The ubiquitous iPod has infiltrated most areas of home cinema but the projector market has always been an Apple-free zone. Until now that is. Epson’s MG-850HD is the world’s first home cinema projector with a built-in iPod dock, allowing you to watch movies and TV shows from your Apple device on a screen up to 300in in size – as well as playing music through its integrated 10W speakers.

It’s a nice idea. With no cables or peripherals needed, it’s now even easier to bore friends with iPhone holiday snaps or shaky-cam vids of the kids dancing. Simply pop your iWhatever on the dock and away you go. I’m not completely sold on the idea of listening to music though a projector, but for on-the-fly viewing of movies you’ve downloaded from iTunes it’s absolute genius.

Design isn’t a key consideration with projectors but for what it’s worth the MG-850HD is a great-looking unit. Its gloss-black finish and curved edges bring it up-to-date with today’s tastes. More importantly it’s light enough to carry about with the flip-up handle.

The iPod dock tray pops out from the back of the unit. Down one side are HDMI, composite, component and analogue stereo inputs, while a rubber flap on the back hides a 15-pin D-Sub PC input and two USB ports.Epson has made the MG-850HD quite user-friendly – I had it up and running in minutes. An adjustable leg on the front alters the vertical angle while manual levers adjust focus, image zoom and keystone correction. 

Simple control

The clear setup menu covers most bases, including five colour presets (Auto, Dynamic, Living Room, Cinema and Game), aspect and overscan settings, basic image tweaks and two levels of noise reduction. It’s all controlled using a neat little remote, with backlit buttons, dedicated iPod controls and no-nonsense labelling.

The 720p resolution will disappoint Blu-ray buffs, but Epson’s 3LCD technology delivers radiant, detailed pictures onto the screen. The image is still unmistakably hi-def – shots of apes rampaging over Golden Gate Bridge in Rise of the Planet of the Apes looked good. A gauzy pixel structure is faintly visible though. Nor are black levels as impressive as on Epson’s higher-specced models. It’s not the quietest or coolest projector around, either, blasting out more hot air than Ed Miliband.

The MG-850HD is a competent PJ capable of impressive pictures. However, you can get 1080p projectors for similar money, so only consider it if you really want the iPod docking option.


HCC VERDICT

Epson MG-850HD
Price:
£650 Approx

Highs: Bright, colourful pictures; convenient iPod playback; easy to set up and use
Lows: Blacks could be deeper; HD only 720p; speakers too tinny for music; a bit noisy

Performance: 3/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 3/5


Specifications

3D: no You’ll need to look further up Epson’s range
Full HD: no 
Connections: 1 x HDMI; 1 x component; 1 x stereo audio; 1 x 15-pin D-Sub PC; 1 x composite video; 2 x USB
Resolution: 1,280 x 800
Brightness (claimed): 2,800 ANSI Lumens
Contrast ratio (claimed): 3,000:1 
Dimensions (off stand): 340(w) x 115(h) x 291(d)mm
Weight: 3.9kg
Features: 2 x 10W in-built speakers;  iPod/iPhone/iPad dock; 3LCD technology; 5,000-hour lamp life; vertical/horizontal keystone correction; 1.2x zoom; 33-318in; Standard, Vocal, Music, Movie audio modes; five colour presets