Setting the Epson EH-TW5900 up is a hit and miss experience. On the upside, its three screw down legs are fairly effective at making the projector sit evenly on a shelf, coffee table or projection stand. However, the TW5900 doesn’t have any vertical image shifting, which can make positioning the projector in just the right place to suit your screen very difficult unless you’re willing to distort the image by using keystone correction - which is not something we’d ever recommend.
To be fair, precious few - if any - sub-£1000 projectors have vertical image shifting. But its absence on the TW5900 is made to look more strange by the fact that its onscreen menus are startlingly well stocked with image calibration tools, including extensive gamma adjustments and a pretty fulsome colour management system.
Taking colour control
This colour management system proves handy, as it happens, for in its out of the box state the Epson EH-TW5900’s colours are a touch off-kilter, with slightly pink skin tones and over-egged reds and greens.
After a little work, though, we felt in a position to properly assess the TW5900’s performance. And to be honest, our first feeling was one of disappointment.
The first thing we fed it - possibly rather harshly - was the Blu-ray of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: a film that’s quite possibly the most consistently dark film we’ve ever seen. And the TW5900 struggled, for one simple but glaringly obvious reason: a fairly profound lack of black level depth.
Dark scenes look as if they’re constantly appearing behind a grey-blue cloud - a fact which instantly and constantly makes them look too unnatural to get entirely involved in. Especially as the grey sheen also obliterates from the picture quite substantial amounts of the shadowy detailing that gives dark scenes a sense of depth and space.
The greyish-blue ‘coating’ to dark scenes also harms the projector’s colour reproduction, with hues generally looking slightly flatter and less life-like with dark fare than they do during bright scenes.
You can improve the projector’s black level performance a bit - though not massively - if you call in the dynamic iris system. However, this presents a problem, since you can clearly hear the iris opening and closing during quiet parts of films. Especially if you use the standard rather than high-speed dynamic iris setting. Also, even if you can tolerate the grating noises the dynamic iris makes, you will additionally have to put up with dark parts of the picture looking even more devoid of detail than they do without the dynamic iris active.
Time to think higher?
At this point it’s important to remember that the Epson EH-TW5900 does only cost £900, and that the step-up TW6000 also didn’t have the greatest black level response despite costing at least £300 more. However, the TW6000’s contrast remains sufficiently superior to that of the TW5900 to make us feel that the extra money it costs is well worth saving up.
There are also sub-£1k DLP projectors around now that deliver much better black level response than the TW5900 - though these tend to trouble you with DLP’s rainbow effect too.