It dawned upon me after a late-night session of some epic US Open tennis (a Carlos Alcaraz masterclass, Zheng Qinwen outshining Ons Jabeur and some Jessica Pegula/Coco Gauff doubles fun) sprinkled with Hansal Mehta’s latest, Scam 2003—The Telgi Story, that projectors aren’t about finding the sweat on a player’s forehead or what’s written on a piece of paper in the background of a scene.
Projectors (especially the budget options) are more about the overall experience. They are about enjoying the expansiveness that is on offer, replicating the cinema hall experience without bothering about picture quality or surround sound. That is, unless you are truly building a cinematic experience in your basement.
For the past week or two, I have been using Epson’s latest CO-FH02 smart projector, which is also quite portable in terms of weight (2.6kg). It isn’t entirely portable, though, for it needs power supply to operate.
The CO-FH02 uses Epson’s 3LCD technology and can output Full HD (1,920x1,080) resolution on any wall or screen. Its USP isn’t the quality, portability, or even the built-in speaker (more on that later), but the fact that it can get extremely bright. Epson claims 3,000 lumens, though it didn’t reach that mark during my review period. Still, it is one of the brightest projectors I have ever tested.
At over 2,250 lumens, the CO-FH02 had fairly good colour accuracy. In fact, it outdoes many projectors with 100-inch images. I set up the projector in my father’s office on the top floor of our house. I got my parents (who aren’t tech nerds like me) to come and check it out. They were impressed.
The CO-FH02 can output a 60-inch picture from a 1.58m distance. At the maximum, it can project a 391-inch image from 10.4m.
The CO-FH02 isn’t going to blow you away with its specifications: It doesn’t support HDR, nor does it have a dedicated gaming mode. It just has a single HDMI input, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
At a retail price point of ₹86,999 (or under ₹70,000 at local stores), one shouldn’t really be complaining. The CO-FH02 may top out at Full HD but 4K projectors are pricier. Just a quick scan on Amazon shows that 4K projectors from trusted brands like Samsung, BenQ and ViewSonic routinely sell at around ₹1 lakh.
With that in mind, and the fact that this is LCD technology (black levels impacting the contrast), the output is still pretty crisp and has vibrant colours, and, in fact, the image retains more detail than you may expect.
The CO-FH02 has a built-in 5-watt speaker. It can’t fill up a massive room and doesn’t have the bass some people love but it doesn’t distort, even at max volumes. There is clarity in the voices and I understood the dialogues in many TV shows without any issues.
For better sound output, you can connect the streaming stick to headphones/earphones or to any external speaker via Bluetooth for a better audio experience. Connectivity is seamless and there is no audio lag.
What surprised me most was the bundled Epson Android TV streaming stick. Upon unboxing the CO-FH02, it took me a while to figure out how to connect the streaming stick. You would expect the ports (limited though they may be) to be on the back panel. But no, Epson decided to put the back panel on the left-hand side, behind a removable panel that is actually quite difficult to remove. If you are using the ports, the panel will have to be left detached.
There’s just a single HDMI port and that’s where the Epson Android TV stick is to be plugged in. The stick takes up both the USB and HDMI slots, which is not ideal because you will have to choose if you want to connect something like, say, a gaming console.
Nonetheless, once you are past all that, the magic starts. The Android TV streaming interface will be familiar if you have ever used a Chromecast or Android/Google TV. Unlike other projectors, the streaming stick has everything you can ask for. It has full versions of all the apps you may want to use and nothing half-baked.
The CO-FH02 comes with two remotes—one for the projector and one for the streaming stick—but I am very confused as to why one would need both. The infrared (IR) remote that controls the projector can also double up to control the streaming stick. The Bluetooth remote, just for the streaming stick, becomes redundant. The remote was also a little jumpy. If I wanted to go right and select another app, it would sometimes jump two apps on the navigation. Nonetheless, the range and buttons were fairly good and I had no problems inputting Wi-Fi passwords and typing out movies I wanted to search for.
If you are new to the world of projectors and need one for your basement movie nights, then the Epson CO-FH02 smart projector will suit your needs just fine. It’s bright—almost too bright sometimes—and costs under ₹1 lakh. If you are a movie aficionado/home theatre enthusiast, then this isn’t for you.
The bundled streaming stick (with access to multiple apps) and the portability factor are a big pull. All you need is a surface to set the CO-FH02 on and a wall or screen in front of it. And you are set to join the world of projectors.
Sahil Bhalla is a Delhi-based journalist. He posts @IMSahilBhalla.