The DM3’s pictures are sadly not nearly as impressive as its sound, at least if you think relative to the budget projector market as a whole. Yet at the same time they’re vastly improved over those of the DM2, to the point where they actually at least allow the DM3 to do what it says on the tin.
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. Beginning with, predictably, the DM3’s black level response, which is the poorest I’ve seen for some time. Dark scenes simply don’t contain any real black at all, as the projector fails to get deeper than a milky grey. This inevitably leads to some background shadow detailing getting lost in translation, and I swear it also cost me the occasional life while playing ”Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’s” online darker levels. Or maybe I’m just looking for a scapegoat for my inherent COD crapness.
The DM3’s colours are sometimes troubling too, with numerous unnatural tones popping up, especially during dark scenes (as I’d expect with a projector that struggles as much as the DM3 with black level).
I also detected traces of the projector’s inherent pixel structure within the image while viewing on a 100in screen, and noted some pretty jagged edges when viewing downscaled HD material. These jaggies are not nearly so evident, thankfully, while watching standard definition sources.
I guess I’m duty bound to say, too, that the DM3’s HD images don’t look nearly as sharp or crisp as those of the numerous HD Ready projectors now boasting sub-£1k price points. But this was always going to be the case considering that the DM3 doesn’t have an HD pixel count.
The issues described above – especially the colour tone and black level ones – mean that I personally didn’t get any great enjoyment from watching the DM3 in a dark room. Even when using the Theatre preset.
But actually, in a complete reversal of normal projection form, the DM3 unexpectedly comes into its own once you turn the lights on. For at this point the picture’s emphasis on brightness over contrast makes real sense, as the picture continues to be remarkably watchable and involving through the ambient light for such a cheap projector.
Colours, oddly, suddenly don’t seem nearly so off-key, almost as if Epson has calibrated them to suit – or ‘work with’ – an environment containing a lot of light.
Even the picture’s relative lack of sharpness compared with HD Ready models seems less of an issue in a lit environment, since the light effectively dilutes the picture anyway.
I should also say in the plus column that the picture is pleasantly free of noise such as dot crawl, MPEG noise from the DVD decoder or even scaling noise, aside from the aforementioned jagged edges with HD material.
The nerdy home cinema fan in me still revolts at the very idea of the DM3. A projector that’s designed to work best in ambient light, has precious few optical image adjustments, runs noisily and delivers fundamentally average pictures in the dark? Yikes.
Yet hostile though I personally might be to the principal of the thing, I can’t deny that the casual gaming/telly/occasional movie projector market the DM3 is aimed at not only exists, but might very well be larger than the serious home cinema market I belong to. And the DM3 unequivocally fulfils the needs of that market much, much more successfully than the DM2. In fact, in some ways – multimedia playback options, automatic light-based picture adjustment and sound – it caters for its market better than any rival model I can think of.
But stubborn old git that I am, I still maintain that it should be possible to marry the simplicity and flexibility demanded by the casual projector user to better picture quality than the DM3 delivers. Bah and, indeed, humbug.
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