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Regular readers may have noticed that we were wowed at the recent IFA technology show in Berlin by Epson’s new high-end projectors, complete with brand new ‘reflective LCD’ technology. But the TW450 we’re looking at today is about as far away from those serious home cinema machines as you can get!
This is not, we should hastily add, necessarily an instant condemnation. It’s just important that we get the projector in its right context - which is that it’s designed for the casual user who fancies the odd bit of big-screen fun, most likely with a gaming console attached.
In fact, if you want to get a feel for just how Epson itself perceives this cheap (sub-£700) LCD projector, check out this promotional video.
It was with our trusty PS3 controller clutched firmly in our hands, then, that we set about the TW450 to see if it really is cheap and cheerful or just, well, cheap.
It’s perfectly designed for its target market, at any rate. Its footprint is startlingly small, it’s very light, it ships with a surprisingly decent carry bag, its shaping is just curvy enough to be funky, and it’s finished in a glossy black finish with lots of big white logos splashed all over that’s perfectly suited to the ‘boys toy’ market.
Its pretty canny about its connections, too, covering all the most likely bases a casual user might need. There’s a single HDMI for digital HD sources; a D-Sub PC jack for desktop gamers or people who fancy pumping the occasional work presentation through it (handy if you’re thinking of sneaking one through on expenses!); a USB port for direct playback of digital photos; and both S-Video and composite video feeds if you haven’t entered the HD digital age yet.
Turning to what’s going on inside the TW450, it’s big attraction is its 2500 Lumens of brightness (or Colour Light Output, to use Epson’s preferred terminology). This figure is huge, and has been made a feature of the TW450 because Epson believes - very reasonably - that a fundamentally casual projector like the TW450 will often end up being used in an environment where there’s some or even quite a lot of ambient light.
While the TW450‘s emphasis on brightness might be understandable, though, given its price level the brightness inevitably comes with a string attached, in the form of a rather compromised contrast performance. Epson - rather optimistically, we feel - rates the projector’s contrast ratio at 3,000:1, but in reality there’s really quite a bit of greyness hanging over dark scenes. We’ll return to this in more detail later.
The TW450’s native resolution is an HD-Ready 1280x720 rather than a full HD 1920x1080, but this is as we would expect for the TW450’s money. It’s reckoned to be capable of supporting a picture up to 318in across - just about conceivable given its brightness level - and claims up to 4000 hours of life from its 200W lamp, depending on whether you run it in its Eco or Normal brightness mode.