By Dusty Overby
on 8.11.09

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Here at Gear Patrol, we’re nothing if not out-and out-video geeks. Our passion runs wild for television, movies, games, or anything else that you can put up on screen. Being men of various situations and needs ourselves, we can, however, respect that no one video-graphical solution is right for each and every man. Thus, we try our darnedest to give you a range of options. It’s in that very spirit that we introduce to you the Epson PowerLight 700 Projector.

In case you didn’t realize, Epson is the top seller of projectors and for good reason. Just because the 700 is the base model in Epson’s rightly-acclaimed PowerLight Home Cinema line doesn’t mean it’s any slouch. In fact, quite the opposite. The 700’s powerhouse performance belies it’s budget price tag – a fact that makes it more than worthy of your consideration if you’ve been considering a projector for your home theater needs. It’s long been true that, if your set up allows for their proper use, a project easily affords the most bang (i.e. screen) for your buck. Never has that been more true than with the Epson PowerLight Home Cinema 700.

Hit the jump to get more info and our detailed impressions.

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Let’s get the details (PDF link) out of the way, straightaway, before moving on to our impressions. The PowerLight 700 relies on a 3LCD, tri-chip optical engine to generate your life-sized viewing experience. Projecting with 2000 lumens of brightness (both color and white), the Epson promise solid saturation, even in less than light-controlled environments. More on this later.

As for resolution, the unit manages a handy 720p, which is to be expected for this price point and is by no means disappointing in sharpness. It offers a bevy of inputs including composite and HDMI. It has only one HDMI input, but any permanent installation of the unit is likely to feature a single cable running to a video switching hub (maybe like this). The final bit that really sets this unit apart from comparably performing models is the bulb life. By utilizing an energy efficient E-TORL lamp, Epson has managed to stretch the bulb’s lifespan to 4,000 hours, improving considerably on the industry standard.

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Having spent several weeks using the Epson PowerLite 700 to play video games and to watch HD movies, sports, and standard definition sources, we managed a pretty good grasp on the unit’s capabilities and benefits. Our testing utilized a screen size of around 90″, which is by no means the maximum usable image size for the 700, but was simply constrained by our test space. A permanent installation would ideally utilize a ceiling mount, but we found the projector easy to set up and quick to warm up, making it just as useful in set-up/take-down situations.

Aside from the previously mention excellent bulb life, the PowerLight 700’s best feature might be it’s ability to produce strong colors in spite of being asked to perform in a partially lit room. We intentionally torture tested the unit by setting it up midday, in a room with a good deal of outside light muddying the situation. Unlike older or less competent projectors, the on-screen action was still discernible. In rooms with moderate light control, the 700’s performance was superb. Blocking out light completely, we found the PowerLight 700’s performance to warrant a value much higher than its sub-$800 price tag.

The bottom line is this: nothing can make your home theater or man cave more jaw dropping than a wall-sized screen for watching and gaming. There are certainly more sophisticated, expensive options, but the price and performance combo afforded by the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 700 projector was heretofore unheard of. This unit brings big screen entertainment into the budget-friendly realm.

Cost: $789

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