Epson's sub-£3,000 Full HD projector offers commendable images and wireless hookup
We really liked Epson's TW9000W, the company's earlier foray into the 3D PJ market. A 3-chip LCD design with Full HD resolution, the TW9000W was well-endowed with features, including an ISF calibration mode, THX certification, wireless HDMI and a 480Hz refresh rate to reduce 3D crosstalk.
An impressively specified PJ, it also happened to turn out good pictures that, not so long ago, would have done justice to expensive state-of-the-art gear. Now comes its replacement, the TW9100W.
Physically, there's not an awful lot of difference between the two models – the styling is similarly lavish. Setup wise, you get the same non-motorised 2.1x lens, which is automatically protected by a shutter when not in use. A correctly focused 120in 16:9 picture can be thrown from distances between 3.6m and 7.6m. Although brightness remains at 2400 ANSI lumens, Epson claims that the new model boosts its contrast ratio from 200,000:1 to 320,000:1.
Also inherited from the original are vertical/horizontal lens shift thumbwheels and concentric lens rings for zoom and focus. These controls are smooth-acting, and don't seem to 'drift' with temperature. And, as with the TW9000W, an onboard pattern-generator helps you set up your picture. Keystone-correction can, if necessary, be adjusted from the projector's side-mounted menu controls.
The Epson offers comprehensive settings memories. The setup menus responsible for these are well-designed – as is, for that matter, the comfortable backlit handset.
In addition to the usual TV-type picture adjustments, you get control over gamma curves (one of which is user-defined), deinterlacing mode, skin-tone, overscanning and colour temperature presets (R/G/B offset and gain adjustments are available, too). Menus also configure broadcast 3D formats (side-by-side or top-and-bottom), 2D-3D conversion and screen size.
There's plenty to keep the advanced tweaker happy, in other words. Like its forebear, the TW9100W is ISF-certified. It offers 'day' and 'night' modes for users, and calibration-friendly functions such as the ability to turn off one or more primary colours. Menus are minimised during adjustments so that their effects can be seen more clearly.
Aspect ratio selection gets a dedicated handset shortcut, while a 'user' button can be assigned to the function of your choice (provided you're a regular 3D viewer, or like tweaking brightness). Other buttons toggle through 3D modes, picture presets, 'super-resolution' (crispening) and an effective auto-iris system.
The Active 3D glasses of the original TW9000W were triggered by infra-red control signals, but the TW9100W employs a Bluetooth-type radio system instead. A button on the newly-designed pairs of glasses (two are provided) initiates the necessary 'pairing' process. Once this has been achieved, the projector flashes an onscreen confirmation.
Charging their on-board lithium-ion cells involves plugging them into a USB port (e.g., a computer) for an hour or so. They'll then be good for quite a few hours of 3D viewing, but don't forget to engage the 'off' switch when they're not in use. Epson's glasses are comfortable to wear.
An alternative USB-charging source can be found in the WirelessHD transmitter, a development of the one supplied with the TW9000W. Use this to transmit HDMI video from your sources to the projector without cables. This upgraded version gives you five HDMI inputs in the name of convenience, although its 60GHz digital radio link still relies on lossily-compressed video.
My recommendation is to use conventional HDMI for serious use, and the wireless link for less-exacting applications such as mobile computers, smartphones and so on. Interestingly, the transmitter has a loopthrough HDMI output for other devices, typically a secondary flatscreen TV.
My audition started with 2D material, and the default settings, notably in 'cinema' mode, proved surprisingly good – we've come a long way from the disastrous 'showroom' presets of '90s tellies. That's not to say they can't be tweaked for the best possible results, and as a matter of course a basic calibration was carried out. Colour saturation, in particular, was noticeably improved.
I found the TW9000W fell short of the very best PJs in terms of black level, and this still largely holds true with the new model – even with the lamp in its default 'eco' setting that tames its brightness output. Yet for all this, the dynamic range and depth available is very impressive. Spinning a DVD copy of Avengers Assemble on my Cambridge Audio 751BD, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of information plucked out from the film's darker scenes.
Also praiseworthy is the TW9100W's ability to produce lush and vivid colour. However, a close look at my 100in screen revealed minor convergence errors – the red was displaced to the left slightly, yielding a perceptible 'fringe'. Fortunately, an advanced setting (complete with crosshatch pattern) can deal with this.
With its Full HD resolution, hi-def sources are amply catered for; any fine detail here is conveyed accurately without the need for the rather artificial boost provided by Epson's 'super resolution' feature. A slight reduction in detail can be seen with fast-moving broadcast (1080i) material, but that's to be expected.
3D, especially after a fiddle with the Epson's depth control settings, is good. Although The Amazing Spider-Man is a bit of a 3D disappointment (considering its potential) the 'early warning system' setup by Spider-Man in the New York sewers makes for a worthy test scene. Its vibrating spider-threads are bestowed with lucid depth. Rather better use of 3D is made in Prometheus, particularly when 'proto-Ash' android David activates the hitherto-dead 'Engineer' ship's star-chart. With the Epson, the intricate glowing patterns and swirling circles that fill the cavernous interior can all be picked out in space. Crosstalk errors are minimal.
One annoying problem occurred during the review period. After switching from 3D to 2D viewing late one evening, the picture was stretched horizontally with cropping evident. Switching HDMI cables and inputs fixed the problem. However, I could only restore the errant HDMI input by carrying out a full reset, which deleted all my settings.
So, the TW9100W builds on its predecessor with gentle performance enhancements and its more flexible wireless HD sender. Although it has some minor flaws, they're not insurmountable, especially considering it's sub-£3,000 ticket. And if you don't want the WiHD capability, you can get it for even less.
Price: £2,900 approx
Highs: Commendable all-round picture performance; in-depth calibration options; smart design
Lows: Black levels not quite state-of-the-art; some convergence errors on review sample; wireless HDMI not a faultless standard
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