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Picking a projector for a home theater or casual use usually requires a pretty annoying choice. You could get a portable projector, which is easy to take around and has nice-to-have features like built in speakers and smart apps, or a traditional projector with a brighter bulb, better image quality, but is “dumb” by comparison.
Epson’s EpiqVision Mini EF12 takes the best features from both projector categories without making any major compromises. It’s a modern, all-in one projector that’s small, sleek, and smart.
Its Cube-Shape Is Distinct, So It Looks Great On A Table Or Shelf
The first thing I noticed when testing Epson’s projector was its square shape, which made it look like a distant relative of Nintendo’s GameCube.
Although it looks cool, there’s a really good reason the Mini EF12 has this slightly unusual shape. The bottom half of the projector is dedicated to the projector’s video hardware, which includes a 1080P (full HD) lens, 1,000 lumen bulb, two HDMI ports, a full-sized USB port, a mini USB port, and a headphone jack.
These visual specs are very impressive for a projector that’s just under 7 inches wide and deep. The Mini EF12 isn’t a totally portable projector — it needs to be plugged in at all times — but I had no problem picking it up, and bringing it to another room.
The top is dedicated to a custom-built audio system that was developed by Yamaha It contains a pair of stereo speakers and a custom DSP (digital signal processor) designed to deliver “audiophile sound.” I’ve put this projector through its paces, and this double decker design isn’t a gimmick.
Its Brighter Bulb And Smart Auto focus System Make A Better Looking Screen
I’ve gotten the chance to test a handful of portable projectors, Epson’s Mini EF12 blows them away. Its bulb is roughly twice as bright, and I was able to watch videos with a window open on a sunny day without giving up. There was still a lot of light interference, and I got the best results using the projector at night, but it was still usable during the daytime, especially if I drew the blinds to dim the room.
I was wary that the Mini EF12 had an automatic focus, because it meant I had to trust the projector to get a perfectly clear picture on its own. I prefer projectors with a manual focus, so I can make little adjustments if things don’t look right. I shouldn’t have worried. Epson’s projector did a fine job getting a crisp looking picture each time I turned it on, and let me make little tweaks to the focus using software. If I moved the projector, it would briefly show a test pattern before realigning.
The projector even had a setting to make “corner adjustments,” so I could get a perfectly rectangular screen. This is a feature I hadn’t seen before, and has quickly become a “must have” feature. I ultimately left most of the Mini EF12’s settings to automatic, but was happy to see a lot of manual options if I did want to make changes.
Epson says this projector can make a screen between 30 and 150 inches. I was able to use it to make a 100 inch screen during most of my testing, and the video results were positive overall.
Blu-Rays of modern videos and 4K YouTube videos looked great, with a fantastic amount of detail and excellent colors reproduction. I was able to see a lot of subtle details, like hair and the each curve of a person’s face, which can get lost when you’re watching movies and TV on a projector. I was especially impressed at how good HD animation looked on this projector, and appreciated seeing the shapes and line work changes with each frame. Epson says its 3LCD technology checks to make sure colors look accurate in real time, but still gives you the option to tweak settings like brightness and contrast for your tastes.
Watching standard definition videos, or HD content shot on so-so equipment was a different story. Muddy images that were tolerable on a smaller screen looked a lot worse on a huge screen. This was most evident while watching HD YouTube videos (especially if they were recorded two or three years ago), but it also cropped up while watching the Blu Ray of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Older movies that were remastered more recently, like Back to the Future looked fine. I was not able to watch any 4K Blu Rays during my testing.
To be clear: these visual problems aren’t a problem with this projector, but it’s something to think about. Your experience with the Mini EF12 will depend heavily on what you watch. Thankfully, most streaming video services offer high quality HD and 4K videos, so this shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Its Custom Designed Speakers System Sounds Way Better Than Most Portable Projectors
I was skeptical when engineers at Epson told me about how good the EpiqVision Mini EF12’s speaker system sounded. The projectors I’ve tested — even ones that cost twice the price — are weak.
It won’t replace a full home audio system, but the stereo speaker system in this projector does hold its own, and I wasn’t tempted to plug in an external pair of speakers — even during movies.
They handled explosions during action sequences without distorting, presented dialogue very clearly, and made listening to a film’s soundtrack enjoyable. The sound was comparable to mid-sized Bluetooth speakers in the $200 to $300 range, and easily filled my bedroom with the volume at 50%. The speakers were loud enough to drown out the sound of the projector’s fan, which kicked on immediately each time I turned it on.
Epson is so confident in this projector’s audio system that it allows you to use it as a Bluetooth speaker. I used it in this mode, and could happily use the Mini EF12 as an audio system for background music listening.
The bass on I Will Possess Your Heart by Death Cab For Cutie sounded tight, and I was able to pick out the vocals in BTS’ Stay Gold. I could make out the crunch of the guitars on Joe Ray by Fountains of Wayne, and the synths on Harry Styles’ Watermelon Sugar. Epson lets you turn the projector’s bulb off while you play music, so you don’t have to burn it out.
You probably won’t use this projector’s audio system if you have it hooked up to proper home theater equipment, but it’s great in a pinch.
It Has More Ports, Smarter Apps, And Wireless Streaming Options Too
The act of actually getting videos onto a projector’s screen can be a hassle, but Epson did a great job making the process simple on EpiqVision Mini EF12.
You can plug devices directly into the projector’s HDMI ports, and they’ll be recognized really quickly. It won’t automatically switch to HDMI 1 or HDMI 2 when you plug a device in, but you can get to those inputs quickly using the Mini EF12’s remote. I plugged in a Nintendo Switch, and was ready to play games in about 30 seconds.
I was especially pleased to see that this projector had an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) port, which lets you connect it directly into a surround sound A/V receiver with a single cable. Portable projectors don’t typically have these features, and it makes the Mini EF12 a great choice for home theater enthusiasts. You can use this projector’s internal audio system when you’re watching videos in your bedroom, then hook it up the receiver in your home theater.
If you want to watch videos without having a media source hardwired to the projector, you have two options. The projector runs a version of Google’s Android operating system, which means you can download streaming apps directly to the projector itself. Hulu, Peacock, Paramount+, and Disney+ were all there, alongside more niche services like Plex. Strangely, Netflix was unavailable.
These built in apps were rock solid in my testing, there were no crashes and I could watch videos at their maximum resolution. The Google Play App Store is full of streaming apps and games, so you’ll likely find all of the services you use regularly — Netflix excepted.
The EpiqVision Mini EF12 also has a Google Chromecast inside of it, which allows you to stream videos and music from your phone, tablet, or computer onto the projector. This can be a hit or miss feature, but it worked perfectly during my testing.
The Bottom Line: Epson’s EpiqVision Mini EF12 Is A Better Portable Projector
Portable projectors aren’t typically suited for serious home theater use, but Epson’s EpiqVision is a notable exception. It can create a huge, beautiful looking screen and it’s paired with an impressive sound system for its size. It sacrifices true portability (aka battery power) in favor of a brighter bulb and better audio, while still being small and light enough to carry from room to room or even travel with.
By making these tough design choices, Epson’s EpiqVision Mini EF12 raises the bar for portable projectors in the future, while providing an excellent all-in-one experience in the present.