Having made many of our favourite projectors in recent years, Epson suffered a dip in form last year – especially in light of the improvements made by some rivals. The gentle criticism it received seems to have galvanised the world’s best-selling projector brand into action, for with the TW9200W it's right back at the top of its game.

As soon as you’ve unboxed it you start to get a good feeling about the TW9200W. Its sizeable chassis looks great in a serious kind of way, its weight speaks of quality innards, and its large, centrally-mounted lens looks even to the naked eye to be of a high quality.

Connections are good, too. There are two 3D-capable HDMIs and a wireless transmitter kit should you want to cut cable clutter, while system integration is bolstered by an RS-232C port and a 12V trigger output. This latter jack is particularly handy on the TW9200W since, unlike models lower down Epson’s latest UK projector range, it can be used to power an external anamorphic lens.

Eye-catching amongst the PJ's specs is the 600,000:1 claimed contrast ratio via the new, improved dynamic iris system. This represents a colossal leap from the 320,000:1 of last year’s equivalent model. A ‘colour light output’ (Epson prefers this phrase to 'brightness' as it helps distinguish its LCD tech from DLP, which loses brightness when showing any colour but pure white) of 2,400 Lumens is also reassuringly high.

The TW9200W provides a 480Hz drive for 3D, frame interpolation that can be used with 3D as well as 2D, two pairs of RF-type 3D glasses included free, and outstanding setup flexibility that includes a solid 2.1x optical zoom and plenty of vertical and horizontal image shifting via two simple wheels on the projector’s top edge.

It’s a pity the TW9200W doesn’t have motorised zoom and focus – especially as the manual focus and zoom rings are a little fiddly and stiff to use. But the TW9200W is capable of taking up residence in almost any shape and size of room, and that's what counts.

The menus offer a huge roster of calibration tools, including white balance and colour management options, some well-considered picture presets, and the options to control key aspects of the projector’s processing and the way the dynamic iris system is working.

As I'd expect of a flagship model, the TW9200W is certified by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), leaving my only serious feature gripe being the absence of any lens memory options. These are always useful for storing different image settings for different aspect ratios.

Hitting another level

It’s quickly obvious that this projector's pictures are a significant advance from its predecessor, with the image’s combination of extreme clarity and deft colour handling the first thing that caught my eye.

The sense of detail in the picture is a real improvement over the TW9100, backing up my initial impression of the high quality of the lens. Also aiding sharpness is the Epson's ability to render colours with great tonal precision, as even the tricky, varied skin tones of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray appear without looking stripey or patchy.

The Hobbit... is also a great revealer of how well the TW9200W handles motion. Even without the Frame Interpolation feature active, there’s far less judder than I would normally expect, and that's in sequences shot using very fluid camera movements (such as the escape from the underground Goblin kingdom). In fact, I’d say the PJ's native motion handling is so good that the Frame Interpolation system isn’t necessary – at least during 2D viewing.

All this good stuff and I haven’t even touched on the TW9200W’s contrast yet. This is much improved from last year’s models in terms of both the depth of blacks and the amount of detail retained during dark scenes. Black levels aren’t as deep as those provided by JVC’s similarly-priced X35 projector, but the TW9200W has slightly more brightness – even in Eco mode – and handles motion better.

It's also a more assured 3D performer than that JVC – and Sony’s excellent HW55ES, come to that. It suffers scarcely at all with crosstalk ghosting noise, which immediately makes 3D pictures look more convincing and sharp, and means there’s less opportunity for your sense of immersion to be trampled.

The TW9200W’s 3D images also enjoy a well-defined sense of depth and space thanks to the strong contrast performance, and colours still appear natural and well balanced. However, there’s a slightly wispy look to fast-moving edges in 3D unless you use the Frame Interpolation processing, but this can be used on its lowest power setting without the picture becoming over-processed.

Up to the task

While excellent, though, the TW9200W does have some issues. For starters, the dynamic iris creates some noise. It sounds more like someone’s tummy rumbling than the harsh grating of last year's model, but it’s still aggravating enough during quiet movie moments to probably make the feature a non-starter for some. I could still hear it over a film when sat 2.5 metres from the projector.

Fan noise also cranks up if you shift the lamp from Eco to Normal level – so much so that I’d argue the higher lamp mode is almost unusable. Pity, then, that the TW9200W only plays 3D with the lamp set to Normal. It follows from this that unless you can contain the fan noise (a custom-made hushbox perhaps) and so use the Normal lamp setting, you shouldn’t expect to get close to the PJ's claimed 2,400 Lumens of colour light output.

There’s another issue with the normal lamp setting too, namely that on my sample it had a negative impact on the Epson's colour handling. There was a large and entirely unwanted injection of red that took quite a lot of calibration work to get past.

The improvements Sony delivered with its recent HW55ES really put pressure on Epson ahead of its new models. But with the EH-TW9200W it’s risen to the challenge admirably. Bar some niggles (that should be able to be overcome via cunning installation/calibration), this is a cracking cinema PJ.