Summer is in full swing and you want to throw an amazing outdoor viewing party — this is the natural domain of the projector. We’ve looked at quite a few pico projectors, but while the convenience of pocket-size portability is nice, you’ll be hard-pressed to satisfy a crowd, especially as you get to bigger screen sizes. To get the kind of brightness and resolution you need to make things go off without a hitch, even in daylight, you need a full-sized projector with top-of-the-line hardware. The Epson Home Cinema 3500 Home Theater Projector isn’t quite that, falling into Epson’s mid-range line of full-sized projectors, but it’s more than capable enough to warrant consideration over more expensive competitors.
To test the Home Cinema 3500, we threw an outdoor sports screening party. We grabbed a FIOS cable box, 20 feet worth of coaxial cable, an 8′ HDMI cable, a heavy duty outdoor electrical extension cord, and an Epson Duet 80 projector screen. A lot of that equipment was for the sake of the cable box so that we could watch live sports in HD.
The Home Cinema 3500 was a great choice for sports because we wanted to have powerful sound built-in to catch all the details of the game and its announcers. The Epson Home Cinema 3500 includes two built-in 10-watt speakers, but has ports for external speakers. If you’re going to go all-out on an outdoor viewing party, there’s a good chance you’ll have your own speaker system to use, but if not, we can say the built-in speakers were more than loud enough for our crowd.
We also planned on having over 20 people watching at one time, so screen size (and resolution and picture quality) was important. The 3500 features 2,500 lumens of color brightness and 2,500 lumens of white brightness, which on this projector proved more than bright enough to handle daytime projection. The solid brightness also means you still get great performance when the projector is far away from the display or if you’re projecting at very large sizes — and this projector can go large, maxing out at 300″.
Getting 1080p resolution video off a projected image was icing on the cake, and made the viewing experience feel like we were watching the game on a pretty decent television. The wide vertical and horizontal lens shift gave us great control over how big or small we wanted the display to be at any given time. The Home Cinema 3500 is also capable of 3D projection (and comes with two pairs of glasses), which we did not test.
For those who really want to impress with visually stunning movie nights that transform your backyard into a state of the art outdoor theater, the Epson Home Cinema 3500 is something to consider purchasing. It retails for $1,499 and offers everything you could possibly want for an intense outdoor screening with friends, including: 1) 3D technology, 2) impressive sound quality, and 3) rich picture quality. However, it does lack in portability.
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The Good: Excellent brightness, 1080p resolution, better than average integrated sound, 3D projection
The Bad: Not very portable