Families on a budget will love the 720p Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD's big, bright (2,800 lumens worth) image. No need to create a light-tight viewing area; this projector is bright enough for use in a family room. An integrated iThing dock makes playing back movies or TV shows from your iPad, iPod or iPhone a breeze -- as long as it's not the latest models of those devices. The built-in 10-watt stereo audio system does a credible job and enhances the MG-850HD's portability.
A light cannon for everyday rooms. The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD's 720p images might not appeal to videophiles, but it draws praise for its "top notch" image quality, accurate colors and good saturation right out of the box -- all given its sub-$800 price range, of course.
The MG-850HD's biggest strength is its brightness: Mike Rollet at ProjectorReviews.com measures the MG-850HD's light output at 2,611 lumens in actual use, just shy of the manufacturer's promised 2,800 lumens. That's more than enough for projecting a big, bright image in your family room. Reviewers report only minimal pixilation when watching very fast action on a large screen -- better than we've seen from some budget-priced 1080p projectors.
Of course as brightness goes up, black levels inevitably fade. An automatic iris helps keep dark scenes appropriately dark, but Bill Livolsi of ProjectorCentral.com notes that sometimes it doesn't trigger as aggressively as it should. The MG-850HD's blacks end up more like deep grays, but brightness trumps black levels when it comes to viewing when there's a decent amount of ambient light.
The MG-850HD isn't the best at upscaling standard-def images, and its resolutions is less than the full 1080p resolution you'll find with higher-end home projectors -- a difference that's noticeable on larger screens. If you're willing to pop for just a little more, the Optoma HD20 (*Est. $700) delivers full 1080p resolution, with great image quality and better black levels than the MG-850HD.
An iThing (fading) star. For those with an Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, the MG-850HD's built-in dock for all things Apple makes it an especially compelling choice -- or at least it did. The projector sports the old-style Apple 30-pin connector rather than the newer Lightning connector. You can work around that with a Lightning Digital AV Adapter (*Est. $50), but that connects your iThing to the projector via HDMI.
For those that own older Apple devices, however, playing back stored movies or TV shows is a breeze with the MG-850HD's rear-facing dock. App-based streaming is a little more problematic -- only Netflix and iTunes are supported so far. Reviewers say that's a problem with the apps themselves, not the projector.
The MG-850HD's10-watt-per-channel audio system is another upside for most reviewers. Although it doesn't take the place of a dedicated home theater sound system, Wired describes it as "surprisingly robust," and Livolsi predicts that small groups shouldn't have to turn the Epson MegaPlex's MG-850HD's volume up past the halfway point (where distortion might start to occur).
The MG850HD sports a hefty number of inputs: HDMI, component and composite video, audio input, USB and VGA. Because those connectors are distributed all over the projector, however, reviewers say you could end up with a tangle of wires; and some user reviewers posting to Amazon.com lament the lack of a simple audio out port, which means you're basically limited to either the built-in audio system or a home theater system, with no easy options in-between.
It likes field trips. Design touches such as a carry handle and built-in sliding lens cap make the MG-850HD easy to tote around from room to room, or even outdoors. Although experts criticize it as being a touch too heavy for a portable business projector, users don't seem to have gotten the memo and happily tote the projector along to work with them. We couldn't find a single user complaint about this projector's 8.6-pound weight.
Furthermore, a couple of the MG-850HD's features are clearly intended for business use: an A/V mute lets you pause for questions while preserving lamp life, and you can play back images from a USB device with no computer necessary. Being able to adjust both the front and rear legs of this projector makes setup easy -- a definite plus for operation on the road but also convenient for home use, especially since the MG-850HD has no lens-shift capability and only a modest, 1.2x zoom. Vertical and horizontal keystone correction ensures a nicely squared-up image but can reduce definition.
Being able to simply dock an iDevice and watch its images projected onto a screen is a big plus for some users who admit being intimidated by the process of setting up other projectors. "Plugged in my iPad and immediately was watching a movie. Fresh out of the box to watching a movie in about 10 minutes," writes one user at Amazon.com. Again, however, that capability has been compromised with the latest generation of Apple devices.
Top-notch value for its price range. Expert after expert recommends the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD for its value, especially given its built-in stereo audio system. No, it won't take the place of a dedicated home-theater surround-sound set up, but it performs remarkably well for built-in projector sound -- certainly well enough to satisfy many listeners.
Epson projects an impressive lamp life of up to 5,000 hours, which no reviewer contradicts. That comes in handy because replacement lamps are usually the greatest expense associated with home theater projectors.
Review Credibility: Very Good The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD earns a Highly Rated award here, with value and features leading the list of pluses. Picture quality is technically held back by less than ideal black levels, but Bill Livolsi says that when viewing in a well-lighted room, black levels are pretty much "irrelevant." Color performance is "solid."
Review: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Home Entertainment Projector Review, Bill Livolsi, Oct. 11, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good This comprehensive -- and incredibly lengthy -- review finds some downsides to the Epson Megaplex MG-850HD but those are more than offset by its upsides, at least for its intended audience. Mike Rollet likes the projector's versatility and value, and he adds that "the Epson MG-850HD deserves serious consideration from any family looking for affordable home entertainment."
Review: Epson Megaplex MG-850HD WXGA LCD Home Entertainment Projector Review, Mike Rollet, Nov. 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good PCMag.com names the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD a top-10 projector and awards it an Editors' Choice designation. Image quality is good with both video and data, says author Tony Hoffman. He appreciates the MG-850HD's iDevice compatibility and built-in audio.
Review: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector, Tony Hoffman, Oct. 28, 2011
Review Credibility: Very Good Wired likes the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD well enough to give it a rating of 8, or "Excellent, with room to kvetch." The author's major kvetch is that the projector remote doesn't work with apps, and that very few of the best apps -- only Netflix and iTunes -- are compatible. Still, Rick Broida says that the "MegaPlex MG-850HD provides a complete and satisfying home theater experience powered by your favorite iDevice."
Review: From Touchscreen to Silver Screen, Rick Broida, Jan. 9, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good About.com's guide to home theater, Robert Silva, names the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD as one of the top 10 LCD projectors and pens a thorough, balanced review of its performance. He finds some issues with performance of the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD when upscaling images from standard definition, such as 480i output from DVD player. He also notes that the black levels fall short of "dedicated home theater standards." However, he does add that image quality with HD sources is excellent, given the price.
Review: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD 3LCD Video Projector - Product Review, Robert Silva, Not Dated
6. The New York Times
Review Credibility: Good David Pogue says he's impressed with the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD. He calls it a "pleasure," and adds that it is "portable, versatile and simple to use." He does zero in on the challenge of finding a good placement for this projector as a downside, however.
Review: Big Screen, Powered by iPhone, David Pogue, Dec. 7, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Amazon.com has more than two dozen user reviews for the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD, giving us useful insight into the user experience. It receives an overall rating of 4.5 stars out of 5 possible.
Review: Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of May 2013