Home theatre installations are becoming ever more popular in the UK, following on from a similar situation in the USA which started about a decade ago. Television screens are getting bigger, sound systems more powerful – with even more speakers – and playback definition sharper.
The associated price tags tend to have at least four digits before the decimal point, but given the choice between watching movies in the comfort of your own home and braving the out-of-town cinemas, many people are voting with their slippers. After all, you’re less likely to be troubled by noisy eaters, mobile phones and back-seat snoggers at home. Possibly.
In the battle for inches, wide-screen television sets just aren’t enough any more. Plasma screens take things a step further, but for a similar price you can have a home theatre projector (incidentally, congratulations to Epson for spelling ‘Theatre’ the English way; soon we might see some ‘Colour’ printers too). The EMP-TW100 is Epson’s offering into this market and it’s pretty good.
The EMP-TW100 is a reasonably light (in terms of weight) projector, at a little over 4kg, so you can put it away when it’s not in use, or carry it from room to room. Described as ‘whisper quiet’, its fan is reasonably quiet – a whisper can be quite loud. You will hear the fan when the projector is switched on, but it’s easily drowned out by the sound of the film soundtrack, particularly if you have a good speaker system.
A selection of cables is supplied, but these will be inadequate for most home installations simply because they’re too short to stretch from the projector to the likely position of your DVD player and amplifier. So a trip to the hi-fi shop or a few minutes with a soldering iron and a long cable will be required. The two-wire composite connection is the easiest to sort out in this respect, although ideally you should use a SCART to S-video cable for the best results. A VGA extension cable is likely to be required if you’re planning to play PC games using the projector.
At the back of the projector are connectors for VGA, DCI (digital PC input), S-video and composite. The unit will automatically detect the incoming source; alternatively, buttons on the top panel and the remote control handset let you flick between different inputs. Various colour settings can also be tweaked, as can vertical keystone correction, to compensate for the way an image changes shape when the projector is pointing upwards or downwards.
We’d like to have seen a horizontal keystone correction, so that the projector could be used at a slight angle (makes it easier to set it up next to a sofa), but we haven’t seen this in any projector yet.
And so, to the important factor – the image quality. Here the Epson really shines; literally. It’s exceptionally and consistently bright and sharp, with simple focus and zoom controls on the lens itself. The colours are excellent and the redraw rate is high, so there’s no obvious blurring of fast action sequences. It’s really everything you could expect from a home theatre projector.
We had just one minor complaint. When viewing wide-screen movies, horizontal bands of light are visible above and below the projected film, where the LCD panel is letting through too much light; a consequence of having such a powerful lamp. It’s something that you quickly ignore, but it could be mildly irritating to the perfectionist.
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