Home projector behemoth Epson has announced a new line-up of home theatre and home entertainment projectors for the coming year. There are two ranges, one targeted at buyers Epson deems as ‘enthusiasts’, the other aimed at families.
As usual, the enthusiasts get the highest-end enhancements. All three models in the 9000 range feature 4K enhancement technology and full support for UltraHD Blu-ray signals. Remember, though, that being able to accept the UltraHD signal and making full use of it are two different things in display technology. In this respect, the 9000 range can accept the signal and make use of some aspects of it, in particular the High Dynamic Range (HDR) part.
Epson’s 4K enhancement has been around for a year or two. This employs’ the usual three high-quality inorganic LCD panels in full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) resolution, and a pixel shifting technology that moves pixels rapidly between two positions, one half pixel width apart diagonally, in order to increase perceived resolution. So it isn’t true 4K. Indeed, it seems likely that the signal is downsampled by the projector to 1080p for feeding into the display engine.
4K enhancement in action
Nonetheless, the demonstration at the launch was impressive, with a large screen showing fine detail. At the very least, the 4K enhancement can knock off the step-like jaggies that might otherwise appear on the large screen with a native 1080p projector.
The part of UltraHD Blu-ray signals that these these projectors can make real use of is the High Dynamic Range coding provided on the majority of discs. This delivers up to 1024 levels of intensity to each pixel, four times the number of levels available with regular HD, for super-bright images with a wider colour gamut than from non-HDR video.
These projectors have a dynamic contrast ratio of up to 1,000,000:1 and a maximum output of 2500 lumens, both in pure white and with colour. The lens adjustments — focus, a wide 2.1:1 zoom and unusually flexible horizontal and vertical lens shift — are powered, and there are ten memories into which particular settings can be placed for near instant access.
The top of the line EH-TW9300W ($4999) includes 4K-compatible WirelessHD connectivity. The EH-TW9300 ($4799) is identical, except for the WirelessHD. The EH-TW8300 ($4499) likewise requires physical cables, scores a two-year rather than three-year warranty, and lacks the others’ Imaging Sciences Foundation (ISF) certification. Those prices put the whole 4K enhancement thing into context. For a native 4K projector you can expect to pay twice as much.
Budget-friendly 6000 series home theatre projectors
The three new family-orientated models are lower cost and designed for high-quality, flexible use. They don’t have the UltraHD signal support or the 4K enhancement or the powered lens settings. But they still offer a 70,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio or 3000 lumens white and colour output levels (120,000:1 and 2700 lumens for the EH-TW6800). Five years ago, a 70,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio would have been outdoing just about all the premium models on the market.
Epson says that they are suitable for use with screens of up to 300 inches on the diagonal. All three incorporate manual lens shift to allow flexible placement and the two lower cost models have twin 10 watt speakers built in (we at Gadget Guy would still recommend a proper sound system, but the included audio output could be useful in an emergency). The EH-TW6700 ($2649) is the starter model of this mid-range. The EH-TW6700W ($2949) adds WirelessHD. The top model is the EH-TW6800 ($3199). It’s not wireless, but in addition to the greater contrast ratio, it is ISF certified.