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Just seeing Epson’s MegaPlex iOS device projector at tradeshows and in still pictures doesn’t do it justice. Set up in a small, awkward booth and surrounded by bright lights, the projector does not inspire a second look. It was not until I got a private screening at Macworld that I really saw what this thing could do.

The MegaPlex MG-850HD is an incredibly bright 2800 lumen 720P projector with some mighty 10-watt stereo speakers built-in, but it adds something that you would not find in many other high-end consumer projectors: a 30-pin iOS device dock. The dock will accommodate anything from an iPod touch, iPhone, or even any iPad.

Amazon has the MegaPlex MG-850HD for $612. Buy.com has it for $620.

This thing is a Portable. Home. Movie Theater—and I mean that in every sense of the word “portable.” At less than eight pounds and with a sturdy handle, it is easy to pack and take it to the parents’ house, or even move it from the basement to the bedroom. Your iOS device is the “brains” of this thing, and it starts working immediately upon plugging in, so it takes only seconds to set up. You can watch your iTunes, Hulu, or Netflix videos in under a minute after choosing a destination.

Similar to most high-end projectors, this one features manual movable feet to adjust projection angles, focus, zoom, and horizontal keystone. The MegaPlex also does auto-vertical keystone and iris controls to make setting it up at angles surprisingly easy.

This thing boasts some range, as well. With the early spring weather this year, we turned an evening birthday party into an impromptu outdoor movie showing on the backside of our house (with a sheet over a window). The MegaPlex is rated for an over 25-foot diagonal screen, and I can attest that it looks fantastic even before it is fully dark outside.

With that said, something even better happened with the release of the new iPad and 1080P Apple TV…

No, this thing does not do 1080P, so there is no added benefit from having 1080P devices; although, I have to say watching 10-foot 720P movies on my wall usually beats my 46-inch 1080P display pretty handily.

However, my old Apple TV with its 720P Airplay went up for grabs, and connecting this to the MegaPlex makes everything easier and more portable. Now, the Apple TV 720P is permanently connected via HDMI and those few seconds that it took to plop down the iOS device are now used to beam video to the Apple TV over Wi-Fi.

There are a few problems with this set up, of course. Apps, like Hulu and Netflix, do not let me use Airplay for “some reason.” In addition, it is a pain to set up the Apple TV outside of a home Wi-Fi network, so we usually just plop down the iOS device.

One other nit-pick I have with the MegaPlex is that the VGA/USB ports are behind a strange rubber housing that is hard to find and replace. The easy solution to Mac/PC connectivity is buying an inexpensive Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter, which works great. The MegaPlex becomes either a 1280-by-800 extra display or a mirrored one for your Mac. If you have a more recent Mac/Cable, the audio will go through Mini DisplayPort too.

The 10-watt speakers are better than I thought they would be. They easily fill a bedroom or living room with treble, but we were left wishing for a little more noise outside. You certainly will be better off adding some bass in the form of a subwoofer in either scenario. However, keeping the weight and size down probably made more sense than making this a truly portable outdoor theater.

That is one other thing: When the MegaPlex is not used as a projector, it makes a nice (albeit large/expensive) charging speaker dock for iOS devices.

The remote is also very intuitive and helps a lot when controlling the iOS device and not reaching behind the projector to control the iOS device.

As with all non-LED projectors, this one gets hot and has a fan that turns into a portable heater after a half-hour or so. I have not seen a 2800 lumen projector that behaves any differently.

Conclusion:

At just over $600 now (it is listed at $799), this is an inexpensive 720P 2800 Lumen projector, even though it is on the high-end of devices you will find today. Nevertheless, when you add the excellent speakers, the significant portability, and the iOS device dock, the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector becomes a “got to have” bargain for those who want to beam whatever is on their iOS device to a display.

For those who do not want the clutter of a permanent HDTV screen, this also makes a solid HDTV replacement. Still, you will want to get better speakers and some clean wall space.

Amazon has it for $612. Buy.com has it for $620.

Projection System: Epson 3LCD, 3-chip technology

Projection Method: Front / rear

Product Color: Black

Driving Method: Epson Poly-silicon TFT Active Matrix, 0.59-inch wide panel without MLA

Pixel Number: 1,024,000 dots (1280 x 800) x 3

White Light Output: 2800 lumens1 (ISO 21118 Standard)

Color Light Ouput: 2800 lumens1

Aspect Ratio: Native 16:10 widescreen

Native Resolution: WXGA (1280 x 800)

Resize: 16:9, 4:3

Lamp Type: E-TORL™ 200 W UHE

Lamp Life: Up to 5000 hours2

Throw Ratio Range: 1.30 — 1.56 (wide/tele)

Size (projected distance): 33″ – 320″

Keystone Correction:

  • Horizontal ±30 degrees (slide bar)
  • Vertical: ±30 degrees

Contrast Ratio: Up to 3,000:1

Color Reproduction: Full-color (16.77 million colors )

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