Design and Features
The TW8100 is straightforward to set up, there's a centrally located lens and two adjustable feet at the front and a third foot at the back, which makes levelling the projector and aligning it with the centre of the screen very easy. It also includes full lens shift controls as well as zoom and focus, and whilst these controls are all manual it does allow for a greater level of accuracy than ones that are motorised.
The only issue with a manual lens controls is that they make setting the focus accurately a two man job but that shouldn't be an issue.
Since the TW8100 doesn't have motorised lens shift, zoom and focus, it obviously can't have a lens memory function like the ones found on the Panasonic and JVC projectors, putting it at a slight disadvantage. The TW8100 includes a decent quality lens, which delivers a sharper more detailed image than the Epson's lower down the range, as well as better convergence and blacks, thanks to fewer reflections in the light path. In addition, Epson have included a motorised lens cover that opens and closes when you turn the projector on and off. It's a bit noisy and clunky when it moves in and out of position but it is a nice touch and helps to differentiate the TW8100 from other budget models.
All the connections are at the rear of the TW8100 which is good as we prefer that to the side connections that some projector manufacturers use. The connections are on a par with those found on most of the competition 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 TW8100 also includes an RS-232C connector for system control and a 12v trigger for controlling an electric screen or an anamorphic lens. Finally, at the rear, there is also an on/off switch and the power socket which uses a standard three pin connector.
The TW8100 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 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 the most useful buttons are the ones dedicated to specific functions such as Colour Mode, Aspect (Ratio), RGBCMY (CMS), Memory and Test Patterns. Unfortunately there are no shortcut buttons to the White Balance, Gamma and Sharpness controls but there are for the Auto Iris, 3D Format, Split Screen, Super-res, Frame Interpolation and 2D/3D.
The TW8100 doesn't come with any 3D glasses included but it's compatible with Epson's latest active shutter design that uses the new RF standard. The glasses 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 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 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 controls for Frame Interpolation and Super-resolution. There is also 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 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'.
The next sub-menu is Settings which includes all the controls for the Keystone, the HDMI Link, Lock Settings, Projection, User Button and Split Screen. As always we strongly recommend that you never use any keystone correction unless you want to lose image resolution. There is also a sub-menu called Extended which contains all the controls for the Operation, Display, Input Signal and Language. Here is where you will also find the LCD Alignment control which was mysteriously missing from the UK version of the TW9000 last year and bizarrely isn't mentioned in the TW8100's manual. Whatever the reasons for these strange omissions, this control can be used to align the panels if there is any misalignment out-of-the-box.
The next 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 this is where you will find all the info relating to the signal the TW8100W 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 TW8100W 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 that adjusts magenta. 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.
There are a number of Aspect Ratios available with 'Auto' automatically selecting the most appropriate size, whilst 'Full' uses the entire panel. There are also options for 'Normal' which matches the vertical size of the panel, 'Zoom' which expands the image to fill the panel and 'Wide' which stretches the edges of the image. Also within the Image sub-menu is the Colour Mode which allows the user to select from a series of presets including 'Dynamic', 'Living Room', 'Natural', 'Cinema', '3D Dynamic' and '3D Cinema'.
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 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.
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).
Finally, in the Settings sub-menu, you will find the 3D Menu 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), the Diagonal Screen Size, the 3D Brightness (Low, Medium, High), Inverse 3D Glasses (Yes, No) and 3D Viewing Notice (On, Off).
As the RGB Balance graph above shows, red and blue are tracking close together at just over the target of 100 before diverging after 60IRE. At which point blue is tracking along the target of 100 and red is tracking about 5% over. The greyscale is a little under powered in green, with it tracking about 5% below the target across the entire scale. As a result there was a slight red tinge on a stair step test pattern and Delta E’s (errors) that are measuring above our tolerance level of 3. However, the gamma is measuring very close to our target of 2.4, which is good to see. Overall, it's a reasonable performance for an out-of-the-box setting but the TW8100 includes a two point white balance control, so we should be able to improve the accuracy considerably.
Moving on to the colour gamut, as the CIE Chart above shows the Natural colour mode is actually very impressive for an out-of-the-box setting. All of the colours are within the DeltaE tolerance of 3 for their overall accuracy, with the exception of cyan which is slightly above that. You can see that white is just outside its target of D65 (the square in the centre of the triangle) but once we have calibrated the greyscale, we should see the colour accuracy improve still further. There is some slight under saturation in green and blue and thus cyan, which is a combination of the two primaries, but otherwise this is an excellent out-of-the-box colour performance by the TW8100. Since the projector includes a colour management system, we would expect to be able to improve level of accuracy still further.
After adjusting the two point white balance control, we were able to deliver a reference greyscale performance from the TW8100. As you can see on the graph, the RGB Balance is tracking at 100 for all three primary colours, with the overall errors all less than 3 and in most cases less than 1. The gamma is still tracking very close to our target of 2.4, although if you needed to there is a parametric control for adjusting the gamma curve at specific points. Ultimately this is an excellent greyscale and gamma performance from the TW8100 and it lays down a firm base on which to build an accurate overall image.
Thanks to the inclusion of a colour management system (CMS) we were able to improve the already excellent colour performance still further. First of all the reference greyscale is represented by the colour temperature of white, which is now hitting D65 exactly. As a result the colour accuracy immediately improved, especially the hue error in cyan and we were left with very little to do. We were able to get the luminance (brightness) of all the colours spot on, which is important because this is the element of colour our eyes are most sensitive to. We were also able to improve the hue accuracy but we struggled to correct the slight under saturation in green, red and cyan. The Saturation (colour) control is not independent of the Brightness (luminance) control and as such if we increased the saturation we also increased the brightness. As such we had to compromise and thus chose the accurate luminance performance over improving the accuracy of the colour. The colour errors were the result of this minor under saturation but it didn't have an adverse effect on the image accuracy and the overall errors were all less than 2 which is excellent. Whilst not quite hitting a reference level of accuracy, this is still a very impressive colour performance from a projector at this price point.
As it happens the TW8100 delivered a series of very impressive measurements that again exceeds our expectations at this price point. As you can see all the colours are tracking close to their targets, with most actually hitting them. There is a tiny amount of over saturation around 25-75% for red but otherwise this is an excellent overall performance. It would seem that Epson have done a fantastic job of delivering accurate colours with the TW8100.
Brightness, Black Levels and Dynamic Range
If there's one area where LCD projectors have come on in leaps and bounds over the last few years, it's their perceived black levels. Whilst not at JVC levels, the blacks on the TW8100 were certainly very good and so was the shadow detail. The TW8100 is also capable of producing a very good contrast ratio, measuring 3,700:1 and thanks to the brightness it delivered a great dynamic range. The TW8100 includes an Auto Iris but you really don't need to engage it as the native blacks are more than good enough. You can use the Auto Iris to improve the perceived dynamic range but in reality, all you'll be doing is losing detail as you crush blacks and clip whites. In addition, the Auto Iris wasn't that quiet, so depending on where you sit, you might hear it in action.
Starting off with the SMPTE 133 test pattern, the TW8100 was able to correctly scale the standard definition images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing test the results were equally as impressive with no jaggies on the rotating line, except at an extreme angle. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance was also excellent, with only very slight jaggies on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the TW8100 correctly detected both the 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) format and the 2:2 (PAL - European) format without any issues. It 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 TW8100 performed just as well in the tests with 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 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. On the Spears & Munsil Blu-ray disc, the TW8100 passed all of the tests including the Dynamic Range High test, showing all the video levels above reference white (235) up to peak white (255) and the Dynamic Range Low test, showing detail down to video level 17 which represents reference black.
Since the TW8100 is an LCD projector, it inherits that technology's weakness with motion handling. That's not to say that the motion handing on the TW8100 was bad, in fact it was very good, it's just a limitation of the technology. As a result there were occasional losses of detail and smearing with fast movement and camera pans. However, as mentioned, 24p material looked excellent, with movement that was smooth and judder free. The TW8100 includes Frame Interpolation software which, as the name suggests, attempts to address this inherent weakness in the technology by using interpolation to create better motion handling. The downside of this technology is that it results in motion artefacts that can be far worse than the perceived weakness of the LCD panel and these artefacts are more obvious on a large screen. It also creates the tell-tale 'soap opera' effect, with unnaturally smooth motion that will ruin the look of film based content. Frame Interpolation, especially the Low setting, can be used with fast paced sports action shot on video but we would recommend turning it off when watching film based content.
Picture Performance - 2D
When running in ECO mode the TW8100 is genuinely quiet, meaning you can be sat quite close to it before you will hear anything whilst watching normal content.
The TW8100 could deliver sharp and detailed images, especially with high definition content but on our large screen the grid structure of the pixels was visible, so it's worth bearing that in mind if you plan on projecting a big image. The convergence of the three chips on our review sample was very good but the panel alignment feature that went AWOL on last year's TW9000 is present and correct on the TW8100, which means that if you need to you can adjust the panel alignment in the user menu. As a result of the decent quality lens and good convergence, the TW8100 could deliver an absolutely stellar high definition image that was both detailed and accurate. There are extensive sharpness controls on the TW8100 but when dealing with high definition content there really is no point because you can't add what isn't there. The one exception was the Super-resolution control, which delivered the best image on a sharpness test pattern when the control was set to 2, at that setting each pixel wide line was perfect with no ringing or softness.
We used recent Blu-rays of The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus to test both the 2D performance of the TW8100 and overall the images were very good. There was the occasional artefact with motion, especially in the fast moving scenes of Spidey swinging between buildings but generally the TW8100 delivered a nicely rendered image with plenty of detail. The accurate picture really paid dividends with the bright primary colours in Spider-Man and the good black levels, shadow detail and dynamic range really helped to replicate the darkened corridors of the alien ship in Prometheus. We found the images produced by the TW8100 to be so appealing in fact that at times we had to remind ourselves that the projector can be picked up for less than £2,300. If you're not interested in 3D then it really is an attractive proposition for anyone looking to enjoy big screen action at home.
Picture Performance - 3D
The Cinema 3D mode also quite over-saturated, although that isn't uncommon for a 3D preset and the TW8100 provides the option to calibrate the 3D image if needed. It is worth noting that in the 3D modes, the additional brightness is added by using a higher bulb setting and as a result the TW8100 is louder than when in ECO mode. The TW8100 had no problems with both frame sequential content or side-by-side and both looked excellent. Our only complaint when it came to the 3D performance was that occasionally, in fast camera pans, there was some judder but this is not uncommon when watching 3D content. Overall the 3D performance of the TW8100 was excellent and at least as good as the Panasonic and Sony projectors that we have recently reviewed.
- Excellent blacks and dynamic range
- Good image brightness, even in 3D
- Excellent colour out-of-the-box
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Impressive calibration controls at this price point
- Excellent video processing
- Impressive 3D performance with very little crosstalk
- Quiet in operation
- Well designed remote control
- Comprehensive connectivity
- Attractive design and excellent build quality
- Grid structure visible on large screens
- Minor motion artefacts
- Motorised lens controls would be useful
- No lens memory feature
- No black option
Epson TW8100 (EH-TW8100) 3 Chip LCD 1080p 3D Projector Review
The out-of-the-box measurements were impressive in Natural colour mode, with a very good greyscale and an excellent colour gamut. The chosen gamma also measured close to our target of 2.4, so even if you don't get the TW8100 calibrated it is capable of delivering an accurate performance. After calibration the TW8100 could deliver a reference greyscale and gamma performance and a near reference colour gamut, which is impressive for a projector at this price point. The TW8100 was capable of putting out 1,200 lumens in its calibrated mode and had excellent black levels for a LCD projector, along with a very good contrast ratio and level of shadow detail.
The video processing was very good, with the TW8100 passing all of our tests and delivering an excellent performance in most areas.
Motion handling is never a strong point with LCD projectors and whilst there were occasional artefacts, the TW8100 was generally very good and handled 24p content extremely well. The 2D performance was very impressive thanks to the image accuracy, delivering a picture that was far better than we expected from a projector priced at this level. Panel alignment was good on our sample but on a very large screen the grid structure of the pixels could be visible, so it's worth bearing that in mind. The 3D performance was equally impressive with good motion handling and very little crosstalk, resulting in an immersive experience that is thankfully free of distracting artefacts.
The consumer truly is spoilt for choice at the moment but if you're looking for a projector that combines exceptional value with a great performance, then the Epson EH-TW8100 should be at the top of your list. It certainly holds its own in a competitive market and whilst there are minor issues, you'll be amazed at what can be achieved at the sub £2,500 price point - Best Buy.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels
2D Picture Quality
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value For Money
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