The odd one out?
What is the Epson EH-TW5350?The Epson EH-TW5350 is a 3LCD projector aimed at the budget end of the market and has a retail price of £599.99. It offers a full HD 1920 x 1080p image made up from 3 LCD panels with a claimed brightness of 2,200 lumens, a contrast ratio of 35,000:1 and with support for active shutter 3D also thrown in. Epson boast that the TW5350 is also ‘connected’ with full support for Miracast with android tablets and smart phones. The HDMI inputs are also MHL compatible.
Epson claim that in Eco mode you could watch one 105 minute movie every day and the bulb will last 11 years. They don’t however specify how dull the image will be by that time, but using Eco will certainly extend the useful hours on your bulb before it gets too dull, and it should last the average life of the projector.
Unlike the recent DLP budget projectors we have been testing, such as the Dell, ViewSonic and BenQ, the TW5350 includes a dynamic iris along with frame interpolation technology. Normally we wouldn’t be that interested in these technologies for critical movie viewing, but with sports coverage, like the upcoming summer of sport, the motion technology should help smooth out the fast action. And as this projector is a 3-chip LCD model there is no chance of you ever suffering from rainbow effects. So, can the Epson steal the show when it comes to all-round sporting, gaming and 3D movie watching? Let’s find out…
Design, Connections and Control
The Epson chassis follows a traditional budget design with the lens to the right side of the front plate and the exhaust vents to the left side when looking from the front of the unit. Below the lens is a flip button which raises or lowers a stand that helps with installation. Also next to it is a remote sensor. Above the lens we have three control areas with different options available in each. The first is a manual slider control which moves a cover in front of the lens to stop dust getting to it when the projector is switched off. Behind this we have the manual zoom and focus rings on the lens and then behind that we have a manual side keystone adjustment. This adjusts the image for side projection if you have the projector off to either side of the screen, something we wouldn’t recommend you do. As with any projector correct alignment to the screen is critical if you want the best image quality and sharpness. Try to install your projector without needing any keystone correction at all.
To the rear of the top plate we have a set of direct access menu keys for use should you misplace the remote control and these include the power button and volume for the built-in speaker. The overall chassis measures in at 297x245x114mm (WxDxH) and weighs 3.1Kg making it easy enough to pack away when not in use and carry around. The chassis is made from plastic and the build quality is very good with a rigid feel, giving you confidence that it won’t start falling apart if you move it around a lot.
Around the back we have a good assortment of connections which includes two HDMI 1.4a inputs along with a VGA PC slot and RCA composite video input. These are joined by two USB slots (one is service only) and audio in and outs. Finally we have the power socket and remote sensor.
Controlling the TH5350 is a white coloured remote which is small and made from plastic. It has four clear groups of buttons with source selection in a black area to the top and below these are player controls and volume keys. Next we have the main menu button, direction keys and enter button with everything within easy thumb reach in this area. Finally to the bottom of the remote are direct access keys for image adjustments and a home key at the very bottom. The remote is a nice weight and sits well in the hand with a confident feel when pressing the buttons, although some of these could be larger in size and no backlight on a projector remote is a criminal omission.
Features and Specs
The Epson is a 3-chip LCD (D9) projector with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p and uses a 200W UHP lamp with an estimated life span of 4,000 hours in normal mode and 7,500 hours in Eco mode. All the set up controls, including focus adjustments are manual in nature but it shouldn’t take long to setup and given the price, size and weight it will be easy to stow away when not in use.
Unlike other projectors at the price point the TW5350 also includes a full Frame Interpolation feature to help with fast moving sports action and add image smoothness. We don’t recommend using this with film material as it adds the dreaded soap opera effect. But with fast moving sports material it does prove quite effective without adding in too many artefacts in the Low setting, although Normal and High do start to struggle and add in issues. If you switch the image processing control from fine to fast it will grey out the frame interpolation adjustment menu and switch it off.
There is also a full dynamic iris on the TW5350 which has two settings of Normal and High Speed. We didn’t find that either mode was particularly fast enough to work without changes in image brightness being seen and in most cases it was jarringly obvious with brightness pumping in some more difficult mixed contrast scenes. It is also very noisy and every change can be heard even over the top of audio playing. Switching the auto iris off didn’t raise blacks and we preferred the more balanced image contrast with it switched off. It will of course come down to your own needs and preferences when using such controls.
The Epson TH5350 is also 3D capable and even has a 2D to 3D conversion mode for those who want everything in 3D! There are no glasses provided with the projector, so they need to be purchased separately. There are a number of viewing options with the 3D functionality including 3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema colour modes as well as full set-up options for depth, screen size and brightness.
Rounding things off are the connectivity features of the TW5350 which boasts MHL on the HDMI inputs as well as full Wi-Fi connectivity and a smart app. The app is a bit of a revelation at this price point and offers full access to controlling the projector as a remote control and has the ability to drill down to the advanced calibration settings. It can also access photos, web pages and documents on your device. We think the app is brilliantly simple to use but at the same time offers easy access to more advanced controls and set up. Well done Epson.
Out-of-the-Box SettingsWe used the Cinema preset after measuring all possible combinations along with the Colour Temp setting of 5. One disappointment is the lack of a gamma control and the Epson will only track around 2.2 so that may not be ideal if you plan on using it in a very dark environment. If you’re using the TW5350 in a room with light colour walls and ceiling, like a normal living room, it will not be an issue.
The greyscale tracking out-of-the-box (top left) was reasonably good with no obvious colour tint visible with normal viewing material although there was a slight greenish tinge to the lower level blacks and borders of 2.35:1 material. Gamma also tracked reasonably well to 2.2 but with no manual controls we couldn’t fine tune things any further. The peak at 90ire was also annoying with no way to fix. However the results are very good for presets.
On initial viewing of the colour gamut (top right) you could be mistaken for assuming that the Epson was a DLP given the restricted size of the gamut against Rec.709 standards, especially with the green hue errors. There is a Colour Management System (CMS) built-in to the TW5350 but you cannot add in or extend a gamut that is restricted to begin with. You can’t add what doesn’t already exist. If we ignore the 100% points and look at 75% and below then the results are not as bad as first seen, with green being majorly out at 75% but tracking better below and the rest of the primary and secondary points showing up slightly over saturated in the majority. We should be able to fix these further if the CMS works correctly. As an out-of-the-box preset the on-screen results are not terrible with just green standing out when watching sports where the pitches can seem a little off-hue in tone.
Calibrated SettingsEpson have included a full two-point white balance control and a full 3D CMS within the menus of the TW5350 which should allow us to dial in the image a little more. There is not a lot we can do with the colour gamut other than tidy the 75% and below tracking of the primary and secondary points, but we should be able to improve the greyscale fully.
Starting with the greyscale (top left) we found that the two point controls were very coarse with any input made reflecting in big movements of the points. This required careful manipulation and also making sure other settings didn’t affect the results. We found that Epson White had been engaged during the out-of-the-box measures and that had resulted in the peak at 90ire in the gamma results. Switching it off gave us better control of the greyscale although we couldn’t do anything to get rid of the greenish tint to blacks and rather than a darker peak at 90ire in the gamma, we now have a lighter dip, which is the price to pay for a better tracking greyscale. I suppose we cannot complain given the price point and on-screen accuracy.
The same can be said for the colour gamut (top right) with use of the CMS successful in massaging the primary and secondary tracking from 75% saturation and below, without adding in artefacts or issues on screen. As most of the material we watch has colours in those intensities and brightness levels, the corrections do help a great deal in making the image more balanced and accurate. Only green is unfixable given the native gamut restrictions and we can’t add in what doesn’t already exist, but given the end results and price point we are working to, it is still a decent result.
Picture QualityAfter reviewing a number of single-chip DLP projectors it was refreshing to sit back and watch a 3LCD produced image. The main difference in the technologies is the sharpness, as the 3-chip alignment of the LCDs does seem a little softer when compared directly with the DLP models. That is not to say you are losing any detail or fine edges to HD images with the Epson, it is just a different looking image in direct comparison. We also found that colours, whilst still restricted like the DLP models against Rec.709, looked a little more refined and natural on the Epson, with a nicer gradation and presentation.
The main area of any image is the black level response and greyscale and the Epson is very similar to the budget DLP projectors in that the black levels are not the best. There is a smidge more detail in the greys in direct comparison in the same conditions, but blacks are mediocre, with some areas of the image in tough mixed scenes all the same shade of very dark grey. On the Epson in some very dark scenes, there is a smidge of green to the blacks but it's not overly distracting and it doesn’t immediately stand out. Although watching in a light controlled room will reveal this weakness, in a normal white walled room with ambient light it isn’t seen. Where the Epson struggles against the DLP models is overall brightness in a normal room. It is bright enough and in isolation does the job well but put next to the BenQ TH670s, for example, with both in their calibrated modes, the BenQ is just that bit brighter.
There are obvious pluses and negatives to any display and especially at this price point we don’t expect miracles, but the Epson does have some nice touches that the other budget projectors don’t offer. As we have a summer of sport ahead of us at the time of writing (June 2016) the TW5350 has a full frame interpolation system built-in which helps to smooth video content. Using this for fast moving sport is effective with very few artefacts created in the majority of viewing – but when it does get it wrong it does so in a spectacular on screen mess! Obviously we would never recommend using such a feature with film-based material as it creates the soap opera effect and ruins the feel. But with sports and gaming, you could experiment to find your preferred settings.
Another unique feature at this price point is the dynamic iris function which at first sight may seem like the ideal solution to those black issues. However you soon discover that the technology implementation here certainly mirrors the price point. It is noisy in both available settings and changes are also very noticeable in image brightness and even in the fast setting, it reacts too slowly to image changes and is accompanied by a grating noise as the iris opens and closes. So whilst we appreciate Epson trying to add useful features at this price point, we would recommend switching it off because aside from all the issues we've already listed, it also didn’t improve the actual black levels.
What we found very appealing was the cinematic nature of the Epson’s image with superb skin tones, good brightness in mixed scenes and excellent video processing. While we have covered the black levels, the colours were actually very convincing with excellent gradation on screen without any noticeable banding. Whites were also accurate and the gamma while not at 2.4 as we would want, still added a good degree of depth at 2.2 to bring a sense of pop. With sports material we also found that, with FI set to low, the motion was very good with football. We didn’t see any induced artefacts during our viewing in this mode. Set it higher and you do start to run into issues. With FI switched off the TW5350 displayed 24p material without any induced judder and image blur was natural for the technology. There is a degree of blur present with all material when FI is off.
Gamers will be happy with the EH-TW5350 as it has a measured input lag of just 28ms using our trusted Leo Bodnar device.
Finally we have 3D and the Epson does a very good job of presenting 3D Blu-ray with minimal crosstalk and ghosting. Colours and brightness are also very good when wearing a set of glasses. Epson did send us glasses but they turned out to be IR and not RF, so we managed to get a pair of Sony RF glasses to work with the projector. Depth is good and the menu selections and settings can prove to be useful with selections for depth, brightness and screen size. There is also a 2D to 3D conversion mode which actually wasn’t that bad in the weak setting with 2D content taking on some depth, but nothing more than that. Overall the TW5350 produced a very compelling 3D performance that keeps up with the usually very strong DLP budget models.
Epson EH-TW5350 3LCD Projector ReviewWe were very impressed with the Epson TW5350 considering the performance and technology on offer versus the price point. At the time of writing (June 2016) you can pick up the Epson for under £600 and it comes with features not found on competing single-chip DLP machines, like a dynamic iris and frame interpolation. It also offers good brightness levels and nicely rendered colours, even if they are not exactly accurate to the standards.
It’s not perfect, far from it, but for a budget 3LCD model it offers a lot of positive image attributes as well as excellent 3D viewing for the whole family. It is not a home cinema model for critical movie watching, although out of all the recent budget projectors we have tested, it had the most cinematic images on offer. It is more of an all-rounder for gaming, big screen sports and 3D films. The size and weight of the TW5350 makes it ideal for occasional use and storing away when not required. Black levels are not great, which is to be expected at the price point, but the frame interpolation is a nice touch for watching the upcoming summer of sport with fast moving images. We also love the fact it has a fully active remote app and if you use android devices you can mirror the screens using Miracast.
Overall, there are issues with absolute image quality; however this projector will be used in environments where that doesn’t really matter a great deal. This is not designed for critical movie watching in a bat cave, but rather an all-rounder for 3D films, gaming and sports with the family in the living room and, based on the value for money and performance offered, it comes recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels7
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box7
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use8
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
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