Review Price £2,899.99
Epson EH-TW9100 First Look
While many projection companies seem to be undergoing a period of forced hiatus or disappearing altogether, Epson appears to be going from strength-to-strength. At IFA 2012 this year it announced not just one or two new models but a near-total range revamp.
The new models include a new ultra-affordable, high brightness (3000 lumens) 720p 3D model, the £599 Epson TW550, with particular appeal to gamers; a new entry-level home cinema model, the full HD £899 TW5910; and new mid-range 3D home cinema projectors in the shape of the TW6100/TW6100W (£1299 and £1599 respectively).
Also incoming is a new 'upper mid' home cinema proposition, the TW8100. This delivers pretty much the same image quality as Epson's new flagship projectors but without making you pay for such 'enthusiast' touches as ISF calibration, and an anamorphic lens attachment option.
Enthusiasts that we are, though, the new Epson projectors that got us hottest under the collar during a fairly lengthy visit to the brand's IFA stand were the new £2,599 TW9100 and £2899 TW9100W range toppers.
Projector aficionados will know from last year's Epson 9000 series that the differences between the TW9100 and TW9100W are simply that one is black while the other is white, and that the model with the W at the end ships with a rather nifty supplied 'Wireless HDMI' full HD video transmission system.
Epson has managed to refine its LCD projection system for the TW9100 models to deliver two significant specification boosts over last year's equivalent models. Contrast is now rated at an extremely impressive 320,000:1 versus last year's 200,000:1, while brightness has enjoyed a more humble but still potentially useful increase of 100 Lumens.
The Epson EH-TW9100 models will ship with two pairs of 3D glasses as standard and are fully ISF certified, indicating that they can be professionally calibrated to best suit your particular screen/room setup. They can also be fitted with an anamorphic lens attachment for folk with 21:9-ratio screens.
Also welcome is this year's shift to RF transmissions from IR between the glasses and the projector. This provides a more stable signal and allows you to use other compatible brands of RF glasses.
Epson had a couple of booths set up with TW9100s running; one in an 'easy access' environment containing quite a lot of ambient light, and one tucked away in a closed, darkened room. And crucially the projectors impressed greatly in both configurations.
While we certainly very much liked last year's TW9000s, it was undeniable that in 3D mode its pictures lost quite a considerable chunk of brightness, making them not particularly well suited to viewing in any sort of ambient light. But while watching 3D on the Epson EH-TW9100, even in the lighter room we felt much less troubled by any lack of brightness - a key point that instantly made it easier to appreciate other outstanding strengths of its 3D pictures, such as punchy but extremely natural colours; a remarkably satisfying sense of depth and perspective; and genuinely outstanding sharpness, detail and clarity.
Since the 3D demo in the relatively bright room consisted of footage from one of the numerous 3D street dance movies that have appeared in recent years (sorry we can't be more precise on the film's title, but we struggle to differentiate between them), we were also able to appreciate the quality of the TW9100's 3D motion handling, which looked more natural and clean than that seen on the Panasonic PT-AT6000E projector during our recent pre-IFA demo of that model.
Switching to the darkened room set up and a 3D version of Despicable Me, the punch of the TW9100's 3D footage inevitably became even more pronounced and impressive. We did become aware of a bit of crosstalk ghosting noise during this part of the demo, but it wasn't overpowering by any means.
2D looks good too
Not surprisingly the TW9100 appears to excel in 2D mode as well, thanks in particular to a terrific level of contrast for what is still, ultimately, a fairly affordable projector considering the spec on offer.
The image's intense sharpness and detail resolution is also even more obvious in 2D mode, and the image truly 'pops' off the screen thanks to the way the projector retains its contrast while still serving up plenty of brightness.
Due to launch in November, the TW9100s will be beaten out of the traps by Panasonic's AT6000 rival. But from what we've seen so far, Epson's new movie maestros certainly look set to give the AT6000 a run for its money in the performance department - especially with 3D.