Looking back at it now, the Epson TW9000W projector was quite a watershed product. For as well as redefining the 2D and especially 3D picture quality we could expect for under £3,000 (forcing JVC to get its prices similarly low), it also introduced the brilliant idea of wireless HD video transmission to a projector for the first time.
We’re pretty stoked, then, by the arrival on our projector stand today of the TW9000W’s eagerly anticipated sequel, the TW9100W. Especially as this new projector comes packing a more flexible version of the wireless HD system and a contrast ratio that rises from the TW9000W’s already impressive 200,000:1 to the heady heights of 320,000:1.
Admittedly this figure isn’t a ‘native’ one like the 100,000:1 and higher figures quoted by some of JVC’s D-ILA home cinema projectors now, meaning it relies on a dynamic contrast/iris system for its contrast claims and so could suffer with brightness instability and a lack of punch and shadow detail during dark scenes. There’s also no avoiding the fact that Panasonic’s AT6000E projector claims an even higher dynamic contrast of 500,000:1. But the bottom line is that 320,000:1 is still a very large figure for an LCD projector, and should hopefully result in pictures that look extremely dynamic and enjoy a profound black level response.
Aesthetically the TW9100W is pretty much identical to its predecessor. Which is no bad thing, since its combination of a white main top and side plate, contrasting black front edge, large centrally mounted lens and subtly rounded edges make for a projector that’s really easy on the eye. Just bear in mind that it’s got quite a large footprint for a relatively affordable projector.
The TW9100W’s connectivity initially looks in line with that of the TW9000W too, with its rear boasting highlights of two HDMIs, component video inputs, plus RS-232 control port and 12V trigger output installation aids.
However, there’s a big surprise in store when you look at the TW9100W’s WirelessHD transmitter. For while the HD video transmitter on the TW9000W only carried one HDMI, the larger one you get with the TW9100W remarkably carries no less than five HDMI inputs. This means it’s effectively a very handy HDMI switchbox, allowing you to shift between as many as five different video sources just by cycling through them using a set of buttons at the bottom of the (large, backlit and well laid out) main projector remote control.
The potential convenience of being able to connect up to five sources to the TW9100W without having to worry about trailing five separate cables right around or across a potentially large room really can’t be overstated, and seems at this stage at least to make the £300 price premium the TW9100W commands over the non-WirelessHD TW9100 seem like money well spent.
The multi-HDMI streaming is supported by an onscreen menu, which even shows you what video is playing through each input via a row of small, selectable ‘windows’.
The actual process of picking which of the input ‘windows’ you want to watch is a touch faffy, but it’s hard to be churlish about this when the TW9100W is trying so hard to make our lives easier in so many ways. You don’t even need to worry about placing an external WirelessHD receiver somewhere near the projector, as the necessary receiver is built into its bodywork.
As is the TW9100W’s 3D transmitter. For yes, as with its predecessor, the TW9100W plays active 3D pictures. It even ships with two pairs of 3D glasses - pretty generous given its aggressive sub-£3,000 pricing.
The convenience pointed to by the wireless HD transmission and HDMI switching is backed up by the simplicity of the TW9100W’s other main set up areas. For instance, it features simple and robust zoom and focus wheels accessible through its top edge, and at 2.1x the level of optical zoom available is excellent, making it easy to adapt the TW9100W to a wide range of room and screen sizes.
Also supported are vertical and horizontal optical image shifting, and this is extensive enough to mean that in the vast majority of cases users won’t have to resort to using the projector’s keystone correction system (which essentially distorts the picture).
The TW9100W’s onscreen menus, meanwhile, are very good for the most part. They’re easy to read and generally divide options across their submenus fairly sensibly, and they harmonise nicely with the tactile remote control.
Delving into the menus’ features uncovers plenty of genuinely useful calibration aids - along with a few intriguing oddities. The immediately useful stuff includes a series of Kelvin-based colour temperature presets (including the best-for-video 6500K); Eco and normal settings for the lamp output; a series of straightforward gamma settings; offset and gain adjustments for the RGB colour elements; hue/saturation/brightness adjustments for the RGBCMY colour elements; a skin tone adjustment; and a trio of colour gamut settings covering the HDTV, EBU and SMPTE-C systems.