It is often easy to forget that there are some really good projectors to be had for less than £1,000 and that their performance can often exceed their lowly price tag. Recently we have reviewed a number of Epson's lower priced projectors, including the TW4400 and the TW3600 and we have been impressed by both the performance and the extensive calibration controls which have resulted in highly accurate images. At £900, the TW3200 is the cheapest Epson projector we have reviewed to date and since its specifications are very similar to the TW3600 it could offer excellent value for that price. Let's take a look and see...
Design and Features
The Epson TW3200 shares exactly the same white chassis as Epson's TW4400 and TW3600 and, as we mentioned in the reviews for those projectors, we would like to see an option for a black version as well. Otherwise the TW3200 has the same reasonable build quality and weight as its siblings, whilst still retaining a slightly plastic feel. There is an on/off button at the top rear of the chassis and some basic controls for navigating the menu on the right hand side - towards the rear -which might be useful if you misplace the remote control.
As with all the projectors in Epson's line the TW3200 has three adjustable feet which makes levelling the image much easier when standing the projector on a shelf. The lens is positioned to the right side of the chassis whilst there is a large heat exhaust to the left side, and in the bottom right hand corner is the infra-red receiver. The lens, itself, appears to be of a reasonable quality and the images it produced were very sharp and detailed. The TW3200 uses three of Epson's 0.74" D7, C2Fine, 12Bit Wide Panels, includes 10bit video processing and boasts a claimed contrast ratio of 25,000:1 and a light output of 1,800 lumens.
The TW3200 uses adjustment wheels for manual control of the lens shift, zoom and focus which is to be expected at this price point. This isn't necessarily a downside as it can allow for a more precise setting and if you intend to 'zoom and shift', for use with a 2.35:1 screen, then there are no motors to wear out. The throw ratio is certainly big enough at 1.3 - 2.8 to allow for use with a 2.35:1 screen and when we tested this in our demo room it worked well, although depending on where you were sat, the pixel structure could be visible. The range of adjustment is quite flexible and allows +/- 96% vertical and +/- 47% horizontal which should be enough for most set ups.
All the connections are at the rear of the TW3200 and offer a reasonable selection considering how much the projector costs. These include two HDMI v1.3 inputs, a component video input with RCA connectors, an S-Video input, a composite video input and a VGA connector for a PC. Despite the lower price point of the TW3200 it also includes an RS-232C connector for system control and a 12v Trigger Out for use with a motorised screen or anamorphic lens. Finally, at the rear, there is also the air filter, the power socket which uses a standard three pin connector and an on/off switch.
The TW3600 includes Epson's standard remote control, which is actually very well designed and intuitive to use. The remote control itself has backlighting, is comfortable to hold, simple to operate with one hand and includes useful buttons for accessing key calibration controls directly. Overall we really liked the remote, finding it quite easy to use and genuinely useful during the setup and calibration.
Menus and Setup
The TW3200 has a two tone styled menu system within which there are a number of sub-menus, the first of which is called Signal and relates to all the controls for the controls for the deinterlacing and noise reduction. There is a control for selecting the Aspect ratio as well as a sub-menu with further Advanced options, including Noise Reduction features as well as a control for the HDMI Video Range. There is also an option for Overscan which should be left off unless you want to introduce unwanted scaling; and a control called EPSON Super White which should be turned on so that the TW3200 projects up to peak white.
The next sub-menu is Settings which includes all the controls for positioning of the projector; the menu language; controlling the 12v trigger; the sleep mode; the child lock; the high altitude mode etc. The third sub-menu is Memory and is obviously where you save all the calibrated settings to create a bespoke memory preset.
The fifth sub-menu is Info and is where you will find all the information relating to the signal the TW3200 is receiving (resolution, scan mode, refresh rate etc.) as well as which source input is being used and the number of hours on the lamp. The final sub-menu is Reset where you can reset all the controls on the TW3200 back to the factory settings.
The final sub-menu is called Image which, as the name suggests, includes all the controls needed for correctly setting and calibrating the image. The Colour Mode allows the user to select from a series of presets including 'Dynamic', 'Living Room', 'Natural', 'Cinema' and 'x.v.Colour'. The other controls in the Image sub-menu include Brightness, Contrast, Colour Saturation and Tint. There is also a Sharpness control, more on that later, as well as a Colour Temperature setting and a Skin Tone control that is essentially an additional Tint control. There is also a Power Consumption control which adjusts the brightness of the bulb and provides the choice of Normal or ECO and a control for the Auto Iris function.
Within the Image menu there is an Advanced sub-menu that includes all the calibration controls that can be accessed, either through the menu system or, directly, via a dedicated button on the remote. The first of these is the Sharpness control which sits within the Image sub-menu but can also be accessed by pressing the Sharpness button on the remote control. There are two versions of the Sharpness control, a Standard one which offers vertical and horizontal sharpness adjustments and an Advanced version which offers further enhancements.
The next advanced calibration sub-menu relates to the [tip=gamma]Gamma[/tip], RGB (White Balance) and RGBCMY (Colour Management System) controls on the TW3200. All these controls sit in the Advanced sub-menu in the Images menu but they can also be accessed by pressing the RGBCMY or Gamma buttons on the remote control.
The Gamma control features a set of different gamma curve options from 2.0 to 2.4 as well a customised gamma where a graphical interface similar to that employed by JVC 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 and it is this feature that is used to calibrate the greyscale.
Finally, the RGBCMY is Epson's name for their Colour Management System (CMS) which allows for an accurate calibration of the primary (red, green and blue) and secondary (cyan, magenta and yellow) colours. The CMS that Epson use is excellent and offers control of the three components of any colour - Hue, Saturation (Colour) and Brightness (luminance) - as well as control over all six colours (RGBCMY).
The out-of-the-box greyscale measurements on the TW3200 were actually better than those on the more expensive TW3600 but shared some of the same strengths and weaknesses. The RGB Balance was excellent on the TW3200, with all three colours tracking in a straight line but with red about 5% above the target and green tracking about 5% below. The resulting DeltaEs (errors) in RGB tracking were mostly below 3 which is imperceptible to the human eye and only 80-100IRE showing a slight discolouration. Whilst the errors in the gamma curve weren't quite as pronounced as on the TW3600, we once again saw brightening of the image around 90IRE.
The out-of-the-box colour performance was about the same on the TW3200 as it was on the TW3600, with highly over saturated reds and greens, which in turn was causing errors in the secondary colours – and especially magenta. Unlike the TW3600, the TW3200 was showing a reasonably good luminance performance with only some minor errors in red and magenta. This is actually a reasonable colour performance for a projector at this price point and hopefully we can address the over saturated red and green with the CMS.
As you can see from the chart above the greyscale is now showing a reference performance with all the DeltaEs (errors) measuring less than 1. The accuracy of the gamma curve is also much improved although, just as with the TW3600, we weren't able to completely correct the excessive luminance around 90IRE. However this wasn't noticeable with actual material and overall this is an excellent performance.
As you can see from the CIE Chart, the overall accuracy after calibration is excellent with the colour of white measuring precisely at the industry standard of D65 thanks to the accurate greyscale. The colour accuracy is also far better with most of the primary and secondary colours now measuring at their correct coordinates for the industry standard of Rec.709. Overall the DeltaEs are all below 1 with the exception of green which is still below 3 and most crucially the luminance measurements are now all accurate. Just as with the TW3600, no matter what we tried, we couldn't completely reduce the over saturation in the colour of green. Whilst this error in green was not noticeable in actual viewing, it did prevent the TW3200 from achieving a reference performance for colour accuracy. However overall this is an excellent colour performance for a projector costing so little.
When it came to the video deinterlacing tests the results weren't quite as good, with the TW3200 producing jaggies on the rotating line at a far less acute angle than we would like to see. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance was also not as good as we would have liked, with significant jaggies on the bottom of the three moving lines.
On the film detail test the TW3200's performance was good, correctly locking on to the image but in the cadence tests the performance was a mixed bag. The TW3200 was able to correctly detect the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format but not the 2:2 (PAL - European) format. The projector did however have no problems displaying mixed film material with scrolling video text and was able to reproduce the text without any shredding or blurring.
In contrast to the standard definition tests the TW3200 performed much better in the high definition tests and with the player set to 1080i the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests. With 1080i material the projector also had no difficulties in showing video text overlaid on film based material and also handled 24p content without any problems.
Using the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray disc we checked to ensure the TW3200 was reproducing all the video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255). The projector was showing detail all the way up to peak white as long as the EPSON Super White control was turned on. We also checked that the TW3200 was showing detail down to video level 18 which represents reference black. Once again it was showing detail down to 18 but not below it which means it is correctly reproducing black whilst maintaining appropriate shadow detail.
When it came to standard definition material the TW3200 performed adequately but, like the more expensive TW3600, it was somewhat limited by the mediocre video processing. This was especially true of Freeview broadcasts, although the included noise reduction controls to allow you to try and clean up the image. Things improved considerably with Freeview HD broadcasts and when it came to Blu-rays the TW3200 was capable of producing natural and detailed images with a lovely film-like quality. The TW3200 also had no problems with 24p and was able to deliver images that were smooth and free of judder.
However, like the more expensive TW3600, the other area where the TW3200 was weak was in the area of black levels. The blacks on the TW3200 had that dark grey look that we have come to expect from an LCD projector. Images looked fine in bright scenes, but with dark scenes, there was a decidedly washed out look and we wouldn't recommend the TW3200 for use in a light controlled dedicated home cinema. The TW3200 does include an auto iris function, which you can use to try and improve the black levels, but we found the associated artefacts and loss of detail in bright parts of the picture to be even more annoying.
One of the reasons that the poor blacks on the TW3200 might be that that the light output if the bulb is quite high. However, whilst this might be detrimental to the overall black levels, it does mean that the TW3200 is capable of producing quite a bright image. This might prove useful if you are planning on using a projector in a room with a lot of ambient light, where washed out blacks are to be expected, and overall brightness is more important. It also means that the TW3200 could be ideal for anyone looking for a projector to use for gaming, where the brighter image is an advantage and the poor blacks are less of an issue.
Of course the brighter the bulb, the greater the heat that is generated and the more cooling that is required. However, despite this, the TW3200 was reasonably quiet, especially in ECO mode and we couldn't hear it when watching normal viewing material. In fact, the biggest problem with the amount of heat the bulb generates isn't the need for cooling but the fact that the light path cannot be sealed.
This means that LCD projectors can suffer from 'dust blobs' where contaminants in the light path are visible in the projected image. You can mitigate this problem, to a degree, by being careful and trying to keep the amount of dust to which the projector is exposed to a minimum but, if you get a dust blob, it can be very annoying and difficult to remove.
- Excellent out-of-the-box greyscale
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Excellent colour accuracy after calibration
- Impressive calibration controls at this price point
- Mediocre blacks and dynamic range
- Failed to correctly detect 2:2 cadence
- Over saturation of green couldn't be completely corrected
- Gamma was poor and couldn't be completely corrected
Epson TW3200 (EH-TW3200) 3 Chip LCD 1080p Projector Review
The Epson TW3200 is a very good projector, especially when you consider how much it costs. The greyscale performance was genuinely impressive both out-of-the-box and especially after calibration. Whilst the out-of-the-box colour gamut could have been better, it was still reasonably good and thanks to the excellent calibration controls we were able to produce impressive levels of colour accuracy. As with the TW3600, we were still not able to completely tame the colour of green, even with the colour management system (CMS), but we remain impressed that Epson are able to include such comprehensive calibration controls, at this price point. It is a lesson that other manufacturers could learn from, especially when some don't include a CMS on projectors three times the price of the TW3200.
Unfortunately, as with the TW3600, the video processing is not as good as the HQV processing included on the TW4400 and, as a result, standard definition material didn't look as good on the TW3200. However, there were no such problems with high definition content and the resulting images were excellent with plenty of detail and smooth judder free motion from 24p material.
The other area where the TW3200 struggled was with black levels and, much like the TW3600, the blacks had that dark grey look that we have come to expect from LCD projectors. Images looked fine in bright scenes but with dark scenes there was a decidedly washed out look and we wouldn't recommend the TW3600 for use in a light controlled dedicated home cinema. The poor blacks also limited the projector's contrast ratio which reduced the TW3200's dynamic range, thus robbing its images of some of their impact.
The TW3200 does however offer a reasonably bright, big screen image that would be well suited to someone who is looking for a projector to use in a room with a degree of ambient light. Despite this bright image the TW3200 was also reasonably quiet - especially in ECO mode - and we couldn't hear it when watching normal viewing material. As always with LCD projectors, the inability to seal the light path might result in 'dust blobs', where contaminants in the light path are visible in the projected image. You can mitigate this problem, to a degree, by being careful and trying to keep the amount of dust to which the projector is exposed to a minimum, but if you get a dust blob it can be very annoying and difficult to remove.
The Epson TW3200 offers big screen entertainment and an impressive performance at a sub £1,000 price point, so if you're not interested in 3D or cost is factor then we certainly recommend you give it a demo. However, with manufacturers - including Epson themselves - about to release 3D projectors in the sub £1,500 bracket it might be worth waiting.
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Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
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