With bright scenes, the Epson EH-TW5900 is a much better proposition. In fact, it looks good for its money, thanks to its impressive sharpness with HD material, much more natural and subtle colours than you see during dark scenes, and a level of brightness that goes well beyond that of your average budget projector.
You suddenly notice during bright scenes, too, that the projector handles motion very well for a budget projector model, with no serious judder issues but also no sense of unnatural fluidity. Motion just looks... right.
This being an LCD projector, there’s no trace of the rainbow noise common with cheap DLP projectors either, and provided you don’t try and push the image beyond around 120-130in, you don’t feel aware of any overt pixel structure distractions unless you’re sat too close to the screen.
Switching to our favourite 3D discs, the EH-TW5900 performs better relative to the competition than it does in its 2D mode. Crosstalk, while certainly not non-existent, is seldom remotely distracting unless you go actively looking for it. Detail levels are good too, even if the picture looks a bit softer than the best 3D projection images we’ve seen.
Colours are bold if a little short on subtlety, and the picture’s contrast ironically looks much richer thanks to the way the darkening effect of the active 3D glasses counters some of the greyness noted with 2D viewing.
The glasses do, it must be said, knock a considerable chunk of brightness out of the TW5900’s pictures. But this is true of pretty much any 3D projection system - and the majority of 3D TVs too.
One final positive thing to add about the Epson EH-TW5900 is that it runs extremely quietly for a bright budget projector - especially if you stick with its Eco lamp setting (except for when you’re watching 3D), and you haven’t activated the grating dynamic iris.
If you’re really into 3D and can’t find more than a grand then the Epson EH-TW5900 isn’t a bad option, as its 3D performance, at least, delivers more than you might reasonably expect for its money.
However, a pretty unsatisfying black level response severely dents its 2D pictures, to the point where we’d strongly recommend that serious film fans try and find a bit more money for, say, Epson’s TW6000 if you can. The only exception to this could be if the room your projector is going into has very light walls, where the lack of black level won't be so noticeable due to your general viewing conditions.
Overall the Epson EH-TW5900 seems to confirm a feeling we’ve had for a while now, namely that at the budget end of the projection market at least, the demands of making a projector deliver convincing 3D pictures can be hard to reconcile with the demands of making really excellent 2D pictures.