Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Last year, Epson's Home Cinema 700, a 1280x800 LCD projector designed for home entertainment, provided a great option for folks who wanted a high-definition multi-purpose projector suitable for use in the living room or game room. This year, they've upped the ante with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 705HD. The Home Cinema 705HD is brighter, higher in contrast, and more portable than its predecessor, being both smaller in size and lighter. It has a lamp life of 4,000 or 5,000 hours, using normal or eco-mode, respectively. While the Home Cinema 700's SD card reader did not make it into the 705HD, it retains the ability to project photos from many devices directly over USB. At street prices around $750, the Home Cinema 705HD is a great choice for any ambient light situation.
High lumen output. The Home Cinema 705HD's 2500 lumen specification is no joke; our test unit measured no less than 2561 lumens in Dynamic mode. Unless you have light shining directly on your screen, the Home Cinema 705HD's impressive lumen output should be more than enough to compensate for ambient light on a screen of up to 100". In low ambient light, the Home Cinema 700 can be used on much larger screens (up to 150" or ever larger) without the picture appearing dull or flat.
There's also a Living Room mode, which reduces light output by roughly 10% but provides much better color balance and improved contrast when compared to Dynamic mode. This mode is ideal for rooms with a medium amount of ambient light, such as a room with one or two lamps but no direct sunlight. It does not have the same color accuracy and contrast as Theater mode, but it is a solid in-between setting that's useful when you don't need the extreme brightness of Dynamic mode.
Finally, there is Theater mode, which produces the best color balance and contrast of all the image modes, but also has the lowest lumen output. Still, this mode measured 1620 lumens when displaying a 1080p signal over HDMI, which is a very bright picture by any metric. In a room with any amount of light control, even if it's just dimming the lights, Theater mode is bright enough to use on 120" screen. It can be used on 150" and larger screens if lighting is more in line with a traditional dark home theater. If theater mode - or any mode, for that matter - is too bright for the screen size you want to use, Eco lamp mode lowers lumen output by 21%, bringing Theater to a more manageable 1280 lumens. This can be useful in rooms with good light control and smaller screen sizes.
As a side note, the Home Cinema 705HD produces an slightly brighter picture when using the VGA input than it does when using the HDMI input. For example, Dynamic mode measured 2561 lumens over VGA, but 2267 lumens over HDMI - a reduction of 12% overall brightness. This is not uncommon.
Contrast. From the specifications, the Home Cinema 705HD looks like just another portable WXGA projector - nothing special. This is incorrect. The Home Cinema 705HD is much higher in contrast than typical presentation models, making its image appear more three-dimensional and vivid than typical data projectors. The Home Cinema 705HD also has an auto-iris, which helps to improve black levels in scenes which are mostly black. When used beside a typical LCD presentation projector, there is no contest--the Home Cinema 705HD blows it away.
This is not to say that the Home Cinema 705HD is ideal for use in a light-controlled home theater, because it isn't. Black level is not as deep as any of this year's crop of 1080p projectors. Even last year's 720p home theater projectors compare favorably. However, those home theater machines are nowhere near as bright as the Home Cinema 705HD, so it fills a unique niche - higher in brightness than home theater projectors, but higher in contrast than presentation projectors.
Color. Out of the box, the Home Cinema 705HD has reasonably accurate color. It could benefit from a little fine-tuning here and there, but overall it offers well saturated, vibrant colors that are approximately on-target and look quite natural. It looks great with HD sports and video games, especially, but even Blu-Ray and DVD movies do not appear to have inaccurate or unbalanced color when using the factory calibrations. People won't want to spend several hundred dollars having a $750 projector professionally calibrated, and the good news is that the 705HD doesn't need it.
Epson Instant Off. Something we have always appreciated about Epson's presentation projectors is their Instant Off feature, which takes a projector from full power to complete shutdown in a hair under three seconds. This feature exists on the Home Cinema 705HD as well. This is especially useful any time you're in a hurry or just don't want to spend a lot of time packing up your gear. Instead of powering off the projector and then waiting several minutes for the cooldown cycle to complete, you can simply unplug it and go.
Versatile resolution. 1280x800, or WXGA, is possibly our favorite resolution for data and multipurpose projectors because of its versatility. The Home Cinema 705HD can display signals of 1024x768, 1280x768, 1280x800, and HD 720p without doing any scaling whatsoever. On a projector that is designed to display many different types of content in many different environments, this versatility is useful.
Low cost of ownership. The Home Cinema 705HD isn't just inexpensive to purchase, it is also inexpensive to maintain. The projector's lamp has a stated life of 4,000 to 5,000 hours, with the latter referring to eco-mode. Replacements cost only $199 directly from Epson. If you drop a dime in a jar every time you watch a movie, you will have more than enough cash to buy a replacement by the time the lamp fails. The projector does have an air filter, but it is easy to remove; it comes out through a trap door in the top of the projector so it can be easily cleaned and replaced. If your air filter requires replacement, they cost only $15 from Epson.
Connectivity. The Home Cinema 705HD has a VGA port and an HDMI port, for easy connection of both data and video sources (the VGA port can display component video, as well, if you own the correct adapter). It has both USB-A and USB-B connections for use with a computer, USB hard drive, USB flash drive, digital camera, or other device capable of holding photos; the 705HD can display jpeg images directly from the device without the need for a computer.
Integrated lens cap. If there is one universal truth in the world of electronics, it is this: small parts get lost. Remote control battery doors, small adapters, extra screws, and especially lens caps all seem to disappear over time. To avoid this, the Home Cinema 705HD has an integrated lens cap which slides open and closed in front of the lens. There is also a sensor that tells the projector when the door is closed and engages the A/V mute.
Poor remote. The Home Cinema 705HD's remote control is difficult to use, even under ideal conditions. The buttons are smaller than tic-tacs, and there is no backlight, nor do the buttons glow in the dark. The menu navigation controls are located near the bottom of the remote, making it easy to fumble or drop. We did discover that the remote controls from Epson's cinema projectors operate on the same channel and use the same codes, so we used one of those for the majority of our testing.
Small speaker. There is at least one area where the Home Cinema 705HD falls short of its predecessor, and that is sound. The Home Cinema 700 had a 7-watt mono speaker, and while it was a little tinny, it was at least loud. The newer Home Cinema 705HD has a 1-watt speaker, which retains the tinny character but none of the volume. If you were planning to use the projector for video games independent of an external speaker system, you might want to reconsider.
No SD Card reader. The Home Cinema 700 also had an SD card reader integrated into the projector, allowing you to insert memory cards from cell phones, cameras, PDAs, and camcorders directly, without the need for a cable. While the Home Cinema 705HD can still display all the same types of content that its predecessor could, it requires that the device in question be attached via a USB cable, which is one more thing to haul around. And since several devices use USB cables with proprietary plugs on one end, this could lead to more than one cable - and more hassle.
Noisy iris. The Home Cinema 705HD's auto iris can be heard in operation. It sounds like a soft clicking and can be heard whenever the content on screen gets brighter or dimmer. If you are using an external speaker system at normal volume, you probably won't notice; however, if you wanted to use the projector to give a presentation, it might be wise to disable the iris for a few minutes.
Epson's new PowerLite Home Cinema 705HD is, in many ways, an improved version of last year's Home Cinema 700. It is brighter, higher in contrast, smaller, lighter, has a lower overall cost of ownership, and it is $50 less expensive. It is lacking the SD card reader and 7W speaker that were found in its predecessor, but for many people, these features either weren't important or came second to image quality, which the Home Cinema 705HD has in spades. If you want a projector that can display a colorful, high-contrast image in almost any environment, this is it.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 705HD projector page.