Epson EH-TW8100 projector review

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posted on Friday, 8th February 2013 by Steve May

projectors  3D  home cinema 

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Epson has made huge inroads into the custom install market over the past year or so, thanks largely to a range of well specified, attractively priced projectors. The new EH-TW8100 plugs an interesting hole in its portfolio, dramatically upping the ante against its three key competitors, the JVC DLA-X35, Sony VPL-HW50ES and Panasonic PT-AT6000E. With an RRP of just £2,250 it delivers nearly as much for significantly less. Installers looking for a budget friendly home cinema option should be putting this one on the shortlist.

Epson EH-TW8100: Description
Certainly the manufacturer hasn't skimped on build quality. This is a nicely turned out model with fashionable curves, finished in an appealing matte white. There's a centrally positioned lens and forward facing heat vents; the focal distance is 23mm - 47mm, with the lens itself protected by an electronic shutter. Rear facing connectivity covers all the bases, and comprises twin HDMIs, component and composite inputs, PC VGA, plus RS232 and a 12v trigger for control. The supplied remote is chunky, but backlit. The EH-TW8100W iteration of this model, which is also compatible with Epson's wireless WiHD transmitter, is currently only available in East Asia.

The EH-TW8100 is actually a slightly stripped back EH-TW9100. The key difference between the two is that unlike its more expensive brother, the EH-TW8100 doesn't support ISF calibration and can't take an anamorphic lens attachment. However there's nothing between the pair when it comes to contrast and brightness.

Setup is straightforward. There's manual zoom and focus adjustment, supported by generous vertical and horizontal correction. The former can be adjusted by up to 96 per cent of the height of the screen, while the latter position can be adjusted by up to 47 per cent of the width. The projection distance for a 100-inch screen is between 1.9m - 19.2m. The user interface remains unchanged from last year's models; it's unfussy but functional.

Epson EH-TW8100: Performance
Epson projectors are widely regarded for their crisp cinematic images, and there's no shortage of detail and dynamics delivered here. The EH-TW8100 offers simple sharpness and colour optimisation, along with the usual selection of presets (Dynamic, Living room, Natural, Cinema, 3D Dynamic and 3D Natural). There's also an RGB offset/gain colour management system, and RGBCMY (hue/saturation/brightness) adjustment.  It shouldn't take too long to get a very nice image from this control arsenal.

Fan noise is generally low when the lamp is in Eco mode, a little less so when it's not. The auto iris makes a low grumbling noise in both its Normal and High speed modes, but is easily masked by any 5.1 sound system.

To improve motion clarity, the EH-TW8100 offers variable frame interpolation (Low, Normal and High). With interpolation Off, motion resolution measures around 700 lines. In detailed scenes with fast motion, this translates to an inevitable loss of clarity. On the plus side, images remain cinematic and there's no overt motion judder. With the feature turned On, motion resolution jumps to around 900 lines. As long as you keep Interpolation on Low, motion artefacts are minimal. Select High though and they become far more evident. There's also a Super Resolution mode, which is helpful when it comes to reducing edge blurring.

The picture itself is extremely bright. Rated at 2,400 lumens, the projector is easily usable in rooms with partial ambient light; this makes the projector ideal for social sports events and communal gaming, as well as movie sessions, and broadens the type of room it can be installed in. Of course, contrast is greatly enhanced in total black out conditions. Epson claims a dynamic contrast of 320,000:1. Shadow detail is good, but while there's a convincing deepness to the blacks on display, I wouldn't say they're pitch. The EH-TW8100 isn't as darkly solid as either the (admittedly more expensive) JVC DLA-X35 or the Sony VPL-HW50ES. Colour fidelity is very good though, with difficult reds painted tomato rich.

I would rate the projector's 3D performance as slightly above average. By doubling the refresh rate from 240Hz to 480Hz in 3D mode, Epson has significantly reduced the potential for double imaging. Disney's Tangled offers a number of particularly challenging 3D sequences, even the Blu-ray menu itself represents a formidable test. But this projector dealt with them all well. A 3D depth control is available should some viewers find some 3D scene changes a little uncomfortable to watch. 

Epson is now a fully paid up member of  the Full HD 3D RF glasses initiative, which means this projector is compatible with a number of third party RF glasses; just as well as none are supplied in the box. The 3D sync emitter is built into the chassis, so there's no dongle to deal with. Be wary though, the projector becomes a lot noisier when 3D is engaged.

Epson EH-TW8100: Verdict
When it comes to raw performance, the EH-TW8100 punches well above its weight. If you don't need ISF calibration or anamorphic presentation, there seems little real incentive to specify the more expensive EH-TW9100. We rate this is a solid AV option. It's well equipped, offers decent control and copious calibration modes and doesn't fumble the ball with either 2D or 3D content. Overall, this particular white knight represents remarkable value for money. 

The Epson EH-TW8100 is available now.
Retail price: £2,250
For more on Epson and its 2013 line-up, click here.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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