Name: EH-TW5500 (Epson)
Type: LCD Full HD Projector
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £3,573.44 from Epson
LCD projectors have in the past had a notoriously poor black level response, but continued improvements to Epson's DeepBlack system have consistently impressed. However, the EH-TW5500 projector comes with a premium price tag, significantly higher than comparable LCD projectors. Can it justify it?
A sturdy, no-nonsense build, the curved black chassis of the EH-TW5500 is an intimidating 360 x 450 x 136 mm. It's not frilly, but will comfortable sit among most cinema set-ups, be it floor or ceiling mounted thanks to its non-reflective matte finish. Inputs are sensibly rear mounted, with two 1.3a HDMI ports, a component video input, and an RGB PC input among the connections. The long, black remote control was again sturdy and simple, but a nice back-light feature beneath the buttons made it easy to use in a darkened room.
Set up, via a manual 2.1 optical zoom and manual focus and lens shift dials was simple, allowing images from as little as 30 inches to as large as 300 inches to be produced. While we found the manual horizontal and vertical lens shift dials preferable to the sometimes shoddy results motorised units deliver, we were a little disappointed with the way that turning one dial often knocked out the positioning of the other, making it sometimes difficult to fine-tune the projection placement. Two retractable legs below the projector are also offered, should the lens shift not be sufficient.
Menus are again workmanlike, overlayed onto whatever you're watching on screen, but clear and concise, offering colour temperature controls, calibration tests and frame interpolation intensity settings.
If it all sounds a little safe-but-prosaic right now, you'd be mostly right. But fire the projector up and you'll be totally blown away.
Though the claimed contrast ratio of 200,000:1 is probably a little bit generous, there's no denying the quality of black level response on the EH-TW5500. It's astonishingly deep, retaining texture and detail in the Predators Blu-ray we watched, with no wash-out in dark scenes thanks to the dual-layer notched iris design, which adapts intelligently to jumps in light output. Colours were equally well catered for with natural skin tones, and bold, solid bursts when watching Avatar. Extensive scene mode options, including everything from "Vibrant" to "Cinema Night" modes, made the projector usable even in strong ambient lighting. Of course it was quite washed out, but with the brightness setting pushed high we could quite comfortably manage plenty of daytime viewing. It's worth noting that the projector does get reasonably hot at times though; an Eco Mode does well however to counteract this at the expense of brightness, also managing to make the fan system nearly silent at the same time.
Of equal merit to the black response levels is the afore-mentioned frame interpolation settings. Whereas previous Epson projectors have struggled with terrible artefacting when interpolation is switched on the EH-TW5500's system performs admirably, even on the highest settings. Movement is smooth and clean, and scaling it back made for a significantly smoother experience when gaming, with little notable drop in response time.
The Epson EH-TW5500 is one of the finest, if not the finest LCD projector we've ever seen. Superb HD clarity, vibrant colours and black response levels usually unheard of in an LCD projector, it goes a long way to justifying its premium price tag. It lacks the 3D capabilities that the latest wave of LCD projectors are touting, but for a unit capable of almost industrial-level performance, it can't come recommended more highly.