Time and time again Epson has proven itself a frontrunner in the budget projector market. But can it provide the ultimate big-screen thrill to warrant serious spending, too?
The EH-LS10000, the company’s flagship model, is out to try.
It’s a projector of firsts for the company. While Sony and JVC entered the laser projector market some time ago, this is Epson’s first projector to use a laser light source instead of the typical lamp.
Epson claims the laser engine will last for up to 30,000 hours in Eco mode – that’s a film per day for 41 years before it needs to be replaced.
It’s also the first to feature the company’s 4K Enhancement technology. But beware of the ‘4K’ label: the EH-LS10000 is only pseudo-4K; a native Full HD (1920 x 1080) projector that can accept 4K material.
The ‘enhancement’ technology claims to achieve ‘better than Full HD’ perceived-4K resolution by shifting each pixel diagonally by 0.5 pixels.
Does it work? In some ways, yes. The 4K clips we play look impressively clean and noise-free on our 96inch screen. People and objects have distinct, lifelike outlines and colours look faithful. The giveaway – and perhaps the deal-breaker for 4K purists – is its level of insight.
The pure 4K Sony VPL-VW300ES retrieves greater detail, even when the Epson's 4K enhancement setting is at its most intense.
The Epson’s real talents lie in its Full HD performance and this is where your investment is best rewarded.
On the spec sheet ‘Absolute Black’ replaces a number next to ‘contrast ratio’, but we wouldn’t say it’s misleading. Blacks really are some of the deepest we’ve seen at this level.
Put on the Unbroken Blu-ray and the whites in the Olympian-turned-war-hero’s running vest are as strong and dynamic as the blacks in his military attire. It’s a great asset, but the compromise is less detail.
Bumping down colour and experimenting with colour temperature (we prefer ‘Natural’) can be done with a THX Optimiser disc, though turning ‘Frame Interpolation’ to ‘medium’ is a must for getting rid of the disruptive motion instability.
‘Low’ doesn’t quite iron out the creases, while ‘high’ makes the picture look artificially silky.
Skin tones and colours are generally convincing: both rich and balanced. And everything from the red athletics track to the green warplanes and beige prisoner get-ups are nicely nuanced.
The picture is beautifully bright and punchy thanks to the Epson’s 1500 lumens, and myriad detail levels keep you transfixed by what you’re watching.
Under close scrutiny, however, the Sony VPL-VW300ES edges ahead with insight by a whisker.
3D can be played in either ‘Dynamic’ or ‘Cinema’ mode. There’s not much between the two – both produce an engagingly bright, clear and stable picture – but our preference is with to the latter for a subtler colour delivery. Two pairs of 3D glasses come supplied and extras can be purchased for £65 per pair.
Unlike its sibling in the company’s Pro Cinema range, the Epson LS9600e, it doesn’t have built-in wireless connectivity. Connections include a PC input for laptop hook-ups, a type-B USB for service and two HDMIs – officially 1.4, but they support 4K in the higher 50Hz and 60Hz that was brought by HDMI 2.0 as part of its improved standard.
Still, that doesn’t detract from the fact it’s a Full HD projector. Regardless, there’s no material out there yet with that frame rate.
Build and design
By projector standards, the EH-LS10000 is big, but Epson’s blueprint curves ensure it has beauty and not just bulk.
You know you’re dealing with state-of-the-art gear when an electric shutter opens upon start-up, giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside. It adds a touch of class that we can’t help but admire. Save for the mechanism’s momentary whirr, operation noise is largely minimal.
It shuts down instantly and starts up in a hurry, delivering a picture in well under the claimed 20 seconds nine times out of ten.
It’s a doddle to set-up too: the intuitive menus make flicking through the extensive settings manageable rather than off-putting.
On the left-hand side is a retractable push-in-pop-out panel revealing power, source, menu and lens adjustment buttons – handy for quick fixes if you’ve misplaced the remote.
We doubt you will, though. It’s a chunky tool with a stack of good-sized buttons for playing around with lens set-up and picture settings.
There are also shortcut keys to saved lens positions (it can store up to 10 in its memory), and a ‘P-in-P’ button, which enters ‘Picture in picture’ mode where content from two HDMI sources be projected onto the screen simultaneously.
Epson has some cracking projectors in its catalogue, and the EH-LS10000 is certainly worthy of its flagship title. It’s not as subtle or detailed as the rival Sony, but it delivers the wow factor you’d expect for £6000.
We’d like to see native 4K, though: despite the 4K enhancement technology doing its bit to surpass Full HD quality, those ready and willing to hop on the 4K bandwagon might be better off opting for the real deal.