Overall Picture and Performance of the HC3700 Projector
To really enjoy the Home Cinema 3700 in action, you merely need to feed it a high quality source such as a Blu-ray movie, or some good HDTV source - cable, satellite or antenna, and point it at your screen - or worst case, a white wall. Color right out of the box is really good in both Cinema and Bright Cinema modes, as well as Natural. Even Dynamic isn't bad, but save Dynamic as your "break glass in case of emergency" mode, when your room is overwhelmed with ambient light.
With tweaking, such as our post calibration settings both modes look even better, more natural, more "dead on the money," but the differences (especially with Cinema mode) are subtle.
The HC3700 just rocks for sports. And it offers CFI (creative frame interpolation) for smooth motion. I don't have a single complaint about watching typical non-sports HDTV either. When it comes to critical movie viewing few projectors in its price range can match the color handling, but a few do deeper black levels. None I can think of do better dark shadow detail.
When it comes to movies, one can always want better black level performance, getting those blacks to be as close to black as possible, instead of dark gray. No 3LCD, LCoS or DLP projector can do a true black in a dark scene, so the question is - how close?
In the case of the Home Cinema 3700, close is "pretty good" for a sub-$2000 projector. Overall, I found movie viewing to be pretty satisfying despite the less than stellar black level performance. But "stellar" starts with what I call "ultra high contrast" projectors, and they are all a real step up on price.
There's plenty of brightness. This projector can crank out almost 2500 lumens with great picture quality, and almost 1000 lumens more in that "break glass..." mode. Not the brightest home projectors - in fact Epson has a competing series - their HC1440 which is about the same price claims 4400 lumens and measures more than 1000 lumens brighter.
Who Should Buy the HC3700 - and What's the Competition
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The first part is easy. Just about anyone with a budget of $1500 should seriously consider the HC3700. It's bright enough for all but the worst rooms, but remember, if you are going into a "bright room" environment, you need the proper screen - typically called an ALR type screen, one with an optical design that absorbs ambient light from off angles, instead of reflecting it back to your eyes as a screen will with light coming from the projector.
The HC3700 may not be the ultimate movie projector for the hard core enthusiast, but it's especially good color, and other attributes make it a serious contender even for movies, unless you have a significantly larger budget you can tap into.
So, what's the competition look like?
Need maximum brightness around the same price? Look no further than Epson's HC1440, but I would only recommend that one if you are really in a tough room, lighting wise. The HC3700 is over 2/3s as bright, but offers a number of features including CFI, not found on the more basic HC1440.
If you are really a serious movie enthusiast, and that's your primary purpose, consider BenQ's HC4050, which sports slightly better black levels and is another favorite, but the Epson is brighter, and easily the better choice for sports fans, and general HDTV viewing, especially with ambient light.
Although also no match in brightness, Sony's $1999 (thus officially $500 more) VPL-HW45ES, is also one of our favorites, and received our top award in last year's Best Home Theater Projectors report in the $1000 - $2000 range. It's no match in brightness, but has the most natural looking skin tones and color - right out of the box, of any projector I can think of under $3K. The HC3700 does some excellent skin tones, but the Sony does them even better. The Sony doesn't have a dynamic iris to help with black levels but it's LCoS panels have more native contrast, so I give the Sony the advantage overall for black levels.
But, when it comes to sports, the sheer horsepower of the Epson, and it's impressive Image Enhancement modes trump Sony's Reality Creation, in creating a sharper seeming image. Now often that can be "over the top" for movie viewing, but I do really like Epsons' Image Enhancement for my sports, (even if it is a bit "over the top" - but that's my preference). I therefore give the Epson the overall advantage there.
Now for my regular readers, you know what's coming. If you have twice the budget, go buy Epson's HC5040UB. It accepts 4K content and the higher color and dynamic range standards, so is a massive step up, but it is the least expensive projector that can do all of that, at least for now.
Oh, and don't forget, this Epson offers up some reasonably powerful speakers. It's always best, of course to have a good separate sound system, but if you need internal sound, the Epson HC3700 has that handled as well as any competitor and most competitors lack internal speakers.
The Bottom Line
Excellent Color, tons of brightness, a good feature set, and a great warranty. I'm a fan of great warranties. Of course most of you don't worry about the warranty unless a problem occurs, but isn't it nice to know that in a price range where basic 1 year warranties are most common, Epson provides two years, with a rapid replacement program for both years. If you get hit with a warranty issue, you are back up in a couple of days, not weeks. True, there are some other two year, and even a couple of 3 year warranties out there, but none with replacement or loaner programs at this price point.
From The Fifth Elemente
I do wonder if I would prefer the HC3900 with it's slightly higher contrast and better black levels for the extra bucks (it has to do direct battle with the previously mentioned Sony), but for those needing to keep the spend under $1500, the HC3700 is certainly a top pick. If you have a true dedicated theater or cave, you can consider one or two DLP projectors, but otherwise, I think the HC3700 is about as good as it gets without getting up to the $1999 price point.