There’s nothing wrong with going back to the basics, just as long they’re good enough to go back to. For projectors, that’s a distinction pretty much made by redeemable lamp brightness and how big of a active screen you can get for your arrangement, these principles determine how well the execution comes off and how much money you’ll have to part with to get it.
When I reviewed the PowerLite 750HD from Epson I remember it being good but not a bona-fide winner, far from the prime example of a cheap LCD projector done right despite the few enticing extras. After some tweaking the updated step-down PowerLite 740HD Projector makes a better case for itself as a whole, ditching some of the arbitrary features while improving other things – namely quality and a lower price in general.
The majority of these changes aren’t noticeable at first, with a purposeful exterior that’s vented its hard to spot the differences of the 740HD. A recessed lens, sliding door cover, 1.2x zoom dial, and a single front adjustable leg for height adjustment go untouched. In fact, all the connectivity is also carried over with a Spartan assortment a single HDMI, VGA, composite A/V, S-Video, and two different USB ports (one even has wireless network capabilities). A single watt monaural speaker is there too and a bit of a downgrade, so you’re better off with a cheap soundbar instead.
The remote is roughly the same and is preferred over the panel controls, coming loaded with lots of buttons and only a few of them actually useful if you’re not utilizing this 3LCD for the office. The menu is equally adequate and easy to understand because it doesn’t give you enough options to screw up, one notable addition though is an available onscreen home screen that’s very accessible and provides icon shortcuts to the most used functions.
Because of its compact size (11.7” width, 9.3” depth, 3.3” height, 5.3-pounds) and 3000 lumen brightness count, the 740HD is very travel-friendly and viewing is fairly good in well-lit rooms; though still more ideal in darkness. Those attributes are prerequisites for any home entertainment projector and fits within the criteria here too, choose a clean wall or screen and the automatic keystone placement miraculously does the rest.
Testing was fairly routine by tweaking options when needed. Right out of the box the ‘Dynamic” default color mode came with a preference of white to heighten the brightness levels, however, color accuracy is compromised to point of looking a bit washed out and unnaturally yellowish in tone. The 740HD fares slightly better in the “BrightCinema” preset is dials the temperature to agreeably neutral and colors more appropriate, although saturation wasn’t quite there, this is actually the one I ended up adjusting the most since it had some flexibility in how far image settings could actually go. “Game” is there for discerning players, but as a means to reduce eye fatigue everything looked dulled out and reddish to distracting levels regardless of correction.
Of course, sticking to the regular “Cinema” mode again remained the recommended choice, bringing back much of the expected hue for bold colors and skin tones. I appreciate that the white levels are subdued for all types of viewing material and the image was more natural without effort, but the blacks aren’t necessarily the deepest or inkiest seen; these deficiencies can be cheated somewhat by lowering the power consumption and manually configuring the brightness — far from perfect — but not terrible either.
Things continue to look good in high definition but familiar with a native HDTV 720p and WXGA resolution, identical to the 750HD reviewed previously. And like the 750HD the image will be clean enough and with plenty of detail at the right size, in fact, most people will be satisfied by what they see when going big even when upscaled to 1080p. Try imagining playing Halo 5: Guardians or Super Smash Bros., or enjoying films like Mad Max: Fury Road and you’ll see how an 85-inch screen enhances the visual experience, the standard input lag of 53 milliseconds (39ms on Game mode) also performed admirably for impromptu movie or game nights, as we often find ourselves doing when a projector comes through the office.
Surprisingly, heat dissipation is the biggest improvement over its predecessor, the internal fan sounding expectedly loud when left on its own — but somehow whisper quiet when setting the power consumption (lamp intensity) in ECO mode. This was one complaint we were boisterous about with the 750HD and are glad Epson addressed it here with the 740HD. In fact, leaving the projector in ECO mode goes hand-in-hand with our ‘calibrated’ picture settings by turning everything down for a more appropriate presentation and perception of better black levels.
For all intents and purposes, the Epson PowerLite 740HD Projector is a near-repeat performance compared to the prior 750HD tested before. Sure, it’s missing a couple of minor things (specifically the 2-watt mono speaker and stereoscopic 3D) but is a little cheaper as a consolation, and keeps its cool better as well. For anyone wanting a large screen almost anywhere with few frills the 740HD is a very straightforward pick.