In a world of laser and ultra-short throw technologies, Epson has kept faith in its traditional 3LCD projectors. The Epson EH-TW7100 is the more premium of two 4K PRO-HD projectors that the Japanese company unveiled at the IFA show in Berlin in September, aimed at those after a big-screen experience for films, TV and gaming.
It may not be native 4K and it has a plain old bulb that will need replacing after four years, but sticking with tradition has its advantages. First is the reasonable price and the second is that Epson’s 3LCD projectors have a proven track record. The company’s step-up model, the Epson EH-TW9400 is the incumbent What Hi-Fi? Award-winner in the mid-range class.
To help it fit in with contemporary life, the EH-TW7100 has a few mod-cons up its sleeve. Bluetooth for audio-out to a soundbar or wireless speakers is the big one, but there are also sufficient HDMI and powered USB ports to handle a media streamer on top of whatever physical media sources you might choose to attach. It also runs at 3,000 lumens – bright enough to get a decent picture even with some light in the room.
So, while the Epson EH-TW7100 is a prime candidate for the centrepiece of a budget home cinema, consider this a potential replacement for your TV, too.
The Epson EH-TW7100 is easy to live with, thanks to its compact size and decently-adjustable lens. It will project a 100in image from distances between 2.95 and 4.77m and can either be ceiling, rear rack or desktop mounted.
Lamp life 3,000/5,000 hours (eco/high)
Throw ratio 1.32-2.15:1
Inputs HDMI x2, USB 2.0 x2, 3.5mm audio-out, Bluetooth
Screen size 40-500in
Max brightness 3000 lumens
Dimensions (hwd) 41 x 31 x 15.7cm
All of the optical adjustments are manual, but easily controlled and, while there are on-device buttons, we prefer using the remote control – it is backlit, has shortcuts for most functions and is more premium than one would expect of a bundled remote.
There are two HDMI ports on the rear as well as USB 2.0 options (including powered) for source material. There are no streaming options built-in, but you can buy Epson’s ELPAP10 wireless LAN adapter separately. Bluetooth is for audio-out only, but handy if you want to listen through headphones or other wireless-enabled speakers.
There is also an internal speaker array driven by 20W of amplification, but we would advise using external home cinema sound solutions where possible.
The Epson EH-TW7100 may not have the claimed contrast of its Award-winning bigger brother, the TW9400 (100,000:1 vs 1,200,000:1) but both are based on the same projector panel ethos. Neither has true 4K resolution, instead, they work on the basis of a trio of 1080p LCD chips (one for each colour) and, like all budget ‘4K projectors’, employ the trick of pixel shifting to give the UHD effect.
Given that native 4K projectors start at more than double the price of the TW7100, this method represents a reasonable compromise. Regardless of the resolution, it’s HDR-enabled, supporting HDR10 and HLG.
There’s a small amount of fan noise (the official figure given is 32dB) but nothing to worry about. It doesn’t require a dedicated cinema room either and will work in a moderately-lit living room, although direct daylight and bright bulbs are a no-no.
The Epson EH-TW7100 gives an excellent picture right out of the box. All four of the preset modes are watchable. Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Natural and Cinema are all well tuned and offer genuine options depending on whether you like your picture bolder, brighter or with more dark detail. We opt for Natural and need only minor tweaks to get the best out of this machine.
The opening wide shots of the Missouri countryside in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 are expertly balanced for a projector at this price. The scene is bright, the colours natural and the clouds carefully shaded, all making for an inviting image with a believable sense of dimension. It’s just as impressive in the close-ups, and while it’s not as sharp as a true 4K picture, nor the blacks as deep as those of similarly priced TVs, there’s a nuance to the tone and texture of the actors’ faces that’s hard to beat.
This Epson has some strong natural motion handling too. The blue Ford Mustang driving down the country road, the fields of corn whizzing by and Peter Quill’s parents passing through trees are all rendered without excessive judder, and that’s particularly important given that there are no frame interpolation options when viewing 4K HDR content. Once you step down to Full HD, the projector’s native panel resolution, the option becomes available, but we wouldn’t advise taking the setting any further than Low.
We move to 1080p with The Imitation Game on Blu-ray, and the picture is still sharp. The close-ups during Alan Turing’s Bletchley interview are detailed and unaffected by noise or blur when the actors move. You can push the sharpness setting hard without the picture deteriorating, but the detail enhancement processors are best left towards the low end.
The colours and black depth are just as good as at 4K, and these sequences offer an excellent opportunity to show off this projector’s skills with dark detail. There’s plenty to be seen of Commander Denniston’s Navy peacoat and we can easily make out MI6’s Stewart Menzies when lurking by the curtains. The Enigma machine, with its thick-varnished wooden casing, has an obviously different texture to the highly polished mahogany table it sits on.
Even at standard-def, watching Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers on DVD, the big picture from this projector stands up well. The colour saturation needs a bit of a kick to get the fires of Mordor nice and vivid but, once adjusted, this epic adventure comes to life.
The upscaled detail is remarkably watchable even in complex shots, such as the close-ups of Aragorn and Theodon in the King’s hall in Rohan. We’re normally keen to end the SD portion of our testing, but the action is absorbing, and, before we know it, the film’s credits are rolling.
The Epson EH-TW7100 stretches the limit of what can be considered a budget big screen device, but it more than justifies its price. It’s easy to set up and install, and produces a picture that’s in line with the character, if not the class, of what you’ll get at the cinema.
That performance, combined with its luminance, connectivity options, flexibility and the available accessories, all add up to a superb family projector that will make an excellent addition to almost any home. You won’t find better in this class.
- Picture 5
- Features 5
- Build 5
Read our Optoma UHD40 review
Read our BenQ W2700 review
Read our Epson EH-TW9400 review