LCD might be winning the technology battle in the TV world, but when it comes to projection it’s historically tended to lose out with AV aficionados to its arch rival, DLP. Not that Epson has any truck with such thinking, mind you.
It’s stuck doggedly to LCD, delivering some extremely persuasive models along the way. But nothing even Epson has done before has prepared us for what its TW5500 brings to the table.
Substance over style
Not that the projector looks particularly cutting edge – it has a matt-black finish, unimaginative lines and is fairly hefty. To be brutally frank, it looks like an overgrown business projector.
The large vent on the front raises concerns about potential light spillage, too. Just as well that chunky body makes up for what it lacks in style in functionality.
The TW5500’s connections get the ball rolling, thanks to their inclusion of two HDMI inputs, a dedicated PC jack and a 12V trigger for driving a motorised screen.
It’s when you start to look at what’s going on inside the TW5500, though, that its high price by LCD standards really starts to be explained.
Two layers are better than one
Particularly notable is the projector’s new dual-layer notched iris. This clever little innovation lets the projector adjust the light being output through the lens – an essential component of delivering a good contrast range from an LCD projector – in two stages rather than just one, enabling really steep brightness adjustments to take place without the distracting flickering effect that would otherwise occur.
If you want to put some numbers on exactly how big a difference the dual-layer iris makes, the TW5500 claims a ground-breakingly huge 200,000:1 contrast ratio (compared to 75,000:1 on its predecessor).
Given that achieving a truly believable black colour is one of the most important aspects of home cinema projection, the TW5500 is already off to a specification flyer.
But its love for movies certainly doesn’t end with the clever iris; it also employs the acclaimed HQV third-party video processing engine, 12-bit video processing, enough set-up options to be professionally calibrated by an engineer from the Imaging Science Foundation, and frame interpolation processing. All clever stuff.
A farewell to judder
The idea behind this system is that if you add carefully calculated extra frames of image data to those provided by your video source, you can reduce the judder that pictures – especially during 24p Blu-ray playback – can suffer with.
And we might as well tell you now that Epson’s frame interpolation system works superbly well, really enhancing motion fluidity and making action scenes markedly clearer as a result.
Some people hate motion processing as a matter of course. So for these people we’re happy to say that the TW5500 actually handles motion well even with the motion processing turned off.
But so successfully and cleanly does the TW5500’s frame interpolation do its work that we’d even urge the most cynical of processing haters to try the system out at least once. You might just be surprised.
Back to black
The dual-layer iris, meanwhile, has a sensational effect on the TW5500’s contrast. For while pictures are superbly bright and impactful where source material is mostly light, they also deliver some of the deepest, most convincing black colours ever seen in the affordable projection world.
Yet more good news comes with the TW5500’s colours, which combine high-impact saturations with subtle blends and natural tones.
All this and we haven’t yet mentioned how extraordinarily sharp the TW5500’s HD pictures look – especially if you’ve done away with judder thanks to the motion compensation processing.
With the TW5500 also delivering its exceptional pictures without running anywhere near as noisily as we might expect, really the only negative we can think of regarding its performance is that the ‘Super Resolution’ option should be avoided, as it makes pictures look too gritty and edges look forced. Blimey, talk about grasping at straws.