Epson PowerLite® Home Cinema 3010
Really good in 2D, spectacular in 3D
Steve Kindig has been an electronics enthusiast for over 30 years. He has written extensively about home and car A/V gear for Crutchfield since 1985. Steve is also a volunteer DJ at community radio station WTJU, where he is a regular host of the American folk show "Atlantic Weekly," as well as the world music program "Radio Tropicale."
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Recently I spent a week with the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 projector and came away very impressed. Epson sells more projectors than anyone else, and a big reason is the value they deliver.
The 3010 is their first 3D projector, but they’ve clearly done their homework. It produces a bright, detailed picture for both 2D and 3D sources, and the projector's features and controls are well thought out.
A few quick setup details
I have a Sony VPL-HW15 projector mounted to the ceiling of my basement home theater. Removing it and replacing it with the Epson seemed impractical for the short review period, so I placed the 3010 on a small table towards the back of the room. The tabletop placement really simplified setup, and I ended up with a throw distance of about 14 feet to the screen on my front wall.
I connected a 6-meter HDMI cable between the 3010 and my Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player. I made a few quick picture setting adjustments, and settled in to watch some Blu-rays, starting with several episodes of season 1 of the FX series Justified.
A bright, detailed picture that's perfect for family rooms
My first impression was that the picture was sharp, detailed, and bright — it really popped. The 3010 packs plenty of light power with a maximum output of 2200 lumens — more than twice as bright as my Sony projector. That ensures that you'll still see a pleasingly bright picture in family rooms with some ambient light, as well as in home theaters with really large screens of 120" or bigger. (The larger your screen is, the more light your projector must produce to maintain the same picture brightness.)
My setup is a little different than most people's: A windowless room that gets pitch black when all the lights are off, and a screen that is on the small side at 84". I didn't need all of the Epson's impressive light power, so I went into the menu — which is very easy to navigate — and switched the picture mode to “Cinema”, which is the lowest-light setting.
Then I set the lamp to “Eco“ mode, which dials back the brightness by about 30%. The picture was looking really good now, but still noticeably brighter than I’m used to. Blacks appeared to be more of a charcoal gray, but that’s fairly common in very dark theaters.
3D looks amazing with this projector
The 3010 is the first 3D projector we've carried, and it comes with two pairs of active 3D glasses in the box. To test its 3D capabilities, I borrowed 3D Blu-ray versions of Avatar and Tangled from co-workers. And here’s where this review turns into an enthusiastic rave.
Watching Avatar in 3D with the 3010 was the most immersive movie experience I’ve ever had, whether at home or in a theater. I was spellbound. And I’ve seen this movie a lot. Twice in the theater — in 3D, of course — and twice with my regular setup (Blu-ray, 2D). I wasn’t actually planning to watch the entire film, but I couldn’t turn it off.
It was as if the screen was a huge picture window offering views with limitless depth. In almost every scene I was picking up on details I’d never noticed before. And where the projector was a little bright for 2D viewing in my setup, the 3D glasses' dimming effect made the picture look just about perfect.
The following night I cued up Disney’s animated Tangled, which I hadn’t seen before. Again, I didn’t intend to watch the entire movie — but I did, and enjoyed it thoroughly.
Tangled and Avatar are two great examples of 3D done right, with an emphasis on creating a sense of depth rather than making objects appear to leap out at the viewer.
By the way, the 3010 doesn’t include any type of 2D-to-3D conversion feature, so your 3D options are Blu-ray titles, plus any 3D channels you subscribe to from your satellite or cable TV provider.
I’ve generally found passive glasses to provide a more comfortable 3D viewing experience than active glasses, but Epson’s active glasses performed beautifully. And once I turned them on, they operated in auto on/off mode, so that when I left the room to grab a drink, the 3D flicker switched off before I was even halfway up the stairs. And they switched on again as soon as I walked back into the room.
The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010 produces a stunning 3D viewing experience that is more believable and engaging than anything I’ve seen on a flat-panel 3D TV. Its high light output will provide a bright 2D or 3D picture even on very large screens. If you’re considering a projector, and like the way 3D movies look in the theater, I’d encourage you to take a close look at the 3010. It has changed the way I think about 3D.
And if you've wanted the visual thrills of a projector but lack a practical way to connect a cable from your video source, take a look at the revolutionary Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 3010e, which adds the flexibility of wireless HDMI.