With Epson's recent release of the twin superportables the PowerLite 700c and PowerLite 710c, Epson has taken projector design to the level of an art form. These exciting products are crafted to meet the needs of the mobile presenter. But though they are designed primarily for presentation use, owners of the 700c and 710c will be able to get good use out of them as part-time home theater projectors as well.
The 700c and 710c are really the same physical projector, with two differences. First, the 700c comes in a charcoal gray case, while the 710c is in a silver/magnesium case.
Second, the 710c has Epson's "micro-lens array" or "MLA" technology on the LCD panels. The micro-lens array boosts light transmission through the LCDs, and increases the lumen output of the projector. The result is that the 800 ANSI lumen output achieved with the 700c is increased to 1000 ANSI lumens in the 710c.
Other than case color and lumen output, all other physical characteristics, features, and functions are common to both models. Of course, there is a price difference. While the 800 lumen 700c retails for $6,999, the brighter 710c carries an MSRP of $7,999. (Nobody pays retail! See tips on how to get your best price at the end of this review.)
The 700c/710c addresses the most fundamental need of the mobile presenter extremely well. It weighs only 5.8 lbs and measures a slight 247 cubic inches. That means it is among the smallest of the ultraportables available, and you can put it in a briefcase with room to spare.
For those who like performance specs, the 710c in particular has achieved a unique milestone. At 1000 ANSI lumens in a mere 247 cubic inch package, Epson has achieved a remarkable 4.0 lumens per cubic inch. That's more light output per cubic inch than any other projector on the market.
For the mobile presenter, the 700c/710c offers just about every tool you could want. There is a manual 1.2x zoom lens which enables you to adjust the size of the projected image. With that and the manual focus ring, you can set up the projector very quickly.
The projector provides up to 15 degrees (+/-) of digital keystone correction, so when projecting at an angle, you can realign the image from a trapezoid into a rectangle.
A digital zoom feature enable you to magnify a small part of the screen, and to pan around the image so you can see image details close up.
The 700c/710c also comes with a full complement of annotation and highlighting tools that are easily applied with the remote control. With these you can place highlighting arrows on items of interest, and/or you can underline or circle particular elements on the screen for emphasis as you discuss them during your presentation. You can also focus the audience's attention on any portion of the screen you want by using a highlighting box.
Finally, there is a picture-in-picture feature than enables you to open a window for video and overlay it on your data presentation. The PinP window can be resized to a limited degree, and it is easy to drag it to wherever you want it to be on the screen.
All things considered, just about everything a mobile presenter could want has been packaged into this product.
The 700c/710c light engine features three 0.9" polysilicon LCD panels with a native XGA (1,024 x 768) pixel array. In addition to native XGA sources, the unit will scale up lower resolution VGA (640 x 480) and SVGA (800 x 600) signals, and it will compress SXGA (1280 x 1024) and UXGA (1600 x 1200) high resolution signals.
Video compatibility includes NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, and the system automatically detects which is in use.
The lamp, a 120-watt UHP with a life of 2000 hours, can be changed by the owner. The small lamp requires relatively little cooling, so fan noise is not excessive.
The connection panel offers one standard VGA 15-pin port for computer or other data source, one composite RCA video jack, one S-video jack, one set of RCA audio inputs for video, and a separate audio input for computer. The one on-board speaker is adequate for small conference room use, but for larger audiences, you may want to drive external speakers. There is an audio output to facilitate this connection.
For remote mouse control, you may use either the round MAC mouse cable port or the square USB port depending upon which one is compatible with your notebook.
The control panel on the projector itself is sparse. It includes only a power button, a source selector, a help button, and the keystone adjustment. The keystone adjustment is the only feature that must be operated from the projector control panel. All other features and functions of the unit are controlled via the remote.
The remote control is laid out intuitively, and with adequate space between the buttons to make it easy to use even in the dark once you are familiar with it. It is backlit for additional convenience.
Performance Test and Evaluation
Taking the Epson 700c / 710c through its paces is an amazing experience. It does just about everything the mobile presenter would want it to do exceedingly well. Finding things to complain about is not easy. Here are the performance test notes:
ANSI lumens: The ANSI lumen specifications (800 for the 700c and 1000 for the 710c) are accurate for data sources. As with just about all digital projectors, to optimize video performance the light output needs to be reduced by about 30% for best black level, shadow detail, color saturation, and contrast.
Brightness uniformity: Excellent edge-to-edge illumination measuring in excess of 90%; no visible hotspots.
Image detail and sharpness: Excellent. Detailed numeric figures on a fully loaded spreadsheet showed outstanding resolution from edge-to-edge across the entire display.
Keystone correction: Many projectors have serious trouble with keystone correction. Some don't offer it at all, and of those that do, the performance is so bad that you'd never use it. Not so with this projector. The up to 15-degree (+/-) correction is accessed with the press of a button on the control panel. As it adjusted through incremental degrees, the image is rescaled surprisingly well. For the most part, details lose a little edge definition, and some settings are more successful than others. However, they all remain very readable. Keystone correction is a feature you can use without compromising the legibility of the image in any significant way.
Digital zoom: An "E-zoom" button enables you to zoom in on a portion of the screen. Repeated clicks of the two-way E-zoom button will enlarge or reduce the image in 25% increments. Holding the button down will produce a quick zoom all the way to the maximum of four times magnification.
Once the image is magnified, you can easily pan around the image with the Enter button which functions in part as a joystick on the remote. The magnified image is sharp. This feature is easy to access and very effective for isolating parts of the screen image that need to be highlighted.
High-resolution compression: Most native XGA projectors will display an SXGA (1280 x 1024) signal by compressing into the native 1024 x 768 display. At this point in time, few XGA projectors will compress UXGA also (1600 x 1200). The 700c / 710c is one that will. Not only will it compress and display these signals, but it does so with an amazing degree of accuracy. Compression of a higher resolution signal always involves some loss of data, and thus picture sharpness. However, the engineers at Epson have developed compression algorithms that render an extremely viewable image. The ability to compress a higher resolution signal as cleanly as this projector does is one of the highlights of the unit.
Annotation/presentation tools: this projector also comes with a variety of highlighting tools that can make your presentations more interactive. You can add highlighting arrows, underlines, freehand circles, and highlighting boxes to the image during your presentation to draw the audience's attention to the points you are trying to make. Access to these tools is via the remote. At first, controlling the placement of these highlights is a little clumsy. But with a little practice, the tactile feel of the remote can be learned. Once mastered, the annotation tools can give the presenter a powerful way to rivet the attention of the audience on key points.
Picture-in-picture: the system offers PinP, but with limitations. It is only available in data mode, and the only signal that can be displayed in the PinP window is that which is coming from the composite video jack. Upon activation of the PinP feature, a small window appears in the upper left corner of the screen. Using the E-zoom button, you can increase the size of the window up to about 10% of the total image size, which is still fairly small. The good news is that it can be easily dragged and placed anywhere on the screen you want it. The bad news is that even at its maximized setting, the window is too small to see much video detail. Accordingly, out in the real world this feature will probably not be used very often.
On-board audio: there is a one-watt speaker on board that is adequate for small conference room situations. Anything larger, and you will want to use the audio loop-through to drive a set of external speakers.
How about some home theater?
After the big presentation, you want to kick back, relax, and be entertained. Though the 700c / 710c was not built for the home theater market, it's got some very good video performance capability. Hook up your DVD player, wire its audio output into your stereo, point the projector at a screen, and you've got a makeshift home theater system that will impress the neighbors.
This projector gives you the ability to adjust red, green, and blue independently. So the tools are there to zero in on a very accurate color balance. Neither the 700c nor the 710c is bright enough to watch with the lights on if you want high quality video. But in a darkened room, the picture quality is surprisingly good coming from a little 5.8 lb package.
In particular, the video image was amazingly free of motion artifacts. The picture produced with the standard composite and S-video was stable and pleasing. However, it was a little bit soft as if it were ever so slightly out of focus. For part time home theater, the image is fine, but the videophile would want a little more precision.
For those who want better video performance, the DVDO iScan line doubler seems like it was made for this projector. At less than $600 on the street, the iScan is a nice add-on accessory for a projector in the 700c / 710c price range. When its line-doubled progressive signal is fed into the projector via the VGA port, the resulting video image is noticeably better in just about all respects: colors are more saturated, edge definition is more precise (the softness is gone), and the picture is brighter and higher contrast.
At 5.8 lbs and 247 cubic inches, the Epson Powerlite 700c / 710c is among the smallest of the ultraportable XGAs on the market today. And with the extensive feature set that Epson built into it, the 700c / 710c has got more raw mobile presentation horsepower per cubic inch than any other projector on the market. Any way you look at it, Epson has delivered an outstanding piece of engineering work. If you are buying for mobile presentation use, do not fail to check this one out!
How to get your best price
With quality comes cost; these units aren't the cheapest XGA's around. However, you can use the resources at ProjectorCentral to get your best deal.
First, you can check current dealer price quotes on Epson models in the Current Prices section. Scroll down to the 700c and 710c, then click on each dealer's name to go to their websites to get contact data. Check these dealers for product availability, upgrade and return policies, shipping/handling charges, and other services they may offer.
Another way to get competitive prices is to post a Request for Bid in the Get Bids! section. This posting is free. Dealers will respond quickly to your bid request with their best prices. Since competitive bids are not "advertising," the dealers are free to quote whatever prices they want without violating manufacturer policies.
Should you need any further assistance in using ProjectorCentral to find dealers or request bids, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be happy to help.