The new Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 is the company's first 3D projector to reach the market, and it is causing a lot of excitement in projector circles. Even more interesting is the companion model, the Home Cinema 3010e, which offers a robust wireless capability across a good-sized room.
The Home Cinema 3010 is a bright home theater projector, rated at 2200 lumens and 40,000:1 contrast with an auto-iris. It is ready for 3D projection right out of the box, with a built-in 3D infrared emitter and two pairs of glasses included. The 3010e adds wireless HDMI capability, but does not include glasses, for an additional $200.
The Home Cinema 3010 is also a bit of a departure from Epson's existing home theater line, as it includes neither the 2.1:1 zoom lens nor the extensive H/V lens shift range for which they have become known. But at $1599 ($1799 for the "e" model), the Epson Home Cinema 3010 is one of the least expensive full HD 3D projectors on the market. For those who want an entry-level 1080p 3D projector, the Epson Home Cinema 3010 is an attractive option.
The Viewing Experience
We set the Home Cinema 3010 on a rear shelf in our theater, turned it on, and immediately discovered two things: one, that the Home Cinema 3010 is very bright, even in its Cinema mode, and two, that it does not have lens shift. Instead, the Home Cinema 3010 has a fixed throw angle such that the bottom edge of the image is level with the centerline of the lens. This makes a rear shelf mount all but impossible without keystone correction, unfortunately, unless you mount the projector to the underside of the shelf, upside-down. A ceiling mount will likely require an extension tube, while a table mount might necessitate keystone correction.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010
Keystone correction, incidentally, is something the Home Cinema 3010 is quite capable of. In addition to automatic vertical keystone, the 3010e has a quick-adjust horizontal keystone system activated by a slider on top of the case. Using this slider, it is easy to square the image with whatever surface you happen to be projecting on. All of the usual concerns about keystone correction still apply, though: it reduces usable resolution of the projector and causes a loss of detail in the projected image. The ideal mount is one where the projector requires no keystone correction at all.
In our darkened theater, the Home Cinema 3010's Cinema mode was too bright for our 1.0 gain 120" diagonal screen. The 3010 cranks out 1373 lumens in Cinema mode when using the lamp's Normal (full power) setting and the wide end of the zoom lens. Switching to Eco lamp reduces output by 31%, which brings output to 947 lumens on our test sample, while the 1.6:1 zoom lens only loses 5% of total light over the entire range. In the end, using the Cinema preset in Eco mode with the lens at the maximum telephoto setting produced 899 lumens on our test sample, which is still awfully bright for a 120" diagonal screen in a darkened theater environment. For reference, the SMPTE recommended brightness for a 2D image in a darkened room is about 16 foot-Lamberts, and this combination gives you 21 fL. What's more, this is as low as light output will get on the 3010.
On the other hand, if you're planning to watch a lot of 3D, you have to plan for the brightness loss that occurs when viewing 3D movies. A 140" diagonal screen, seen through the 3010's active shutter glasses, gives you a mere 3.6 fL using the 3D Cinema preset. For reference, the SMPTE recommendation for 3D is no fewer than 4.5 fL in a commercial theater, and it is generally acknowledged that brighter would be better. If you are going to watch a lot of 3D, you may want to stick with a 120" diagonal screen, which will give you 21 fL in 2D and 5 fL in 3D. You could also use the 3D Dynamic preset, which boosts 3D brightness enough to give you 7 fL on a 120" screen or 5 fL on a 140" screen. These numbers are meant as a guideline, not a hard rule; using a higher-gain screen will skew the calculations, as will any ambient light in the room or the normal dimming of the projector's lamp as it ages.
The Home Cinema 3010's quick-adjust keystone slider
The ideal 2D viewing environment for the Home Cinema 3010, then, is either a room with some ambient light and a 100" to 120" diagonal screen or a room with no ambient light and a 140" diagonal screen. The former is a great choice for home entertainment, while the latter is better for the cinemaphile who wants to get into 3D without breaking the bank. With the brighter image modes like Living Room and Dynamic, you can use a smaller 80" to 100" screen and stop worrying about ambient light entirely.
The 3010 produces an image that is vibrant and colorful. It seems that the image presets, especially Living Room and Dynamic, place special emphasis on high color saturation, to the point where using these settings in a darker environment can make them look almost cartoonish. In Cinema mode the effect is quite pleasant for games and sports, though a more film-like appearance can be created by turning it down a few notches. Detail in Blu-ray movies is clean and sharp, though the use of keystone correction will have a deleterious effect on detail sharpness.