Epson EH-TW490 projector review

posted on Sunday, 23rd February 2014 by Steve May

projectors  Epson 

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The Epson EH-TW490 is an entry-level HD Ready projector designed for general entertainment use. It sits beneath the Full HD EH-TW5200 and home cinema centric EH-TW7200 and EH-TW9200 models in Epson's 2014 line-up, but provides installers with a high brightness option for media rooms and gaming applications. Key attractions include its compact form factor and ease of use.

Epson EH-TW490 projector: Build quality and features
Despite an unsophisticated rash of white legends on its bodywork, the slim EH-TW490 succeeds in appearing more upmarket than its price point might suggest. The glossy back cabinet, with integrated sliding lens cover, is smart enough to mix with high-end furnishings and it weighs just 2.4kg, which means it can be mounted just about anywhere. The overall footprint is just 297 x 234 x 77 mm (w/d/h).

Connections include HDMI, composite AV and S-video, PC VGA and USB 2.0 A/B. The projector can read JPEGs from a thumbdrive, but not video files. Navigation is fast though.

The projector is a 720p model, actually 1280 x 800 with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and while it naturally does its best work with a fixed screen, it's clearly intended for white wall occasional use. To emphasise overall portability, a carry bag is provided. The model is 2D only, although that's unlikely to be an issue for users. 

The projector features an integrated 2w sound system, which could be politely described as functional. For coffee table screenings, this may be of interest, however in a CI context we would expect it to be disabled. Bundled in the box is a small IR remote control. While not backlit, there is an e-zoom feature which allows viewers to zoom into an image by varying degrees: 1x 1.25, 1x 1.25 and 1x 1.375.

Installers will not need to budget a great deal of time to installation. The EH-TW490 takes no time to set up, with basic horizontal and vertical keystone correction available to square up the image, plus manual focus. The throw is relatively generous too. At 4m you'll get a 120-inch image. The projector is bright enough to go larger if more distance is available.

Epson EH-TW490 projector: Performance
The first thing that strikes you when you power the unit up is how astonishingly bright it is. Epson rates it at 3,000 lumens, with a matching Colour Light Output. This luminosity makes the EH-TW490 a great choice if you're looking for a veritable light canon able perform in a non-theatre environment. It copes extremely well with ambient light. There's not a great deal of deep calibration control on offer, however the presets (Dynamic, Living Room, Cinema and Game) are well judged. We particularly like Cinema, which is a fine one-size-fits-all fallsafe.

In order to keep the fan noise at its most sociable, you'll need to employ the lamp's Eco mode. Operational hubbub in this green setting is 29dB, however left at full blast the projector throws out a far more intrusive 37dB. Choosing the more efficient setting will also eke lamp life out to some 6,000 hours.

Beneath the lid are a trio of HTPS (high-temperature polysilicon) TFT liquid crystal panels. LCD technology traditionally delivers a very comfortable viewing experience, with none of the rainbow fringing seen on budget DLP models. We rate colour fidelity as high; images have plenty of eye candy pop. There is a significant caveat though. The projector is unable to deliver true black, managing a best a darkish grey. There's a dynamic iris but this doesn't resolve the issue and is actually rather noisy, making a ratchety grumble whenever the screen content changes.

The EH-TW490 is best partnered with games consoles, media and disc players and HDTV set top boxes. While it can of course be used with a Next Gen consoles, such as the PlayStation 4, we don't recommend it. The resolution limitation will trim away much of the fine detail that such a high-end machine can offer. 

Picture trickery is limited primarily to Noise Reduction, along with Fine/Fast image processing and overscan options, which can be set at Auto, Off, 4 per cent and 8 per cent; the latter is quite a serious image zoom. Motion picture resolution is limited. We noted no moving image detail above 600 lines, but then that's in keeping with the specification.

Epson EH-TW490 projector: Verdict
This Epson is a cost effective solution for integrators looking to specify a general purpose projector able to throw a bright image in a non-cinema room. While the lack of a deep black means it's unsuitable for dedicated theatre use, it's perfectly acceptable for media dens, bedrooms and freestyle spaces. Ease of installation, solid build quality and general amenability should make this a popular choice.

The Epson EH-TW490 is available now.
Retail price: £549
For more on Epson's 2014 projector line-up, visit out partner page here.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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