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Epson has been making home entertainment projectors since before they were called home entertainment projectors. Their latest, the PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD, is a WXGA LCD projector with HDMI 1.4 3D capability and an attractive price tag of $799. With high light output for both white and colored light, the 750HD is a great choice for living rooms and multi-purpose rooms and as a general TV replacement.
The Epson 750HD belongs to a class of projectors commonly known as home entertainment projectors, home video projectors, living room projectors, or some variation on that theme. The idea is that these projectors are meant to be used for video, but not in a traditional dark home theater space. Instead, they are optimized for use in a lights-on communal space such as a living room. In such spaces, the high contrast of a home theater projector would be compromised, and a home theater projector's more modest light output would be insufficient to power a screen of a reasonable size. As such, these projectors tend to be lower in contrast and much brighter than their home theater counterparts.
However, this doesn't mean that these projectors are simply repurposed presentation machines. They tend to have very good color, on par with home theater projectors, and they also tend to have more advanced video processing than business projectors. The result is a projector that can handle the rigors of HD film and video, but also fight back against the deleterious effects of ambient light.
We set up the Epson 750HD on a coffee table and adjusted the zoom until we had about a 60" diagonal image size. We went with a smaller image not because the 750HD lacks brightness (it doesn't) but because of its relatively low resolution. A smaller image size makes the pixels less visible. Plus, a 60" diagonal image is still larger than a lot of televisions. The 750HD has a flat throw angle, so the bottom edge of the image will be level with the center of the projector's lens, making coffee table placement an ideal option.
The 750HD creates a bright picture with exceptional color saturation and balance. Dynamic, the brightest mode, has a much more accurate color profile than many other projectors' bright modes. Shadow detail is solid, and black level is comparable with other projectors in the price range -- which is to say it's okay, but not great. The 750HD does feature an automatic iris that can help deepen blacks in dark scenes, provided your room has adequate ambient light control to take advantage of such. In a typical living room setup, there's no real need to use the iris. While the projector does a fine job of reproducing detail in HD content, the 750HD is not likely to be mistaken for a 1080p projector any time soon. Some small details can be muddy, especially if you watch at a large image size.
2D Image quality. The Epson 750HD is designed for casual home entertainment. Its brightest mode, far from being a greenish low-contrast mess as it is on most projectors, is actually quite watchable and would be appropriate for afternoon sports in a bright viewing room. Living Room mode makes the projector into a viable TV replacement, with a slight blue cast but excellent saturation and shadow detail. And Movie mode, with its near-6500K default calibration, is perfectly acceptable for evening movie watching.
HDMI 3D. The Epson 750HD is fully compatible with Blu-ray 3D movies. Normally, this is a feature we'd call "full HD 3D," but that doesn't seem right as the 750HD doesn't have full 1920x1080 resolution. It may be the first non-1080p projector we've seen that can handle Blu-ray 3D.
The 750HD uses RF-sync glasses, and one pair is included with the projector. This means there are no infrared signals flying around to interfere with your use of remote controls, as with IR sync. Nor are there light pulses interspersed in the image itself, as with DLP Link. It is also comparatively more difficult for RF sync to lose synchronization, as it is the only sync technology that does not require line of sight between glasses and screen.
As far as 3D performance is concerned, there is a loss of fine detail that comes from down-converting a 1080p source image to 1280x720, but 3D quality is otherwise excellent. The projector has lumens to spare, and using the default 3D Brightness option of "Low" did not produce any noticeable crosstalk. On the other hand, switching to "High" produced enough crosstalk that we would not recommend using it if you can avoid it.
Great color. Accurate color out of the box is important on inexpensive models since nobody will want to pay to have them calibrated. Fortunately the 750HD has excellent, well-saturated, accurate color in its factory defaults.
Color Light Output specifications are gaining traction these days. If a projector has color light output that approaches or matches its white light output, that projector tends to have a balanced image. Since the Epson 750HD is a three-panel LCD projector, its color light output matches its white light output. The result is a picture that appears natural and balanced, with colors that appear life-like and highlights that aren't overblown.
Auto iris. The 750HD's automatic iris gives it crossover potential. While the iris doesn't do much good when ambient light is present, it can give the picture an incrementally better black level once ambient light has been eliminated.
Quiet fan. For a 3,000 lumen projector, the Epson 750HD does not make a lot of noise. Its fan, while certainly noticeable during operation, is far from an overwhelming presence in the viewing room. Even the projector's small two-watt onboard speaker is more than enough to overpower the fan noise, and it doesn't need to be at maximum volume, either.
Light output. The Epson 750HD is specified to output 3,000 lumens and our test sample measured 2,912 in Dynamic mode. The Epson 750HD's Dynamic mode shares very little in common with the Dynamic mode of other projectors, which tend to be both very green and very low in contrast. The 750HD doesn't lose much of its contrast or color performance in Dynamic mode, making the projector's maximum brightness available for actual use. Still, Dynamic mode isn't the projector's most video-optimized mode by any stretch, so while it is a useful option it is far from the only one.
Living Room mode is next on the list of factory presets. It is also the next brightest mode, at 2130 lumens on our test sample. Living room mode has a subtle blue tint, perhaps in an effort to counteract predominantly yellow ambient light. Whether or not that was the intention, the blue tint is useful for exactly that purpose.
Movie mode, at 2003 lumens, produces the best contrast and color performance of any pre-calibrated mode. The fact that it does so at 2/3 of the projector's maximum output isn't too shabby, either. Movie mode is powerful enough to put up a strong, bright, TV-like image at 60" diagonal in ambient light. It can go much larger with lower ambient. Just keep in mind that a viewing distance of 1.5x the screen with or greater is needed to make sure pixel structure is rendered invisible.
Since all of these image modes output some serious brightness, many folks will find it helpful to switch into Eco lamp mode. Eco mode reduces brightness in any mode by 22%, which can bring brightness down to a more reasonable level when ambient light is less prevalent.
Contrast. The 750HD does not produce the same inky black levels found on Epson home theater projectors, because in ambient light black levels are compromised anyway. The projector does have an auto iris, which can deepen black levels when ambient light is not a concern. The iris works quickly, though its action can sometimes be seen if you watch closely and it makes a faint clicking noise during operation. It is also easy to disable if you decide you don't like it. All in all, black level on the 750HD is competitive with other home video projectors, but not exceptional in its own right.
Shadow detail is excellent, with good reproduction of deep shadows. Our test sample did not show any evidence of highlights blowing out or shadows being crushed at the default settings. If you are looking for a punchier image, you can boost gamma by a notch or two, which will give the picture a little bit more "oomph." However, this is in no way required.
Color. Color is perhaps the 750HD's best feature. The projector's three main factory presets -- Dynamic, Living Room, and Movie -- are all reasonably close to 6500K, and none is wildly off-base. Dynamic's aggressive brightness makes up for its slight green cast, which is not nearly as severe as that found on many other projectors. Living Room's slight cooler tint and ~7000K color temperature is useful when dealing with ambient light, which tends towards the warm end of the spectrum. And Movie mode is close enough to 6500K that we have no compunctions about using it as is. Saturation in all modes is quite good, and the image is well-balanced thanks to the 750HD's excellent color brightness. If you do want to make adjustments, though, you'll find that the 750HD's white balance controls offer only a single axis of adjustment and there is no color management system at all.
Sharpness and clarity. The clarity of detail when watching native-resolution content is excellent. The 750HD can display both 720p and WXGA material natively, and content in these formats is razor-sharp and crystal clear. However, most people buying the 750HD are likely going to feed it some form of high-definition video. When watching 1080p material, there's a noticeable loss of fine detail when compared to a native 1080p projector. This normally would not be an issue -- after all, the 750HD is intended to be a large format TV replacement and general entertainment machine, not a home theater powerhouse. However, its $799 price tag puts it within spitting distance of this year's entry-level 1080p projectors, so the comparison is appropriate.
Input lag. On balance, 3D projectors tend to be slower than their non-3D brethren when it comes to input lag, and the 750HD is no exception. We measured roughly 50ms, or three frames, of delay in the projector's main modes (Dynamic, Living Room, Movie). Game mode, as the name might imply, is slightly faster at 40ms (2.5 frames). While this is not terrible performance by any measure, it is slower than Epson's Home Cinema 8350, which measured 16ms in our tests.
Resolution. At $799, the 750HD with its 1280x800 resolution faces competition from entry-level 1080p projectors that outperform it in terms of sharpness and detail. If you're looking for a razor sharp, 1:1 accurate picture from a 1080 source, the 750HD may not be the strongest projector at its price point. However, other attributes like color accuracy and brightness are in the 750HD's favor when compared to the competition, and these factors must be considered as well.
Color adjustments. Though color in factory presets is excellent, the projector's color controls are rudimentary at best. Color temperature is limited to three settings: High, which is obviously too blue; Medium, which is just about right; and Low, which is obviously too red. These presets can be adjusted by using the Color Adjustment menu, though this too is limited. Where many projectors have separate controls for gain and bias, the 750HD presents one unified slider for each primary color, making it difficult to fine-tune the projector's color performance. Good thing, then, that it is already accurate out of the box.
Connectivity. The 750HD has a single HDMI port while many of its competitors have two. If the unit is being used in occasional coffee table configuration it is unlikely that multiple HDMI sources would need to be connected simultaneously, but if that were needed, it can't be done.
Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD vs. Acer H6510BD and BenQ W1070
The Epson 750HD's $799 price tag puts it in the same ballpark as this year's entry-level 1080p machines. We recently reviewed two entry-level 1080p 3D projectors: the Acer H6510BD ($799) and the BenQ W1070 ($999). Since you may be evaluating all three projectors to determine which one is right for you, here are some comparative notes. For a comparison between the H6510BD and W1070, see our Acer H6510BD review.
Resolution. The most obvious difference between these projectors is resolution. Both the Acer H6510BD and the BenQ W1070 are full HD 1920x1080 while the Epson 750HD is 1280x800. The actual difference between the projectors is this: the H6510BD and W1070 will render fine detail more cleanly than the 750HD, and they will likewise have less visible pixel structure. You will be able to watch the H6510BD and W1070 from a closer distance without seeing pixels. At 1.5 times the screen width, the pixels disappear on each of the three models, so if you're sitting that far back it won't matter to you.
Brightness. Both the 750HD and the H6510BD are spec'd at 3000 lumens, but the 750HD delivers more real light output by far. Here are the three projectors' actual measured light output in their comparable modes. "Bright" mode represents the projector's brightest mode, while "Living room" represents its less bright, slightly bluish mode. On the H6510BD and W1070, this latter mode is named Standard.
The 750HD is nearly twice as bright as its competitors in Movie mode, and even in Dynamic mode it holds a significant edge. More significant is the fact that the H6510BD does not have color light output anywhere near its white light output, so it will appear even less bright than the numbers would suggest. The W1070, on the other hand, has an RGBRGB color wheel and excellent color light output -- but as you can see, that comes at the cost of overall lumens.
Color. The 750HD has the best color out of the group both in terms of accuracy and saturation. The W1070 is next, since its RGBRGB wheel reproduces color quite well without artificially boosting white light output. The H6510BD comes in third, especially given the difficult time we had calibrating the projector. The end result was still not as accurate as either the W1070 or the 750HD.
3D. All three projectors are capable of displaying 3D content from Blu-ray, broadcast, cable, and satellite sources. The 750HD has the brightest 3D picture, but it is also the lowest in resolution. In terms of subjective quality, the W1070 and 750HD both have excellent, artifact-free 3D performance while the H6510BD has some mild flicker. Only the 750HD includes a pair of glasses in the purchase price.
Input lag. At its fastest, the 750HD measured 40ms of delay. In comparison, the W1070 measured 24ms and the H6510BD measured 18ms. Don't worry: if you don't know what this means, it probably won't affect you. If you're a gamer and lag time is important to you, the difference is probably significant enough to influence your decision.
Rainbows. The 750HD does not produce rainbow artifacts due to its three-chip LCD light engine. The W1070 produces fewer rainbows than the H6510BD thanks to its 4x-speed RGBRGB color wheel.
Lensing. The W1070's 1.3:1 lens and vertical lens shift makes it an easy winner in this category, with the H6510BD coming up behind it (1.3:1 lens, no shift). The 750HD has a 1.2:1 lens and no shift.
Lamp life. All three projectors have lamp lives in excess of 3,500 hours at full power. Since there is no way to tell whether a lamp will fail prematurely until it does, we will simply say that all three projectors promise long life.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 750HD is an interesting proposition. While some users will be quick to write it off as a low-resolution alternative to the entry-level 1080p projectors in the marketplace, it distinguishes itself in several ways. It offers the best color available at its price point, it has full 3D capability, and it has more light output than either of its main competitors. This makes it a force to be reckoned with in the living room. While its lower resolution makes it a less attractive choice for large screen sizes viewed from a close distance, a 60" or 70" screen can be a very cost effective alternative to a large flat panel TV, with its 3000 lumens creating a brilliant and compelling image. When viewed from normal TV viewing distances the pixelation becomes a non-issue. At $799, it is hard to pass up the Epson 750HD if you are looking for a projector for living room, family room, or other ambient light situations.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson Home Cinema 750HD projector page.