The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector

by Paul Mah

The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD is a versatile, all-in-one projector that packs everything you need for multimedia presentations into a single device.

The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD is an all-in-one projector with a twist: it comes with a dock specifically designed for Apple iOS devices, as well as built-in speakers. The Apple dock allows for a level of flexibility not found in other projectors, while the integrated speakers allows business users  to easily share a range of multimedia presentations such as slideshows with sound effects -- or even movies -- without having to fumble with separate sound systems and assorted audio and power cables.

Epson Projector Hardware

The MegaPlex MG-850HD ($799) incorporates 3LCD technology for clear and vibrant images, and it emits 2,800 lumens of color light output and white light output for startlingly bright projection. Its native resolution of 1280 x 800 means it is capable of 720p HD output, and makes it right at home in even the largest board rooms or meeting rooms. Moreover, the MG-850HD supports both front and rear projection, which allows for alternative deployment scenarios, where placing the projector in front of the screen is not an option.

The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD all-in-one projector

Figure 1: The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD Projector

The retractable Apple dock accommodates all current iPod devices, including an iPod Nano and iPod Touch, as well as the all models of iPhone smartphones and iPad tablets. Integrated into the side that faces the Apple dock are two 10 Watts stereo speakers tastefully hidden behind perforated metal grills and positioned such that they are not affected by an iPhone or iPad that may be currently docked.

Aside from the Apple dock, the MG-850HD also comes with a large number of connectivity options including an HDMI input, composite video inputs, and audio and component video on the side panel. You'll also find a 3.5mm microphone jack, which lets you plug in a microphone when addressing a large crowd. You can remove a panel located on the side facing the Apple dock to show a traditional VGA input, as well as two USB ports, which consist of a "Type A" port and a "Type B" port.

The Type A USB port lets you plug a USB flash memory device directly into the MG-850HD, while the Type B port can be wired directly to a PC to serve as an extended display for a PC or Mac. Finally, a carrying handle at the side is positioned so that it can be moved around easily.

Projector Setup and Performance

Setting up the MG-850HD is a relatively straight-forward affair, and involves plugging in a power cord and propping the projector on its front extension leg. If presenting from an iOS device, the next step is to retract the Apple dock; alternatively, connect the MG-850HD to a laptop or media player using a VGA or HDMI cable as you would a standard projector.

Images are very bright and crisp even in a moderately lit room, with pertinent controls for tweaking the projection to my satisfaction easily accessible. I really like the physical keystone correction control that makes it possible to quickly affect horizontal changes of up to 30 degrees either way using a physical slider bar.

Moreover, other controls are clustered together near the lens, including a couple of other physical sliders to adjust the focus and projection size. Yet another slider located right at the front of the projector is connected to a louver that lets you blank out the projection when necessary.

Surprisingly, it wasn't the quality of the projection that caught my attention but rather the sheer loudness of the built-in speaker. I found it almost too loud to sit directly behind the projector when it was set at half volume; therefore, it's not difficult to imagine the MG-850HD serving a crowd of up to 100 people in a large room.

The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD with an iPad in the Apple dock

Figure 2: The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD with an iPad in the Apple dock.

It is evident that Epson has taken pains to keep the chassis of the MG-850HD uncluttered. Aside from a few LED indicator lights, there is only a power button, a source button and two other buttons to adjust the volume of the speaker. There is a downside to this design decision though; more on that later.

When used with a docked iOS device as the input source, a menu pops up to facilitate navigating through the various media files by videos, music and photos. Though simplistic, it's easy and intuitive to navigate using the included remote control's four directional arrow keys, a select button and a "back" button. Any media files that you can view on the iOS device can be played on the projector.

Room for Improvement

While the MG-850HD can be improved in a number of areas, my complaints are relatively minor. For example, the side panel is made of plastic, but the back portion is made from a rubber-like material. The latter looks like something that could easily fall off and get lost. In addition, the IR receiver is located only on the front panel, which requires that you stand in front of the projector to make adjustments using the remote control. Admittedly, this is an issue with most projectors, not just the MG-850HD.

The most frustrating issue has to do with the vital role of the remote control when working with a docked iOS device. As mentioned earlier, navigating through the various media content on an iPad has to be done using the remote control. It would be better if Epson incorporated a simple console onto the MG-850HD with the requisite arrow keys and select/deselect buttons. This would avoid problems if you misplace the remote control or if the battery runs out during a presentation.

Bottom Line

The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD is an extremely versatile projector that will work not just with a PC, but with an iPhone smartphone or an iPad tablet. Moreover, its wide variety of input ports means that gaming consoles such as the Nitendo Wii or Microsoft Xbox will work too, as will DVD or Blu-ray players. Finally, its powerful built-in speakers and its capability to play media files independently of a PC qualify it as an excellent all-in-one device.

Overall, the MG-850HD exceeded my expectations, and I would especially recommend it as a worthwhile investment for small businesses embracing BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in the form of iOS devices. The Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD has an MSRP of $799.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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This article was originally published on Wednesday Apr 25th 2012
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