Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
You've just learned that ten neighborhood kids are coming over for a backyard burger fest. Your eight-year-old wants to show his Toy Story 3 DVD on a sheet hung on the side of the garage. Normally that means hauling a DVD player, a projector, audio speakers, and various cables to set it all up. Epson's new MovieMate 60 packs it all into one box. The MovieMate 60 is a bright, portable LCD projector with a built-in DVD player and audio system that makes it easy to view movies outdoors or off-site locations. It is also a great photography projector, and it can serve as a music playback system when the video projector is not in use.
On first glance, the MovieMate 60 may look like just another combo LCD projector and DVD player. On closer inspection, its versatility extends to accommodating USB memory sticks, iPods, music CDs, game consoles, and computers. In fact, it puts you in the mood for all sorts of family fun, and it's not confined to just indoors. Other than the power connection, there are no cables to trip over, and few adjustments are needed to put up a great image with plenty of sound from the 10-watt speakers.
Now, this isn't home theater quality, but for $700 is it a unique value proposition as an all-in-one home entertainment system. The MovieMate 60 is a 9.3 pound projector with a retractable handle and a padded carrying case that make transport easy, either for outside use or for temporary set up in the living room.
The MovieMate 60 is an ideal replacement for your old Kodak Carousel slide projector. Just get those photos of Aunt Maude's birthday transferred to a CD, clear off the coffee table, get out your pop-up screen, and you're ready for a fun evening.
The MovieMate 60 is easy to use. DVDs and music CDs begin to play shortly after insertion. Photos selected from the file menu start automatically in a slide show format, but you can pause and move forward or backward with a touch of a Chapter key on the remote. Track selection for music CDs or chapter selection for DVDs is made via the numeric portion of the remote control.
Resolution: The native resolution is 960 x 540, or ¼ HD. This 16:9 format is well suited for most video sources. Full HD 1080i video sources are compressed nicely into this format, and standard DVD is scaled up to 540 lines.
Brightness: There are four preset display modes, three of which are available for internal connections (Dynamic, Living Room, and Theater) while the fourth (Game) is only active when an external game console is connected. There is also an Auto mode which switches among the three internal modes depending on ambient light level. With a full 16:9 video display, Living Room proves to be the brightest mode and generates a 1,880 ANSI lumen reading. Dynamic is close behind at 1,830 lumens while Theater drops brightness to 925 lumens. Eco mode lowers brightness 31% in all modes and extends rated lamp life by 1,000 hours.
Uniformity:The MovieMate 60 has a relatively high brightness uniformity of 84% in its 16:9 configuration. There are no hot spots and only a gradual increase in brightness from the bottom toward the top of the image.
Image Size: With the digital zoom set to wide angle, you can project a 100" diagonal image from about ten feet. You can use the digital zoom to back it up to about 13.5 feet. At any fixed distance, you can vary the image size by a factor of 1.35:1 by going from wide-angle to telephoto using the digital zoom setting, but you lose resolution and brightness when doing so (more on this below).
The projector throws the picture such that the bottom of the image is at the same height as the projector lens. If you need the image to be higher on the screen, front feet extensions will let you tilt it upward, and you can use keystone correction to straighten the image.
Connections: This is the strong suit for the MovieMate 60. You can insert standard (not Blu-Ray) DVDs and music CDs directly into the front slot and control tile or track selection from the full-size remote control. Game consoles, memory sticks, and iPods connect through a USB connector on the rear panel. Computer input is handled via a VGA connector, and cable/satellite TV and external video sources are accommodated via either component video RCA connectors or an HDMI port. Epson has a license from DivX, so downloaded DivX movies are quickly up on the screen. Music and video formats allowed are MP3, WMA, JPEG, and DivX along with standard DVDs, but motion JPEG video is not compatible.
Remote Control and Menus: The full size remote is laid out in two distinct sections. The upper half is dedicated to media control with a convenient switch that changes some buttons from functions (Repeat, Program, etc.) to numeric control for scene or track selection. The lower half is for navigating the on-screen menus and for basic controls such as keystone correction and volume level. The menus are easy to understand, and basic picture controls are available (brightness, contrast, color saturation, sharpness, and tint). The color temperature choices are Low, Mid, and High. Beyond that, there are no independent gamma or R, G, and B gain and bias controls on the unit.
Image quality: Video images have better than average dynamic range, and colors are well saturated and natural. The preset modes have predictable tint biases with Dynamic and Living Room a little green and Theater tending slightly toward red, but the factory settings are remarkably close to the optimum settings indicated by a video calibration disc. In fact, a small reduction in contrast was all that was required to get a very acceptable image in all the preset modes. Dynamic mode sacrifices some black level in exchange for light output, while Theater mode has more satisfying black levels and adequate shadow detail.
Maintenance: An air filter is part of the light engine cooling system, and it will need attention periodically. It is easy to clean by holding a small vacuum cleaner to the side of the filter intake on the left side of the projector. If the filter is damaged, it can be purchased from Epson for $14 and removed and replaced in less than 30 seconds.
Kid Protection:Since the MovieMate 60 will find its niche primarily in family settings, it comes with a couple of nice touches for parents. Up to 40 DVD titles can be password protected so that junior doesn't watch inappropriate material. The power switch can be disabled so that young eyes don't get inadvertently harmed by the bright light from the lens. Also, the lens cover is an integrated sliding panel, so it won't get lost or broken. Of course, adult supervision is strongly advised when kids are near projectors, but Epson has wisely provided some extra protection.
Speakers: Most small speakers built into projectors sound tinny or buzzy at moderate to high volume settings. The 10-watt speakers in the MovieMate 60 are surprisingly solid, and for most situations provide more than enough sound to eliminate the need for external amplification. However, if needed, there's an audio output available on the rear panel.
Preset Modes: When your audience is anxious to get started, you may not want to fiddle with image adjustments, and Epson has made things easy by getting their preset modes very close to optimal settings. Even the Auto setting has its place: if you're outside and the sunlight is fading, the MovieMate 60 can automatically lower the image brightness to compensate for the decreasing ambient light.
Fan noise: Fan noise is modest with no high frequency components, and the heat exhaust from the front right side can barely be felt a foot away. So it can be used on a coffee table right in front of you without it causing a distraction.
Lamp life. Lamp life is rated at a long 4,000 hours in normal power mode and 5,000 hours in Eco mode. That's enough to watch one two-hour movie every day for 5.5 years. And if you ever run out of lamp time, replacement lamps are available for $150.
No Zoom Lens: There is no zoom lens on this projector. It does have a 1.35x digital zoom, but in this case, digital zoom is a euphemism for digital shrinkage. The projector's maximum resolution of 960x540 is in operation only at the widest angle setting of the digital zoom. As you move the "zoom" control toward telephoto, the image on the LCD panels shrinks; fewer and fewer pixels are used to create the image, and a black frame takes it place. So image resolution and brightness both decrease when using digital zoom. It causes the projector to lose almost half of its light output at the maximum telephoto setting. Therefore, to get the maximum brightness and resolution from the MovieMate 60, set the digital zoom at the widest angle.
Also note, the digital zoom control is in the Signal section of the Visual Setup on-screen menu. There is also a Zoom button on the remote, but it has nothing to do with the digital zoom feature. It is actually an image pan and zoom (up to 200%) for certain media (e.g., DVDs and photo discs, but not computer inputs). Users may find this confusing.
PC Data: Though the MovieMate 60 will take PC or Mac computer signals, data images are not as sharp as in projectors designed for data projection. None of the usual PC phase and sync adjustments are available on the MovieMate 60, and mapping a 1024 x 768 source into the 960 x 540 display produces rather fuzzy text. Clarity improves at lower PC resolutions, but this product was not designed for use as a data projector.
No remote backlighting. When used in a darkened room, a backlight on the remote would be helpful, as would a little larger Visual Setup button, but other than these two limitations, it's one of the better remotes we've seen.
The Epson MovieMate 60 is a fully-loaded portable home entertainment system for movies, TV, photography slide shows, and music playback. For portability outside the home, or temporary set up in your living room, the MovieMate 60 makes things easy. The video quality is quite satisfying, the speakers are robust, and the image is bright enough for even moderate ambient light. For $700, it represents an outstanding value.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson MovieMate 60 projector page.