Imaging Devices

Epson EH-TW8100 - Epson Introduces The Inbetweener

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The projector giant has plugged a mid-range gap in its cinema range to impressive effect, reckons a penny-pinching us

Now I come to think of it, Epson’s previous LCD home cinema projection range did seem a touch Spartan. You had the TW6000 and TW9000, plus their wireless HD variations, but that was really it in terms of the sort of models Home Cinema Choice readers would likely feel drawn to.

It seems entirely sensible, then, for Epson to have expended its 3D home cinema range this year by launching a new mid-range model, the EH-TW8100.

The TW8100 doesn’t occupy the exact middle ground between the brand’s new TW6100 and TW9100 projectors, mind you. Its spec puts it closer to the TW9100, and its $3,375 price is also slightly closer to the flagship model, costing around $525 less. This is still a significant price drop from the TW9100, though – especially when you realize that the TW8100 achieves this cheaper price by making only three specification compromises.

Epson EH-TW8100

First, the TW8100 ditches the TW9100’s ISF certification, meaning you can’t have it professionally calibrated by an ISF engineer. Second, you don’t get any free Epson 3D glasses (you get two pairs with the TW9100). And finally, unlike the TW9100, the TW8100 can’t be fitted with an anamorphic lens.

The TW9100’s ISF and anamorphic lens features are aimed squarely at the true AV enthusiast; so many relatively mainstream movie fans may not miss them much on the TW8100. The lack of 3D glasses is more aggravating, as getting two pairs will eat up around $225 of the $525 the TW8100 saves you versus the TW9100. But $300 is still $300, right?

In other ways this model matches its flagship brethren. Its claims the same impressive 320,000:1 contrast ratio, the same high 2,400 Lumens of maximum brightness, the same 480Hz panel driving system (to reduce 3D crosstalk) and a pretty much identical design. This finds a tasteful white and black finish wrapped around a fairly large, robustly built chassis.

TW8100 can’t be fitted with an anamorphic lens

TW8100 can’t be fitted with an anamorphic lens

Getting started

Connections on the TW8100 match those of the TW9100, with highlights including two v1.4 HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, and both RS-232 and 12V trigger jacks for system integration.

The only point to add here is that, unlike the TW9100, there’s no premium version of the TW8100 that offers wireless HD playback (and HDMI switching, too). However, our preference is for sending Full HD video via a cable where possible, so this isn’t much of an issue. You may beg to differ, of course. Setting up the TW8100 is a breeze. Of starters, there are straightforward vertical and horizontal image shifting wheels, making it easy to avoid nasty keystone ‘distortions’. At 2.1x, meanwhile, the optical zoom available is outstanding, while the TW8100’s onscreen menus provide ample control over such key issues as color handling, sharpness, contrast and brightness.

Action-packed scenes, like the mass street fight in The Dark Knight Rises, are unspoilt by judder or blur’

There are also a few key processing systems to tinker with – most notably the dynamic iris and Frame Interpolation systems. Both can deliver benefits to the image (improved contrast with the former, and more motion clarity with the latter), but both can also work too aggressively on their higher settings, making the image appear unstable or unnatural.

TW8100 replicates them all very well – except for a slight – but not massively distracting

TW8100 replicates them all very well except for a slight – but not massively distracting

My testing began with the Blu-ray of The Dark Knight Rises and the TW8100 sis a very good job with Christopher Nolan’s final slice of comic book seriousness. The unit’s handling of the film’s frequent dark scenes was impressive. As Batman battles Bane in the latter’s underground base, for instance, I was struck both by now deep and true images look, and by how much shadow detail information the Epson retains even in the inkiest corners.

Fine detail levels are very high, too. The TW8100 does full justice to the gorgeous textures, subtleties and cinematic grain of Warner’s beautifully produced Blu-ray. Ultra HD/4K may be grabbing the column inches at the moment, but there’s certainly life in Full HD yet.

Also strong is the TW8100’s color handling. Nolan’s movie employs a demanding palette that combines many different lighting conditions and skin tones, yet the TW8100 replicates them all very well except for a slight – but not massively distracting tendency to over-egg oranges and reds during mid-dark sequences.

Born to run

I found the TW8100’s handling of motion very credible, too. After much experimentation I personally chose not to use the Frame Interpolation system, simply because – even without it –Epson’s new mid-range model didn’t suffer heavily with judder or blur. Action-packed sequences, like the mass street fighting near the end of The Dark Knight Rises remained unspoilt. The interpolation feature can, of course, be called upon to make things even smoother, but it does bring a processed sheen to proceedings.

The good news continues with the projector’s running noise. Using the Eco lamp setting the amount of whining made by the cooling fans is negligible. It does go up quite a bit if you witch to the Normal lamp mode for viewing in ambient light or watching 3D – but even then it’s seldom a serious problem unless you’re sat very close to the projector.

The arrangement of Epson’s backlit handset is hard to fault

The arrangement of Epson’s backlit handset is hard to fault

As for 3D, the TW8100 shows that Epson has bettered matters since last year. Previously, the brand’s PJ’s faltered with 3D sources by taking too much brightness out of images in stereoscopic mode and suffering from a fair amount of crosstalk. But my well-worn Prometheus platter confirms that both these issues have been greatly improved for the TW8100. Watching 3D feels like much less of a performance compromise, with the Epson capturing both the sense of depth and the Full HD detailing that the active 3D format was designed for.

It’s always possible to wish for even more from any mid-range projector. Deeper black levels and an even better color accuracy/balance are two obvious areas that more expensive rivals deliver on. I also spotted one or two minor convergence errors around very bright objects on the TW8100, and measured input lag to be slightly high at around 60ms, meaning your gaming skills might be affected if you decide to do some big screen fragging.

Yet this little list of negative looks positively puny versus all the things the TW8100 does right, from design and setup to HD performance. It’s a serious bargain, and in my mind more appealing than the already good TW9100. That, thanks to its price point, has to compete with models from Sony, JVC and Panasonic. The TW8100, on the other hand, has found a nice niche. Those whose budgets are limited to absolutely no more than $3,450 should check it out.

On the menu

The Epson’s onscreen menus are similar to much of the competition – utilitarian but simple to get to grips with. And, despite lacking the ISF certification of the higher-end EH=TW9100, there are plenty of calibration tools to get stuck into, including a color temperature slider and color management suite

AV info

Product: 3D ready, Full HD LCD projector

Position: A new mid-range option in Epson’s 3D home cinema projector series

Peers: Panasonic PT-AE6000; Sony VPL-HW30ES

The verdict

Highs: Very good 3D and 3D pictures; runs quietly; easy to set up;

Lows: Minor convergence errors; slightly high input lag; no free 3D glasses

·         Performance: 4/5

·         Design: 4/5

·         Features: 4/5

·         Overall: 4/5


·         3D: Yes. Active shutter (but no RF glasses supplied)

·         Full HD: Yes. 1,920 x 1,080

·         Connections: 2 x v1.4 HDMI; D-Sub PC port; 12V trigger jack; RS-232; component video input; composite video input

·         Brightness (claimed): 2400 ANSI Lumens

·         Contrast (claimed): 320,000:1

·         Dimensions: 466(w) x 395(d) x 140(h) mm

·         Weight: 8.4kg

·         Features: 0.74in with C2 Fine LCD panel; side-by-side/top and bottom/frame sequential 3D compatible; Frame Interpolation; noise reduction; color management; gamma management; 480Hz panel driving; 5,000-hour lamp life in Eco mode; 22dB fan noise; 30-300in image size; vertical and horizontal lens shift; 2.1x optical zoom; keystone correction

·         Epson EH-TW8100 price: $3,375 Approx


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