Epson EH-LS100 Laser LCD Projector Review
Is this a viable alternative to a TV?
What is the Epson EH-LS100?The Epson EH-LS100 is an ultra short throw laser LCD projector, which basically means it uses a laser light source rather than a bulb and can produce a large image whilst being positioned very close to the wall or screen on to which it's projecting. It's also only £2,599 as at the time of writing (March 2018), which is a previously unheard of price point for this kind of projector. All of which makes it an interesting product for anyone looking for a big screen image at a price that won't break the bank.
Epson has form when it comes to laser projectors, they were one of the first to market with the excellent EH-LS10000 back in 2015, and the technology has certain advantages over bulbs such as instant on and off, a longer lifespan, not really dimming and greater consistency. The LS100 does have certain limitations, it's only a 1080p Full HD projector so there's no support for 4K Ultra HD or High Dynamic Range, but if that isn't important then it certainly has potential – so let's plug it in and find out.
DesignAt first glance Epson's EH-LS100 looks more like one of their laser printers than a projector but the unusual design reflects its ultra short throw nature. The projector is intended to be positioned very close to a wall or screen and the laser light source is fired backwards towards a phosphor-coated surface. The light is then reflected off this surface and through the LCD panels before leaving the forward facing lens at the rear of the chassis at an angle designed to illuminate a wall or screen that is mere centimetres away.
Unlike the professional laser projectors used in the cinema, which actually do beam a laser out of the lens, there are clear health and safety issues when it comes to using this technology in the home. That's why the laser is reflected off a phosphor-coated surface, it's not direct laser light so whilst it's certainly bright, it won't blind you. There's also another safety feature designed to protect the eyesight of curious cats and toddlers, if the projector senses something in front of the lens the light source is immediately turned off.As you face the rear of the projector you will see that there are a series of indicator lights at the top right. These show temperature and laser warnings, the projector's status and whether it's on or in standby. Beneath the indicator lights is the IR sensor and over on the left hand side there is the wireless LAN indicator. Towards the front right of the projector is the built-in speaker and at the very front, on the underside of the chassis is the connector for the power cable.
At the rear of the chassis is the forward-facing projection window and a sensor to detect anything blocking it, whilst over on the left hand side are the exhaust vents and and the connections. On the right hand side you'll find some basic controls which you can use if the remote control isn't to hand, along with the replaceable air intake filters and focus control behind a drop down panel. Finally on the underside of the projector there are three adjustable feet to allow you to level the LS100 if necessary.
The LS100 looks like a big laser printer but its unusual design allows for ultra short throw projection
Connections & ControlAll of the connections are located on the left hand side of the projector, as you face it from the rear, and whilst certain inputs are readily accessible, the rest are behind a removable cover. There are three HDMI 1.4 inputs (one of which supports MHL) that can be directly accessed without removing this cover, along with an Ethernet port for a wired connection and three USB ports (two type A and one type B).
There are two screws that need to be unfixed before you can take off the removable cover and behind this you'll find a number of other connections. There are VGA connectors for a monitor and a computer, along with an RS232 connector for serial control. There is also a composite video input, two audio inputs and an audio output, as well as a dedicated slot for installing a wireless LAN module.The control panel includes buttons for selecting a source, along with an enter and an escape button. There are on/off, home and menu keys, as well as buttons for increasing or decreasing the size of the projected image and making keystone adjustments. The provided remote control is rather small and fiddly and there's no backlight, which makes it hard to use in the dark. There are all the same controls found on the side of the projector, along with additional controls for directly accessing the inputs, navigating the menus, selecting the aspect ratio and adjusting the volume of the built-in speaker.
The remote is a bit small and fiddly but there are plenty of connections, even if some are hidden
Features & SpecsThe headline feature of the Epson EH-LS100 is that is uses a laser light source and, as already mentioned, that imparts certain benefits. The laser can turn on and off instantly, no waiting for a bulb to warm up or cool down, and it doesn't dim like a bulb, which means it has greater consistency and a longer life. In fact Epson claim a life of 10 years, based on watching five hours a day in the Eco mode, and the warranty lasts for five years or 12,000 hours. The LS100 is also bright, with Epson claiming 4,000 lumens in the highest mode, although they also claim deep blacks and a 2,500,000:1 contrast ratio, both of which we shall test later.
The other big selling point is the LS100's use of an ultra short throw lens, which means it can deliver an image from 70 to 130 inches with the lens between 41 and 78cm from the screen or wall. The LS100 uses three 0.67 inch LCD panels, which isn't unusual, but what is more unusual is that these panels are 16:10 rather than the normal 16:9. As a result the projector supports Full HD 1080p but the actual resolution of the panel itself is 1920 x 1200 pixels. This suggests the LS100's heritage is based more on Epson's data projectors rather than their home cinema models, a fact that is borne out by the inclusion of a built in speaker.The LS100 also includes a home screen, which you don't normally see on projectors, that shows the input that's in use, some basic information and a few useful features. There is also a more traditional menu system that is familiar from Epson's home cinema projectors, along with a number of different colour modes including Dynamic, Cinema, Game and Bright Cinema. Epson have also included a basic white balance control and a colour management system. The Dynamic Contrast feature is designed to improve the black level and contrast ratio performance by adjusting the laser on a scene-by-scene basis.
The LS100 can be controlled via a wired or optional wireless LAN connection and it also supports PJLink and Crestron RoomView. The Epson does support 10-bit video but, as already mentioned, it is limited to 1080p Full HD and HDCP 1.4. That means it can't support with 4K Ultra HD or High Dynamic Range (HDR) and it doesn't support 3D either.
The Epson has a reasonable set of features but is limited in terms of home cinema applications
Setup & OperationThe Epson EH-LS100 is fairly straightforward to set up, all you need is a flat surface to position the projector on and a white wall or screen on which to project the image. The adjustable feet allow you to ensure that the projector is level, even if the surface its standing on isn't. Then all you need to do is ensure that the projector is straight on with the wall or screen and move it backwards or forwards to get the screen size you require. You can get an image between 70 and 130 inches if you ensure that the projection window is between 41 and 78 centimetres from the wall or screen. Once you have done that there is a focus control on the right hand side behind the panel that covers the replaceable air filters. You simply pull up a test pattern from the menu and then move the control up and down until the image is in focus. It is possible to simply use a wall for projection as long as it's matte white and suitably flat but for the best results we would recommend using a decent screen, either fixed or pull down.The correct positioning of the LS100 is essential to getting the best image because if the projection window is closer than 41cm or further away than 78cm, then you will need to use the keystone adjustments to ensure that the image has the correct geometry. This kind of image processing robs the picture of fine detail, so where possible you should always avoid using the keystone controls. If you want to move the image left or right or make it larger or smaller, then you'll physically need to move the projector. There are controls to move the image or change it's size but these are electronic and only change the image within the original projected frame, using these controls will also rob the image of fine detail. Once you have set up the projector, it's just a question of connecting your sources and selecting the correct picture settings. We used a combination of a Blu-ray player, a Freeview HD PVR and a PS4 as our sources and we will go through the picture settings in the next sections.
Setup is straightforward but care in correctly positioning the projector will pay dividends
Out-of-the-Box SettingsWe selected the Cinema Colour Mode, which delivered the most accurate performance out of the box and we also set the Light Source Mode to Quiet, which reduces the light output by 30% but is also considerably quieter than the Normal mode. Alternatively there is the Extended mode which also reduces the light output by 30% but is designed to extend the lifespan of the projector, although we actually found this wasn't any quieter than the Normal mode. Finally you could use the Custom mode and the set the brightness level to suit the environment into which the projector is being installed. In a darker environment we would use this control to reduce the brightness further, which would help with black levels.The out-of-the-box greyscale performance was excellent, the levels of red, green and blue tracked each other closely and the DeltaEs (errors) were all below the visible threshold of three. In fact they were all below two and most were below one. The gamma was also very good, with the curve tracking 2.2 very closely, resulting in an impressive performance as far as these two metrics are concerned.Sadly the colour performance was a lot less impressive, as you can see in the graph above. The horseshoe shape represents the visible spectrum and the triangle is Rec.709 which is the industry standard for the colour gamut used with Full HD content. The LS100 isn't tracking Rec.709 particularly well and there appears to be a limitation in its ability to deliver green, as well as cyan and yellow which are partly composed of green. In addition, magenta is also skewing towards red quite heavily. As a result greens have a yellow tinge to them, especially when more saturated, and flesh tones have too much red in them. Projectors at the lower end of the price scale often struggle to correctly render colours when using a laser light source but looking at the above graph you can draw a straight line from blue to green, suggesting that these limitations are inherent in the display and thus we won't be able to correct them using the colour management system. Although not shown on the graph above, in the case of certain colours like green, the brightness (luminance) of the colour also measured too high.
The greyscale and gamma were very good but the colour accuracy was disappointing
Calibrated SettingsThe LS100 isn't really aimed at projector enthusiasts, which is fairly obvious not only from the measurements above but also from the available calibration controls. The included G-M Correction (white balance) control just allows for adding green or red to the greyscale, which is fairly limited, although there is a full colour management system (CMS).Since the greyscale and gamma performance of the LS100 was already very good, there was little that the included G-M Correction control could do to improve the accuracy. That's just as well because the G-M Correction control is very basic but we were able to make some minor tweaks, although in reality these wouldn't actually be visible. Ultimately the greyscale and gamma performance out of the box was already excellent, so we would just leave it as it was without resorting to any calibration. Although when you consider the target audience that seems entirely appropriate.As we suspected one of the main issues with the colour accuracy of the LS100 was the result of a limitation in the colour gamut of the projector itself. As a result, and despite the presence of a CMS, we were unable to make any improvements to the saturation of green, cyan and yellow and, in fact, changing the controls appeared to have no effect at all. We were able to make some improvements to the errors in luminance and we were able to remove some of the red from magenta which improved the flesh tones. However overall it remains a somewhat disappointing colour performance from the LS100, especially when compared to some of Epson's other home cinema projectors. However, once again given the target audience the errors in the colour gamut are unlikely to be a major issue.
Epson EH-LS100 Video Review
PerformanceAs already mentioned you can choose a number of brightness settings and if you really need a very bright image then the LS100 can certainly deliver the 4,000 lumens that Epson claim. However the level of noise will be quite distracting, even over the sound of a full multi-channel audio system, so the quieter brightness setting is preferable and can still deliver 2,000 lumens in the Cinema colour mode. You will certainly need to invest in some sort of sound solution because no self-respecting home cinema enthusiast would use the tiny speaker built in to the LS100.
The brightness of the LS100 means that it is suitable for rooms with light walls and ceilings, which is undoubtedly the kind of environment for which it was designed. The downside of this higher brightness is a raised black floor that means the black levels are more a dark grey and the contrast ratio is poor – basically 1,000:1 which is a far cry from the 2,500,000:1 claimed by Epson. However, whilst this is clearly an issue when using the LS100 in a darkened home cinema, it's less of a problem in a room with ambient and reflected light.
The LS100 includes a dynamic contrast feature intended to use the laser light source to improve the black levels and whilst it does to a small degree, the reality is that blacks are not the strength of this projector. The fact that it uses LCD panels doesn't help much and the shadow detail is also limited. However the Epson can deliver bright and punchy images and when watching TV or sport or gaming and the inherent limitations are less of an issue. The same is true of the colour inaccuracies, which are also less of an issue than you might think.
The LS100 has no frame interpolation feature but for an LCD panel the motion handling was surprisingly good. It certainly handled the constantly moving camera of Gravity without introducing unwanted judder and other artefacts, whilst football and gaming also looked very good. That's just as well because we suspect the Epson will primarily be used for watching movies, sporting events and a spot of gaming. In the case of the latter, the input lag is 48ms which won't bother most people but might be too high for competitive gamers.
One last idiosyncrasy of the LS100 is that it uses a 16:10 chip, rather than the usual 16:9, which means there is a light border around a 16:9 high definition image. You can blow the image up by selecting certain aspect ratios but then you lose part of the picture and, once again, you're using electronic scaling which will rob the image of fine detail. The best solution, if you're using a 16:9 screen, is to adjust the size of the projected image so that the lighter area is masked by the black border of the screen.
Although you don't need to use a screen, for the best results we would certainly recommend that you get one. We used the projector with both, starting in a dedicated home cinema with blacked out walls and a fixed unity gain screen. This delivered the best image, although it also mercilessly revealed the contrast limitations of the LS100. We also used a white wall in our longe which, whilst not ideal, did work to a degree. However you need to make sure the wall or screen (if you're using a pull down model) is perfectly flat because any uneven surfaces or undulations will be very obvious on camera pans in football.
Assuming that you have been careful in your set up of the LS100, then you should have no issues as far as the geometry of the image is concerned and screen uniformity was good with no obvious image issues, aside from those already mentioned. The film Gravity proved a useful test, not just for the constantly moving nature of its images but also for its combination of bright and dark scenes. The LS100 handled the bright white of the space suits extremely well and rendered the detail in the computer animation with precision.
However the darker scenes and the numerous shots of deep space revealed the poor black levels and shadow details. The dynamic contrast feature did improve the perceived blacks slightly but ultimately the LS100 struggled with these scenes in a darkened home theatre. Where it fared better was in our lounge, with white walls and ceiling, where the reflected light washed out the blacks anyway, thus masking the poor performance in this area. Since these are the conditions that the Epson is designed for and given its brightness, it will doubtless prove popular with a mass market audience even if it isn't the best choice for a home cinema enthusiast.
The LS100 delivered a solid performance but is aimed squarely at the mass market rather than the home cinema enthusiast
- Uses a laser light source
- Ideal for smaller and brighter rooms
- Easy to set up and use
- Accurate greyscale and gamma
- Attractive price point
- Inaccurate colour gamut
- Poor black levels and contrast ratio
- Limited to Full HD
- No backlight on remote
Epson EH-LS100 Laser LCD Projector ReviewThe Epson EH-LS100 is an interesting product for a number of reasons but primarily because it offers laser projection at a previously unthinkable price point. As a result consumers who want the big screen experience of a projector but also crave the convenience of a TV might find the LS100 a genuine alternative. It would certainly cost considerably more than £2,599 to buy a TV with a 70-inch or bigger screen size and it would definitely take up more space.
Yes the LS100 lacks support for 4K and HDR but if that isn't important, and for many people it isn't, then the Epson starts to make sense. The LS100 is certainly bright enough to operate in rooms with white walls and ceilings, just like a TV, and it has the lifespan of a TV as well. It is fairly noisy in its brightest mode, although the quieter mode can still put out some serious lumens, but it's easy to set up and whilst you can use a simple white wall, to to get the best we'd recommend using a dedicated screen.
The LS100 can deliver a very watchable picture with plenty of detail and surprisingly good motion handling for an LCD projector. The greyscale and gamma are excellent and whilst the colour accuracy could have been better, it's unlikely that most people would be bothered. The black levels, contrast ratio and shadow detail are all poor, which is an unfortunate side effect of the projector's inherent brightness and LCD panels but this is likely to be less of an issue in the average living room.
The Epson EH-LS100 certainly makes for a viable and cheaper alternative to a big screen TV but it is clearly aimed at the mass market rather than the home cinema enthusiast. If you consider yourself the latter and are thinking of buying a projector then you would be better served by Epson's superb EH-TW7300. This more traditional bulb-based projector costs a mere £2,199 but supports 4K and HDR and offers superior accuracy and a host of useful features, making it a real bargain.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,599.99
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels6
2D Picture Quality7
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money8
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