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Podcast #449: Epson MovieMate 85HD

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.

Other stuff

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.


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Reader Comments (4)

I can't believe how forgiving the HT Guys - especially Ara - are of less than ideal front projection setups! I mean, you go to the trouble of buying an excellent JVC projector and a fairly pricey Screen Innovations screen; install it; run new wires; calibrate it all; spend, what has to be close to, $10,000; and then you go and choose, of your own free will, to watch with a light on?!

That's just insane! lol

I also can't be so forgiving of the Moviemate 85HD. I get that the "all in one box" solution is convenient and has its useful applications. But no lens shift? Really? And don't say it would drastically up the price, because that's bull. What I really don't understand is why there isn't a 1080p version with full lens shift and performance good enough that it COULD be used in a dedicated theater. Epson has their Home Cinema 8350 now. It's basically 1080UB performance and features for a mere $1200! You're telling me they couldn't stick a $30 DVD player and some laptop quality speakers into that thing and sell it as the MovieMate 8350 for under $1400?

I don't know, I guess I can't just "go along" with this "everything is pretty good" attitude that all AV reviewers seem to espouse. I look at most products and say, "Nope! Not good enough. People deserve better and they should DEMAND better"!

But maybe that's just me :p

And, Ara? Turn off your lights!


October 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

PLEASE tell me that everyone watched "The Walking Dead" last night !

Is it just me, or did that seem pretty darn close to an 'R' rated feature broadcast in prime time on basic cable? lol

Best part? Only rated TV14 up here in Canada! I mean, straight up head shot to a (zombie) little girl within the first 2 minutes! That's not TV MA? lol Lots of blood, guts hanging out, headshots aplenty. No sex though. I guess that's why it isn't TV MA. We're fine with gatuitous violence. Just don't DARE show the human body or any two people engaged in the most natural act in the world! lol

Anywho, awesome, awesome show. AMC has pretty much ruined me for all other television. If you missed it, be SURE to find a repeat showing or find it online.

And, Ara? Lights off is a MUST! lol It is zombies afterall :D

November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

Hi Rob,

When I say lights on I'm talking one 40 watt lamp at the opposite side of the screen. I bought the Screen Innovations Screen so I didn't have to watch in the dark for normal TV viewing. For movie nights we do turn the lamp off :-)


November 1, 2010 | Registered CommenterHT Guys

Ahh, good! At least it's "lights off" for movies :)

I do hope my comments are read in the spirit in which they are intended - which is light-hearted and just meant to poke a little fun. Hopefully my emoticons and "lol"s get that across :p Always tough to convey tone in writing!

The Black Diamond II is certainly a decent compromise for when ambient light is unavoidable - such as during the daytime if you aren't in a windowless room or willing to completely block out the windows with tin foil or something. I suppose I can understand wanting some ambient light for casual TV viewing.

I'm just coming from the point of view where I lived with a front projection setup as my only display for a couple of years. I had heavy curtains over my windows, but a little bit of sunlight would still seep through during the day. I used Da-Lite's High Power screen to combat my ambient light problems and it made it so that I could at least see a picture during the day. But I always looked forward to the sun going down so that I could completely turn off all of my light sources and enjoy a proper viewing experience!

All of this was with a measly Sanyo PLV-Z2 ! I've lusted after a projector like the JVC that you have, Ara. One where the projector itself can get so close to true black that I wouldn't have to console myself by thinking, "sure, these black levels aren't great, but it IS a 100" screen, so I have that much" :p

So I guess I just get riled up when I think about someone WILLINGLY decreasing the awesome picture quality of which the JVC projectors are capable! In the daytime, sure, I can understand having to compromise. But actually turning a light on at night? It just makes me shudder! lol It's like buying a JL Audio Gotham subwoofer and then not bothering to perform correct bass management!

A travesty, Ara. A travesty.


November 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRob H.

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