For those who are looking for a starter projector for home cinema viewing, Epson has introduced the PowerLite Home Cinema 600. This is a 3,000-lumen SVGA (800x600) LCD projector sporting a lower $359 price tag and some new enhancements like wireless connection, an auto iris, and horizontal keystone correction. These features price the Home Cinema 600 a few dollars more than most competitors in its class, but then, most competitive projectors at this price are DLP-based with 2x speed wheels that generate a lot of rainbow artifacts.
The Home Cinema 600 offers wireless projection using an additional cost LAN adapter. In combination with Epson's free iOS/Android app, this allows projection from a variety of wireless handheld devices.
Except for SD cards, the Home Cinema 600 accommodates all the usual inputs: HDMI, VGA, USB, and composite video/audio. One connector is available for each input. Its 2-watt speaker produces some audio if you need it, but most home theater users set up external speaker systems
Data and video images are very good for a low resolution projector. At less than $400, the Home Cinema 600 is an inexpensive introduction to the joys of home video projection.
If you already have a 16:9 screen, the first thing you will notice when firing up the Home Cinema 600 is that the projected image does not fit your screen. SVGA 800x600 is native 4:3 format which is the format of older televisions and classic films prior to 1953. When you show a 16:9 movie or TV show on this projector, you get black bars at the top and bottom. Assuming you intend to watch widescreen video material, you can set it up so that the black bars overshoot the top and bottom of the screen, and the 16:9 image fills the screen. You lose 25% of the projector's light output, and the image is created in an 800x450 matrix, but it looks more like a conventional home theater set up. By the way, this formatting issue is common to all SVGA resolution projectors. It is part of the trade-off for the very cheap price.
When setting up the Home Cinema 600 it is easy to get the image perfectly rectangular regardless of the projection surface. Home video on a budget can include everything from a portable screen to a textured wall to a bedsheet, so the projection surface may not always be flat. The projector has three adjustments to square up the image: a simple slider bar near the focus ring for horizontal keystone correction, separate vertical and horizontal keystone controls, and a corner correction algorithm for fine tuning the extremes of the image.
Considering the price it is surprising to see how good both data and video images look as long as you are not too close to the screen. You don't want to sit too close because the 800x450 resolution in 16:9 creates a pixelated screen-door effect. If you sit back from the screen by a distance of about twice the screen width, the visible pixel structure disappears and the image looks fine.
Video images are very well color-balanced, and once brightness is reduced and contrast increased, they fairly pop from the screen. Flesh tones show no odd color biases, and the Home Cinema 600's 10,000:1 contrast ratio along with its effective and unobtrusive auto iris renders good detail in dimly-lit scenes. Data images are similarly impressive with good saturation and excellent focus across the entire screen. However, 8-point or larger type is recommended as clarity is compromised by the 800x600 resolution if you have to apply horizontal or vertical keystone correction.
The overall brightness of the Home Cinema 600 makes it good for ambient light conditions. However, to get maximum brightness you will have to put up with moderate fan noise. In the middle of a football game, fan noise will not be an issue, but for that putt at the Masters, it might be a distraction. In that case, you should consider using Eco mode because, even though it lowers brightness by about 35%, that still produces about 1,200 lumens (16:9) in Living Room mode, which will be enough to avoid image washout in many circumstances.
Wireless Operation. One of the real advantages of wireless operation is that you can involve your audience in ways not possible just a few years ago. Whether family movies, pictures from the Little League game, or video clips from the cloud, you can project from most handheld devices using the Home Cinema 600's extra cost wireless LAN adapter. The Model ELPAP07 runs about $99 and Epson offers its iProjection app for iOS and Android devices at no cost. Installation is easy, and the app is intuitive.
Low Operation Cost. The lamp life is rated at 5,000 hours at full brightness and 6,000 hours in Eco mode. A replacement lamp (ELPLP78) can be purchased for about $99, and an air filter is $15.
Image Positioning Convenience. No competing projector offer the Home Cinema 600's horizontal keystone correction. This feature might make installation easier if you have a pillar to avoid and you need to offset the projector to one side at an angle to the screen.
Digital Zoom. The Home Cinema 600 has a fixed lens with a slightly shorter than average throw ratio. A 100" diagonal 16:9 image is produced when the projector is 10.5 feet from the screen.
If you need to back the projector up, there is a digital zoom feature that lets you reduce the image size at a particular projection distance, which means you can back the projector up to get a longer throw distance for any given screen size. But this feature, like all digital zooms, works by using a smaller portion of the LCD panels. That means it reduces resolution and brightness, so its use should be limited unless you don't need maximum resolution or brightness.
No Rainbow Artifacts. The Home Cinema 600 exhibits none of the rainbow artifacts commonly found in its DLP-based competitors.
Two-year warranty. The Home Cinema 600 is warranted for two years and its lamp for 90 days. In addition, Epson offers its Extra Care Home Service during the warranty period. Under this plan, if your projector fails for any reason, Epson will ship an exchange unit to you about a day after your notice of failure. Note that the exchange unit is usually a factory-refurbished unit, so if you need your original back, you should use Epson's carry-in service, not their Extra Care Home Service.
Brightness. Epson projectors usually come close to their brightness ratings, but the Home Cinema 600 exceeded it. Our test unit measured 3,340 lumens in Dynamic mode using the full 4:3 image. Other modes delivered the following: Living Room and Game - 2,505 lumens; and Cinema - 2,150 lumens.
All of these lumen numbers are valid for full 4:3 screen projection only with no digital zoom and the lamp on full power. They are reduced by 25% when operating in 16:9 mode, and reduced further if digital zoom is deployed.
Eco lamp mode decreased brightness by about 35% and lowered fan noise to a whisper.
Brightness Uniformity. Uniformity was the best we have seen in all the projectors we have tested. At 96%, it assures that there are no hot spots or dim areas in the image.
Image Offset. The bottom of a 100" diagonal 4:3 image is roughly 7" below the centerline of the lens. The bottom of a 16:9 image is about at the level of the centerline of the lens. If you need to tilt the projector a bit up or down to hit your screen, you can square it up with the vertical keystone adjustment. For native HD projectors we don't like to use this feature since it ruins the 1x1 pixel mapping with an HD source. But with a low resolution projector an HD signal is already compressed, and a bit further compression to accommodate some keystone adjustment is not a problem. However, a radical use of keystone adjustment will cut light output in the same way that digital zoom does, so should be avoided if possible.
Audio. The 2-watt speaker is adequate for small rooms, and it is buzz- and rattle-free over its volume range.
Input Lag. Input lag measured 46 ms which is reasonably fine for casual gaming use. Many inexpensive DLP projectors come it at about 33 ms, so the 13 ms difference is not likely to change gaming results in any noticeable way for casual gamers. If you are a professional gamer you will want the fastest unit you can find, and this one isn't it.
Fan Noise and Heat. Fan noise is fairly high in normal mode, but in Eco mode, it is much quieter. Heat is exhausted from the front of the projector, so there is no air flow impacting the audience.
No Optical Zoom. The lack of an optical zoom means that you need to position the projector at an exact distance from the screen in order to fill the screen properly. The Home Cinema 600 does have a digital zoom capability, but using it cuts the resolution of the picture and the light output of the projector, so it should be used sparingly if these are concerns.
Screen-door Effect. Many home theater folks like to sit at a distance of 1.5x the screen width or closer. At this distance you will likely find that the screen-door effect from the low resolution LCD panels is distracting. For video viewing, some users may want to defocus the lens very slightly. There is not a lot of fine detail to lose at this resolution, and the slight (and I mean very subtle) defocus will reduce the screendoor effect without losing much image detail. It is a trade off some users may find optimal.
4:3 Aspect Ratio. As noted above, the HC600 is native 4:3, so 16:9 movie or TV material will be displayed with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. That also means you end up losing 25% of the projector's light output since it is blocked by the black bars.
Fan Noise. At normal lamp setting, the Home Cinema 600's fan noise may be a little distracting during quiet moments on-screen. If so, consider Eco mode as the image will still be quite bright and fan noise is reduced substantially.
No 3D Capability. If you expect 3D to be part of your home video repertoire, then the Home Cinema 600 is not for you since it is not 3D compatible.
No SD Card. You cannot plug in your camera's SD card, but if you opt for the extra expense of wireless projection, this may not be much of a limitation.
SVGA resolution is not the ideal choice for home cinema due to its 4:3 format and low resolution. But the huge advantage to SVGA is that it saves lots of $$$. For $359, the Epson Home Cinema 600 delivers a bright, well color balanced, and engaging video image that people just starting out with the big screen home video experience will find exciting. It is bright enough to accommodate some ambient light conditions with minimal washout even in Cinema mode where color accuracy is its best. And at just 5 lbs, it is small, portable, and easy to put away when you are not using it. Check the current Amazon price. Using this link helps support ProjectorCentral.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson Home Cinema 600 projector page.