Surprisingly affordable 3D projector makes a compelling case for going big screen
There’s no getting around it: the Epson EH-TW5900 is a remarkable projector. The cheapest in a fleet of 3D-capable home cinema models from the market-leading brand, it confounds expectations of what to expect from a sub £1,000 (well, it’s £999) LCD PJ.
Of course, we’ve seen cheapie 3D projection from rival brands already, but generally these have been light cannons targeted at gamers (where operating noise is not considered an impediment to enjoyment), rather than home theatre enthusiasts. The EH-TW5900 is far more refined.
You might think that there’s not much between this model and the step-up EH-TW6000. After all, they share the same chassis and both appear to do much the same job. But there is a significant performance leap between the two, with the more expensive model offering better brightness and contrast.
But that doesn’t diminish the appeal of this audacious money-saver. Provided its limitations are understood, you can squeeze an astonishing level of performance from the unit.
Connectivity is solid. There are two HDMIs, plus component, PC and phono AV. A splitscreen mode allows you to compare two of these sources (but not both HDMIs) side-by-side.
There’s also an RS232 control port (but no 12V trigger), plus a USB input for displaying JPEGs and a 10W integrated sound system. These latter additions imply that the EH-TW5900’s designers envisage most buyers using it on an easy-to-reach coffee table than ceiling-mounting. Just plug in a thumbdrive to show your holiday snaps on a 100in screen, or hook-up a games system for larger-than-life arcade action with audio (certainly not something you’d do with a projector that’s mute).
In terms of design the EH-TW5900 is a clear winner. The centrally-located lens is flanked by two vents, one an air intake, the other a hot air exhaust, which gives it quite a racy look. Having the exhaust forward facing adds to its casual usage appeal, as hot air isn’t blasted back at anyone perched on a bean bag behind it. Compared to the positively industrial Panasonic PT-AT5000, a considerably more expensive 3D proposition, it’s something of a beauty queen.
Setup is quick and easy, thanks to menus that are intuitive and logical. Image throw is also good. You can get a huge 100in picture from around three metres. Placement is manageable, thanks to horizontal and vertical keystone correction. There’s up to 30 degrees of horizontal play available.
Unsurprisingly (given the price), Epson has elected not to indulge the EH-TW5900 with extensive calibration controls. There’s the usual selection of presets and some basic image manipulation.
Gamers may be tempted to use the Epson in high ambient light conditions, but it’s really not cut out for this. It simply doesn’t have enough brightness to do the job well. And the high-power mode, dubbed Living Room, comes with a fearsome blue colour cast and sends the projector’s lamp into high volume hyperactivity.
But who cares? While this 2,000 Lumen PJ doesn’t retain snap in moderately lit rooms, in a home theatre environment it’s a different bag of popcorn altogether.
Indeed, as a home cinema projector, this Epson punches well above its weight. Images are dynamic and sharp, providing a genuinely filmic Full HD experience. While it’s possible to get deeper blacks elsewhere, you’ll need to spend more or risk rainbow fringing from similarly specified DLP-driven models.
In truth, this model has no trouble tracking a greyscale. The Lady Gaga: Monster Ball Live Blu-ray is a feast of shiny, latex blacks which appear totally convincing, and crowd detail is held into the shadows. Colour fidelity is generally rich, although reds are more blood orange than Kensington gore. Still, the crimson hats of the Capulet gnomes in Gnomeo and Juliet remain convincing enough.
One compromise of the price tag is the lack of fast refresh modes, so that means a general paucity of crispness when it comes to live sports and gaming. But for those wary of motion artefacts and ‘soap opera effect’ created by artificial frame creation this may not be a painful compromise. The Epson’s native motion resolution is around 650-700 lines; fine for movie viewing. There’s no horizontal panning judder, either, so images are comfortable to watch. Indeed, with fast-moving action fare, such as Warner’s Sucker Punch, the projector delivers spectacle with speed and clarity.
Active shutter 3D glasses are an optional extra with this projector, but it’s well worth haggling with your dealer to pocket a pair when you buy. When fed a 3D source, the EH-TW5900 does a convincing job with dimensional content.
When a stereoscopic signal is recognized, the unit automatically doubles the screen refresh rate to 480Hz, which reduces image overlap between the left and right eyes.
While crosstalk is diminished by the process, some double imaging remains evident. You can manage this further using the variable 3D brightness mode. My advice is to stay away from High if you want to mitigate against the ghosting effect. The middle setting is predictably best. Here it’s not really intrusive and the better the authored disc you can find, the more you’ll find yourself immersed in the action.
Avatar and Resident Evil: Afterlife are both fine examples of just how compelling 3D can be on the bigscreen. Perhaps it’s because I no longer consider 3D to be mission critical viewing that I’m content enough to let modest crosstalk effects pass without much condemnation, particularly on a budget model like this.
Obviously, there’s some loss of brightness when used in 3D mode, but of the two 3D presets provided, I preferred the darker 3D Cinema mode to 3D Dynamic.
General operational noise is low. Run the unit in its Eco mode setting and fan noise falls to a modest 24dB. Overall, I rate the EH-TW5900 as a brilliant-value home cinema PJ. With crisp detail, good dynamics and some novel convenience features (that JPEG USB viewer is a welcome addition to the feature roster), it’s a perfect partner for a set-top box, HD games console or Blu-ray system. The fact that it does decent 3D is almost incidental.
Price: £1,000 Approx
Highs: Cinematic Full HD images; funky design; operationally quiet; integrated JPEG viewer and speakers; decent 3D performance
Lows: Contrast could be better; no image interpolation options; 3D glasses not included
GUI: The basic black-and-white onscreen menus are simple to get to grips with
Power consumption: Epson quotes a high operational consumption of 248W – we measured a lower average of 130W
Killer feature: It’s hard to not be impressed by the EH-TW5900’s £1,000 price tag – who would have thought a Full HD 3D projector could be so affordable?
3D ready: yes Active shutter
HD Ready: yes Full HD, 1080p24
Connections: 2 x HDMI v1.4; 1 x component; 1 x D-Sub PC input; 1 x USB; 1 x RS-232; 1 x composite; 1 x stereo audio
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Brightness: 2,000 Lumens
Dimensions: 420(w) x 365(h) x 137(d)mm
Features: Full HD 3D compatible; 10W integrated sound system; USB JPEG viewer; integrated IR sync transmitter; 5,000-hour lamp life; 24dB eco mode; optional Active shutter glasses; optional 3D signal extender; backlit remote control
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