Epson Dreamio EMP-TW600 home theater projector - Review

Epson Dreamio EMP-TW600 home theater projector - Review

It used to be a draw between the two opposing projector camps. The DLPs had the performance advantage of delivering deeper backs, while the feature-riched LCDs were decked with powerful zoom and lens shift function. This is no longer the case as the Epson-led LCD camp recovers lost ground with the latest dual-iris optics-- introduced solely to address its previous black-level shortfall.

Design of the Epson Dreamio EMP-TW600 home theater projector

There's a deep sense of deja vu when we first set sight on the swanky Epson EMP-TW600 home theater projector (TW600). The 406 x 309 x 124mm shell sports an alluring satin finish reminiscent of it predecessor, the well-received TW500. That said, its design is refined with new sensuous curves which add a touch of class to the otherwise conventional boxy outlines deployed by the majority of the company's rivals. You can check out the Sanyo PLV-Z4 as a sample of such nonchalent styling.

Just to the sides of the lens assembly are two adjustments rings that allow you to shift the image horizontally and vertically in relation to the projector. These, coupled with a unique front-vented cooling system, enables setup to be carried out in the most unlikely locations. Take a high-up bookshelf which is installed flushed against a wall--with sufficient shelf depth to accommodate clearance for the rear-mounted video sockets.

The bundled remote control is also given a white treatment, making it a perfect complement for the light canon. Operating the remote in dark environments is a breeze, thanks to a combination of orange backlit buttons and intuitive layout. There is also a battery of shortcut buttons which put most frequently used controls at your finger tips, sparing you the hassle of navigating the user menu.

Epson's well-structured user menu is an instant hit. We found no less than 60 user settings covering basic configurations to advanced variants. The latter includes skin tone and gamma adjustments, multiband sharpness control and a set of test patterns for focusing and color verifications. If diving nose-deep into the highly tweakable menu is nothing short of a nightmare to you, just take your pick of any of the seven video presets factory-tuned to cater for a wide variety of applications and room lighting conditions.

Features of the Epson Dreamio EMP-TW600 home theater projector

The TW600 is High Definition-ready (HD) out of the box with a native 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution. Under the hood are the latest Epson's D5 series panels partnered with computer-controlled dual-iris optics and a high-luminescent 170W lamp. The trio redefines LCD projector performance by delivering a four-fold boost in contrast ratio to a high 5,000:1 and a class-leading 1,600 ANSI lumen brightness. These high ratings are efficient in combating light ambient lightings judging from our past Xbox 360 gaming experience in the late evenings.

To maximize the color reproduction of the new optical engine, the Japanese manufacturer has outfitted the set with a couple of performance-enhancing functions. Among them are a 10-bit 1.07-billion color-processing circuit, an integrated tri-color cinema filter and a new proprietary Epson Super White engine. Not forgetting a host of in-depth, multilevel tones-oriented user menu adjustments for the critics and demanding videophiles.

Dreamy pictures and clockwork aside, the projector also packs a powerful 1.5-times optical zoom and a set of ultrawide lens shifts. The former enables a short throw distance of only 2.51m for a mouth-watering 100-inch projection, while the later enables projection image to be repositioned up to two screen widths laterally and three screens vertically without compromising image geometry and quality. The set also offers vertical keystone corrections in the unlikely event that you have exhausted the lens shift options.

If you are eyeing a light beamer with comprehensive connectivity, the TW600 will be a strong contender for shortlisting. The flank of the unit is decked with just about every imaginable video and control socket relevant to the Asian market. These range from HD-enabled component-video and HDMI inputs to the rare D4 jack commonly found on Japanese-only home electronics. There is also a trigger output to interface with motorized screens for one-touch, simultaneous operations of the projector and screen.

Performance of the Epson Dreamio EMP-TW600 home theater projector

Calibrating the TW600 was a no-brainer and we got the projector up to speed in 10 minutes flat after smooth-sailing video calibration with a copy of Avia. Pixilation and screen door effect on our 100-inch projection were minimal and visible only 1.5m away from the screen. The onboard fan, on the other hand, was emitting a faint hum under the quiet Theater Black modes. The noise produced was hardly disturbing and audible only when we were sitting within 2m radius from the projector.

The Epson was like a match made in heaven between LCD projector and test patterns, taking on the latter with an unusual gusto. It scored perfect results in most areas from image geometry to color decoding, to the challenging grayscale test patterns. Nevertheless, we did pick up extremely mild vertical banding manifesting in deeper shades of gray during our run of the vertical grays ramp.

Moving onto our suite of reference DVD clips revealed some interesting observations on its enhanced-definition performance. Color exhibited onscreen was top-notch with a fine balance of tonal subtlety and rich saturation. We were, in particular, impressed with its excellent shadow details evident in the dark fighting scenes of Blade II. That said, contour definition could have been better as it turned out softer than expected. The same went when the TW600 upscaled a 480p signal from our Pioneer DV-S969AVi universal player.

We also tested HD contents from an HP Media Center PC and an Xbox 360 interfaced via HDMI and component-video, respectively. The projected images had all the positive attributes garnered so far plus razor-sharp details, thanks to the scaling-free, one-to-one pixel mapping and the extra resolution offered by the increased pixel counts. A couple of WMV-HD clips also kept us on our toes with the brilliant 3D-like pictures which were best described as unreal.

The S$3,499 (US$2,301.98) Epson EMP-TW600 could have easily attained an Editors' Choice status if not for its LCD compatriot from Panasonic. The AE900 is priced slightly cheaper at S$3,399 (US$2,236.84) and beats the Epson by featuring a wide two-times optical zoom plus a handy universal remote control.