If the baby isn’t here yet, you are probably still telling yourself that life will go on mostly the same. Of course, by now I’m sure your friends have said to kiss your nights out goodbye. You may be in denial now, but it’s not until you have a baby that you realize you don’t want to go out anymore either.
The short-term solution? Feathering your nest and enjoying time at home. One way to do that is to catch up on the TV and movies you missed while having a social life. And that might mean an upgrade to the old TV setup, especially since home cinema has gone through some big updates since you last looked.
When people used to talk about creating a home cinema, it usually meant creating a bunker in a super-dark room where you go to imitate an uptown theater. In our recent test of the latest Epson Cinema series, we can say that things have really changed.
Home theater in a sunlit room
The new Epson Home Cinema series – we tested the 3700 – has a super bright bulb. I certainly don’t know what “3000 lumens” means except that it sounds like a lot. In practical terms, it means that means you can watch movies, sports and regular TV in a daylight-bright room and feel like you’re watching a plasma TV. And because it’s a projection TV, you can blow up that image to a 300″ diagonal image. That’s 25 feet!
Note that picture quality is full 1080p HD, but not Ultra 4K HD. We don’t really like Ultra – it makes everything look fake, but you might be disappointed if you were expecting this level of quality. We love watching movies and especially sports on a huge screen. It has spoiled us for small screens.
The Epson 3700 is also 3D-friendly. It can both read and simulate a 3D effect. Glasses are not included though and about $70 for 2. The 3D effect can be seen within 32 feet of the screen.
The only thing about that is trying to figure out how you can optimize where you put a projector and where to put a screen. Not enough room for a huge screen and you’ll have to put the projector in the middle of the room. Too far away and you won’t be able to dial down the size of the image to fit into a screen.
Epson makes some of that easy for you. For one, they have an image size and distance calculator. This will help you determine the smallest size screen you could use given the distance the projector will be from the screen. You may not want a 25 foot image, but it’s nice knowing you could.
This mix of screen size and projector placement will probably be your biggest consideration. After that, and figuring out where to put the projector, everything else was easy. We chose the Vivo 80″ diagonal screen (70″ wide), which at $59.99 was a perfect fit. I know some people spend $1000s on these screens but this was fine for us. It’s non-motorized but we usually watch at least 30 minutes of TV per day so putting it up and down daily would be silly. Amazon has lots of other motorized options for not a lot more.
Out of the box, set up is super simple. You can follow the included “Quick Setup” instructions, or, after a quick HDMI connection, just turn on, choose HDMI 1 or HDMI 2 and you’re on your way. The lens has a focus ring that helps you dial in the right exposure; another part of the ring adjusts the image size. Buttons and dials on the top of the projector correct for up/down and right/left distortion so that the projector doesn’t have to sit exactly square in front of the screen.
The controls are limited and very simple, limiting interaction with some of the on-screen menus you may need for finer adjustments. You’ve got on on/off, volume, up/down screen angle adjustment, and menu buttons.
Connections on the rear are also simple, but limited. For simplicity, there are only two HDMI inputs, and no component inputs. This may be a problem if you have any older components. For example, our Slingbox 2 is suddenly not usable in this environment. Epson didn’t have a lot real reasons why they limited the number of inputs. I imagine that the expectation is that most people buying a product at this range will have an A/V receiver of some sort. That may be true but it likely make other new buyers pause. I never have had reason to buy an A/V receiver, but I do have an Apple TV, a Comcast box, a Wii U, and a DVD player. With the Epson Home Cinema 3700, I have to unplug an HDMI to use the Wii U or the seldom used DVD player. Even three ports would have been nice.
The HDMI 2 input is made to also take an MHL cable for connecting mobile devices. Of course, when anyone says just “mobile devices” without specifying iOS and Android, you know this will be Android only. You can use a special HDMI to Lightning apaptor if you want to connect your phone.
Another inconvenience, though completely not Epson’s fault, is that most home entertainment is organized around a cable or satellite box placed near the TV in the front of the room. If the projector is in the back, you’re going to have to go out and buy 15-20 feet of HDMI cords to make that work. Luckily, prices are lower on these than ever. We bought 25 foot Blue Rigger cable for only $11.99.
The Epson projector has an audio input (analog with a 3.5 mm stereo mini cable), but unfortunately, our Sonos playbar is again at the front of the room and they aren’t wired together at least until I buy a 20 foot male-to-male sound cord. This isn’t the end of the world since I’m running the sound out of my Comcast box near the TV. One funny note, however is that because the sound is not running through the Epson, we are very aware that “turning off the TV” is not necessarily turning off the sound. It’s very eerie to go into our family room in the middle of the night and hear voices in a completely dark room because someone didn’t turn down the volume on the Comcast box.
When we run our Apple TV, we use the Epson’s very good speakers. They don’t create a surround sound impression but they are very clear and work well for everyday use.
The remote has at least a half dozen button like “aspect” and “frame int” and “pattern” you will likely never use. One confusing thing is that the “ON” button turns on but a second button marked “standby” turns the light off. I can only assume because the projector fan may have to run a bit even when the bulb is off.
One other thing new projector users should know is that projectors do use a fairly loud fan to keep the bulb cool. Since we have a bit of an ad hoc setup, with the projector sitting on a small table a bit lower than waist high, the fan is running about two feet from my head. Luckily, it blows to the opposite side, but when I turn the projector on, it is striking. After a few seconds though, I don’t hear it at all.
My family was astounded at the clarity and brightness of the image, especially given the size. While mom scoffed at why we “needed” such a big screen, she immediately fell in love. My son hogs it for video games and my daughter just says, “wow.”
At $1349, the Epson 3700 Home Cinema is similar in price to a 65″ plasma TV but far more versatile. While we were given this unit by Epson for testing, I would buy it immediately – it’s just that amazing.
- Very simple set-up, but bring your own HDMI cables
- Impossibly bright and clear even with all the lights on
- Full HD 1080p and optional 3D
- Possible to project onto an area 25 feet in diameter.
- Only 2 HDMI ports and no component video.
- 3D glasses not included
- No digital audio
- Not Ultra HD/4K
- No “smart” TV
Home Cinema 3700 Key Specs
· High Color Brightness and White Brightness – Up to 3,000 lumens of color brightness and 3,000 lumens of white brightness1 for vibrant entertainment, even in well-lit environments
· Built-in Color Modes – Multiple color modes ensure the best possible image quality and color
· Full HD 1080p, Widescreen 2D/3D performance – Movies, games and more, up to 300 inches
· Deep Black Levels: Up to 1200,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio
· Frame Interpolation Technology – Motion appears smoother, sharper and more realistic
· Captivating Sound – The Home Cinema 3700 adds two built-in 10W stereo speakers deliver lifelike sound for plug-and-play entertainment out of the box, with no need for additional speakers
· ISF® Calibration Tools4 – Designed for CEDIA and custom installers, the Home Cinema 3900 meets ISF Certification standards, including specific ISF picture memory modes
· Color Brightness Specification – Brilliant Image quality requires high color brightness; Epson projectors utilize 3LCD, 3-chip technology and offer up to 3x higher color brightness than leading competitive projectors5, with no possibility of color break-up or “rainbow effect”