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The Epson EH-TW5000 is a Full HD, LCD projector, available since autumn 2008 for a list price of around 4,800 USD (2,936 GBP). Rarely — nay, never before! — have we had an LCD projector with this much contrast in the lab.
And the pricing is developing nicely: Having started at nearly 5,000 USD a year ago, the Epson is now available from around 4,000 USD (around 2,500 GBP) online.
Florian Friedrich, tested on December 9, 2009
Outstanding contrast for an LCD.
Phenomenally pure colors.
Long-lifetime lamp guarantee.
Excellent 24p movie pictures.
Focusing and LCD pixel-raster too coarse.
Weaknesses in scaling of SDTV material.
Give them a round of applause: Epson’s EH-TW5000 pushes the picture-quality bar up to a new level for LCD projectors! It gleams with sensational colors, high motion-clarity, and the best LCD contrast we’ve ever seen. And it gets even better: The device is ideal both for beginners and for professionals. But — just one drop of criticism — the Epson lacks the projection-finesse of the best DLP and D-ILA projectors.
Operation and Features
An exemplary remote control: It’s logically arranged, comfortable to hold, and has easy-to-reach buttons.
Instead of buying in components from external suppliers, Epson develops a lot of technology in-house. And it pays off, as the TW5000 aptly demonstrates. The “E-Torl” lamp, for example, stems from the company’s own research center, and is supposed to achieve a lifetime of 4,000 hours. In any case, Epson guarantees three years or 2,000 hours of operation — such a guarantee for a 500-dollar (300-pound) lamp is unmatched in this sector!
As with the Epson TW2000, the TW5000 uses a number of proprietary technologies, such as “Deep Black”, which is supposed to improve polarization. On board, there’s also a “Cinema Filter”, which slides in between the lamp and the iris in order to optimize both the contrast and color temperature.
Though Epson’s own specified contrast of 75,000:1 is make-believe, our tests still awarded the TW5000 an excellent dynamic-contrast value of 21,500:1. When measured without iris-trickery, the test candidate delivered an On/Off contrast of 6,800:1, which is a uniquely impressive value among LCD projectors! The Mitsubishi HC 7000, which held the record until now, only achieves a value of 4,100:1 — again, measured without iris-trickery. This comparison illustrates clearly that Epson’s new model is playing in a whole different league.
The Epson offers two HDMI interfaces.
Installing the TW5000 is easy, thanks to the support of a manual lens-shift function. This allows you to shift the projected image by up to around a screen-height vertically or up to half screen-width horizontally. There’s also a zoom range of 2.2:1 — together, these features aid simple and versatile positioning of the projector, but there’s sadly no motorized adjustment of zoom and focus.
With the Reon VX from Silicon Optix, the Epson is using a new video processor. And this one really knows its stuff — not only does it do away with the weak SDTV de-interlacing seen on the TW2000, but it also significantly improves on the motion-clarity.
Another new technology, the so-called “Frame Interpolation”, is responsible for the latter: The more powerful video processor generates additional image phases, which it then adds to the original video signal. Depending on which of the three settings you choose, the number of image phases reaches up to 100 images per second with PAL and up to 120 per second with NTSC.
Epson has even more improvements and developments in store, which became clear when we checked out the video settings — here, for example, there’s a complete color-management system and a four-level sharpness control. Unfortunately, some of these controls nestle way too deeply in the dull and colorless menu, but, once you find them, you can save your settings in up to nine memory locations. You can also, for example, save the ideal settings for the supplied “Light Power Edition” glass filter.
The pink, glass filter is intended for color-optimization in the “Vivid” Mode.
This brings us to Epson’s “Light Power Edition” — in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland only, a pink-colored glass filter is supplied with the projector to help you optimize the colors in conjunction with the “Vivid” color mode. This allows the Epson to reach a color temperature of around 6,500 Kelvin and an increased light output of between 960 and 1,250 lumens at full lamp output.
But — we have to honest — this does produce some unattractive side-effects: Green looks yellowish, and yellows look ochre-colored. The grass in a football game, for example, looks less fresh and lush, and more like a patch of moss. What’s more, the simple filter scatters the light too strongly — the “Natural” mode’s excellent ANSI contrast of 440:1 reduces to just 120:1 when the filter is in place. So, it’s perhaps no massive shame that the filter isn’t available in the United Kingdom — but, of course, if you really want this feature, it’s normally quite easy to import a corresponding model.
Color and Light
In our opinion, “Natural” is the best of the seven color modes. In this mode, the controls for skin tone and color are inactive — but they’re also unnecessary, since this preset already achieves outstanding results. Primary and secondary colors are pin-point accurate, and the color temperature of 6,750 Kelvin remains constant across all grayscales. Once again, a round of applause!
Almost perfect: In the “Natural” color mode, the TW5000 impresses with convincing colors and no extension of the color space.
The CIE diagram confirms the projector’s accuracy — so long as you choose the highest lamp mode, which delivers images with up to 686 lumens of brightness. The fan noise at this level measures almost 28 decibels, but it gets quieter if you choose the eco mode, in which it produces just 22 decibels. The disadvantage of eco mode, however, is that the brightness and the red component of the spectrum plummet. Also bear in mind that the recommended screen-width shrinks from 2.7 to 2.3 meters for eco mode.
Let’s concentrate again on the bright lamp mode, since the eco mode can’t even compare to our reference projector, the Samsung SP-A 800 B. Both projectors impress with almost perfect colors and identical grayscales. In our test candidate, however, you first need to adjust the gamma value from 2.2 to 2.3 or 2.4. In one aspect in particular, the Epson fails to compete with the Samsung: In gray areas of the picture, you can see slight color-deviations (“shading”); no such deviations appear with Samsung’s DLP technology.
Picture Quality of Standard Signals
In comparison to that of the TW2000 predecessor model, the de-interlacing here has been improved, although it’s still far from perfect. Analog interlaced signals continue to show weaknesses due to rough scaling on the part of the Epson. And although you can reduce the picture-cropping (overscan) on the YUV input, this isn’t possible for S-Video or composite. In any case, the latter inputs would never have provided satisfactory quality for the big screen. Despite all this, even tricky movie sequences such as the beach scene in “Six Days Seven Nights” pose no problem for the Epson — there’s no flicker at all to be seen on the sun loungers.
The results are even better with digital signals via the HDMI input, through which the TW5000 also accepts the 576i format. The projection pleases the eye with radiant colors and depth that feels almost three-dimensional. In “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, as flames illuminate Gandalf’s face in the underworld, even the finest structures of the surrounding rocks display accurately. Even with the iris inactive, the results astound with dynamics, depth, and brightness.
When playing back DVD movies, you can choose between having the motion-enhancement on or off. To retain the genuine movie look, you should switch it off completely, but be sure to turn it back on before you next watch Formula 1 racing, for example. With the pink filter on and in the “Vivid” mode, the Epson will deliver excellent racing images even on a sunny afternoon.
Picture Quality of HDTV Signals
If you feed the Epson with Blu-ray signals, it certainly rises to the occasion. With the Blu-ray “The Fox and the Child”, the test candidate stood out with smooth camera pans that closely resemble the proper movie look. The color-shading of the woods and meadows look extremely real, and even the freckles on the girl’s face come across very authentically. This is a consequence of the TW5000’s accurate color gamut (see the CIE diagram, above) and powerful light output, which suffices even for the brightest scenes. But gloomier movies such as “Kingdom of Heaven” are also a treat for the eyes, since the Epson competently depicts all dark shades. 1080p playback, all-important in the home-theater, works like a dream — the Epson’s performance easily matches the level of its competitors from Sanyo, Panasonic, or Mitsubishi.
Thanks to the new HQV processor, HD satellite TV at 1080i is also flicker-free — and, if you want, also with better motion depiction. When “Frame Interpolation” is switched off, sequences with 60 motion phases per second look better on the Samsung, but the Epson takes the lead when the technology is active.
The setting deactivates automatically, however, if the projector is receiving 24p-format Blu-ray signals, since the pictures then output at 96 hertz, just like in a movie theater — here, artificial intermediate frames aren’t necessary. If, on the other hand, you really want to watch movies with motion enhancement, you should instead input the signal at 60 hertz. The typical movie judder is then absent, and the movies are reminiscent of TV pictures. At Televisions.com we generally prefer the movie judder, but this is purely a matter of personal taste, and the Epson scores plus points for allowing you to choose between the two varieties.
Small weaknesses crop up with HDTV test patterns — such as slight fringing and a failure to reproduce the blacker-than-black regions of a pluge test pattern. The user can remedy these small blemishes by, for example, reducing the horizontal and vertical sharpness in the advanced sharpness-adjustment menu. You can also switch the “HDMI Video Range” from “Normal” to “Expanded”.
Like the vast majority of three-chip projectors, the Epson cannot display the finest patterns in test images as sharply as a single-chip DLP projector can. (Single-chip DLPs have the advantage that they needn’t worry about precisely aligning three separate projection chips.) Small image errors result from shortcomings in the Epson’s zoom lens, as well as from convergence errors at the picture’s edge and the coarser structure of the LCD pixel raster. Still, you’ll only start to notice this difference between the Epson and D-ILA or DLP models on screens of around at least three meters in width.
Color Mode: Natural
Color Saturation: 0
Thin Line Enhancement: 0
Thick Line Enhancement: 0
Vert. Line Enhancement: -1
Horiz. Line Enhancement: -1
Brightness Control: High
Auto Iris: Off
Frame Interpolation: Low
* These settings apply to realistic playback of HDTV/Blu-ray material through the HDMI interface in a darkened environment. Manufacturing and HDMI playback device deviations might necessitate slight adjustment.