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What is a home entertainment projector? While there is no universal standard, these projectors are typically bright enough to overcome ambient light, have better color than business presentation projectors, usually have speakers onboard, and may or may not be portable. They are brighter than home theater projectors and have lower contrast, since they are designed for use in ambient light. They differ from presentation projectors in that they are designed for use with film, video, photos, and games. They are meant to be used in living rooms, family rooms, and other places where a traditional home theater projector wouldn't fit.
Epson has been making home entertainment projectors as long as anyone. In fact, they made home entertainment projectors before people really knew what to do with them. Their new Home Cinema 710 HD is a great living room projector, combining high brightness and a solid feature set to create a projector that is more versatile and more casual than Epson's home theater offerings.
With 2800 lumens of brightness in a slim, portable package, the 710 HD will appeal to those looking for a living room entertainment solution that bridges the gap between home theater projector and flatscreen television. The 710 HD is perfect for photos, video games, casual movie viewing, and watching sports. At only $649 from authorized resellers, it is also a bargain.
The Viewing Experience
The projector's full name is the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 710 HD, but that is a little misleading. The 710 HD is not a Home Cinema projector. It is instead built for home entertainment -- the kind of thing you'd do in a living room, or at a friend's house on a weekend evening, or in a game room. If you purchase a 710 HD and try to use it for home theater, you're going to come away disappointed.
We set up the 710 HD and turned it on. The first impression one gets of this projector is its brightness, which at 2800 lumens is nothing to sneeze at. Despite some pretty significant room lighting, we had no problem using the 710 HD at 80" diagonal without it looking washed-out or pale. Its default mode, Dynamic, pushes brightness hard, which keeps ambient light at bay but loses punch when it comes to color saturation. If you have less ambient light, a switch to Theater mode will reduce light output by about 35% but commensurately increase color saturation, so it is our preferred mode for film and video when ambient light allows.
The picture itself is sharp and clear, despite the projector's lower 1280x800 native resolution. Film and video is displayed at 1280x720, assuming a 16:9 aspect ratio, so while it's not full 1080p you still get a high-definition picture. Color accuracy is better in Theater mode than in Dynamic, but even Theater mode shows a bit of a green cast. It is easy to knock this down with a touch of adjustment, which Epson makes easy by including color adjustment controls. Detail is clearly reproduced and sharpness is excellent, and there is no trace of artificial edge enhancement at the default settings.
Portable. With its light weight, small size, and included carry bag, the 710 HD is easy to transport anywhere you'd like to go. The 710 HD is no larger than a good-sized hardback book, at 11.6" long by 9" wide by 3" tall. It weighs only five pounds. Included speakers, while not very powerful, provide an audio option without any additional wiring. So, while you'll still need to plug in to a signal source once you arrive, it is easy to bring the 710 HD to a friend's house or a client's office should the need arise.
Horizontal keystone. Generally, keystone correction is something people try to avoid, especially if they're watching a movie or television show. However, that advice mostly applies to home theater, and the 710 HD isn't for home theater. If the projector is set up such that it is not parallel to the screen on the horizontal axis, Epson has included a sliding lever that adjusts horizontal keystone, just above the lens zoom and focus controls. It is quite effective and makes projector setup into a thirty-second affair.
Easy takedown. Many of Epson's presentation projectors have an instant-off function, and this feature has been carried over to the 710 HD. At the end of the night, when it's time to pack up and go home, you press the Power button and the projector is safe to unplug and ready to pack up in three seconds flat.
Good connectivity. Despite the 710 HD's small size, the projector has an HDMI digital input, a VGA port (which will also take component video using an included adapter), two USB ports, S-video, and composite video. The USB ports can be used to connect a PC for Epson's USB projection feature (another carry-over from business projectors) or a USB flash drive for direct projection of images. This makes it a great projector for show-and-tell type presentations, such as showing off your vacation photos.
Bright picture. Since the 710 HD is a projector for the living room, it's no surprise that it is plenty bright. The 710 HD is rated at 2800 lumens, and as you'll see on the next page our test sample actually measured slightly above that benchmark. 2800 lumens is enough power to light up an 80" diagonal screen in moderate ambient light, making it bigger than your television by a good bit. And since its presets pay attention to color balance and contrast, you'll generally get a more accurate picture than if you used a similarly-priced presentation projector.
Onboard sound. The 710 HD includes two-watt stereo speakers built in. While two watts is not enough power to communicate the depth of a movie soundtrack, it's perfect for casual use, like impromptu video games set up for the kids while the adults are doing something else. More important is the fact that the projector has speakers at all, which makes it a real portable entertainment solution instead of just a rebranded business projector.
Light output. Epson tends to be conservative with its lumen ratings, and its projectors regularly measure brighter than their maximum ratings. The 710 HD is no exception. While its spec sheet lists a maximum light output of 2800 lumens, our test sample measured 2905 lumens in its brightest mode (Dynamic) with the lamp at full power.
Not everyone who buys the 710 HD is going to need 2900 lumens, which is where Eco mode comes in. In Eco lamp mode, the projector drops light output by 22% while estimated lamp life increased from 4,000 to 5,000 hours. Fan noise is reduced from its usual steady rush; in full power, the fan is low-pitched but audible, while in Eco mode fan noise is decreased significantly, making it a better choice in small rooms. The projector will also throw less heat in Eco mode, which is another consideration.
If you have some control over ambient light, Theater mode improves color saturation, color accuracy, and contrast compared to Dynamic mode. Theater mode measured 1823 lumens with the lamp at full power and 1435 lumens in Eco mode. This allows you to strike a balance between brightness and color in rooms that do not require the full light-cannon power of Dynamic mode.
Contrast. Whenever there is ambient light in a viewing room, it wreaks havoc on contrast because it compromises black levels. As such, projectors like the 710 HD that are designed for use in ambient light tend to be brighter than home theater projectors and have less impressive black levels. The 710 HD bridges the gap by including an auto iris, which deepens black levels when the content on screen warrants it, but lack levels overall more closely resemble a business projector than a home theater projector.
In a living room, the 710 HD looks bright and vibrant, and even a cursory effort to block ambient light gives the picture some three-dimensionality and pop. Black level is aided by the auto iris, but black never gets down into that inky deep range characteristic of home theater projectors. This is seldom a problem, especially in ambient light, but it is something to be aware of.
Color. Overall, the 710 HD has a very respectable default calibration. At its stock settings, Theater mode on the 710 HD produces reasonably good color, albeit with a slight green tint. By using the included color controls, it is easy to get color that is both vibrant and accurate -- though most folks will be content to leave the controls where they are and just enjoy the projector.
Detail and sharpness. Since the 710 HD is essentially a 720p projector, it doesn't have the extreme detail found on higher-resolution 1080p machines. However, 720p is still HD, and the 710 HD does a fine job of reproducing fine detail from Blu-ray movies and HD broadcast material. As far as sharpness is concerned, the 710 HD nails default sharpness - it shows no trace of artificial edge enhancement, but edges appear crisp and well-defined.
Defocusing. If you start up the 710 HD and focus it immediately, you may notice after a few minutes have gone by that the projector is no longer in perfect focus. This is called defocusing, and it occurs when a projector's components shift as the unit gets warm. Not all projectors experience this phenomenon, but the 710 HD does. Luckily, there is an easy fix: if you allow the projector to warm up for 5-10 minutes and then adjust focus, it will return to that focal point from there on out. Obviously this is less helpful if you plan to travel with the projector, but at home it is an easy solution.
Black level. At night, or at times when ambient light is less prevalent, the 710 HD's black level starts to look weak. Despite the projector's auto iris, which boosts on/off contrast, black level is never fully sufficient to get the most out of film, especially those films with a lot of shadowy scenes. If you do plan to watch a lot of movies on the 710 HD, it is something to consider. Keep in mind that this is not so much a failing of the projector as it is a failure of the projector to do something it was never designed to do. After all, you wouldn't criticize a French chef for making lousy Italian food. If you plan to watch movies in the dark, you need a home theater projector, not a home entertainment projector.
No SD card reader. The first-generation Home Cinema 700 had an SD card reader, while subsequent generations of Epson home entertainment projectors have not. This was a novel and unique feature that we'd love to see return. Until then, we'll just continue to be mildly disappointed.
Epson started making home entertainment projectors before home entertainment projectors were a thing. When the original Epson Home Cinema 700 came out, quite a few people didn't know what it was for. These days, the home entertainment segment of the market is really starting to come into its own, with many manufacturers contributing products that fit the living room model of use. While the specifics differ, it's becoming clear that home entertainment projectors are here to stay.
It's also becoming clear that Epson still knows what it is doing when it comes to projectors for the living room. The 710 HD, at $649, is an outstanding value. A bright picture stands up well to ambient light, and accurate default color keeps the image looking natural and well-saturated. Useful for movies, sports, games, and photos, the 710 HD is as versatile as it is powerful. Set in your living room, it is likely to become the center of attention.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 710HD projector page.