Even though the seasons are starting to change, there’s still plenty of time to have an outdoor gathering. If you want to make this last one the most memorable one of the year, consider adding an outdoor movie with a home theater projector.
Recently, we took a look at the Elite Screens Yard Master 2 Series outdoor home theater screen. Now, we’re going to: peek at the projector that was paired with it, the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 730HD.
For an outdoor home theater, you really can’t go wrong with the 730HD. Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, this home theater projector: has built-in speakers, which means that you don’t need a lot of add-ons to enjoy a movie almost anywhere.
Even though this home theater: projector would certainly: work in an: indoor media room, I did most of my testing: outside. That’s because I had a 135-inch Yard Master 2 screen, which wouldn’t fit in my teeny-tiny house. At $499 ($439 on Amazon), the Epson 730HD is a good buy for an outdoor projector. If you’re worried about dropping a bunch of money on something you’re only going to use a select number of months of the year, consider holiday parties or decorations as another way to squeeze in some projector time.: Someone around the corner from me uses an outdoor projector to run Christmas movies right before the holidays—and we love it.
The fact: that the: 730HD: has a built-in speaker should tell you that it isn’t really geared towards the high-end home theater. However, the specs are pretty nice for the price. It doesn’t have 3D or 1080p, but this 720p projector uses 3LCD, 3-chip technology to project 3,000 lumens of color brightness and 3,000 lumens of white brightness up to 300 inches. It should also be noted that Epson has rated this projector for 5,000 hours of use, with an extra 1,000 hours in Eco mode. That will certainly get you a lot of outdoor movies, but replacement lamps can be had for $99.
Inside the box, you’ll find the projector, a power cord, a remote with batteries, and all sorts of instruction manuals. That said, the entire thing couldn’t be easier to set up. After all, Epson made this projector to be easy on the mind and the pocketbook.
It also offers a slew of video connections. In fact, you can connect up to four video devices at once and use the Source Search feature on the projector’s control panel or the remote control to toggle between them. There’s only one HDMI input, but there are also options for S-Video, component and composite video. There’s also one USB-A port and one USB-B. I easily hooked up my Panasonic Blu-ray player and a Roku box via HDMI (not simultaneously, of course).
Out of the box, the projector is nice and small, almost the size of a video game console. At 5.29 pounds, it might be a little heavier. That’s not to say that it’s heavy; in fact, the light weight and compact size make it easy to take from the outside to the living room to a friends’ house.
Naturally, I couldn’t wait for nightfall to test this thing out, so I did throw an image up on my wall just for a little fun. Sadly, this test run made me quickly realize that the projector’s 2-watt mono speaker was not going to be enough for our small yard or noisy guests. For a quickie movie or video game grudge match in a small space, the internal speaker may: be sufficient.: However, if you’re planning: something outdoors, you’re probably going: to need a bit more power. Of course, you could opt for a full-blown outdoor theater, with a receiver and speakers. Since I wasn’t ready for that, I paired the projector with a random speaker I had on hand. Just know that if you do something similar, you will need to connect the external speaker to your source and not the actual projector. It does not pass the sound through.
Setting up the 730HD is made to be easy. First, you’ll need to plug in a video: source. Once you have that ready, it’s time to fire up the projector. On the bottom, there’s a push-button in the front and the back feet unscrew to prop it whatever way you need. If you need a little extra help making adjustments, there are several controls right on the top. The items I used the most were the focus ring and the 1.2 zoom option. There’s also a horizontal keystone slider, if you need to position the projector at an angle. We used this outdoors, so all of the kids could sit front and center.
For those preliminary indoor tests, I had the shades drawn in my living room, but plenty of ambient light was peeking in. Still, I was able to get a clear picture on Netflix with my Roku 3. It took longer to pair the projector with the 135-inch Elite Screens Yard Master 2 screen outside, with plenty of: daylight left. I could have moved the projector closer, but it wasn’t going to matter once we started the festivities at dusk, and I wanted to keep that area clean in case kids were wandering around.
Once the sun went down, the picture was gorgeous—even at a hearty 135 inches! Of course, it’s not as awesome as a 1080p image, but I had absolutely no complaints. Whether using the Roku box or the Panasonic Blu-ray player, the colors were great and the detail was pretty surprising. More specifically, the close-ups on Back to the Future yielded some great facial features. (Check out that photo above!) I also ran several cartoons both before and after the main presentation, which delivered a really nice color palette.
The one gripe I have about the 730HD is that sound. Of course, projectors aren’t known for sound—and the 730HD will be no exception. As I mentioned above, it would be fine for one or two people in a quiet area. However, this home theater projector is really designed: for an outdoor gathering. And when you put up a 135-inch screen (or any screen for that matter), it may be hard to keep the crowd to a minimum. Unless the audience is fairly small and: sitting directly to the right or left of the projector, you will need to pump up the volume with an extra speaker.
Audio aside, the: 730HD is an awesome projector. It’s fun, it’s easy to set up, and it delivers a really nice picture. I should mention that for an extra $100, you can score something like the Epson Home Cinema 2000, which adds 3D and a 1080p image. Sometimes you don’t need that though and don’t want to spend the extra money. Maybe you can invest that $100 in the speaker that this system sorely needs. However, you do need the option to show outdoor movies. No, really. Once you have it, it’s hard to live without it!