Epson Home Cinema 2150 review: Lens shift and lots of light

The best projectors under $1,000 often perform very well and usually you’ll have to spent a lot more to get a noticeable jump in picture quality. While these models are still 1080p (no 4K yet), the bright, colorful images they can create are a great option for movie nights or even just for binge-watching Netflix shows. The Epson Home Cinema 2150 doesn’t have the high-line features of today’s TVs, like HDR or wide color gamut, but it does let you create a massive picture. On a 100-inch screen it’s brighter than many TVs from a few years ago, although the color and contrast ratio aren’t quite as good as the best in this price range.

LikeBright, colorful imageLens shiftNo DLP rainbows

Don’t LikeOnly average contrast and black levelFairly noisy in normal lamp mode

The Epson’s advantage over other projectors in its class is the ability to fit better in many homes. This is because it has a wider zoom range, so it can be placed farther from the screen, and something very rare among its counterparts: vertical lens shift. You can place the projector on a shelf behind the sofa instead of on the floor, for instance. Also, because it’s LCD-based, there are none of the DLP “rainbows” that can bother some people. 

I compared it directly with two similarly priced DLP competitors, the BenQ HT2050A and the ViewSonic PX727HD — I’ll have full reviews of both coming soon. Among the three, the 2150 is best for brighter rooms where light control isn’t perfect or for situations where you need its placement versatility, but the BenQ was my favorite so far for overall image quality.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Basic specsNative resolution: 1080pDiscrete pixels on chips: 1,920×1,080HDR-compatible: No4K-compatible: No3D-compatible: YesLumens spec: 2,500Zoom: Manual (1.6x)Lens shift: ManualLamp life (Normal mode): 4,500 hours

The 2150 can accept signals up to 1080p/60, no HDR or 4K, which is fine as this isn’t an HDR or 4K projector. 3D TVs are dead
but projectors like the 2150 still show 3D movies, although glasses aren’t included. The $99 glasses are out of stock on Epson’s site, but there are third-party alternatives on Amazon.

Epson claims a maximum light output of 2,500 lumens. With my sample, I measured an impressive 1,620 lumens (it’s normal for projectors to measure less than their claimed specs). This is far less than the brightness of most TVs today, but bright compared with projectors and TVs from a few years ago. On a 100-inch+ screen, it’s a lot. The claimed contrast ratio of 65,000:1 is the only spec that’s higher than the wired version of this projector, the slightly cheaper HC2100.

The vertical lens shift lets you adjust the image vertically on your wall or screen without moving the projector. The Epson also has 1.6x worth of zoom, which is a bit more than other projectors in this price range, meaning you can have it a bit farther from, or closer, to your screen. 

Lamp life is a claimed 4,500 hours, or 7,500 in the much quieter, but dimmer, Eco mode. This is good for this price range. To put this in perspective, if you were to use this projector as your main “TV,” watching it 4 hours every day, the lamp in Eco mode would last you over five years. For comparison, the BenQ’s lamp life, in its Eco mode, is 5,000 hours.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Connectivity and convenienceHDMI inputs: 2PC input: Analog RGBUSB port: 1 (1A power)Audio input and output: Output onlyDigital audio output: NoLAN port: No12v trigger: NoRS-232 remote port: NoMHL: Yes (On HDMI 1)Remote: Not backlit

On the back there are two HDMI inputs and an analog PC RGB-15 connector. The USB-A connector supplies 1 amp of power, enough to power a Roku Streaming Stick. If that’s the kind of movie rig you want to build, there’s 1/8th-inch analog audio output as well to connect to external speakers. Alternatively, there’s a tiny, rearward-facing speaker built in. It’s not bad, but pretty much any external speaker arrangement is going to sound better (do yourself a favor and at least put a cheap soundbar under the screen). At higher volumes with the built-in speaker there was a bit of a rattle from the case.

The remote is not backlit, and has many small and similarly shaped buttons. Most likely, after you’ve set the projector up, you’ll probably just use the remote to turn the projector on and off, so this isn’t a huge problem.

The 2150 also has wireless connectivity. Using Miracast, you can send content from your laptop to the screen with minimal setup fuss, but it’s not ideal. Miracast can be finicky, and this setup will rely on you having your laptop (PC only, mind you) open and playing the content. If you don’t want to run an HDMI cable, streaming sticks are cheap and will be easier to use in the long run because you’re just sticking them into the projector itself. Roku also has Miracast built in so you could still stream content from your computer to it.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET
Picture quality comparisons

Overall the Epson creates a very watchable, exceptionally bright image. While its black level and contrast aren’t as good as the best in this price range, it gets dark enough not to be distracting while watching a movie with letterbox bars. The colors are good, but again, not quite as good as the best. Greens, for example, don’t quite have the leafy jungle vibrancy they could have. And again, because it’s LCD-based, and not DLP-based like most projectors under $1,000, it doesn’t have that technology’s main issue: rainbows. Most people aren’t bothered by the rainbow trails on bright objects with DLP, but if you are, the Epson is a great alternative.

The headline numbers of the 2150 are quite good. In Normal mode, it puts out an impressive 182 nits on a 102-inch, 1.0-gain screen. This converts to roughly 1,620 lumens, roughly the same as the BenQ, and much higher than the ViewSonic.

Contrast ratio is quite improved from older LCD projectors. It falls right in between the BenQ and the ViewSonic. I measured an average of approximately 1,220:1 across the various lamp modes. The BenQ, for comparison, was 2,094:1. These numbers probably seem low compared with the claimed specs, but projector contrast ratios have always been wildly exaggerated. Neither of these projectors looks washed out, though compared with OLED
or local-dimming LCD TVs, they don’t have nearly as much contrast.

Fan noise is a bit loud, especially if the projector is sitting or mounted near your head. The Eco mode is about 25% dimmer, but the fan noise drops by about 10dB, which is a lot.

My comparison involved all three projectors stacked, in their best-looking modes, on the same screen using a Monoprice 1×4 distribution amplifier. I started with Thor: Ragnarok, mostly because it looks great but also because I wanted to watch it again. The Epson and the BenQ, at first glance, were quite evenly matched and similarly bright while the ViewSonic was noticeably dimmer. Overall there’s a lot of light to play with but I still would recommend dark or blackout curtains if you watch a lot during the day. No projector can compete with the sun.

Splitting the screen between the BenQ and the Epson, another difference becomes noticeable. As it’s a 2.39:1 movie, there are black bars on a 16×9 screen. The BenQ’s bars are a shade darker. It’s not a massive difference, but side by side it’s apparent. With such high light output, however, the difference probably wouldn’t be that noticeable at home. The ViewSonic’s black levels were actually closer to the BenQ’s than the Epson’s, but with less light overall, I’d have hoped it would have had the lowest black level. Given that it was so much dimmer, and its contrast ratio the lowest of the bunch, I focused more on the Epson and BenQ.

Never judge the picture quality of a projector based on a photo.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

A low black level and high brightness translate to a high contrast ratio, at least graded on the curve of projectors in this price range. The image on both the Epson and the BenQ punched far better than projectors in this range from a few years ago and never looked flat or washed out. Side by side, again, the BenQ is a little better, with just a little more “depth” in the image compared with the Epson.  

Early in Thor: Ragnarok, Thor and Loki travel to Norway to find Odin. This was the first scene that showed a substantial difference between the Epson and the BenQ. With the BenQ, the grass in this scene looked far greener, like an early summer lawn after the rain. With the Epson, it was still green, but more like the end of a dry summer. The water behind Odin was bluer with the BenQ as well.

Overall the colors from the BenQ were just a little more accurate, though the Epson’s weren’t that far off. Flipping that, the color temperature of the Epson is a bit more accurate, with the BenQ being a bit warm out of the box. It’s close, however, and the darkest images on the Epson have a slight blue tint. So it’s a bit of a wash. Skin tones are good either way.

Switching gears a bit, I shifted over to Deadliest Catch, a show with image quality ranging from beautifully cinematic slow-mo to barely passable GoPro. There wasn’t much to separate the BenQ and Epson. Both pictures were extremely detailed, showing whiskers, wrinkles, claws and carpus. The BenQ was a little cleaner, however, than any mode on the Epson, with less noise in solid colors and around objects, indicating it had slightly better video processing. The Epson wasn’t noisy by any stretch, but it wasn’t quite as smoothly noise-free as the BenQ. Again, a minor quibble and something you’d be unlikely to notice unless you had them side by side.

While the BenQ’s pixels are closer together, that’s just how DLP is; the Epson’s aren’t that much farther apart. You’ll only see individual pixels if you’re sitting very close, the screen is exceptionally large or both. And then, you’d probably be seeing pixels on a DLP-based projector at roughly the same size and distance too.

The Epson has an automatic iris, dimming the image for dark scenes, opening up for bright ones. I wasn’t particularly bothered by it, though if the show cuts from a dark scene to a bright one, when a character’s going from inside to outside, say, you’ll notice the iris take a beat to catch up. If it bothers you, you can turn it off.

Both projectors are fairly loud, at least in their normal modes. If this projector is anywhere close to your head, you’re going to hear it. Dropping either one into Eco mode, however, not only prolongs the life of its lamp, but makes the fan noise far more livable.

Overall, while it doesn’t quite have the picture quality of the BenQ HT2050A, it’s close. The image is bright and colorful, and the contrast ratio is good enough that the image never looks washed out or flat. All that, plus the greater flexibility of lens shift and a better-than-average zoom, make the Home Cinema 2150 a great option for people who hate DLP rainbows, can’t place or mount a projector without lens shift or just want a good-looking projector for big-screen movies, TV and sports.


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