After a slow start, the 3D projector market has been swamped by budget models over the last six months, with new offerings from all the major manufacturers. In terms of price, the cheapest have been the Optoma HD33 and the Epson TW6000, both of which retail for around the £1,300 to £1,600 mark. Now we have Epson's EH-TW5900 which at less than £1,000 smashes any previous 3D projector price point but still appears to offer almost identical specifications to the more expensive EH-TW6000.
How have Epson managed to deliver big screen 3D projection for less than most 3D capable TVs? Well first of all, unlike the EH-TW6000, there are no active shutter glasses included with the EH-TW5900 so that obviously chips a bit off the asking price. However the real key to a product like the EH-TW5900 is Epson's dominant position as the world's largest manufacturer of projectors. This enviable situation allows Epson to employ economies of scale that some of the other manufacturers could only dream about. They are able to leverage their market dominance to negotiate cheaper contracts with suppliers and build the world's largest projector factory in China, vastly reducing their costs of production. So is the EH-TW5900 just a EH-TW6000 without the glasses as the specifications would seem to suggest or has Epson cut corners in other areas to get the price down? Let's take a look and see...
Design and Features
As with previous Epson projectors, the EH-TW5900 has three adjustable feet which is a very sensible approach and we wish more manufacturers would follow suit because it makes levelling the image much easier when using a stand or 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. We're glad the lens is now centred because it makes installation easier and the lens itself appears to be of a reasonable quality but this is often where manufacturers cut corners to reduce the cost. High quality glass is expensive and this is what often separates projectors in different price ranges. Having said that, the lens technical specifications for the EH-TW5900 and the EH-TW6000 are identical, so it hard to say for sure.
There are manual controls for adjusting the zoom and focus of the image and whilst manual controls are to be expected on a projector at this price point, it does make accurately setting the focus a two man job. Unfortunately there are no lens shift controls, which makes exact placement of the EH-TW5900 very 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, the EH-TW5900 will need to be at the top of the screen. If you position the projector anywhere else you will have to angle it which will create keystone errors. The EH-TW5900 does come with keystone adjustment but we strongly recommend you do not use this - as anyone who has read an AVForums projector review will know - because keystone correction introduces scaling artefacts and robs the image of resolution.
Once focused the image appeared sharp and detailed and when viewed up close there was no obvious misalignment of the pixels but 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 EH-TW5900 uses the same three 0.61" D9.8, C2Fine, 12Bit Wide Panels as the EH-TW6000, as well as the same 480Hz refresh rate. The only difference between the two projectors is in terms of the claimed contrast ratio, which is 20,000:1 (EH-TW5900) against 40,000:1 (EH-TW6000) and the light output, which is 2,000 lumens (EH-TW5900) against 2,200 lumens (EH-TW6000). Finally, at the top rear of the chassis, there is a basic control panel for those that are careless with the remote.
All the connections are at the rear of the EH-TW5900, which is good as we prefer that to the side connections that some projector manufacturers use. The connections are impressive considering the EH-TW5900's entry level status and price and include two HDMI v1.4a inputs, as well as a component video input with RCA connectors, a composite video input with left and right analogue audio inputs and a VGA connector for a PC. The EH-TW5900 also includes an RS-232C connector for system control, a LAN connector for an optional external 3D emitter and a USB connector for a memory device or a digital camera. Sadly Epson appear to have dropped the 12v trigger that was on their previous projectors. Also at the rear are the built-in speakers, although why Epson bothered with these is something of a mystery and feels more like a throwback to their data projector past. Finally, at the rear, there is also the power socket which uses a standard three pin connector.
The EH-TW5900 includes the latest version of Epson's standard remote control, which is good because their control is well laid out and has some genuinely useful buttons. This new version is black (rather than white) but as before it has a backlight which is obviously handy in the dark, and the buttons themselves are large and intuitive to use. The remote control itself is comfortable to hold and simple to operate, with buttons for all the different sources as well as a menu button, navigation buttons, an escape button, an enter button and a recessed default button for resetting certain controls. Perhaps most useful of all, are buttons dedicated to different controls such as Colour Mode, Aspect Ratio, the CMS, Memory and Test Patterns. It is worth noting that since the same remote is used across all three models (TW5900, TW6000 and TW9000) some of the buttons don't apply to the EH-TW5900.
The EH-TW5900 doesn't come with any glasses included but they can be bought at a cost of about £70 a pair. The glasses Epson uses are lightweight and comfortable to wear and large enough to fit over regular glasses. There are 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 use batteries rather than being rechargeable and there is a small on/off button to the right side. There is an infra-red 3D emitter built in to the EH-TW5900, and although you will need line-of-sight, we never had any problems syncing the projector with the glasses. However if you did experience any problems, perhaps due to your screen material, there is the optional external 3D emitter.
Menus and Setup
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 as well as a sub-menu with further Advanced options. Within this sub-menu there are controls for the Noise Reduction features as well as a control for the HDMI Video Range and the 2-2 Pull Down. 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 EH-TW5900 projects up to peak white.
The next sub-menu is Settings which includes all the controls for the Keystone, the Audio, the HDMI Link and the Split Screen. There is also a sub-menu called Extended which contains all the controls for the Operation, Display and Input Signal. The fifth sub-menu is Info and is where you will find all the info relating to the signal the EH-TW5900 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 next sub-menu is Memory and is obviously where you save all the calibrated settings to create a bespoke memory preset. The final sub-menu is Reset where you can reset all the controls on the EH-TW5900 back to the factory settings.
Of course the most important sub-menu from the perspective of image accuracy is Image which is where you will find all the calibration controls including the standard Brightness, Contrast, Colour Saturation and Tint. There is also a Sharpness control, 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.
Also within the Image sub-menu is the Colour Mode which allows the user to select from a series of presets including 'Auto', 'Dynamic', 'Living Room', 'Natural', 'Cinema', '3D Dynamic' and '3D Cinema'.
Within the Advanced sub-menu of the Images menu there is the Gamma control which features a set of different gamma curve options from 2.0 to 2.4 - here at AVForums we use a setting of 2.2 for displays in an environment with some ambient light and 2.4 for fully light controlled dedicated rooms. There is also an option for 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 and it is this feature that is used to calibrate the greyscale.
The purpose of the RGB control is to adjust the amounts of red, green and blue at two specific points, usually 80IRE (Gain) and 30IRE (Offset), in order to create an accurate greyscale going smoothly from black to white without any discolouration.
Finally the RGBCMY is Epson's name for their [tip=CMS]Colour Management System[/tip] (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).
Finally, in the Settings sub-menu, you will find the 3D Menu where you can select the 3D Display functions, the 3D Format (Auto, 2D, Side-by-Side, Top-and-Bottom), the 3D Brightness (Low, Medium, High), Inverse 3D Glasses (Yes, No), 3D IR Emitter (Built-in, External) and 3D Viewing Notice (On, Off).
As we found on the EH-TW6000, the latest Epson projectors are delivering a much improved gamma performance and the EH-TW5900 is no exception. As you can see from the graph above the Gamma Point is tracking almost exactly at our target of 2.4 and the Gamma Luminance is also spot on. The EH-TW5900 includes a gamma control for correcting any errors but if the projector can deliver this kind of performance out-of-the-box, there will be no need to resort to it. The greyscale performance wasn't as good out-of-the-box as the EH-TW6000, with some noticeable DeltaEs (errors) in the middle of greyscale, which is where we actually want the most accuracy. The RGB Balance shows a lack of green energy and an excess of blue in the greyscale but neither is tracking in a straight line, which is going to make calibrating using a two point white balance control rather tricky.
The accuracy of the colour gamut was almost identical to the measurements that we got when testing the EH-TW6000, which makes sense since the two projectors are virtually the same. Both projectors exhibited large errors in the hue of red and green, which in turn led to errors in cyan and yellow. There was also an under saturation in the colour of red and an excess of luminance in red, blue and magenta. In fairness the overall colour performance wasn't too bad and we've certainly seen much worse, so whilst the trained eye might easily spot the errors, the majority of viewers probably wouldn't.
After calibration the gamma performance was essentially the same, if not slightly better, with the Gamma Point tracking exactly at our target of 2.4 and the Gamma Luminance also hitting its target. Thanks to the white balance control, the greyscale accuracy is much improved, although it falls short of the reference performance we were able to get from the EH-TW6000. The problem with a two point white balance control is that if red, green and blue are tracking in straight lines then it's easy to calibrate the greyscale but, if not, it can be problematic. Since changing the balance of red, green and blue at one point can affect the balance at the other it becomes a slow iterative process to try and find a compromise where the overall greyscale performance is best. We were unable to completely correct the errors at 90 and 100IRE but felt these were minor and the excellent performance at 20 to 80IRE was more important. After all most images are not completely black or completely white but somewhere in the middle, which is why the mid part of the greyscale is important.
As you can see on the CIE Chart, the calibrated greyscale means that the colour of white is now measuring exactly at D65 and as a result of this accurate greyscale, some of the other errors were reduced. We were able to use the CMS to bring all the luminance measures exactly into line, which is good because our eyes are most sensitive to errors in the luminance (brightness) of colours. We were also able to improve the hue measurements, although the errors in red and, especially, green were too large to be effectively corrected by the CMS. The under saturated red appeared to be a limitation of the projectors native gamut and since you can't add what isn't there, we had to accept this error. For the same reasons we were unable to completely correct cyan and yellow but the overall performance was pretty good and certainly with actual content the colours appeared correct.
With the video deinterlacing tests the results were similar, with the EH-TW5900 reproducing the rotating line but producing a few more jaggies than we expected. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained good with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly but there were some slight jaggies on the second line as well as the third. However, the projector had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
On the film detail test the EH-TW5900's performance was also good, with the projector correctly locking on to the image but it took slightly longer and didn't seem as stable. The same was true in the cadence tests where the projector correctly detected the 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format as well as the 2:2 (PAL - European) format but again it didn't seem quite as rock solid as we would have liked. 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.
The EH-TW5900 performed better in the tests using high definition content and with the player set to 1080i the projector correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests and showed a far better 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 EH-TW5900 was reproducing all the video levels down to reference black and above reference white (235) up to peak white (255). There were no problems here and as long as the EPSON Super White control was selected, the EH-TW5900 was able to show detail all the way down to 16 and up to 255.
Picture Performance - 2D
This demonstrates an important point, that whilst black levels are important they can be superseded by other considerations and in a room with white walls or a lot of ambient light, the EH-TW5900's poor black levels are less of an issue. In these conditions, the projectors inherent brightness becomes more important and the lighter environment will make the blacks appear darker, thanks to a handy optical illusion. However the poor blacks did affect the dynamic range of the EH-TW5900 and we also found that shadow detail was poor, just as it had been on the EH-TW6000.
The EH-TW5900 does include a dynamic iris but we found that not only did it make little difference to the blacks but that it was quite noisy and could be easily heard from our viewing position. The projector itself runs quite quietly, so it's a shame that the auto iris is so noisy, however we were sat quite close, so perhaps the iris will seem quieter if the projector is ceiling mounted.
Black levels aside, the EH-TW5900 could deliver some quite impressive images, especially with high definition sources. We continue to be amazed that this kind of performance is possible for less than £1,000 but it just goes to show how far projector technology has come.
Thanks to the inclusion of some fairly comprehensive calibration controls, which again is impressive at this price point, the EH-TW5900 could deliver a reasonably accurate picture. This excellent greyscale and colour accuracy, coupled with the brightness of the projector, resulted in some very pleasant and detailed images. Motion handling was also very good and the EH-TW5900 had no problems with 24p material, with the resulting images wonderfully smooth and free from judder. We found that standard definition material didn't look quite as good, partly due to the lower resolution but also because of the slightly soft scaling. However, overall the EH-TW5900 can handle all your 2D viewing needs.
The only other problem we experienced when watching 2D material on the EH-TW5900 was that the HDMI handshaking could often be erratic, with the projector not recognising some devices until we cycled them on and off. We experienced something similar on the EH-TW6000, so it appears to be an issue with the Epsons.
Picture Performance - 3D
However, this minor criticism aside, the overall 3D performance of the EH-TW5900 was very good, especially when you consider the price. It is easy to become blasé about 3D performance but to be able to watch big screen 3D mages this good for less than £1,000 is remarkable. This performance is due to a number of factors, the first of which is the inherent brightness of the image which gives the 3D far greater impact. The second factor is the use of 480Hz panels, which allow the glasses to stay open for 6ms. This longer time allows more light to enter the lens of the glasses, resulting in an even brighter image, despite the glasses inherent dimming nature. The third factor is the absence of any flicker and thanks to this, watching 3D on the EH-TW5900 for long periods didn't cause fatigue. There is one final factor, the dimming nature of the glasses meant that the poor black levels were less of an issue.
The EH-TW5900 comes with two 3D presets - Cinema and Dynamic - and we found that Cinema was reasonably accurate, although there is the option to calibrate the 3D image if you so wish. We tried both frame sequential and side-by-side 3D content on the EH-TW5900 and it handled the different 3D formats without any problems. The full HD frame sequential 3D of most Blu-rays looked especially impressive and the EH-TW5900 handled the motion very well. The lower resolution side-by-side 3D that is used by broadcasters such as Sky and the BBC also looked good but the EH-TW5900 did not automatically detect SBS content. Instead you needed to manually select SBS from the menu and then when you had finished watching the 3D content, you had to select Auto again on the menu. This minor annoyance aside, the EH-TW5900 delivered a very impressive 3D image, the quality of which far exceeded its price.
- Good image brightness, even in 3D
- Good greyscale and gamma out-of-the-box
- Excellent greyscale and gamma after calibration
- Excellent colour accuracy after calibration
- Impressive calibration controls at this price point
- Very good video processing
- Good 3D performance
- Reasonably quiet in operation
- Well designed remote control
- Comprehensive connectivity
- Attractive design and good build quality
- Weak blacks and dynamic range
- Out-of-the-box colour gamut could have been better
- Colour Management System not as effective as previously
- No lens shift available
- HDMI handshaking is erratic
- Some legacy features are unnecessary
Epson TW5900 (EH-TW5900) 3 Chip LCD 3D 1080p Projector Review
The 2D performance is very good at this level, with an accurate picture and detailed picture thanks to the extensive calibration controls and some very effective video processing. Out-of-the-box performance could have been better but the errors were minimal and most could be corrected through calibration. Whilst the blacks are weak, resulting in a poor dynamic range and limited shadow detail, the EH-TW5900 makes up for this in brightness. There's no point putting a projector like this in a dedicated home cinema but in a room with white walls and ceiling or ambient light, the EH-TW5900 could be ideal.
Moving on to 3D performance, the EH-TW5900 is equally as assured here and although we did see some crosstalk on difficult material, there's no denying the impact of big screen 3D. The brightness of the image really helped to give the 3D impact and the use of 480Hz panels resulted in an enjoyably flicker-free experience. The EH-TW5900 has two 3D presets - Cinema and Dynamic - and we found the Cinema preset to be reasonably accurate, although there is the opportunity to calibrate the 3D image if necessary. Although the EH-TW5900 doesn't ship with any glasses included, these can be picked up for around £70 and they work well in conjunction with the EH-TW5900.
The EH-TW6000 retails for around £1,300, if you buy the version without the WiFi HDMI adaptor, so the question is does that projector offer enough of an upgrade to justify the additional expense? The answer is, possibly, but there isn't much in it, with the EH-TW6000 performing slightly better in terms of black levels, video processing and 3D. However, most people might not notice the difference and a price of less than £1,000 is hard to resist. The Optoma HD33 offers another alternative, it also retails for around £1,300 including two pairs of glasses but being a single chip DLP some people might be put off by the rainbow effect. However, being a DLP projector means the 3D is genuinely crosstalk-free, so if you don't suffer from rainbows and 3D is a major factor you might want to consider the HD33.
Ultimately all this is good for the consumer, who has equally capable budget projectors to choose from, if and when they decide to take those first steps into big screen projection.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
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