Game on! We play with an affordable Full HD projector designed specifically for joystick junkies
Unless you’re one of those weird PC gamers who thinks the zenith of gaming is to play exceptionally high-resolution games on tiny screens, you’re probably of the opinion that quality games are best enjoyed on big screens. Especially now that a new generation of consoles is nearly upon us, promising even greater graphical prowess.
With this in mind I was excited to get Epson’s new EH-TW5200 projector into my test room. Because, while it can certainly be used as a standard film/TV video projector, Epson claims to have designed it first and foremost as a gaming display.
With gorgeous-looking and immersive open-world games like Skyrim and GTA V spending an obscene amount of time spinning in our console drives, the thought of playing such material on screens up to 300ins across is rather mouthwatering. As long, of course, as Epson’s affordable (£750) projector delivers the picture quality goods.
The EH-TW5200’s design is well suited to the relatively casual installations it’s most likely to find itself in, thanks to a compact footprint that fits easily on a coffee table, or in a cupboard when not being used. It’s attractive enough not to look out of place in a living room thanks to its sloping top, rounded corners and glossy finish.
Connectivity should satisfy most people, with a roster that includes two HDMIs, a component video port, a PC port and a stereo audio input feeding a speaker system with a whole 2W – count ‘em – of audio power.
Not surprisingly 2W doesn’t get you very far. The EH-TW5200’s audio sounds tinny, distorts badly when set to its maximum volume and doesn’t deliver a soundstage that’s on remotely the same scale as the projector’s images. Oh, and the projector’s audio doesn’t sound as if it’s coming from anywhere near the pictures. But someone, somewhere, may appreciate its inclusion; having audio in the projector serves a practical purpose if not's always convenient to hook your console up to a separate sound system for a gaming session.
The EH-TW5200 is a mixed bag when it comes to setting up. On the downside it only supports a very limited amount of optical zoom and carries no vertical or horizontal image shifting, leaving you almost certainly having to use keystone correction (which is essentially a distortion of the image) to stop your images from adopting a trapezoid shape.
At least the projector carries simple but effective drop-down rear and front legs to help you angle the image onto your screen, and you can adjust the keystone with a physical slider device on the projector’s top edge without having to delve into the onscreen menus.
These menus are easy to read and straightforward in structure, despite carrying a pretty impressive collection of tweaks and adjustments that includes a colour management system, various settings for a dynamic iris (which adjusts light output to suit image content), and the thoughtful facility to switch the projector’s image processing between ‘fine’ and ‘fast’ modes – with the fast mode streamlining things for speedier gaming response.
Even with this mode active, though, I measured a delay of more than 60ms between images leaving my source and appearing on the projector. This is around double what I look for on a good TV, and has the potential to marginally reduce your abilities with reaction-based games. At the same time, though, it’s considerably less than the input lag witnessed on many other projectors, especially those from JVC and Epson’s own Wireless HDMI home cinema models.
Settling down for long sessions of Skyrim, GTA V and Forza 4 in the name of work, the EH-TW5200 quickly set about winning me over. Immediately I was struck by the extremely high brightness and vibrant colours delivered by its 2,000 Lumens Colour Light Output (CLO). Why CLO not brightness? Because Epson’s pushing a campaign to quote the brightness of colour reproduction rather than the usual approach of measuring the brightness of pure white, giving a more accurate sense of a PJ's true performance.
It certainly is impressive how rich and balanced the whole range of colours look on the EH-TW5200, rather than white being over-dominant and colours looking bleached, as can happen with low-cost LCD projectors. And, as well as helping images look alive and eye-catching, the EH-TW5200’s well-judged brightness means games appear punchy even if there’s ambient light in your room.
Another appealing trait for gamers is that the Epson dishes out your favourite titles with a natural and unprocessed feel. There’s no smearing around motion or when you pan around a landscape, there’s minimal judder with moving objects, there are no serious processing artefacts, and best of all there’s no trace of that ‘running through treacle’ sensation you get when gaming on some displays.
The EH-TW5200 delivers its images crisp and sharp on my 90in test screen, doing justice to the HD graphics and often huge draw distances of today’s (and tomorrow’s) gorgeous gaming worlds. Furthermore, dark game sequences contain good amounts of shadow detail. This means you can’t blame the projector if you’re ambushed by something hiding in the shadows.
Yet it is not a perfect gaming device. First there’s a rather shimmery look to fine details, especially over distant objects, and a slightly stressed look to harshly contrasting lines. Second, while dark scenes contain plenty of shadow detail, they're also rather grey, indicating a lack of contrast at the projector’s heart. This is confirmed by watching movies. Scenes in the Bat Cave in The Dark Knight Rises are milky when they should look black, and this has a negative effect on dark colours, robbing them of impact.
While 3D seems to be fighting a losing popularity battle, if you do try it here you’ll be impressed. A 480Hz drive system kicks in during 3D playback, giving you detailed, credibly coloured and spatially accurate 3D images that are bright and well saturated. The only niggle with 3D is that you need to run the lamp in its Normal rather than Eco mode – causing the projector to run noisily as the cooling fans go into overdrive. And there are no free 3D glasses supplied.
In a perfect world the EH-TW5200 might be £50-£100 cheaper given that its shortage of contrast prevents it from being as much of a gaming and movie all-rounder as I would like. But if you’re a gamer first and a movie fan second, there’s no doubt that it provides an affordable way to enjoy your HD titles on an immense scale.
Price: £750 Approx
Highs: Bright, colourful, crisp pictures well suited to gaming; conveniently small and attractive design; 3D works surprisingly well
Lows: It runs a bit noisily; black level response isn’t great; no vertical image shift; 3D glasses are optional extra
3D: Yes. Active
Ultra HD: No. 1,920 x 1,080
Connections: 2 x HDMI, v1.4; composite video; stereo audio in and out, D-Sub PC port; RS232 control
Brightness (claimed): 2,000 ANSI Lumens (Colour Light Output)
Contrast (claimed): 15,000:1 dynamic
Dimensions: 297(w) x 105(h) x 247(d)mm
Features: Fine/Fast processing modes; dynamic iris system; noise reduction option; colour management system; pictures optimised for gaming; 3D glasses optional (around £70 a pair); 1.2x optical zoom; keystone correction, MHL connection support via one of the HDMIs
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