Got a big bare wall (light colored) and a bunch of friends rarin' to celebrate the SuperBowl? With a bit of creative financing, you can treat the crew to the biggest, boldest view of the game they'd ever get to see, outside of Indianapolis.
Key to our game plan is the new Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD. It's a high definition (720p, 3LCD based) video projector that can throw a pretty amazing, much-larger-than-life 150-inch image onto a wall, yet goes for far less ($799 list) than a 60- or 70-inch flat panel TV costs nowadays. Easily transportable, the small projector even has its own stereo amplifier and speakers on board - firing up the sound to a loud and proud 100 decibels. There's no broadcast tuner, though. So you'll need to connect the MegaPlex to a high definition cable or satellite TV box via an HDMI cable. (Amazon sells long length versions, dirt cheap.)
Oh, and before and after the game, you can entertain the gang with a mix of the movies, music and TV content you've got stored on your favorite Apple product. Really. This Epson is one of the very first projectors to boast a pop-out docking/charging station for an iPad, iPhone or iPod. It shows content purchased or downloaded through iTunes without a hitch, with an on-screen menu guide that eases in the selection process.
Sadly, Apple has put a jinx on the multi-pin output socket so it will only pass the audio (no video) from other "apps" on your iDevice - say Netflix, Flixster, HBO Go or Slingbox. (The HBO Go app apologizes and hints it hopes to remedy this situation soon.)
Don't have a 150 inches of wall space? Of course, you can shrink the image smaller, both by moving the MegaPlex closer to the bare wall and adjusting the zoom control on the lens. At just 7 feet away from the screen, the projector will throw a none-too-shabby 100 inch image (16:9 format), which actually looks more detailed, more high definition with broadcast/cable content, and is about as large as you'd want to go with the much lower resolution, letterboxed videos coming out of your iPhone/Pod/Pad.
To produce a go-for-broke, 150-inch image, I pulled the MegaPlex MG-850HD review unit 11 feet back from the screen. The picture still looks pretty bright, with great color, just a little softer around the edges with HD content - and not so great with standard definition content. (Message to advertisers: stop producing commercials in SD, already!)
There's a pop-out, front lifting stand to point the projector upwards, plus an angle adjustment lever for straightening out the image when you've got the projector a little off center from the "screen." But if at all possible, for best results, position the projector "straight-on" at the screen wall. (I put the test unit atop a five foot A/V stand.)
As for creative financing of the project, here's the deal. You get twenty friends to each kick in $20 for the SuperBowl party, You then match their $400 investment - and get to keep the MegaPlex for future get togethers, your instant home theater and backyard "drive-in movie" bashes in the summertime.
Got the right sized room but not the bare wall? Epson offers a very nice, 80-inch tripod mounted screen called the Duet that goes for a mere $150. It collapses into a cylindrical package - with tote handles - that stands on its end and stashes easily in a closet.
As these portable image makers are also sold/used for business display applications, you'll probably find the Epson MegaPlex MG-850HD (and its $100 cheaper, 540p resolution MG-50 sibling) stashed near the computers at big box electronics and office supply stores.