A few weeks back, I was given the opportunity to review an Epson Home Cinema 2040 1080p 3D 3LCD Home Theater Projector (~$699 on Amazon)and I couldn't turn it down. Instead, I tried to find a way to watch it in the living room without putting holes in the wall and permanently mounting the projector and screen. I ran across a $60, 100 inch screen that was mounted on a tripod and I was sold.
The setup of the tripod screen takes about 5 minutes. You fold out the legs, turn the screen so it is horizontal with the ground and pull it open to latch on an adjustable bar on the tripod. It is simple. The only downside is that you need to find a place to store it when it isn't being used. We have a large, deep closet right next to our living room, so we were in business.
The projector was just as easy to setup. I put it on the ottoman/coffee table that we have in front of the couch (I bought a small tripod for laptops that I plan to use in the future). I ran a long HDMI cable from our receiver to where the projector would sit about 12 feet away (about 9.8 feet from the screen after looking at Epson's suggested screen size to distance chart). I plugged it into a powerstrip, then plugged in the HDMI and I turned it on. The picture was too low, so I extended the feet on front of the projector and we were ready to watch a program.
While I am not claiming the picture is the best money can buy, after I tweaked the settings a bit, it looked fantastic in our mostly dark living room. With the lights on, the picture quality is diminished, although the "bright" settings really help, so we still found it to be acceptable while watching TV.
I also bought a couple pair of cheap , Samsung 3D glasses to use with it. I have never wanted to invest in a 3D TV because of the glasses, but fortunately I had a 3D Blu-Ray that I could try out. We put Lion King in 3D in the player and put on our glasses and watched the opening scene. When the bird in flight appears from over your shoulder and sails into the picture, you suddenly wonder how you lived without this effect. It just makes for a much more captivating experience with certain movies.
We also watched the CMT awards the first time we set it up. The screen size alone pulls you in and makes the experience seem like you are right in the audience. While my 65 inch plasma has a beautiful picture, with deeper blacks, you feels detached from the experience. Instead of being in the best seats in the house, you feel like you are up in the cheap seats.
When we were finished for the night, I unplugged the projector, folded up the tripod and screen, and unplugged the HDMI cable (Note: I run a HDMI cable with a female end out of the receiver that I can plug into the male end of the HDMI that runs to the TV or to the projector without pulling out the furniture. I didn't use a splitter, because I needed to store the 15 foot HDMI cable out of the way when the projector wasn't being used.). A few minutes later we were watching programming on our normal television.
However, the main thing I like is the ability to take this outside when weather permits. The Epson has a 5 watt speaker, so we plan to take it outside and just use that speaker when just two of us are watching. I plan to use it with an AppleTV out there, so we can AirPlay the sound to speakers that are attached to an Airport Express in our sunroom when we have friends over ( we already have it setup so that we can simply open the windows in the room when we listen to music in the backyard). I may look into a larger screen ( the Epson will project to a 300 inch screen!) next Spring if we enjoy watching movies out there, but for the first few times, I will just set up the tripod and see how we like it.
What about 4K?
Mount or not to mount, that is the question
Also, mounting hardware is ugly in a living room, so that is also an issue. If I do decide to mount anything, it will probably be a screen. It will look a bit ugly, but it might be worth it if I can get a motorized, tab-tension screen that would just roll down in front of the plasma on demand. I don't think I will ever mount the projector, but it is tucked into the ottoman, so it only takes a minute to setup. The deciding factor will be how well the tripod holds up. Also, if we have people over, the screen can get in the way since it sits so far out from the wall and if that gets annoying, we may look into mounting the screen.
I will review the projector soon, so stay tuned.