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I'm a bit weird, not much of a surprise I guess. One of my big vices is 8mm and 16mm movies with a big old fashioned movie projector. A few years ago a combination of a very expensive stereo projector and my other half's backside bought my happy viewing to an end. Forced to sell my now broken projector (replacing the damage was expensive to say the least) my dreams of home projection movies came to an end.
Last year I got close to the feel of projected movies with a prize of a massive TV over 60 inches of screen to be precise, the novelty was great but it meant moving the room around was a practical impossibility. But then at work as I started doing training on courses I came into contact with the Epson X52 (a posher version of the product I'm reviewing here). My little mind began thinking overtime and it was not long before I had purchased the Epson EMP S5 projector from play.com for £250.
So my projector arrived and I soon realised that it was not the same one I use at work, but that was fine I still wanted it, I NEEDED it in fact. Setting up the projector is a doddle, more so than setting up a TV, you simply position the projector where you want it and plug the wires in. You can have sound through the projector, but having a cinema sound DVD player I never felt there was much reason to do this, onboard sound being only mono. You can connect a DVD player via AVI sockets or S Video socket; however there is no HDMI or Scart option.
I should at this point out I don't have this set up in my living room, I set this up in a room I regard as my office, the room is probably about 15 feet square, so as you can image a 60+ inch TV was an issue in a room this big. At the same time you might expect not to get an image that much bigger than 60 odd inches, well I certainly never, but it was the feel I wanted to replicate more than anything else. I was so incredibly wrong, the image that becomes beamed from the projector is roughly 12 feet wide, by about 6 feet high, although I can make this smaller if I so require. I project the image straight onto the wall, which is just plain magnolia, so no need to buy a projector screen. While this works very well, it does highlight some slight flaws in my walls which at times annoy, a little knock here and there that become obvious on bright scenes in the movie.
The image that I receive is indeed a thing of beauty, combined with cinema sound this is like the ultimate cinema experience in your own home. Beautiful looking movies recorded on high grade film stock look amazing, films like Casino Royale just blow you away (even though the film might not), my recent viewings of Into The Wild & The Mist were just breathtaking, I really felt like I was at the movies, this was far better than my 8mm and 16mm experiences, film quality was far improved for a start. And with support for over 16 million colours there is no limited experience here.
One criticism I do have is that often the images seem too green, and while you can adjust the colour settings the presets seem the best option, take away the green and it's too red, take away the red it's too blue. The green issue seems to be on older movies, or films that are darker in image quality. Put into context though this is not a big deal, it's the scale that matters, and considering the picture is coming from a straight AVI port this is fairly impressive, the slight flaws seem so little compared to the bonuses. As a projected image you really feel part of the action, although looking at those actors with great big heads is quite disturbing at first. In the summer I suspect blackout curtains will be a must because at present during the day the pictures is often weak, at night though it's amazing.
The wonder of the projector does not stop there of course, because you can also plug it into a video games console or a computer. No special equipment required your console/PC and the projector come with all the leads you'll need. If using with a PC connect via the USB port and you can use the remote control provided with the projector to operate the required PC media, whether it be a movie or a powerpoint presentation. I should also add that through a digital receiver you can obviously watch TV to through the projector.
You can adjust the image vertically and horizontally via the controls on the projector, this allows you to make the image bigger or smaller (bigger within reason because there is a limit due to the distance from projector to wall). There are also a variety of settings for colour and sound: Sports, Theatre, Games (for gameplay), Boardroom (for PC use), plus a couple of others that escape me and a personal setting option. You can adjust colours, Sound, brightness, and contrast; but bear in mind adjusting the last two (making them brighter) will weaken the life of your bulb.
It all sounds lovely doesn't it, but everything comes with a cost, and while setting up a projector can be cheap, replacing the bulbs is not, though in fairness the bulbs price reduces yearly. When I first looked at projectors a few years ago the projectors were £500 upwards with the bulbs costing as much as £250 to replace. Now for this particular projector the bulbs cost about £120 at the time of writing, so this is a bit more reasonable, and as projectors become more popular the prices continue to drop. One thing you can't help though is due to safety issues the bulb is apparently quite a task to replace, though if you take the projector to your nearest Maplin, they will fix it in for you for an extra £10 (they sell the bulbs you see). Bulbs last between 4000-5000 hours so you are looking at approximately 2500 movies (that should last me 12 months at least.... hopefully).
On the plus side again projectors are more environmentally friendly, they disperse less emissions than a standard TV and around the same as an LCD TV, the good thing with these though is that there is no temptation to leave them in standby like a TV, it just makes no sense as you need to stand up to switch it off. On top of that I have had to shut down my heating in the room I use the projector in as it dispenses a temperature of up to 35 degrees through the side vents and boy you really feel it. With the weather in minus degrees outside I had to open the window to cool down, it could prove interesting in the summer though I guess.
A projector is not for everyone, however if you really are the sort of person that loves movies I assure you that once you take the plunge there is no going back. Yes the bulbs are costly but do you really think you watch more than 4000 hours of movies a year (personally I don't watch TV through it) I'm pretty sure that the cost difference between a projector and a TV 32 inches upwards is minimal in comparison and of course when a TV breaks it costs more to replace than a bulb.
Another big plus, is that when not on a projector does not dominate a room like a TV, which is a big downfall with big TV's, where you almost feel you live round your TV. You get to love the stuff you want to watch, imagine those big family movies for example. But at the same time you get to return a living room to a family room that is not taken over by Television.