By virtue of its name, the Epson Home Cinema 1040 sounds like a home theater projector. In reality it is an excellent video projector which will work best in your home under non-theater conditions (moderate ambient light). But it lacks several features that are common in home theater projectors, such as frame interpolation, lens shift, 3D capability, and gamma adjustment. So we prefer to describe the 1040 as a "home video" projector, a term we have used for projectors designed for ambient light use in the home. And in that regard, Epson's new 3000-lumen HC 1040 projector gives you a bright HD image for a low price of $749.
The HC 1040 has native resolution of 1920x1200 (WUXGA), but for video you'd be using it as a native 1920x1080 projector. At under six pounds, it is one of the lightest projectors in its class, so it is great for portable use. It also has a lamp life of 10,000 hours in Eco mode, with plenty of Eco mode brightness.
The HC 1040 is priced the same as the Epson's Home Cinema 2040, a projector designed more for traditional home theater use. The 2040 is not quite as bright, but it has higher contrast, 3D capability, and frame interpolation -- features that make it more suitable for classic home theater. But if you're thinking more of Super Bowl parties and live music videos for home entertainment with a few lights on, you may prefer the extra lumens of the HC1040 in exchange for the additional processing capabilities of the HC 2040.
The HC 1040 puts up a clear, sharp, noise free video image. In either Cinema or Bright Cinema mode, flesh tones are excellent with good shadow and highlight definition. Color accuracy is very good in both Bright Cinema and Cinema modes while Dynamic has a greenish hue, and Game has a slight blue bias. The image is in focus across the entire screen, and zoom and focus controls are smooth and positive. Since the 1040 is based on a 3LCD light engine, there are no distracting rainbow artifacts so often seen in DLP-based projectors.
Brightness uniformity measured a respectable 80% with no distracting hotspots, which is better than many of the competing HD projectors in its price class.
There are four color mode choices: Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Cinema, and Game. While they each have their particular color and brightness biases, they offer a quick way to get a good image on the screen. However, for those who are willing to spend some time to get the best image possible, the HC 1040 offers some precise image controls. For color temperature it offers ten choices ranging from warm (red) to cold (blue). On our test unit, setting color temperature at 4 provided the most accurate flesh tones. In addition, tint, saturation, and detail enhancement all come with a range of 0-100 while sharpness and noise reduction can be adjusted over a 0-20 range. We also found that setting sharpness to mid-range gave the best video presentation with text and spreadsheets looking best with sharpness set to 0. Images looked best with noise reduction and detail enhancement set at no more than 30% of maximum.
The HC 1040's 1920x1200 native resolution maps 1:1 with many laptop computers. If used in this format on a 16:10 format screen, movies with aspect ratios of 16:9 will be displayed with small black bars above and below the screen image. However, for most home use you'll pair it with a 16:9 screen, and in this instance you'll project video content full frame onto the screen and allow the small black bars to fall onto the top and bottom portions of the screen frame itself, rendering them invisible. Set up this way it functions as a native 1920x1080 HD video projector.
The HC 1040's extra vertical resolution does allow for more data to be presented while viewing text or spreadsheets. Also, this model offers several other features conducive to data or business presentation. There is a split-screen mode in the event you want to display two pictures simultaneously. And it has an A/V mute button and remote operated on-screen pointer.
The bottom line is that the HC 1040 is an excellent dual purpose projector. Though it is targeted for HD home video use in moderate ambient light, it can also double nicely as a portable data projector if you want to get some practical use out of it during business hours.
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