So far we have managed to take a look at two of the projectors in Epson's Home Cinema range, the top of the line TW5500 and the mid-range TW4400. We were impressed with the performance of both and felt that the TW4400 in particular offered excellent value.
However what if you are looking for a slightly cheaper projector that is perhaps a bit brighter? Well Epson might have just the projector for you in the form of their EH-TW3600. Whilst not having the superior video processing and bigger contrast ratios found on the higher end models, it does include the same comprehensive calibration controls and a claimed brightness of 2,000 lumens. So let's take a look and see how it measures up...
Design and Features
As with all the projectors in Epson's line the TW3600 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. When we viewed the image up close we could see that the pixels were almost perfectly aligned which was good but at this price point pixel alignment is something of a lottery. The TW3600 uses three of Epson's 0.74" D7, C2Fine, 12Bit Wide Panels, includes 10bit video processing and boasts a claimed contrast ratio of 50,000:1 and a light output of 2,000 lumens.
The TW3600 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 setups. Due to the manual control setting the focus precisely becomes a two person job with someone standing at the screen to check that the pixels are in focus.
All the connections are at the rear of the TW3600 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 TW3600 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. Overall we really liked the remote, finding it quite easy to use and genuinely useful during the setup and calibration.
Menus and Setup
The TW3600 sports the same monochrome system that we saw on the TW4400 but with a few slight changes. The first sub-menu is 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 [tip=Colortemp]Colour Temperature[/tip] 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. Finally there is a sub-menu for all the Advanced calibration controls which we will come back to later.
The next sub-menu 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 TW3600 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 fourth 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 info relating to the signal the TW3600 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 TW3600 back to the factory settings.
As previously mentioned there are a number of advanced 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 Gamma, RGB (White Balance) and RGBCMY (Colour Management System) controls on the TW3600. 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).
Since the calibration controls on the TW3600 are essentially identical to those found on the far more expensive TW5500 and TW4400, Epson are to be congratulated for including them on a product at this price point.
The out-of-the-box greyscale measurements on the TW3600 were almost identical to those on the more expensive TW4400 and shared the same strengths and weaknesses. Once again the DeltaE (errors) in RGB tracking were large enough to make discolouration visible but the flat lines will make calibration easier. Whilst the errors in the gamma curve weren't quite as pronounced as on the TW4400, we once again saw brightening of the image, only this time around 90IRE.
The out-of-the-box colour performance was even more inaccurate on the TW3600 than it was on the TW4400, with highly over saturated reds, greens and blues which in turn is causing errors in the secondary colours. Unlike the TW4400 which at least had accurate luminance measurements, the TW3600 is also showing substantial errors here in red, blue and magenta. This is disappointing but not untypical of projectors at this price point and hopefully we can address these errors with the CMS.
As you can see from the chart above the greyscale is now showing a reference performance with most DeltaE (errors) measuring less than 1 which is excellent. The accuracy of the gamma curve is also much improved although just as with the TW4400 we weren't able to completely correct the excessive brightness, this time around 90IRE. Whilst this unwanted brightness wasn't noticeable during actual viewing it prevents the TW3600 from getting a reference score overall.
As you can see from the CIE Chart the overall accuracy is much improved after calibration 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 3 which is essentially indistinguishable to the human eye and most crucially the luminance measurements are now accurate. Just as with the TW4400 there is still a small amount of over saturation in the colour of red and unfortunately no matter what we tried we couldn't completely reduce the over saturation in the colour of green. Whilst neither of these errors were noticeable in actual viewing they did prevent the TW3600 from achieving a reference performance for colour accuracy.
When it came to the video deinterlacing tests the results weren't quite as good with the TW3600 producing jaggies on the rotating line at a less acute angle than we saw with the TW4400. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance was also not as good as we would have liked with significant jaggies on the bottom on the three moving lines.
On the film detail test the TW3600's performance was good, correctly locking on to the image but in the cadence tests the performance was a mixed bag. The TW3600 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 TW3600 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 TW3600 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 TW3600 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 TW3600 performed adequately but was somewhat limited by the mediocre video processing. This was especially true of Freeview broadcasts, although at least there were some noise reduction controls try and clean up the image. Things improved considerably with Freeview HD broadcasts and when it came to Blu-rays the TW3600 was capable of producing natural and detailed images with a lovely film-like quality. The TW3600 also had no problems with 24p and was able to deliver images that were smooth and free of judder.
However aside from the video processing, the other area where the TW3600 was clearly inferior to the TW4400 was with blacks. Unlike the surprisingly deep blacks on the TW4400, the blacks on the TW3600 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 TW3600 for use in a light controlled dedicated home cinema. The TW3600 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.
On of the reasons that the blacks on the TW3600 are not as impressive as on the TW4400 is that the light output if the bulb is much higher. Whilst this might be detrimental to the overall black levels is does mean that the TW3600 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 TW3600 can light up a decent sized screen but if you plan doing that you need to be aware that the clarity is such that pixel structure could become visible at a normal viewing distance. This was certainly true when using the TW3600 in conjunction with a 2.35:1 screen in our demo room.
Of course the brighter the bulb, the greater the heat that is generated and the more cooling that is required. However despite this the TW3600 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 is 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 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
- Out-of-the-box greyscale could have been better
- Out-of-the-box colour gamut could have been better
- Over saturation of green couldn't be completely corrected
- Gamma was very poor and couldn't be completely corrected
Epson TW3600 (EH-TW3600) 3 Chip LCD 1080p Projector Review
Unfortunately 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 TW3600. However there were no such problems with high definition material and the resulting images were excellent with plenty of detail and smooth judder free motion from 24p material.
The other area where the TW3600 was clearly inferior to the TW4400 was with blacks and unlike the surprisingly deep blacks on the TW4400, the blacks on the TW3600 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 TW3600 for use in a light controlled dedicated home cinema.
However on the plus side the TW3600 is much brighter and whilst this might be detrimental to the overall black levels is does mean that the TW3600 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. The TW3600 was certainly capable of lighting up a reasonably large screen but if this is your intention there is the possibility of being able to see pixel structure at a normal viewing distance.
Despite the brighter bulb the TW3600 was 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 which 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.
Ultimately whilst the TW3600 offers great performance for a projector at this price point, the superior video processing and blacks on the TW440 make it a better choice if you can afford the extra cost. However if your budget is tight or you plan on using the projector in a room with a lot of ambient light then the TW3600 is certainly worth a look.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
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