For those who baulk at the idea of swapping their flatscreen TV for a projector, consider this - Epson's new EH-DM3 can project 300-inch images.
At this price that's remarkable, but its lengthy feature-count doesn't stop there. Strapped with 10W stereo speakers, the EH-DM3 packs in a DVD player and a USB input capable of playing MP3 and WMA music, JPEG photos and even DivX video files. It's marketed as both a jukebox and as a one-stop solution for gamers, though there are significant restrictions.
The EH-DM3 isn't HD-ready. With a resolution of just 960 x 540 pixels, it's some way off high-def. If you depend entirely on the front-loading DVD player, that's not an issue, though Epson does nod to the world of HD by offering a HDMI input that's capable of showing a Full HD feed from a Blu-ray player or games console. There's not an awful lot of point doing that because of the SD resolution, though Blu-ray discs do look a touch better than bog standard DVDs.
Though it's best considered as a Nintendo Wii add-on or a "my first projector", the EH-DM3 can easily form part of a dedicated DVD home cinema set-up. Possessing Component video and Composite video ins, it's also got a USB port on its rear for playing music, displaying pictures and showing DivX video files. And if you're not happy with the quality of the speakers - and for most movies, you probably won't be - there's a Coaxial output that can take Dolby Digital and DTS digital surround sound to a home cinema.
Tweaking the picture is also a cinch thanks to the EH-DM3's auto iris, which adjusts brightness according to ambient light. As with most projectors, there's an increase in noise the harder the lamp has to work.
Pictures are reasonably good considering the DVD source, though there's not a lot of contrast and we did notice some blurring. The low resolution 3LCD panel's pixel structure is visible - as we would expect in a 80-inch+ image - but there's enough detail on show for enjoyable DVDs and gaming. It's best to keep under the 100-inch size (which still means finding space to project onto a projector screen or white wall from about 3 metres), otherwise the DVD struggles to supply a watchable image.
Kudos goes to Epson for the EH-DM3's simplicity, though - a glow-in-the-dark remote is handy (especially considering how important it is that the EH-DM3 is used in the dark), as is a lens cover if you'd rather use it as a portable USB stereo. Notable by its absence is manual lens shift - this feature, which is found on all other Epson projectors, allows the user to move the image left, right, up and down without moving the unit. It's a shame it's missing here, though it would almost certainly mean a larger overall unit.
The EH-DM3 is packaged nicely, with a foldaway carry handle on one side, as well as a foam-lined bag.
It may lack ultimate star quality in its pictures, but this one-stop home cinema solution is a convenient and impressive way to get into projection. You'll have to forego your Blu-ray collection, but if you're happy with DVDs, CDs, MP3 and DivX movie playback, Epson's highly portable projector could be for you. We'd love to see a high-definition version, or even better, a similar model with Blu-ray built-in, but the concept behind the totally unique EH-DM3 is spot on.