- Bright enough for a midsize room with ambient light
- Good color accuracy
- Native 1080p resolution
- Three-LCD-chip design guarantees no rainbow artifacts
- Includes Android TV dongle for streaming
- Only one HDMI port, which the Android TV dongle occupies
- No optical zoom
- No 3D support
- No support for 4K or HDR input
- No audio output port
EPSON EPIQVISION FLEX CO-FH02 FULL HD 1080P SMART PORTABLE PROJECTOR SPECS
|3.4 by 12.5 by 8.3 inches
|Inputs and Interfaces
|Inputs and Interfaces
The Epson EpiqVision Flex CO-FH02 Full HD 1080p Smart Portable Projector is a 1080p cousin of the WXGA (1,280-by-800-pixel) EpiqVision Flex CO-W01 we recently reviewed. The “Flex” in both names is Epson’s way of saying that these are crossover models, designed to be equally suitable for home, office, or education use. In addition to its higher resolution and somewhat better speaker—and a $200 higher list price, at $629.99—the CO-FH02 adds smart TV features, courtesy of an Epson Android TV 10 dongle. What’s not so smart is that it has only one HDMI port, which means that if you plug in the dongle and its power cable, you can’t switch to another HDMI video source without removing the dongle first. This flaw holds back this otherwise-capable crossover projector.
Skipping the ‘Smart’ Part May Be Smarter
The CO-FH02 is built around three LCD chips—one for each primary color—paired with a traditional lamp. Three chips guarantee that you won’t see the rainbow artifacts that any single-chip DLP projector can show, because the chips project all three primaries at once instead of sequentially. The three-LCD-chip design also guarantees matching color and white brightness, which means color images will be as bright as you’d expect from the white brightness measurement. The lamp, rated at 6,000 hours in Normal (full brightness) mode, gives the projector a rated 3,000-lumen brightness.
Although you can use the CO-FH02 in a permanent installation, it’s light and small enough, at 5.7 pounds and 3.4 by 12.5 by 8.3 inches (HWD), to fit in a briefcase or backpack for portable use.
Setup is easy. Connect the power cable and video source, point the lens at the screen, turn it on, and focus. Like many portable projectors, it lacks an optical zoom. Adjusting image size requires moving the projector closer to or farther from the screen, unless you’re willing to use digital zoom—which is always better avoided if you can manage it, since it lowers brightness and can introduce artifacts.
The one complication for setup is deciding whether to take advantage of the included streaming dongle. The projector’s ports are all hidden on the left side behind an easily removable cover. Epson supplies two cables: one to connect the dongle to the single HDMI port, and another to connect to one USB Type-A port, which is limited to providing power for the dongle. However, there’s only enough space between the ports and the closed cover to fit right-angle connectors, which the supplied cables use. Plug in a standard cable for some other HDMI source, and the cover won’t fit.
In principle, if you want to use the projector for both streaming and for connecting to other HDMI sources—whether for switching between home and office use or between streaming and, say, a cable box—you can plug and unplug cables every time you switch, or you can connect an HDMI switch to the projector and plug the dongle and other sources into the switch. But in practice, changing cables gets tiresome, while adding an external switch makes the projector far less portable. So as a practical matter, you’re better off using it as either a strictly smart TV for streaming, or ignoring the dongle entirely, except, perhaps, for special occasions.
If you chose to install the dongle, its setup is standard for Android TV, with one exception. Unlike most Android TV dongles, Epson’s includes a licensed Netflix app, rather than a clumsy workaround, and it comes already installed.
The 5-watt onboard bass reflex mono speaker offers decent sound quality at high-enough volume for a midsize to large family room. As with many of Epson’s less-expensive models, there’s no audio output port. However, if you’re using the dongle, you can connect to Bluetooth speakers. Otherwise, if you need better sound quality, stereo, or higher volume, you’ll need to connect the audio source directly to your external sound system rather than connecting through the projector.
Testing the EpiqVision Flex CO-FH02: Vivid Color, High Brightness
On our tests for typical business and education use, the CO-FH02’s crisp focus delivered suitably readable text for documents given its 1080p resolution, as well as appropriate detail for our assorted business graphics. It also offered vibrant, saturated color for graphics in all four color modes, and good-enough color accuracy in each even for presentations that include photorealistic images. In short, you’re free to pick a mode based strictly on the most appropriate brightness for the ambient light level and image size you’re using, without having to put up with obviously poor color accuracy.
That said, Cinema mode offered the most accurate color, giving it an edge for viewing photos, film, and video. Two of the other modes blew out highlights on our tests, giving Cinema still more of an advantage, and while none handled shadow detail well on our standard tests with movies on Blu-ray discs, Cinema was one of the two best choices on that score as well. It also did a much better job on shadow detail when streaming dark scenes from Netflix than it did with Blu-ray discs. The combination made it my preferred choice for video and film.
Missing from the CO-FH02’s features is support for HDR or 4K input, and as is typical for inexpensive LCD-based projectors, there’s no 3D support either. The 50- or 51-millisecond input lag (depending on the color mode) at 1080p, 60Hz—as measured with a Bodnar meter—is suitable for strictly casual gaming or for games that don’t require quick reaction times.
The 3,000-lumen brightness rating would be enough to light up a 250-inch, 1.0 gain, 16:9 screen in a dark room, according the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) recommendations. In my tests, using the lower-brightness Cinema mode and Eco power mode, the image was easily bright enough to fill a 90-inch screen even with lights on. In a family room with lots of windows, the same setting delivered a watchable but slightly washed-out picture in daytime on an overcast day.
Streaming or HDMI, Take Your Pick
High brightness and good color accuracy make the CO-FH02 a solid choice as a budget 1080p projector for a small-to-medium-size conference room or classroom, and a reasonable choice for home or on-the-go use. However, the lack of a second HDMI port combined with the location of the port behind a cover make this projector best limited to either streaming or connection to other HDMI sources only, rather than for switching back and forth between the two possibilities. In short, it’s far less versatile than it would be if it had a second HDMI connector.
If you’re looking for a 1080p projector for business or education use only, and are willing to spend a bit more, be sure to consider the Epson EX9240, which is a bit brighter, and offers image quality tuned more for presentations than photorealistic images. If you’re interested in it only for home entertainment, you might also want to take a look at the BenQ TH685P, which is tuned for film and video. Both offer more features than the CO-FH02, including two HDMI ports in each case as well as a zoom lens, while the TH685P adds full HD 3D and a much shorter input lag than the CO-FOH2. Neither comes with a streaming dongle, much less one that works easily with Netflix, but you can add a dongle to virtually any projector as a separate purchase.