We’ve reviewed a number of sub-$1,000 projectors here but they’re all had one thing in common: they are DLP-based. For many people, this is just fine, but all DLP projectors have one drawback in rainbows. If you don’t see rainbows, then this isn’t a problem for you and you may not even know what they are. For those that do see them, they can cause a DLP projector to be almost unusable.
The Epson 2040 is a $800 projector that uses 1080p LCD panels instead of a DLP light engine. It is very bright, with good color and all the controls needed to calibrate it accurately. It even includes features like motion interpolation that videophiles will scoff at but can really help for watching sports on a projector. If you don’t have a problem with rainbows, a DLP like the BenQ HT3050 or HT2050 is a better bet, but the Epson 2040 is a very good alternative that produces a nice, bright image.
Bright and Compact
|Inputs:||2x HDMI, 1x RCA, 1x VGA, 1x WiFi|
|Projector Size:||11.69″ x 9.65″ x 4.49″|
|Projector Weight:||6.9 lbs.|
|Review Date:||January 13, 2016|
|Price:||[amazon_link asins=’B014D7XHDC’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’refehomethea-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’050bf9bc-db56-11e6-a69f-192e1565be58′]|
The compact size makes it easy to place the 2040 in the room which is important because of a feature it lacks: lens shift. While the competing BenQ projectors don’t offer much lens shift, the little bit that they do offer can make the difference between having it lined up perfectly or having to make image sacrifices. In the case that you don’t line up perfectly the Epson 2040 includes keystone correction in the menu system. In use this keystone correction can sometimes be invisible, but with lines and patterns can lead to visible shimmering. I still suggest you try to avoid using it if at all possible.
Another feature that the Epson includes that most projectors in this price range do not is motion interpolation. I will always hate using this with films, but on TV it can make motion much smoother. Watching football on the Epson it benefitted from the interpolation but I left it disabled for everything else. There is also a built-in speaker if you want to use the 2040 on the go. It provides passable sound, and unlike the one on the BenQ HT3050 it doesn’t quickly distort at high volume.
I tested the Epson 2040 using the recent release Sicario. Set in the deserts of Arizona and Mexico, it has a very bland color palette for much of the time. A lot of it is set during the day, but there are some very dark nighttime scenes that are a challenge for any projector. During the daytime scenes the Epson performs well, with decent quality motion and nice, accurate color. The image is very bright on my 100” 1.0 gain screen and you can’t use an iris to reduce it below the Eco setting. The downside is that the black levels on the Epson leave a bit to be desired. Contrast ratios come in close to 700:1 while the BenQ HT3050 measures close to 1400:1. During dark scenes this difference is apparent with lighter blacks and a slight flatter look. The Epson looks good for the price, but the darker blacks on the BenQ models make them stand out more.
Football looks much better on the Epson. With the lamp set to normal so I can have some light in the room, the bright image looks great. Motion interpolation makes everything a bit more fluid and the lighter black levels aren’t an issue as much. DLP projectors can still offer some benefits in motion, as they don’t blur as an LCD can, but the fast motion of football also makes rainbows more apparent. The line markings are especially problematic and the edges cause transitions during panning shots that really reveal the issue.
The opening scene of the final Harry Potter will remain my black level test for a long time, and the Epson can’t hang with the BenQ models here. Especially noticeable is the difference in ANSI contrast ratios. The windows of Hogwarts are much brighter on the BenQ relative to the Epson, even when you account for the higher black levels. The Epson just can’t create the bright highlights there that a DLP can while still keeping black levels under control.
Animated films wind up doing better on the Epson than Harry Potter or Sicario. The bright, vivid colors of Despicable Me look great. The extra brightness that the Epson provides makes for a really immersive image. The Epson also stands apart on 3D when compared to the BenQ models. The DLPs can offer less ghosting but they have a much dimmer image in comparison. I am not a 3D fan, but I’d much prefer to watch it on the Epson than on the BenQ.
When directly compared to the BenQ models, those are noticeably sharper. The Epson image looks very good, and some might say a bit more natural, but an LCD will never have the same sharpness as a single chip DLP. If you don’t compare them side-by-side you may never notice, but the BenQ has a slight edge here as well. Fine textures on fabric and skin during Samsara look that much more detailed on the BenQ
The Epson has all the calibration controls available to you, but they don’t work as well as they do on more expensive Epson models. Using the Superwhite mode kills the gamma curve, and setting contrast above 50 kills the gamma as well. With no gamma presets, you really need to leave the contrast at 50 for decent performance. The only controls that really work well are the cuts and gains in the CMS and the brightness control. Aside from this you should just choose the Cinema preset and leave it there.
Full details on the calibration, with charts and analysis, can be found by following this link.
The Epson 2040 is a decent little projector, but some things on it could be improved. I’d like to see lens shift to make placement easier. The zoom range could also be larger than the 1.2x that it includes. The remote also really needs to be backlit, as it is virtually impossible to use in the darkness. Finally I wish it was quieter in Normal lamp mode as it is pretty noisy. Eco mode is fairly quiet and probably bright enough for most people.
For people that aren’t affected by rainbows, the BenQ HT3050 and HT2050 offer better performance for the money. The contrast ratios are better, the image has more pop, and the calibration controls perform better. Aside from the motion interpolation for football and the brighter 3D, there isn’t much reason to pick the Epson 2040 over the BenQ for those people.
However if you do see rainbows, then the Epson 2040 and 2045 will provide a good image for the price. You’ll have to step up to the Epson 3500 or another LCD model that costs almost twice as much to get contrast ratios that are BenQ quality. Stepping down will lead to an even worse image and lower resolution with less install flexibility. If you need an LCD, I’d try to save up to get the 3500 if I could, but the 2040 offers a better solution than other models on the market.
|Product:||Epson 2040 LCD Projector|
|Pros:||Bright Image, long bulb life, good motion with sports|
|Cons:||Lower contrast ratios than competing DLP models, less accurate colors, no lens shift, limited zoom range|
|Summary:||If you suffer issues with DLP rainbows, the Epson 2040 is your best LCD bet in the $800 price range. However if you don’t have issues with them a DLP from BenQ will offer better performance for the same price.|