The Epson Home Cinema 3800 delivers near-4K clarity at a much lower price than true 4K.
In this endless year when “going to the movies” meant sitting on the couch with a bag of microwave popcorn, the way we watch movies came to matter as much as which brand new releases we’re streaming. With so many theaters closed because of Covid, home movie projectors went from being a rich person’s tech bauble to a practical splurge on par with a solid laptop or a sophisticated stationary bike.
In fact, if I had to pick one upgrade that saved me and my family during the pandemic, without hesitation I’d point to the Epson Home Cinema 3800. After years of getting by on normal screens—a standard Costco TV, various iPhones and iPads and a MacBook Pro heating up my lap—adding a reliable mid-level projector was like that magical scene where Dorothy Gale opens the farm door onto the world of Oz.
Roughly the size of a Roomba with a face as cute as Wall-E from the Pixar movies, the Epson 3800 … [+]
Roughly the size of a Roomba and as cute as Wall-E from the Pixar movies, the 3800 was a friendly addition that charmed and wowed from the moment it emerged from the box into our quarantine. Although not technically a 4K projector, the 3800 boosts its 1080p projection powers to produce screen images practically indistinguishable to the eye from more expensive 4K. The unit’s booming 10-watt stereo sound is crisp and rich enough to use without auxiliary speakers, and the bulb is so bright, at 3,000 lumens, you can watch movies in all but the starkest midday sunlight.
I did an embarrassing amount of research before selecting the Epson 3800 (what else did I have do to?), and what separates the projector from others is that it uses proprietary pixel-shifting technology to leverage its 1080p image to near 4K quality. What that means for those who haven’t gone down the research rabbit hole: the blacks are inkier; the whites will remind you of a Greek villa, and even the red Netflix logo looks like a crimson tapestry on your living room wall. It also supports 3D, though you’ll need to order Epson’s supports V12H548006 3D glasses if you want to immerse yourself. The unit is lighter and cuter than other projectors I looked at, and the price—at $1,699—is downright reasonable given its ability to nearly mimic the look of much costlier true 4K units.
I wanted to know if I was alone in my love for the 3800, so I got in touch with Rodrigo Catalan, Group Project Manager for Home Entertainment at Epson, who assured me I was in good company.
How has the stay-at-home era affected demand — and perhaps R&D — for these products?
Rodrigo Catalan: Prior to stay-at-home orders hitting the United States in February 2020, Epson saw year-over-year growth upwards of 25 percent in unit sales for 4K home theater projectors. Since early 2020, we have seen double digit sales growth across the board for Epson’s home theater projector models ranging in price from $500 to over $5,000.
Wow. And that’s because theaters are closed?
Rodrigo Catalan: Yes, as movie theaters remain closed, or at limited capacity, we are seeing more blockbusters skip theaters and go straight to streaming platforms. All the while consumers still crave that big-screen, cinematic experience. With one of these units, you get a change to have screen sizes up to four times bigger than today’s flat panel TVs. And, even after theaters reopen fully, users will have way more access to content via streaming that they won’t get in the theater with today’s projection solutions.
It’s also nice to set up in different locations. We use ours indoors, outside, in the bedroom, even on a screen we set up in the dining area.
Rodrigo Catalan: Absolutely. Users love that they can move projectors around for a much more immersive movie, sports or streaming experience pretty much anywhere. Big-screen streaming and content viewing is something people are currently looking to integrate into their own homes and they can’t get it from a traditional flat panel TV.
A pair of powerful 10-watt stereo speakers and 3D capability are part of what makes the Epson 3800 a … [+]
After all my research, I should probably get a graduate degree in home projection equipment. But the lingo can be confusing: 4K, DLP, LED, LCD. Can you bring some, well, focus to the conversation? With a projector like the 3800, what are the features that really matter for most home consumers?
Rodrigo Catalan: The Home Cinema 3800 is Epson’s most compact and affordable 4K PRO-UHD projector. When people talk about lumens, the important thing to know with this projector is that 3,000 lumens offers a lot of brightness. One feature worth looking for is lens shift, which the Home Cinema 3800 also has, that means the image can adjust on both the vertical and horizontal axis, and what that means is you can place it on a table, bookshelf or mount it on the ceiling and easily adjust the image to fill the projecting space.
What’s changed in this market over the past couple years? What are the exciting advances?
Rodrigo Catalan: In recent years, home theater projection solutions have evolved to offer a powerful combination of portability, laser technology, higher brightness and smart features, like built-in Android TV, at more affordable prices, delivering a much larger and more immersive viewing experience than a flat panel TV in virtually any setting.
As families across the U.S. continue to look for new ways to be entertained at home, stream, game, and watch their favorite flicks inside and outside, we are seeing more households embrace new forms of big-screen viewing solutions. From family movie nights in the backyard to online gaming sessions and big-screen sports viewing on a massive, 120-inch projected image, families are enjoying content in ways a traditional flat panel TV cannot accommodate.
Has the pandemic pushed you to innovate in some ways?
Rodrigo Catalan: We are always catering to the new ways people are accessing their favorite content, and, so, projectors are getting smarter and evolving aesthetically. For example, Epson recently announced its all-new EpiqVision Ultra lineup of ultra-short throw streaming and viewing solutions. These new solutions are part of an exploding category in the market that has seen 45 percent revenue growth year over year. The Epson EpiqVision Ultra LS500 and EpiqVision Ultra LS300 are designed to provide all-in-one solutions that blend into modern décor and project instant, life-size entertainment for all to enjoy.
As consumers get more comfortable with a projector instead of a TV, where is this technology headed?
Rodrigo Catalan: We believe the holy grail for projection across different environments and settings is a combination of smaller, brighter and smarter solutions. Epson is focused on investing R&D dollars on ways to maximize light output for a given amount of energy input, high resolution lenses that can maximize the higher resolution source material available to consumers today, lens designs that enable Ultra Short Throw projectors to be closer to screens for flexible placement in homes, and smart technology that enables projectors to automatically adjust to ambient light or speaker systems that auto adjust to type of content such as movie or sports. The sky is truly the limit with projection.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I’m a writer in Los Angeles with bylines @ Forbes, The New York Times, GQ, Food Wine, O Magazine, Town & Country, and more. See www.davidhochman.com.