinema 2030's default color gamut is not too far from the Rec. 709 HD standard.
Epson Home Cinema 2030 color gamut
On our test unit, white balance required a boost to red in both the low end (Offset) and the high end (Gain). After that, calibration became a matter of balancing red against blue and making sure green was not overdriven. Our final calibration looked like this:
|Epson Home Cinema 2030|
Epson Home Cinema 2030 RGB levels, Cinema mode, calibrated
Input lag. The Epson Home Cinema 2030 has two options for image processing: Fine and Fast. Fine processing is the default, and for film and video it is the best option. However, gamers looking for the lowest possible input lag can make use of Fast processing to cut lag times significantly.
Cinema mode measured 100 milliseconds, or 6 frames, of lag using Fine processing. For gamers, this is unacceptable. Even something as simple as moving and clicking a mouse can make this level of lag readily apparent to even the casual user. However, switching to Fast processing results in 34ms (2 frames) of lag, which is faster than most home theater projectors. Many gamers will find 34ms acceptable, though there are projectors that are a bit faster still, getting down to 1 or 1.5 frames of lag.