Gone are the days when you need to think about emptying your bank account and a decent chunk of your living room furniture to add a projector to your home cinema setup – the Epson EH-TW5300 not only comes in under £500, but it’s also compact enough to squeeze its way into most racks, cupboards or even on to a coffee table.
Build and features
It’s pretty inoffensive in its looks too, featuring a glossy white plastic outer shell, with enough curves to keep it easy on the eye.
There’s a small opening in the top where you’ll find the 1.2x zoom and manual focus controls, plus a slider for controlling lens shift (which you’ll need if you have the projector at an angle).
Connectivity is pretty good for a budget projector, and includes two HDMI inputs (one with MHL support for smartphones), as well as an input each for VGA, composite video and USB. There’s also a single audio out for shifting sound away from the rather weedy built-in 5W mono speaker.
The EH-TW5300 also packs some rather impressive specs for its price, namely a claimed 2,200-lumen brightness, 35,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and a lamp life of up to 7,000 hours.
With the longevity of LCD projectors being one of the downsides compared to their DLP counterparts, to see this sort of figure is reassuring.
Set-up is about as plug and play as it gets. There’s no test pattern, so we choose a bright picture on a Blu-ray and use that to fit it to our 96in screen.
It’s a relatively short throw projector, offering a pretty large picture (up to 300in) from not too far away. We set it on a table in front of our seating position and use the pop-out leg and two feet to adjust the picture into position. The keystone adjustment does a great job in aligning the picture to our screen, but there are manual controls for more tweaks.
With the picture in position, we choose the ‘cinema’ picture mode for the best colour balance, then set about calibrating the picture more accurately using our trusty THX Optimizer disc.
While we’d usually suggest you turn off all picture processing, we do opt to switch on Epson Super White, which delivers a little more nuance. Even with it on, whites look a little on the unsubtle side, but it does help to add more depth to the likes of clouds and waves.
There’s not much to help adjust the blacks though, which suffer from a similar issue of being somewhat indiscriminate in their detail. You’ll need to push brightness up higher than you’d want to get any real distinction in the shadows, which in turn affects overall black level.
Putting the projector in ‘eco’ mode gives blacks more depth, but is still isn’t capable of getting as dark as we’d like, meaning low-light scenes look a little washed out.
This is an issue with budget projectors in general though, and for better performance, you’re simply going to have to spend more.
The same goes for detail levels. There’s enough here for the price, but it’s not a hugely insightful picture. Skin-tones look a little smoothed and textures softer than you’ll see on something more capable.
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Colours are well judged though, with the EH-TW5300 showing real adeptness at balancing subtle shades with a richer, punchier colour palette. Colours look a touch on the muted side in darker scenes, but it’s nothing to grumble about.
We don’t notice any real issues with motion, so steer well clear of the motion processing options, but there is some picture noise at times. There’s a noise-reduction option in the menu but we find this affects the overall detail too much – a trade off we’re not willing to make.
Other niggles come by way of a remote that isn’t backlit, making it tricky to use in the dark, and the projector running rather noisily in ‘normal’ lamp mode – if your room is dark enough, you’ll want to keep it in ‘eco’ for the quietest performance.
Once again though, these are things you have to accept with this price tag – this is about as budget as budget projectors get, and despite our complaints its picture is perfectly watchable.
We still want more from the black level and greater detail throughout for it to score the full five stars, but if you’re keen to get the big screen experience for under £500, you could just find the Epson EH-TW5300 scratches that itch.
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