Epson's new line-up seems a lot like their old line-up
Home AV review
IntroductionLast year Epson delivered a surprisingly strong line-up of home cinema projectors, from the entry level TW5900 to the top-of-the-range TW9000. So when their new models were announced we were slightly disappointed, as the specifications seemed rather familiar. Only the TW8100 which we reviewed was a genuinely new model and all the other models from the TW5910 to the TW9100 seemed to be almost identical to the previous incarnations.
The Epson EH-TW6100 sits at the lower end of Epson's range but offers three-chip LCD with a resolution of 1080p, full HD 3D, a claimed brightness of 2,300 lumens, a claimed contrast ration of 40,000:1 and it even includes a pair of active shutter RF glasses. It also comes in two varieties, the basic TW6100 and the TW6100W, which includes a wireless HDMI adapter. Whilst this all sounds remarkably familiar, specifications don't tell the whole story and a price of £1,299 will make the TW6100 very attractive to a lot of people. Let's find out just how attractive...
Design and FeaturesThe design of the TW6100 is identical to last year's TW6000 with the same attractive chassis design, good build quality and a centrally located lens. The TW6100 comes in glossy black, which would suit an installation in a darkened home cinema but in the average lounge the TW6100W would be a better fit. The TW6100W is however £300 more expensive, although as the 'W' suffix denotes, it comes with a wireless HDMI adaptor.
The TW6100 is straightforward to set up, thanks to three adjustable feet which is a very sensible approach that we wish more manufacturers would follow because it makes levelling the image much easier when standing the projector on a shelf. As mentioned previously, the lens is positioned in the centre of the chassis with intake and exhaust vents either side and at the bottom left of the lens is the infra-red receiver. At the top rear of the chassis there is a basic control panel for those that are careless with the remote.
The lens itself is quite small and of rather poor quality but when viewed up close, there was no obvious misalignment or fringing on images. However the greater amount of fill between the pixels means that screen size and viewing distance need to be carefully chosen or there is a chance the pixel structure will be visible. The TW6100 uses three of Epson's 0.61" D9, 10Bit Wide Panels which are 480Hz driven and boasts a claimed contrast ratio of 40,000:1 and a light output of 2,300 lumens. There was a 'blob' on this review sample caused by dust getting into the light path and creating visible patches. In fairness this review sample has been shipped around quite a bit but it is an inherent weakness of LCD projector design.
There are manual controls for adjusting the zoom and focus of the image but there are no lens shift controls, which makes exact placement important. If you are planning on using the projector on a shelf or table it will need to be positioned at the bottom of the screen and conversely if you are planning on a ceiling mount, it needs to be at the top of the screen. Don't be tempted to use keystone adjustment as this will introduce scaling artefacts and rob the image of resolution.
All the connections are at the rear of the TW6100 and include two HDMI v1.4a inputs, a component video input with RCA connectors, a composite video with an RCA connector and a VGA connector for a PC. The TW6100 also includes an RS-232C connector for system control and USB ports for service access. Finally, at the rear, there is also an on/off switch and the power socket which uses a standard three pin connector. If you look closely you will also see the built-in speakers at the rear, something of a throwback to Epson's data grade past, they are largely useless in a home cinema setup.
The TW6100 comes with the standard Epson remote control, which is attractively designed and well made from black plastic. It includes a backlight which is obviously handy in the dark, and large buttons that are well laid out and intuitive to use. The remote control itself is comfortable to hold and simple to operate with one hand, which is also appreciated. There are keys for all the usual controls, as well as dedicated buttons for the Colour Mode, Aspect (Ratio), RGBCMY (CMS), Memory and Test Patterns. Since this remote can be used with a number of different projectors there are also keys that can be used like Auto Iris, 3D Format, Split Screen, Super-res, volume, mute and 2D/3D. However there are also keys which don't apply to the TW6100 like frame interpolation and the playback functions.
The TW6100 comes with one pair of 3D glasses included, they use the RF standard and are lightweight and comfortable to wear, whilst also being large enough to fit over regular glasses. They have wide sides which help with blocking out any ambient light and the lenses are suitably neutral in tint, although we would have liked them to be a bit larger to increase the field of view. The glasses can be re-charged via USB and the battery can last up to 40 hours when fully charged, although there is 3-minute quick charge option that will get you through a film in an emergency. At the top of the frame there is an on/off switch and the glasses will automatically switch off after a certain period with no 3D signal.
Menus and SetupThe menu system of the TW6100 is the standard Epson layout and you can choose between a monochrome black version or a more colourful blue one. We like Epson's menu system, it is easy to use, sensibly laid out and quite comprehensive. Within the main menu, you will find menus for Image, Signal, Settings, Extended, Memory, Info and Reset.
First up is Signal which relates to all the controls for the deinterlacing, scaling and noise reduction. There is a control for selecting the Aspect ratio and adjusting Super-resolution, along with an Advanced submenu. Here you'll find controls for the Noise Reduction features as well as a control for the HDMI Video Range and the Setup Level. There is also an option for Overscan which should be left off unless you want to introduce unwanted scaling and a control called Image Processing which is designed for use with games. If you want to reduce lag when playing games, you can set to 'Fast' which bypasses any image processing, otherwise you can leave it on 'Fine'.
Within the Signal menu, you will find the 3D Setup where you can select the 3D Display functions, turn the 2D-to-3D Conversion on or off, select the 3D Format (Auto, 2D, Side-by-Side, Top-and-Bottom), 3D Depth, the Diagonal Screen Size, the 3D Brightness (Low, Medium, High), Inverse 3D Glasses (Yes, No) and 3D Viewing Notice (On, Off). The next menu is Settings which includes all the controls for the Keystone, Audio, HDMI Link, Lock Settings, Projection, User Button and Split Screen.
Then we have the Extended menu which contains all the controls for the Operation, Display, Input Signal, LCD Alignment and Language. From the perspective of image accuracy the most important menu is Image, where you will find all the usual controls including Colour Mode, Brightness, Contrast, Colour Saturation and Tint. There is also a Sharpness control, as well as a Colour Temperature setting and a Skin Tone control. There is also a Power Consumption control providing a choice of Normal or ECO and a control for the Auto Iris function.
Within the Advanced sub-menu of the Images menu there is the Gamma control, the RGB control, the RGBCMY control and the EPSON Super White control. You should select EPSON Super White in order to ensure that the projector is reproducing all the detail in peak whites. The Gamma control features a selection of different preset gamma curves and a customised gamma where a graphical interface can be used to adjust the gamma curve at set points.
The RGB control is Epson's name for their two point white balance control which is used to calibrate the greyscale and RGBCMY is their name for the Colour Management System (CMS). This allows for an accurate calibration of the primary (red, green and blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta and yellow) colours by adjusting Hue, Saturation (Colour) and Brightness (luminance).
Out-of-the-Box MeasurementsFor the purposes of these measurements we used the 'Cinema' preset, selected the 2.4 gamma setting, selected a Colour Temperature of 6500K, the ECO Power Consumption and turned the Auto Iris off, as well as any Noise Reduction features. We optimised the Brightness and Contrast for our demo room and left the Colour, Tint, Skin Tone and Sharpness controls centred. With some Epson projectors we have found the 'Natural' preset to be the more accurate but this was not the case with the TW6100.
As the graph on the left shows, the performance was actually quite good although there was an excess of blue in the image, as well as a deficit of green. This resulted in DeltaEs (errors) that were big enough to be discerned by the human eye and showed up as discolouration on a ten point stair step pattern. However the gamma was measuring at 2.3 which is probably ideal for the kind of installations that the TW6100 will be used in. As the graph on the right shows, the colour gamut was not as accurate as we would have liked to see, with a sizeable hue error in green resulting in corresponding errors for cyan and yellow. However the luminance measurements are actually quite accurate and the other colours are reasonably close to their targets.
Calibrated MeasurementsFor these measurements we used the White Balance control (RGB) to calibrate the greyscale and for the colour gamut we used the CMS (RGBCMY) in order to try correct the errors in all six colours.
After adjusting the two point white balance control, we were able to deliver a reference greyscale performance from the TW6100. As you can see on the graph above, the RGB Balance is tracking at 100 for all three primary colours, with the overall errors all less than 2 and in most cases less than 1. The gamma is still tracking at 2.3 but although there was a slight dip at 10 IRE, it won't overly impact on the integrity of the overall image.
The reference greyscale is obvious on the CIE Chart above because white is hitting its target of D65. However despite the presence of a CMS, we struggled to get the overall colour gamut as accurate as we would like. We were able to set the Luminance very accurately and this is important, as it is the element of colour to which our eyes are most sensitive. We also managed to get red, blue, magenta and yellow to hit their targets against the Industry Standard of Rec.709 but we were unable to correct the error in the hue of green and as a result greens had a yellow tinge to them. Because of the issues with green we also had an under-saturation in cyan, although this was not noticeable in actual viewing. In general the colour performance was very good with most having overall errors at or well below the visible threshold of three; it's unfortunate that we were unable to correct the error in green.
The idea behind measuring the CIE tracking is to see how well the projector tracks against target saturation points as the saturation decreases. As the graph above shows, the TW6100 didn't perform as well as many other projectors that we have seen at this price range or even below. Whilst green was inevitably skewed at a saturation of both 100 and 75%, it did at least seem to improve at 50 and 25%. Both Magenta and Cyan actually tracked very well but there was some definite under-saturation in the tracking of red, blue and yellow at lower saturation points. As a result when watching actual content, which is almost never fully saturated, the colours could appear a little muted at times.
Brightness, Black Levels and Dynamic RangeThe TW6100 has a claimed brightness of 2,300 lumens, which should make the Epson perfect for less ideal environments, which is where it will most likely be used. The added brightness should also help with 3D, where you're always battling the dimming nature of the glasses. However the brightness begins to drop very quickly as soon as you start using the ECO lamp mode (which is quieter) and a more accurate colour mode like Cinema and, after calibration, we measured the lumens at over 1,000. However, whilst the TW6100 had the brightness, its blacks were quite weak and appeared more like a dark grey. This robbed the projector of much of its dynamic range and we measure the on/off contrast ratio at 938:1. The TW6100 includes an Auto Iris but we wouldn't encourage using it because you'll lose detail as you crush blacks and clip whites. In addition, the Auto Iris wasn't that quiet, so depending on where you sit, you could also hear it in action.
Video ProcessingWe have generally been impressed with video processing capabilities of Epson's projectors, so it should come as no surprise to discover that the TW6100 was just as good. It was able to fully reproduced the SMPTE colour bar tests for both PAL and NTSC, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. It also sailed through the video deinterlacing tests, reproducing the rotating line without jaggies except at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained excellent with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly and only very slight jaggies on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the projector continued to perform flawlessly, correctly detecting the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The projector also had no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
The TW6100 performed equally as well in the tests using high definition content and with the player set to 1080i, it correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed excellent scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. With 1080i material the projector had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems. We used the Dynamic Range High test to ensure the TW6100 was reproducing all the video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255), which it was as long as the EPSON Super White control was turned on. The other useful test is Dynamic Range Low which allows you to check that a display is only showing detail down to video level 16 which represents reference black. Once again the TW6100 was showing detail down to 16 but not below it which means it is correctly reproducing black whilst maintaining appropriate shadow detail.
Picture Performance - 2DOverall the TW6100 delivered a very respectable 2D performance, which is in no small part due to the accurate greyscale and relatively accurate colour gamut. Whilst the errors in the hue of green did result in a slight yellow tinge and the other colours were slightly under-saturated, with actual viewing material the overall accuracy was acceptable. The excellent video processing also really helped, allowing the TW6100 to deliver standard definition content as we as possible, even on a large screen. However with high definition content there was an obvious step-up in performance and the TW6100 could produce quite a detailed image. The panel alignment was good and the picture seemed free of any fringing but the cheap nature of the lens means the TW6100 can't compete with the inherent sharpness of more expensive projectors. The motion handling was reasonably good, although this being a LCD projector it will always remain a weakness. We got about 400 lines on the moving resolution test which is what we would expect, so with camera pans you get smearing and loss of detail. However the TW6100 did handle 24p content extremely well, with smooth and judder-free motion.
Whilst quieter in its ECO mode we still found the cooling fans on the TW6100 to be quite noisy, which is undoubtedly as a result of the brighter bulb. The upside however is that the projector can deliver plenty of brightness, allowing it to light up a bigger screen or compete with white walls. Unfortunately the blacks were rather poor, robbing the TW6100 of some of its dynamic range. When setup correctly there was a reasonable amount of shadow detail but dark scenes just appeared to be grey rather than black. A good test of this is the compound attack at the end of Zero Dark Thirty, which lacked the tense and slightly claustrophobic sense of blackness that the scene has when watched on other projectors. However with brighter material the TW6100 could deliver a very pleasing picture and CG animated movies like Wreck-It Ralph thus looked quite impressive. With live action movies such as Lincoln the TW6100 was also capable of performing well, perhaps because the slightly muted colours matched the sombre proceedings. Ultimately the 2D picture produced by the TW6100 was competent rather than impressive and thus it didn't distinguish itself from much of the competition.
Picture Performance - 3DThe same could not be said of 3D, where the TW6100 proved itself to be a very capable performer. There's no doubt that the manufacturers are getting much better at delivering 3D and whilst DLP has a clear advantage, the other projector technologies are also performing well. We've seen most of the new projectors and all have improved, including Sony, JVC and Panasonic, so it came as no surprise that the Epsons are also holding their own. The TW6100 uses the same 480Hz 3D refresh rate as the rest of the Epson home cinema range and the advantage was immediately obvious with a distinct lack of [tip=crosstalk]crosstalk[/tip]. The added brightness also payed dividends, giving 3D images plenty of punch whilst the artefact-free images had real depth to them. There was an impressive level of detail and whilst not perfect, motion was also handled well. The 3D glasses also performed well, their lenses weren't too dark, helping with brightness and their neutral tint helped retain natural colours. The design of the glasses also helped block out ambient light and the RF never lost sync.
As we watched our current 3D Blu-ray discs 'du jour' - The Hobbit, Wreck-It Ralph and Monsters Inc. - we found ourselves thoroughly enjoying the 3D images produced by the TW6100. When it came to the 'mostly' live-action The Hobbit the images had a realistic sense of depth and Peter Jackson's carefully layered shots were well rendered. There was also a nice level of accuracy when it came colours and the TW6100's poor blacks are less of an issue. The CG animated movies also looked very good with plenty of detail, although the colours didn't quite have as much impact as with other projectors. However the motion handling, depth and sense of dimensionality were excellent and the lack of crosstalk meant that you were never distracted by any unwanted artefacts. Overall the TW6100 proved itself to be a very capable 3D performer and whatever we watched, it delivered an enjoyable and highly immersive big screen experience.
- Good image brightness, even in 3D
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Excellent video processing
- Superb 3D performance
- Well designed remote and menu system
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Weak blacks and dynamic range
- Out-of-the-box colour could have been better
- Calibrated colour gamut undersaturated
- CMS could be more effective
- No lens shift available
- Some legacy features are unnecessary
- Potential issue with dust blobs
Epson TW6100 (EH-TW6100) 3-Chip LCD 1080p 3D Projector Review
The TW6100 uses exactly the same chassis as last year, which is well made and sensibly designed. There are manual controls for zoom and focus but none for shift, so correct placement is important. The projector includes Epson's usual remote control, along with one pair of 3D glasses and at the rear is a standard set of connections, including two HDMI inputs. The menu system is identical to previous years; sensibly designed, intuitive to use and includes a colour management system. Setup was straightforward and the out-of-the-box performance was quite good, especially with regards to greyscale. However thanks to some reasonable calibration controls, the greyscale could deliver a reference performance and the colour gamut was also good, aside from a notable error in the hue of green.
When it came to its 2D performance, the TW6100 was reasonably good, although green did have a slight yellow tinge as a result of the previously mentioned hue error and colours appeared slightly muted, as evidenced by the CIE tracking measurements. The lens on the TW6100 is quite small and cheap but despite this, the image appeared detailed and free of fringing or panel misalignment. The TW6100 was capable of an impressively bright image, even after calibration, but the blacks were poor thus robbing the projector of some of its dynamic range. Motion handling - never an LCD projector's strong point - seemed quite good, especially where 24p content was concerned and the video processing was excellent. The 3D performance was genuinely impressive however, with a bright, accurate and detailed image, that was complimented by good motion handling and no sign of crosstalk.
We awarded last year's TW6000 a Recommended badge but a year is a long time in the AV world. Whilst Epson's new EH-TW6100 is capable of a pleasing level of performance, it doesn't offer any real improvements over the previous model. There's also plenty of competition at this price point from projectors that can offer equally as good, if not better, performance for less money. As a result, the TW6100 falls just short of winning a badge this year.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels6
2D Picture Quality6
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value For Money6
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