A little late to the 3D game, last year Epson joined in with not one but five 3D projectors. This one is the top of the line, its most expensive and its highest performing, yet still comes in at a surprisingly low price of just under US$4000.
Epson has long been an LCD projector company, so nothing has changed here, with three of its own full HD proprietary panels to cover the three primary colours. Any weakness in black levels due to LCD technology — and there isn't much weakness left here thanks to Epson's improvements in panel design — is counteracted by a dynamic iris, which reduces light levels during dark scenes.
The unit has two HDMI inputs, plus component, composite and VGA for analog. Oh, and it also has WirelessHD. This is a new standard to allow full HD — including the frame-packed 3D format, which doubles bandwidth requirements — to be transmitted over a short range in the 60GHz band. The projector comes with a WirelessHD transmitter with a single HDMI input, and has a WirelessHD receiver built in.
The advantage of this is that you can avoid running a signal cable to the projector, which can be particularly convenient if it is ceiling mounted. Of course, you still have to run a power cable.
The projector is flexible with regard to installation. Its lens zoom range is 2.1:1 and it has both horizontal and vertical lens shift, all manually operated.
The 3D sync transmitter is built into the projector and it comes with two sets of 3D glasses (which use cheap disposable button cells for power). There is a socket for connecting an external optional transmitter if the signal proves to be insufficient in a particular environment.
Epson has had 2D home theatre projection nailed for its last few top-end models, and this one simply continues the trend. Even with the dynamic iris switched off, the black levels were perfectly acceptable. To the point where it is hard to believe that this is an LCD projector. We still remember the constant pearly grey glow of what purported to be black from the LCD projectors in their early years. Switching on the dynamic iris added an additional layer of darkness in largely dark scenes, and perhaps allowed just a little more detail to be revealed. Its cost, though, was that its operation was quietly audible as a gentle chuffing when it switched, frame by frame, to a size appropriate to the light output for each.
Colour was strong, with good default settings. The default setting for "Overscan" was terrible when the projector was fed standard-definition content. At 8 per cent it pushed a lot of picture off the edges of the screen. Switch this off.
The projector has a decent judder removal processor with a couple of different settings. This interpolates new frames to fit in between the existing signal frames. At the higher setting it gave extremely smooth results, but also produced spurious noise in the picture. At the low setting it reduced the worst judder without obvious distortion.
Even though this is a first-generation 3D projector for Epson, its 3D performance was pretty much in line with the best second-generation LCoS projectors. That is to say it managed to pull off the trick of delivering a nice, bright image, with only minimal crosstalk. By that I mean that you can certainly see the 3D ghosts if you look for them. But they are subtle enough to avoid being unduly distracting. Remember, at its worst, 3D crosstalk can completely collapse the 3D effect. None of that here; the 3D was well defined in the front-back dimension.
The built-in 3D sync transmitter worked with complete reliability in our test labs, bouncing its signal (invisibly) from the projection screen back to the glasses. It didn't seem to interfere too much with our other remote controls while doing so.
In addition to accepting all the usual 3D signals, the projector has a 2D to 3D converter. This can produce effects that are sometimes realistic, and sometimes strange. The latter is necessarily characteristic of all 2D to 3D converters, so it shouldn't be held against it. We'd just recommend that you leave it switched off.
The WirelessHD connection worked quite nicely. To avoid line-of-sight issues in the 60GHz band, the system bounces its signal from nearby surfaces, getting around obstacles. When we piled paper over it and stood in the way, it stopped working, but otherwise at the 4-metre range required by the layout of our labs, it worked with perfect reliability, even when the body of this reviewer was right between the transmitter and projector. The only negative was that when switching signal standards (eg, from 1080p at 60-hertz to 1080p at 24-hertz) the signal acquisition was slower. We preferred to use a HDMI cable if possible for that reason alone.
The Epson EH-TW9000W is a classy bit of gear with generally good performance and the startling new feature of WirelessHD, yet at a price at the lower end of what's available. This ought to be a good seller.