By Todd Bernhard on Sat, 07/14/2012
For several years, I've been showing movies on the garage for the neighborhood kids. When the iPad came out, with the optional VGA cable, it enhanced the portability of my setup. I no longer needed to lug a laptop to connect to my projector. But Apple, while they usually do things right, didn't do a great job with their VGA connector dongle. It uses the 30 pin connector but doesn't provide a way to power an iOS device, so you're limited to the battery life of the iPad or iPhone. Apple also offers composite, component, and HDMI connectors, which fixed this, but most projectors are wired for VGA not HDMI and Apple's VGA dongle is easy to keep in your bag.
Enter Epson and their MegaPlex series of projectors. The Epson MegaFlex 850HD projector offers a kitchen sink approach when it comes to connections. I'll try to name a few but the most significant one is the actual Apple compatible 30 pin dock that retracts into the unit, similar to a Bose stereo. Speaking of stereos, the built-in speakers do a great job and you could even consider using the MegaPlex as a speaker system for music.
You can directly dock your iPhone, or iPad, and play music or movies without any cables or dongles! What's more, your iOS device charges while it's plugged in, so no more worries about battery life.
Of course there is a VGA input, but there are also RCA jacks for both component and composite cables. Perhaps the best news is there is an HDMI port. This allows you to hookup the iPad using Apple's HDMI connector and you can use a regular charging cable to keep your iPad charged. What I am really interested in is using an Apple TV as the video source, as that will allow me to wirelessly send audio and video using AirPlay, as well as use all of the Apple TV features and sources of content, like Netflix.
The Epson MegaPlex has another trick up its sleeve. You can connect a Mac, PC, or USB drive to the USB port and project content that way.
If you choose the built in dock, the screen is not automatically mirrored. Instead, Epson includes a menu, controlled by their included remote, that lets you select from the iOS device's media such as movies, music, iTunes rentals, etc. This is a nice feature and great for navigation from the couch or boardroom. However, keep in mind that video from apps like Netflix will not display using that interface. Instead, you can use one of the cable connections or an Apple TV with AirPlay.
Getting back to those summer movie screenings. The 2800 lumens also helps allow me to start showing movies earlier than usual, as I don't have to wait for complete darkness. That means the neighborhood kids can get to bed earlier, too!
I do have a few recommendations for Epson. The plastic and rubber pieces that cover most of the ports are bound to get lost. That's probably okay, as most users will want to leave all of the ports exposed so there's no guesswork. For example, I didn't read the manual at first, so I wasn't aware of where all of the ports were! Still, it might be worth making the port covers slide or flip open so there's nothing to lose. Similarly, there is an extra support bracket for use with the iPad, that, when stuck to the projector using the included adhesive strip. It should keep the iPad in place but I would have preferred that it were permanently attached.
The bottom line? Shame on you if you can't find a way to get the content you want to be displayed by the Epson MegaPlex!