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Epson TW3000 HD LCD Projector Review

Can Epson's budget Home Cinema Projector offer big screen excellence? Phil Hinton finds out...

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

5

Recommended
Epson TW3000 HD LCD Projector Review
SRP: £1,273.00

Introduction

It seems that finding a full HD 1080p projector for around £1000 is far easier today than compared to just 18 months ago. The budget end of the market now has plenty of choice for the home cinema enthusiast, but there still remains a question about the quality of such projectors. There is no denying that corners in build quality and features need to be cut to achieve the price point and whilst the cost might seem right – quality issues must be taken into account in terms of performance. So with Epson now positioned squarely in the £1200 and under bracket, has the TW3000 seen major features and corners cut?

Design

The first thing that really surprised me when unpacking the TW3000 was its size and weight for such a budget item. The projector measures in at 390 x 450 x 145 mm (D x W x H) and weighs 7.2kg. Our reference JVC HD750 actually looks smaller and thinner when sat next to the TW3000! The plastic chassis design is an old school data style case, with the Lens positioned to the right side (when looking directly at the unit). The exhaust for the hot air is to the right side of the front facia with the manual lens shift controls on the top front plate. Connections are positioned to the rear and the case is an off cream white.

Rounding off the chassis design are adjustable feet for table mounting and mounting holes if you aim to ceiling mount the projector. The remote control supplied with the TW3000 is a sturdy plastic affair which has direct access keys for the most important controls that are well laid out and intuitive to use. The remote is also backlit for use in the total black out conditions that suit the projector. So far, the weight and build quality of the unit really does surprise you considering the budget price level the TW3000 is positioned in.

Connections and set up

Moving around the back of the Epson we find a number of video inputs as well as some interesting control ports. As you would expect there are two HDMI v1.3 slots along with some legacy connections for component, composite and s-video signals as well as a VGA/RGB computer input. What is surprising is the level of custom installation support with the inclusion of an RS232 port and 12 Volt trigger making it onto a budget unit like the TW3000.

Epson TW3000

Once the sources were connected it was time to align the projector with our 7.5ft screen and set up the projected image. There are plenty of options available and the Epson allows 100% Vertical and 50% horizontal lens shift to aid with the installation. Obviously we only want to call on any major shifts as a last resort, so once the unit was aligned; set up really was a breeze and took all of 10 minutes. The manual lens shift controls do feel a little on the cheap side and they did tend to move in a jerky fashion and slip position from time to time. Zoom and focus functions were also a manual affair with two rings on the lens assembly for each control, however, although costs have been saved by using such manual controls set up remained easy and flexible.

One issue I did find was that the focus did tend to drift (or defocus) during warm up of the projector and I had to slightly refocus every so often over the three week testing period. This is not an issue when mounted on a shelving system such as the one in our review room, however if you decide to ceiling mount the unit, this refocusing needs to be bourn in mind. The actual lens unit on the TW3000 is what I would describe as a medium quality piece of glass, which should be expected at this price point. The lamp used is a 200w UHE (E-Torl) unit which illuminates the D7 3LCD panels and it is claimed the lifespan of the bulb is approximately 4,000 hours.

Menu system and adjustments

The menu system on the TW3000 was full of some real surprises for a budget projector. The biggest surprise was how comprehensive the picture set up menus were for fine adjustment of the image, plus the fact that calibration controls such as a full 3D colour management, full greyscale and gamma set up are included here. Quite a number of manufacturers only see these options as being value added extras for their more expensive projection units, so well done Epson for showing them that this type of control is vital at all price points. Indeed, the projectors above the TW3000 in the 2009 Epson range are all ISF certified so it’s good to see that kind flexibility rub off on the entry model even though it is not certified.

Epson TW3000

The Epson menus are quite unique when compared to other manufacturers' as they include direct selection of colour temperature instead of the usual choices of ‘warm, cool, normal, etc’. Instead you can select your desired temperature in steps of 500 kelvins, allowing you to add in a 6500k profile to each of the picture presets if desired. And those preset files include Dynamic, Living room, Natural, Theatre, Theatre Black 1, Theatre Black 2, and x.v.Colour options. The unit also allows for use of a dynamic iris control in any preset selected as well as an advanced sharpness control allowing vertical and horizontal adjustment along with fine line adjustment.

Epson TW3000

Finally the other feature control includes a skin tone adjustment and brightness selection, the latter was set to low in our completely light controlled review room.

Another feather in the cap for the TW3000 is the number of memories available for various different profiles, which adds some excellent customisation for using the projector as the main display in a multi source home theatre system. In total you can save up to 10 image profiles allowing correct calibration of each and every source to the projector. Accessing these memories can be done through the menu system or via the direct memory button on the remote control. One missing area here is the ability to name each memory, maybe this could be added for next years models?

Epson TW3000

Video processing control is quite limited on the TW3000 as we would expect, but we are given options to have 2:2 pulldown detection on or off; as well as control over the film detection for differing cadences. The pixelworks processor also boasts a wide colour range performance and 10bit video processing for colour gradation

So with a basic set up of the TW3000 out of the box in the best preset, with contrast and brightness set for the room and a colour temperature of 6500K selected in the menus we set out to measure just how close the Epson could get to the standards.

Out of the Box and Calibration

Epson TW3000

First port of call was to measure the spectrum produced by the 200w UHE lamp to see what kind of colour spectrum was being produced. It is normal for manufacturers to add in filters to help with colour purity issues, or to block out certain unwanted areas of the spectrum. In the case of the TW3000 there is a strong push with blue and especially yellow and green intensities. This would become more obvious in our measurements of the actual image qualities and shows that Epson are aiming for as bright an image as possible from the projector.

Epson TW3000
Epson TW3000

Moving to the actual picture measurements highlighted again that the TW3000 is designed to get as bright as possible with the images produced. This can be evidenced in the greyscale measurements where blue dominates in the mix and red struggles to make any impact on the greyscale. This points to a very blue undercurrent in the images on screen and this was the case out of the box even when dialled in (via the menu) to 6500k. This also highlights that users should never put absolute trust in selecting such presets and expect to have an accurate image produced by the unit. What was also very evident with the results is the fact that the three colours that make up the greyscale didn’t track in any uniform manner and would possibly cause us some issues when trying to get as flat as possible greyscale result during calibration. This again points to the spectral scan that yellow/green and blue are dominant as well as what looks like a deliberate design to push as much brightness as possible from the optics.

Moving to the colour gamut and we can see a very common result with colours pushed beyond the Rec.709 points with green well into the over saturated areas. Onscreen viewing in this out of the box mode did highlight these issues as being visible; however luminance points did seem well behaved for the most part and didn’t seem to add in any further colour errors than those noted. Again this result was expected when looking at the other performance areas and the apparent design ethic Epson seems to have employed. However, what is also very evident is that we should have the controls available to at least calibrate the projector as close as possible to the desired image quality to hit industry standards.

Epson TW3000
Epson TW3000
Epson TW3000

After lots of testing and calibration work it was obvious that the colour mix was not going to produce uniform results across the greyscale and that a two point calibration was going to be as best a compromise as possible. Even with slight adjustment available with gamma it was impossible to get an entirely uniform result with blue being a problem with an inverted u-curve that couldn’t be fully tamed. However I have certainly seen worse results than those obtained and in the end the errors produced where not a deal breaker of any kind. Again I suspect that the design of the TW3000 optics and light path adds in these slight issues that we cannot fully calibrate out. But don’t assume that the results we managed didn’t improve the image quality. Far from it, the actual performance (mentioned in detail below) was very good indeed for such a budget conscious machine. Another small quirk was that we had to select a gamma point of 2.3 for the Epson to actually get close to our desired 2.2 point, but it never actually managed to stay exactly at that point in a uniform manner, but close enough for me not to see it as a real issue at this level of display.

The addition of a CMS (Colour Management System) also helped in fine tuning the colour points to our desired reference points. Green again proved to be the major issue and called for a bit of work in the calibration to get as close as possible. However, after a lot of back and forth adjustments and measurement, we managed a very good result with the colour points on all three levels (x,y,Y) and with only a few errors stopping us from reaching perfect results. The Epson CMS appears to work correctly in a linear and uniform manner with no issues at 50, 75 or 100ire points. This kind of adjustment at the price point is very good indeed; I just wish that other manufacturers could give us the chance to calibrate as well as the Epson does in this area of the market. For comparison to past projector reviews the Epson measured 1,732:1 for on/off contrast in our review room. Screen uniformity for the most part was very good indeed but there was an issue with a slight redness appearing in the far bottom left of the screen on a 0ire image. This effect was not seen when normal images appeared on screen.

So how does everything look with the Epson out of the box and in calibrated modes?

Picture Performance

Starting with out of the box images in Theater Black 1 preset the Epson looks very good for such a budget unit. There are issues with whites being a tad blue and colours such as green and yellows looking overcooked with some material. Black levels are certainly acceptable for such a projector and never once did they look overly grey in appearance. Indeed, the perceived contrast of the TW3000 in many scenes was excellent with only the most complex showing a lack of dynamic range available. In those cases shadow detail would become non-existent as expected. Watching night scenes within ‘How the West was Won’ (Blu-ray) highlighted the lack of shadow detail in these scenes where blacks merge into blocks of darkness and take away any possible depth to the image. But then again we have to remind ourselves that we are talking about a £1200 projector here. When the action of the CINERAMA produced movie moved to sweeping shots over the mountains and plains of the Wild West, detail levels produced by the TW3000 were superb.

Every detail available within the outstanding transfer stood out with excellent sharpness and depth. Only the colour gamut performance disappointed slightly here, with grass looking a little too green and odd. Skin tones also suffered slightly in out of the box set up, with a very slight yellow tinge and where there should have been highlights with clouds against the blue sky the whites were lacking detail.

Moving to our calibrated settings and it really did transform the look of the TW3000 especially with colour performance. Now the skin tones and Wild country looked realistic and natural, with finer shadow detailing on the clouds with highlights and shadowing of the mountains adding back some depth. Greens looked more pleasing and with the greyscale now fairly accurate, whites were once again correct. Calibration really couldn’t help the TW3000 with the lack of dynamic range in the really challenging darker scenes, but there was a degree of lighter shadow detailing now present. Colour gradation also benefits from the projectors 10 bit video processing. Again black levels were very good and for such a budget projector, the final calibrated image certainly looked more expensive than the price tag of the TW3000 in my opinion.

Video Processing

With HD material the TW3000 handled 24p material as it should with no forced interpolation or judder. Moving to scaling and de-interlaced SD images was a little more disappointing with diagonal jaggies and the film cadence tests failing on all counts. If you are feeding a DVD player to the TW3000 I would recommend that you let the player do the upscaling and de-interlacing. There are no fancy interpolation features present on the TW3000 to worry about and the performance certainly doesn’t suffer because they are not there.

Verdict

6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Excellent price point for the performance and features available
  • Very good calibrated picture performance
  • Natural colour gamut when calibrated
  • Solid 24p playback of Blu-ray
  • Lack of interpolation system
  • Good black levels at market level
  • Full Greyscale controls
  • Full 3D Colour Management System
  • Gamma Selection Tools
  • Quiet cooling fans
  • Full RS232 control
  • 12 Volt Trigger
  • Good level of Manufacturer support with 3 Year Guarantee

The Bad

  • Lack of dynamic range during demanding dark scenes
  • Slight issue with lens defocus
  • Slight issues with screen uniformity
  • Tricky greyscale calibration
  • SD de-interlacing and scaling issues
  • Size of projector will be an issue for some users
  • No anamorphic stretch mode for CIH use

Epson TW3000 HD LCD Projector Review

I have been surprised with the performance of the Epson TW3000 and the price point certainly adds to that feeling. This is not a small projector by any means and it has a few issues with its video processing and ultimate lack of dynamic range. The images out of the box are acceptable with a design to push image brightness and thus add a blue emphasis to the image. However, take the time and care to calibrate it as close as possible to the industry standards and the end result is quite a revelation. Blacks could be stronger and a better contrast performance would also help matters for challenging material; but it sits on a level par with its competitors in this price range on those points.

But when you take in to account the vast controls for picture calibration and the very good calibrated image that the TW3000 produces, it really does start to look like a real bargain. I can only recommend that if you are in this area of the market and want a projector that is capable of getting pretty close to producing accurate and extremely watchable images with acceptable dynamic range and black levels, you seek out the TW3000 for a demo. Recommended.

Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

.
.
.
.
6

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
.
6

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
.
.
.
5

Image Uniformity

.
.
.
.
.
5

Video Processing

.
.
.
.
.
5

2D Picture Quality

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
.
.
6

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
.
5

Value For Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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