Epson EMP-DM2 projector review

4 out of 5
£500

For

Easy to use, decent DVD playback, doubles as a jukebox

Against

Video and sound quality is basic

Portable projectors are ten-a-penny at the moment - it’s part of a drive by the big projector makers to make their wares a lot more home friendly. And Epson’s EH-DM2 succeeds on all counts … and then some. Portable (by dint of a special carry handle) and all-in-one (a DVD player buried inside), the EH-DM2 is one of the easiest projectors we’ve had the pleasure of using.

The downside is that it’s far from the best in terms of pure video quality. With a widescreen resolution of just 854 x 480 pixels, it’s not capable of high definition. However, its built-in DVD player does play progressive scan DVDs, and those Component video inputs can take (and scale-down) a top quality 1080i HD signal - as well as being capable of showing the very best video quality from a Nintendo Wii.

Picture settings are accessible by a special “visual setup” button on the excellent remote, and although their range is limited, the basics are covered: colour saturation and temperature, sharpness, brightness, contrast and tint. There’s also a progressive mode selectable for the DVD player.

Using 3LCD tech, there's no worry about any nasty “rainbow effect” common to cheaper DLP projectors, but it has its own inherent disadvantages. Chief of which is contrast, or, rather, lack of, with a 1800:1 contrast ratio. Though its 1800 ANSI Lumens allows it to be used - quite effectively, during our tests - in daylight, there’s a distinct lack of detail in gloomy images. That’s truer still when the lights are off, and neither is the finished image impressively detailed. It’s also possible to see the 3LCD panel’s grid on the screen or wall.

So why do we like the EH-DM2 so much? Crucially, none of the above criticisms detract too much from the experience, and there’s enough punch to pictures to please anyone after a casual projector for movies and games.

Aside from its daylight operation (which we won’t overstate - it’s best to close the curtains, at least) and bold colours, the best thing about the EH-DM2 is that it only requires one cable.

Truly plug‘n’play for movies (including DiVX files stored on a DVD or CD), there’s no need for any messy cables, largely because it’s got two speakers that deliver acceptable sound quality. Its surround sound mode isn’t much cop unless you put your head directly behind the EH-DM2 (not advised), but casual users will find it OK. Things get even better, because the EH-DM2 automatically plays MP3 and WMA files stored on a USB memory stick.

Curiously its USB slot shares billing with the DVD player on the input selector menu, and only works when a DVD is ejected. It only wakes up when a USB stick is physically inserted into the unit’s rear slot - if it’s already in situ, nothing happens. Done in the correct order, the projector automatically begins to play any MP3 or WMA files. Presumably that’s because it would be impossible to select individual tracks with the lamp shutter closed, though if you continue projecting it does give you a rudimentary list of (and nonsense filenames) what’s on the USB stick. Automatic JPEG slideshows are better, with a thumbnail list of images displayed.

Its sound is only suitable for a small room and it’s vital to select the appropriate mode - classical, rock, jazz or the intriguingly named “digital” - though, oddly, all four modes come with wildly varying volumes. If you’ve a “no compromises” approach to sound, consider using the headphones jack - or route all audio to a home cinema using the coaxial audio output.

Verdict

Keep pictures to less than 100-inches, which is possible to do from just a couple of metres away, and you’ll find the EH-DM2 a versatile and impressive performer if you’re after something that can be whipped out for a quick movie session without that annoying 10-minute scrabble for cables.