Can Hewlett Packard become the latest in a growing line of traditional PC brands to conquer the home cinema projection world?

Love it or loathe it, you certainly can't accuse the ep7112 of looking bland. Its hulking body looks completely unique in its roughly circular shape, gloss white/matt grey two-tone finish and raised control panel - all stuck unceremoniously atop an (actually rather handy) 'foot' arrangement upon which this DLP projector is able to swivel and tilt to its heart's content.

Connectivity is good. This novel projector provides an HDCP-enabled DVI jack for Sky high-definition and digital DVD outputs. It also includes component video jacks for analogue HD and progressive scan alternatives, and the usual S-video and composite video) jacks.

Unfortunately, most of the things to cover here are negatives. Insanely, for such an apparently home-friendly projector, the ep7112 doesn't use a native widescreen DLP chipset, instead adopting a 4:3 800 x 600 (SVGA) ratio.

Also, I wasn't entirely blown away by the promised 1600:1 contrast ratio, and the 34dB running noise - which HP actually seems to be proud of - is in fact one of the loudest around. Nor are there any significant features in the ep7122's onscreen menus worthy of mention beyond a white intensity adjustment.

At least the projector can take all the main types of high definition source, and claims a promising 1020-lumen (ANSI) brightness rating.

The unusual but attractive remote is easy to find your way around and backlit, while the onscreen menus are clear. The projector is easy to set up, too, and delivers an adequately living room friendly throw ratio.

It's hard not to be immediately put off the ep7112 by its lack of a native widescreen aspect ratio. But if you can see past this model actually performs well. Black levels look quite a bit better than you might expect from the relatively humble 1600:1 contrast ratio claims.

Pictures remain largely free both of DLP technology's common green dot crawl over dark areas. I was impressed too by the sharpness of the pictures and the amount of fine detail on show - even though the widescreen pictures only use a portion of the projector's native 4:3 resolution. Finally, colours score highly for both their richness and their natural tone.

All is not perfect, however. Those twin DLP nasties of the rainbow effect and fizzing noise over horizontal motion are only averagely suppressed. Also, feeds via the DVI jack fall into the common trap of looking slightly more noisy than analogue component feeds. At least this digital feed problem is pretty low-level compared to the worst culprits out there, though.

Probably the most annoying trait is the image's limited greyscale, which means dark picture areas, while enjoying decent black levels, tend to look hollow and flat.

One final moan concerns the ep7122's running noise, which is easily the loudest in this group test and impossible to ignore during quieter movie moments.

There's certainly enough basic image quality on show here to prove that HP might one day be in the running with a viable home cinema offering, but the EP7112 misses too many key targets for us to recommend it.