Ladies and gentlemen, today is the day when projectors get fun. Or at least that’s what Epson wants us to believe as we take delivery of the brand’s MG-850HD.
Why is Epson so convinced that the 850HD is perfectly positioned to overturn our previous conception that using a projector is predominantly a fairly serious AV pursuit? Because the 850HD is the first projector ever launched in the UK to sport a built-in iDock.
Yes, push a little panel in the centre of the projector’s rear, and a cute dock pops out onto which you can mount you iPhone, iPod or even iPad. The idea being, of course, that you can then play any videos or photos stored on your iDevice through the projector at the sort of image sizes usually only found down at your local Odeon.
Actually, you can also play music too. For in recognition of the fact that the main thing most people have tucked away on their Apple devices is music, the 850HD carries a promising 10W worth of speakers on its rear panel, to either side of the docking station.
The need to incorporate a dock and uniquely (by projector standards) heavy duty speakers in the 850HD ensures that its design is very unusual. It actually feels like it’s all the wrong way round, with a stylishly curved bit on the unit’s rear, while the off-centre lens is housed on a rather plain-jane fascia.
It’s not an unattractive piece of kit overall, though, given its ‘novelty’ value. And we were also pleased given the 850HD’s fundamentally casual nature to note that it’s got a reasonably sturdy carry handle which folds away around the projector’s side when you set it down for use.
The fact that the the 850HD is capable of handling iPads as well as the more manageable iPod and iPhone kit is quite a boon, and we were pleased to note that even our resident first generation iPad - which is, of course, considerably heftier than the newer model - rested reasonably stably on the dock, without raising fears about it either tipping off or putting undue strain on its ‘dock slot’.
As well as the dock, a pop-off cover on the projector’s right side reveals a few other more standard connections. Namely an HDMI input, a composite video input, a D-Sub PC port, a stereo audio input, a USB port through which you can play photo slideshows, a component video input, and even a 3.5mm microphone input. Which raises frankly terrifying karaoke possibilities...
Even a cursory examination of the 850HD’s internal specifications reveals pretty definitively how Epson imagines its projector will be used - namely, in bright daylight environments or with your lights on. For its claimed maximum brightness output of 2800 Lumens is almost unbelievably bright for a sub-£600 projector supposedly aimed at anything other than the data presentations market, while its 3,000:1 claimed contrast ratio doesn’t on paper chime with the figures usually associated with quality movie viewing.