Drawing the line between home entertainment projectors like the 1080p BenQ EP5920 and home theater projectors, like the Editors' Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8350 can be arbitrary. However, the DLP-based EP5920 definitely falls on the home entertainment side of the line. It's a natural fit for your living room or family room either as a replacement for an HDTV or a supplement to it, for watching movies and sports. More important, it can fill either role nicely.
The two key features that peg the EP5920 as a home entertainment projector are its built-in audio system and its rated brightness. If you want a sound system with suitably high quality for a true home theater, it's simply impossible to shoehorn it into a projector case, so projectors designed for home theater don't even try.
Similarly, you don't need all that bright a projector in a dark room. The rule of thumb for screen brightness in theater-dark lighting is to try for 16 foot-lamberts (fL), which is in the middle of the range recommended by The Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). As a point of reference, with a 130-inch diagonal 16:9 screen (the aspect ratio for 1080p), and assuming a 1.0 gain for the screen, all you need is 800 lumens to get 16 fL. The EP5920's rated brightness, at 1,800 lumens, makes it much more appropriate for a room with ambient light.
Basics and Setup
The EP5920 measures 5.9 by 13.0 by 9.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 7.9 pounds. That makes it small and light enough that if you don't want to install it permanently, you can store it away when you're not using it, or even bring it with you to a friend's house.
The back panel offers two HDMI ports, which is what you'll probably wind up using for connecting to a Blu-ray player or cable box or the equivalent. However, it also includes a VGA port, component video with three RCA phono plugs, composite video and S-Video ports, two audio-in ports, and one audio-out so you can easily connect to an external sound system.
Setup is standard, with the 1.2x manual zoom giving you at least some flexibility in how far you can put the projector from the screen for a given size image. Simply plug in the appropriate cables, turn everything on, and adjust the zoom and focus.
Brightness, Image Quality, and Rainbows
The EP5920 is bright enough to throw reasonably large image that can stand up to a moderate level of ambient light, although the maximum image size for comfortable viewing will obviously depend on issues like how many windows are in the room, whether you can draw the shades, and whether you plan to use it only at night.
That said, in its brightest mode, the projector was certainly suitable in my tests for a 100-inch diagonal screen with the kind of moderate ambient light you might expect in a family room at night. Keep in mind, however, that more ambient light, switching to the lower-brightness Eco lamp mode, or switching to other color presets will limit you to smaller screen sizes.
In addition to offering a suitably bright image, the EP5920 also delivers on image quality. It's not a match for even moderately priced home theater projectors, like the Home Cinema 8350 or the more expensive Editors' Choice Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8700 UB , but it's more than good enough for watching TV or full-length movies.
In my tests, the EP5920 offered good image quality overall, just a little short of excellent. I saw a hint of posterization (colors changing suddenly where they should change gradually) and mild problems with shadow detail (details based on shading in dark areas), but only in clips that we use because they tend to cause those problems. I also saw a moderate level of noise in large solid areas like a blank wall or sky, but not enough to count as a serious issue. Very much on the plus side, I didn't see any motion artifacts, the projector handled skin tones well, and color in general was well within an acceptable range.
One other potential issue for image quality is rainbow artifacts, with light areas breaking up into little red-green-blue rainbows. This can be a problem for any single-chip DLP projector because of the way DLP engines create colors, but it's a bigger problem for some projectors than others.
The EP5920 tends to show these artifacts relatively often in night scenes and black and white clips, but not in well-lit color scenes. Depending on how easily you see these artifacts, you may or may not consider them bothersome. Keep in mind too that if you, or anyone you watch with, finds these rainbows annoying, you'll probably be better off with an LCD projector, like the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema models, which can't show rainbow artifacts.
Audio and Other Issues
The EP5920 also delivers well enough on audio. Although it's not as loud as my HDTV, its 10-watt mono speaker delivers good enough quality to make out dialogue well, with enough volume to fill a small room. If you want stereo or more volume, the stereo audio output makes it easy to connect an external sound system.
Very much in the plus column, finally, is the EP5920's unusually long lamp life paired with a low replacement cost. BenQ rates the lamp at 4,500 hours in Normal mode and 5,000 hours in Eco mode. That's long enough to run the projector in Normal mode for more than 4 hours per day every day for three years before the lamp dies. (Add an hour a day for Eco mode.) Even better, replacements are only $200.
For anyone who doesn't see rainbow artifacts easily or doesn't mind seeing them, the BenQ EP5920 is a strong contender. It offers a full 1080p HD resolution, a sound system appropriate for a small room; two HDMI ports plus a set of component video connectors so you can connect three HD video sources; and, most of all, a suitably high-quality image. For rooms with a moderate level of ambient light, it's a potentially attractive choice.
More Projector Reviews:
??? BenQ LX60ST
??? BenQ EP5920
??? Canon LV-7297M
??? Canon LV-7392A
??? NEC NP-V300W