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.
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.
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 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.
Image quality in 2D. When viewing 2D content, the Home Cinema 3010 produces a bright, clear picture. Dynamic range is sufficient to avoid any crushing in the shadows, while color saturation is rich. Color temperature, even at factory default settings, measures a steady 6000K, and raising the preset temperature by one notch will bring that to 6400K average--and that's without using a meter or making any fine adjustments. Detail is sharp and clear, provided you mount the projector in such a way as to avoid keystone correction. If you must use keystone correction, you're in luck: the 3010's keystone correction is cleaner than that of most other projectors, though there is still some noticeable loss of detail.
3D. The Home Cinema 3010 is Epson's first 3D projector, and they've done a solid job with their first attempt. Notably, the infrared emitter is built-in to the projector itself, so there is nothing to attach, align, or misplace. However, should you require a little extra oomph, the projector features an RJ-45 port on the rear panel that will accept an external emitter. Also noteworthy is that Epson includes two pairs of glasses with the 3010, while other manufacturers typically do not include any glasses.
WirelessHD on 3010e. The Home Cinema 3010e, for $200 more than the Home Cinema 3010, includes WirelessHD. The WirelessHD system allows you to transmit the full range of HDMI data--that means full 1080p 3D plus sound--across a large room without running any cables. The transmitter does not require line of sight, so those of you with A/V equipment closets are in luck.
The WirelessHD system works by connecting a small gadget to your existing signal source, which could be a Blu-ray player or your A/V receiver. Once you get this plugged in, you power it up and leave it alone. When you start the projector, you can pick "WirelessHD" from the source list, and after a brief period of synchronization you should get an image on screen.
The WirelessHD kit included with the 3010e is rated to work over a distance of 30 feet. We tested the system to a distance of 25 feet, with an interior wall between the transmitter and receiver thrown in for good measure. The system worked flawlessly. The projector is slower to sync over wireless than over HDMI, but we did not notice problems with A/V sync or audio delay using the system. WirelessHD is an exciting feature that we'd like to see appear on more projectors as time goes on. It makes the prospect of a DIY ceiling mount much less daunting, for one thing, since you can simply run power to the projector and transmit all video over HDMI using an A/V receiver and the WirelessHD system.
10W stereo speakers. Further solidifying the 3010's position as an entertainment projector are its dual 10W speakers. Like any small speakers, pushing volume too hard will cause distortion and a tinny character to the sound produced. However, when using the 3010 as a portable entertainment projector, the speakers mean that you won't need to wire up a separate audio system, which makes game day hassle-free--especially if you opt for the 3010e with its WirelessHD system.
Light output. The Home Cinema 3010 is a big bright beast of a projector. The projector's brightest mode is Dynamic, which measures 2110 lumens out of a specified 2200 on our test sample. Dynamic mode emphasizes brightness over contrast, though color saturation does not suffer the way that it often does in projectors' brightest modes. The next step down is Living Room mode, which at 1574 lumens sacrifices some brightness in return for improved contrast and black levels. Depending on screen size, Living Room mode is perfectly usable in its namesake, though some degree of light control will help to boost contrast further. Natural and Cinema modes are functionally identical in terms of light output, at 1376 and 1373 respectively. Natural mode is not as warm as Cinema mode, and it uses a different gamma curve than Cinema mode does. Otherwise they are quite similar.
As mentioned previously, even Cinema with its 1373 lumens is more than bright enough for a 140" diagonal screen in a darkened theater when watching 2D. If you have a smaller screen and don't want a super bright picture, Eco lamp mode reduces light output by 31%. This brings light output in Cinema to 947 lumens. If that's still too bright, you could invest in a neutral density (ND) filter to cut output. As the lamp begins to dim with usage, you can remove the filter.
Color. Accurate color is important for any home theater projector, but especially so for inexpensive projectors since the typical buyer of these projectors will not necessarily take the time to calibrate them. The Home Cinema 3010, at its default settings, measures an average of 6000K across the spectrum.
The Home Cinema 3010's default settings put slightly too much emphasis on red, but the overall temperature is consistent across the board. If you do not own a color meter, the easiest way to adjust the projector is to switch from the 6500K color temperature preset to the 7000K preset, which will result in an actual color temperature of about 6450K--very close to the 6500K standard. If you do have a meter, a quick calibration will bring color temperature almost perfectly in line with the 6500K standard.
Contrast. Part and parcel of the Home Cinema 3010's high brightness is a degradation of black level, which is almost unavoidable in bright projectors. However, when compared to the Home Cinema 8350, Epson's other sub-$1500 1080p projector, the degradation is not as severe as one might think. The 8350 has undeniably deeper black levels, true, but the 3010 manages to hold its own, and black is still recognizable as black, not dark gray. The 8350 has a slight edge in dynamic range, as well, but the 3010 has a clear advantage in brightness, which is helpful in rooms with ambient light. Most importantly, the 3010's default gamma measures 2.14 on our test sample, where the ideal is 2.2. This means you don't have to worry about lost detail in shadows due to crushing.
When evaluating these two projectors, it helps to remember that they are built for two very different environments. The 8350 is built for dark theater rooms and excels in these environments, while the 3010 excels in rooms with ambient light. In these environments, absolute black level is less important than lumen output and dynamic range, and the 3010 strikes a good balance between these factors in its intended environment.
Image quality in 3D. The Home Cinema 3010 does show some flaws in its 3D performance. Compared to other 3D projectors, the 3010's 3D picture shows more flickering instability, especially in areas of solid color. Motion is less smooth. Brightness is not an issue; with 2200 lumens at its disposal, the 3010 pumps out plenty of light, even in 3D, up to screen sizes of 120" diagonal in optimal conditions. Finally, compared to other recently released 3D projectors, the 3010 shows a lot of crosstalk, to the point where it became obvious even when we were not actively searching it out.
Placement Flexibility. While Epson projectors have steadily improved over the years, one constant has been their long zoom lenses and flexible H/V lens shift. The Home Cinema 3010 has a respectable 1.6:1 zoom lens, but lacks lens shift. Moreover, the fixed throw angle makes it difficult to place the projector on a rear shelf, which many users of Epson projectors prefer due to its simplicity. Those looking to upgrade a previous Epson projector to the new 3010 may need to rethink their mounting arrangements before taking the plunge.
So far, the Home Cinema 3010 and the Optoma HD33 are the only full HD 3D projectors to be released for less than $2,000. While these projectors are both budget-friendly and full HD 3D compliant, there are some important differences that will determine which one is right for you.
Light output. The Home Cinema 3010 is a brighter projector than the HD33, with a maximum output of 2110 lumens on our test sample compared to 1049 lumens on the HD33. In Cinema mode, with the lamp at full power, the Home Cinema 3010 measured 1373 to the HD33's 847. In low power mode, those numbers became 947 and 661, respectively. What this means is that the Home Cinema 3010 is preferable any time you have a very large screen or a lot of ambient light, while dark rooms and smaller screen sizes will benefit more from the HD33's more moderate output. There is no way to lower light output on the Home Cinema 3010 below 900 lumens without using an ND filter, and owners of screens 120" in diagonal or smaller should take this into consideration before making a purchase.
Contrast. We set the Home Cinema 3010 to Cinema mode with the lamp at its low power setting, while the HD33 was set to Cinema with the lamp at full power, putting the two projectors roughly 100 lumens apart--almost identical, as far as the human eye is concerned. The 3010 has deeper black levels than the HD33 in dark scenes thanks to its auto iris. In scenes of average illumination, the HD33 took the lead, with deeper black levels and comparable highlights. In bright scenes, the HD33 maintained its deeper blacks while the 3010 had bright, sparkling highlights.
3D image quality. The Optoma HD33's 3D picture is more stable and more refined than that of the Home Cinema 3010, with significantly less crosstalk and flicker. This makes the HD33 easier to watch over a long period of time. Though the 3010 is the brighter of the two projectors, 3D glasses make it look only a little brighter than the HD33 in 3D despite the sizable difference in 2D brightness. The HD33 has markedly higher contrast in 3D, which gives the picture greater depth.
3D ease of use. The HD33's 3D glasses have a wider fit and are also lighter than those of the 3010, so they feel more comfortable over an extended viewing session. The HD33 has an external radio-frequency emitter, while the 3010's infrared emitter is internal. Radio frequency sync is not subject to the line-of-sight limitation of infrared, though this means you have to turn off power to the projector if you don't want to run down your glasses' batteries during a bathroom break. Finally, the Home Cinema 3010 includes two pairs of glasses in the box, while the HD33's glasses must be purchased separately. At less than $100 per pair, creating an equivalent system ends up costing $1699 to the Home Cinema 3010's $1599. Note, though, that the 3010e does not include glasses, so an equivalent system would cost $1999.
Placement flexibility. The Home Cinema 3010's 1.6:1 lens offers additional wiggle room compared to the restrictive 1.2:1 zoom lens on the HD33. Neither projector has lens shift. On the HD33, there is a slight upward throw angle such that the bottom edge of the image appears 7% of the image's height above the centerline of the lens, while the Home Cinema 3010 puts the bottom edge and the lens centerline exactly level. This means that the HD33 will be easier to ceiling mount in some instances, since it is less likely to require the use of an extension tube. It also opens up the possibility of placing the HD33 on a low table without being forced to tilt the projector and apply keystone correction.
The Home Cinema 3010 is a bit of a departure for Epson, as the company ventures into 3D and experiments with features not previously seen in Epson home theater projectors. The 3010 bridges the gap between classic home theater and living room oriented home entertainment in ambient light. It can function well in either environment, provided that one accommodates the projector's quirks. Some features, like 1373 lumens in Cinema mode and dual 10W speakers, seem tailor-made for home entertainment. Other features, like the projector's auto iris and excellent default color calibration, make the Home Cinema 3010 feel more like a home theater projector. The 3010e adds a wireless HDMI feature that do-it-yourselfers will love.
The Home Cinema 3010 lacks a few typical Epson features, such as H/V lens shift and a 2:1 zoom lens. It also suffers from underwhelming 3D performance compared to its competition. These limitations may frustrate some existing Epson customers who may be planning to replace existing projectors that have longer zoom and lens shift.
Where the Home Cinema 3010 excels is as a very bright 3D video projector, perfect for large screens or rooms in which some ambient light is preferred. If you judge the Home Cinema 3010 on its capabilities in this area, it comes out looking like a solid projector for home entertainment. The wireless 3010e version is particularly appealing for the nominal $200 additional cost, though the absence of 3D glasses raises the cost by another $200 for those interested in 3D projection. For those who do not care about 3D and whose primary concern is to have an outstanding high contrast home theater projector for dark room viewing, the Home Cinema 8350 remains a formidable option and an excellent value in Epson's product line. For conventional home theater in a light controlled space, the 8350 would be our choice over the 3010.