We typically have some sort of backyard or outdoor theater discussion every summer when the weather is nice and we’d all like to take our movie watching to the great outdoors. We didn’t do one this year, but maybe that’s a good thing. Epson recently released the MovieMate 85HD, a perfect backyard theater projector. But it’s good for much more than just outside, so you can even use it during the rainy season.
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Epson MovieMate 85HD Review
We typically have some sort of backyard or outdoor theater discussion every summer when the weather is nice and we'd all like to take our movie watching to the great outdoors. We didn't do one this year, but maybe that's a good thing. Epson recently released the MovieMate 85HD, a perfect backyard theater projector. But it's good for much more than just outside, so you can even use it during the rainy season.
The MovieMate 85HD is a 3LCD projector with a built-in DVD player, making it a great all-in-one portable movie theater. What really sets it apart is the native 720p resolution. Most DVD projectors are only 480p, which makes sense. But the 720p resolution and an HDMI input open up all sorts of new doors for big screen sports, TV and other content. It has an MSRP of $899, but if you look, you can find it online for $799.
The MovieMate 85HD really is plug and play, or as the website describes: plug, load and play. It doesn't have any lens shift capabilities, so the projector really wants to be centered with your screen for the best overall experience. It does have an auto keystone feature so you don’t have to worry about how high the projector is, it will adjust for the angle of tilt for you. It took us a couple tries to get the auto keystone just right, but on the third attempt, it nailed it.
One of the first things you notice with the 85HD is that it is quite bright. The specs boast a 2500 lumen output and it doesn’t disappoint. We used it on our bright white 100" Dragonfly screen and the combination was a very vivid movie experience. In addition to the brightness we also really enjoyed the color and the crispness of the 85HD. DVDs looked great and HD content looked pretty good as well.
The only area that somewhat disappointed us was in black levels. The bright, vivid movies we watched looked awesome. The darker movies, like the mutant dog scene in Hulk and most of Batman, were a bit rough. Keep in mind that keystone correction is the enemy of good picture quality, so while auto keystone is convenient it also causes your picture to suffer a bit.
On the audio side the 85HD has two built-in 10 W Dolby Digital speakers with Digital DTS Surround. The worked well and sounded pretty good. They're enough to satisfy a small viewing audience, but if you have a larger group, you’ll want to take advantage of the digital coax output and run the sound through an external amplifier. That output can either decode and give you PCM or output the straight Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream.
For convenience, the 85HD comes with a travel case and has a built in handle. You can use it for more than just DVDs, of course HDTV with the HDMI input or even sing karaoke with the built-in microphone input. The remote has an interesting button on it with a picture of a coffee mug. The "coffee break" mode pauses the movie you're watching and puts up a bright white screen instead. The projector is bright enough that this light is good for walking to the kitchen to get a snack or refill your drink. A neat feature.
One thing we did question for an "HD" projector is the use of a DVD player instead of a Blu-ray player. If you're going to build an all-in-one HD projector, why not include an HD video source instead of an SD one? Maybe we’ll have to wait until Epson makes a 1080p version of the MovieMate. But the addition of a Blu-ray player would have certainly pushed the price above $899, so from a budget perspective, the DVD choice works.
The Epson MovieMate 85HD isn't meant to be an installed projector for your home theater. It's meant to be taken anywhere to give you a portable movie theater in a box. The 85HD does just that. It is the best all-in-one projector we've reviewed to date, and it only costs $899. If you've ever wanted to watch movies in the backyard or have the option to convert a bonus room or other area in to an ad-hoc giant viewing room for a big game or something, you should definitely check out the MovieMate 85HD.