Pair the Epson 3700 with a budget screen (which can be had for under $250 for 120") and you are getting a better price-per-inch than just about any flat screen out there.
When I started the AV Rant podcast nearly 10 years ago, a projector was a luxury for all but the most well-off home theater enthusiasts. I remember researching how to convert a laptop and an overhead projector (remember the type that your teachers would use to put images of transparencies on the wall for you to take notes from?) into a DIY home theater projector. That seems ludicrous now with the prices of today’s projectors. According to their website, the Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector retails for just $1499. That’s an insane price. Not that long ago, you’d pay double that for a 55″ plasma.
I have a small home theater about 12′ x 19′. Rather than hanging a projector mount, I installed a shelf off a soffit at the back of my room. This allows me to easily switch in and out projectors without having to remount them. I have a 92″ fixed-frame screen that is a little lower than the height of the lens because of a ceiling fan. Plans exist to remove the fan and raise the screen, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I use a full compliment of 7.2 speakers with two additional height speakers. My receiver isn’t Atmos-enabled yet but the height channels are making a difference with DTX Neo:X.
Epson Home Cinema 3700 1080p Projector Specifications
Here are some of the relevant specifications. The rest can be found on Epson’s website.
Projection System: Epson 3LCD, 3-chip technology
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920 x 1080)
Interfaces: HDMI (2), D-sub 15 pin, USB Type A, Mini USB (service only)
Lens Shift: 60% max (vertical), 24% max (horizontal)
Color Brightness (Color Light Output): 3000 lumens
White Brightness (White Light Output): 3000 lumens
Zoom Ratio: 1.0 – 1.6 manual
Dimensions (w/feet): 16.1 x 12.0 x 6.4 in. (W x D x H)
Throw Ratio: 1.32 (wide) – 2.15 (tele)
Weight: 15.2 lbs
Epson Home Cinema 3700 Projector Setup
I have a slightly unusual setup with a shelf mounted very high for my projector. I run into three scenarios when I review projectors. First, the projector has enough lens shift to accommodate my setup. Second, the projector doesn’t have enough lens shift when it is on the shelf but will if I flip it upside-down. Third, the projector just doesn’t have enough lens shift, and I have to angle the projector down in order to hit my screen. The Epson Home Cinema 3700 fell squarely into the third category.
It has plenty of lens shift for most applications (60% vertical, 24″ horizontal), but it was’t enough to get the image to center on my screen. It was about 6-inches too high no matter if I had the projector right-side-up or upside-down. At this price point, I’m not surprised. I angled the Epson 3700 down a bit and left it alone. While the 3700 has keystone correction, the slight angle wasn’t enough to warrant using it in my opinion.
I have both HDMI and component video cable runs to my projector shelf. The Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector was a breeze to set up. I connected the HDMI cable, manually adjusted the zoom and lens shift, and quickly dived into the menus. I’ve used a number of Epson projectors before, so I’m familiar with the menu system. What wasn’t familiar was the brightness. The 3700 has a stated output of 3000 lumens. In default mode, this projector puts out a really bright picture! This is a great thing if you have anything other than total light control of your room. In an ambient light situation, the additional brightness of the Espon 3700 is sure to be a great boon.
ECO Mode and Initial Settings
As I have complete light control in my theater, I quickly switched the Epson 3700 to Cinema mode with the bulb in the ECO configuration. While I don’t always use ECO with all projectors, with the 3700, it helped tame down some of the light output. ECO mode also has the added benefit of ensuring you get the maximum life out of your bulb. I switched the Auto Iris off as well and made sure to reduce or disable any edge enhancement, frame interpolation, or sharpness controls. While these things have their places, when watching HD content, I find them unnecessary. If you take these simple steps, you will be most of the way to a well calibrated image. You can fine-tune it by dialing in your brightness and contrast levels, but I left them at their default for this review.
I would highly recommend not being in the room when you first turn on the Epson Home Cinema 3700. The thing starts like it is in a race and the sound is disconcertingly loud. I was honestly worried the first time I turned on the projector that something may be wrong with it. Rest assured, if you buy this projector, that sound only exists during its warmup phase, not when watching movies.
The Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector put out a crisp and clean image with very little evidence of motion blur or artifacting. The additional lumens provided allowed better contrast in ambient lighting conditions but did tend to reduce the black detail in low light. As I watch nearly everything at night in a blacked out room, I didn’t find the black detail too washed out. Enough contrast exists, revealing the image, but previous experience with other models indicated the obscuring of some detail.
Entering the Third Dimension
Anyone who listens to the AV Rant podcast will know that I’m not a fan of 3D. Yes, I went and saw that flaming bag of you-know-what Avatar at the theaters in 3D. I went because it was supposed to be the best. Apparently you can’t have an opinion about 3D unless you’ve done that because the Internet will shout you down. No, I didn’t like it, nor did I think it added anything to the movie. According to the Internet, the Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector doesn’t come with any 3D glasses, but my review unit came with one pair. I wish they had sent two, so that I could have watched something in 3D with my wife. Thems the breaks!
The first movie I stuck into my system with a 3D option was Dredd. I’m a huge fan of this movie and was genuinely interested to see how the much 3D would add to the experience. Again, I wasn’t impressed. Granted, the quality of 3D put out by the Epson 3700 proved more than adequate. The shutter glasses, which paired flawlessly and held their charge for an inordinate amount of time, didn’t seem to dim the image overly. As a result, the 3D was very convincing. If you are a fan of Dredd, you’ve probably noticed that some of the shots are oddly grainy. I’m less inclined to believe that this was a design choice as much as it seemed like a “we ran out of money for re-shoots” choice. The 3D experience considerably reduced how much I noticed this grain.
The Potential Downsides of 3D
Unfortunately, the 3D experience did add a couple of negatives. First, the projector became considerably louder. I didn’t measure the difference, but subjectively it fell between “I don’t really notice the projector back there” for 2D and “is that the projector or something in the garage” for 3D. The Epson sounded loud enough to notice during quiet scenes but not so loud as to make you jump out of your seat and grab a fire extinguisher. Second, I noticed considerably more moire during 3D. The opening scene for Dredd has a pan across the city. This is a torture test for any display as tons of vertical and horizontal lines exist. While the 2D presentation of the same movie showed almost no moire, the 3D revealed quite a bit.
I basically have two sources for my home theater: Blu-ray and HD streaming. I will occasionally watch a DVD or play a game, but for the most part I streaming movies and watch the occasional Blu-ray Disc. With outlets like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and more all putting out original content, more exists online than ever before. While many people claim we live in the golden age of television, I still find myself re-watching my favorite shows. This becomes particularly true when you add children to the mix. Many of the newest shows push the bounds of…well, everything. This may seem fine for adults, but doesn’t fare well if you like to watch some stuff with your kids.
Enter shows like the CW’s Flash. Lighthearted, fun, and most of all very colorful, this show was fantastic for watching with the kids. The Epson’s extra lumens and well-saturated colors really made this show a joy to behold. In fact, my kids really enjoyed the 3700 Home Cinema projector as the shows they like to watch tend to be very bright and colorful.
From my perspective, I found the overall performance of the Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector to be exceptional given the price. We streamed movies from Vudu like Suicide Squad (pretty terrible) and Edge of Tomorrow (pretty awesome). We watched a bunch of Blu-rays like Rogue One (my wife liked it but I thought it had some issues), Dredd (awesome), Doctor Strange (a family favorite), and more. In every case, I found myself immersed in the movie and at no point did I notice the Epson 3700 misbehaving or distracting from the experience. In the end, can you ask more than that?
It is very hard for me to get past the price of the Epson Home Cinema 3700 projector without mentioning the obvious deal it represents. For $1500, you can get up to a 200 inch image (I know it says 300″ but I doubt true video-enthusiasts would want anything above 200 inch). That’s a crazy deal. Pair this with a budget screen (which costs less than $250 for 120-inches) and you get a better price-per-inch than just about any flat screen out there. Do I recommend the Epson Home Cinema 3700? How could I not?