Epson thinks it's time everyone had a bigscreen projector.
Why else would it be selling an all-in-one PJ that includes a DVD player and surround sound speakers in the same unit? The D10 is even bundled with an 80in home cinema screen. A more obvious attempt to popularise the hobby of bigscreen viewing you're unlikely to find. It's certainly a doddle to install.
If it's just DVD you're after, the D10 involves just one cable: the power lead. Juice it up and the D10 plays its joker: a huge 60in image from barely six feet away. As well as a great throw ratio, it sports horizontal and vertical lens shift that make it easy to setup anywhere. This is truly the first portable home cinema.
The base, which includes both the built-in DVD player and the four stereo speakers, can rotate 180°. Lateral thinkers will immediately ask about the speakers switching from right to left. No need: the D10 automatically senses what's been done and swaps the channels accordingly, albeit preceded by a brief snapping sound.
No connection needed
Although the D10 will immediately appeal to those after an all-in-one movie machine, it is HD Ready, too.
The resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels is fed via a sole HDMI input. Given the all-in-one nature of the D10, this HDMI is obviously aimed at those with a PS3 or Xbox 360 Elite console, but obviously any high-definition source can be attached.
The main proviso for those with the latest high-definition players is that the HDMI is only version 1.2. Although, given the resolution on offer, this isn't an issue.
Other connectivity options include S-video, composite video and a slight fudge for component video, which must be fed into the D10 via the D-sub PC input. This isn't an unusual issue on projectors and Epson does supply an adaptor cable, but some component users might feel frustrated. Audio outputs include one set of stereo phonos, a digital optical
audio out and even a dedicated subwoofer output.
There's also a headphone jack and a USB port that can take memory sticks festooned with MP3 or WMA files, and, most impressively, DivX (and DivX ultra) video. That same USB can also be used to hook-up digital cameras.
Epson has thought of everything, but with a plug 'n' play/HD Ready split personality, where does the D10 fit into the home cinema landscape? 'The all-in-one concept has been around for a while but hasn't taken off until now,' postulates Graeme Davidson, product manager for projectors at Epson. 'Our feeling is that there's a growing interest in projection, but the idea of having a projector, a separate audio system and cables everywhere has put people off.'
Epson-made and completely free, the bundling of a dedicated projector screen is an unusual inclusion, but Davidson insists that it's good quality. 'It's a screen I'd be happy enough to have in my home,' he offers, 'although it is aimed at the "my first projector" level of consumer.' Well, I credit the honesty.
This 80in roll-up is easy to use and relatively portable, but it's so flimsy it curls up at the sides when in situ. Sit close to it and it's a bit like the old, curved Cinerama screens of yore.
It's better than projecting on a wall then, but ultimately a bit of a compromise. So is the picture from the EMP-TWD10 a little more solid?
For sheer bigscreen fun, this Epson delivers. Using Theatre Mode, colour saturation is impressive and a vivid, entertaining palette ensures Fantastic Four on Blu-ray, via the D10's
HDMI input, looks surprisingly good. Star Jessica Alba looks stunning, but closer inspection of her lycra costume revealed little shadow detail. The result is a flatter-looking Alba than you might expect.
Although it's a reasonable effort that's comparable to other 720p LCD projectors, the TWD10 never reaches the depth of image delivered by the brand's flagship TW series. But then this is to be expected. There are other caveats too. Although capable of a precise HD image with no noticeable 'screen door' grid, the picture does lose resolution during some action sequences.
There are a variety of viewing modes, but exploring them brings little immediate reward: the difference between Living Room mode - which is designed to cope with ambient light - and Theatre Black is minimal.
Game mode does brighten the image somewhat, but it doesn't drastically smooth it. This, of course, is the raison d'etre of the Game modes that seem to be garnering a buzz amongst the consumer electronics industry. Here, though, the picture clearly judders and loses resolution during the fast-moving camera pans of PES 2008 (Xbox 360).
Meat and potatoes
I suspect that standard-definition fare will get the most play in Epson's TWD10. When you insert a DVD into the built-in drive the unit automatically overrides any other inputs you may be using.
Despite a slight yellow tint to bright footage and skin tones, my test DVD of Casino Royale suggests that it's a pretty decent disc-spinner.
A relatively quiet performance at around 28dB means the onscreen enjoyment is never tempered by noise.
Insert a memory stick and the D10 immediately detects and plays back music. Digital pics can then be viewed while the music plays, while stills also on the stick are presented clearly after short delay. DivX-encoded movies play without any fuss.
With a choice between stereo or virtual surround, the Epson's integrated sound system may be a stranger to bass, but the level of noise generated by the four 5W speakers makes casual viewing possible (if not desirable).
The sound it makes is complex rather than wide, with dialogue pushed to the front beyond a fairly detailed backdrop. Attach a subwoofer and you've an acceptable emergency sound system for relatively little hassle.
A word on design: the functionality of the Epson probably necessitates that it looks square and ugly. But does it have to look this ugly?
An integrated HD Ready projector with a DVD drive may seem an odd proposition, but for some users this could be ideal. Some might even say that it's only one generation (Full HD resolution and an HD DVD drive) away from being the future of mass-market home cinema, but, for now, it's not features that the D10 lacks.
A black hole approach to contrast ratio will disappointment home cinema connoisseurs. However if you're looking for an occasional - and portable - plug 'n' play home cinema, the D10 does a unique job.