Epson PowerLite TW100 LCD front projector Page 2

Picture Quality
Given the preponderance of component-video connections from DVD players, I can't imagine why anyone would want to watch composite video through this projector. But if you do, you'll be pleased with the effectiveness of Epson's comb filter. Using the Zone Plate sequence from Video Essentials, I saw no color moiré except in the moving target. The 300- and 400-line patterns were clean whether the disc was moving or paused—very few LCD projectors provide that level of composite decoding. Selecting S-video and component inputs yielded even cleaner images, with good detail and contrast.

A 480i multiburst pattern showed that the TW100 had sufficient bandwidth to handle as much detail as a DVD can deliver. In 720p mode, both luminance and chrominance signals were clean at 18.5MHz, and I saw a little smearing at 37.5MHz. With a 1080i multiburst signal I saw some thickened lines at 18.5MHz, but the 37.5MHz pattern was clean. The TW100 should pass just about all of the signal from any HD source.

The deinterlacing in the TW100 was quite effective. Epson has provided two deinterlacing modes: Film/Auto and Video; I found it best to leave Film/Auto selected. You also get five different motion-compensation selections. Its motion-compensation circuit worked as well as the Panasonic DVD-RP56 in 480p mode in eliminating artifacts from the waving-flag sequence on Video Essentials. It also cleaned up most of these artifacts from the bridge zoom-in and panning sequences, and the pan across rows of empty seats at Veterans Stadium. The manual recommends using lower values of motion compensation for still images (well, that's helpful!), and higher values for fast-moving film sequences. In my tests, I found the middle setting, "3," to be as effective as any for a wide range of DVDs and video sources.

There are also two digital noise-reduction choices. I left the digital noise-reduction set to Off, as neither of my DVD players is particularly noisy. However, this control may help with composite-video sources such as VHS tape, cable, and over-the-air TV.

Once the TW100 was tuned up (see sidebar, "Calibration"), I was very pleased with its color quality and gray-scale performance. However, it did have a slight red push with video sources. After calibration for color bars, I decreased the color saturation by about 10% to compensate for this reddish bias.

The TW100's overall picture quality was diminished by only one thing: the "screen-door effect" created by all LCD projector panels. Granted, the pixel density is high and the pixel pitch is small, but compared to an equivalent 1280¥720 DLP projector, the TW100 had a more noticeable pixel structure. In some cases, I could diminish this effect by slightly defocusing the image. The 1.3:1 projection lens had good enough focus uniformity to let me get away with this trick.

Another shortcoming of LCD (and DLP) projectors is their inability to show much detail at low luminance levels. The TW100 was similarly affected. Of course, raising its brightness level boosted shadow detail but compressed the projector's gray scale and crushed white levels at the high end. As a result, DVDs such as The Fifth Element and Men In Black suffered during nighttime scenes, while well-lit movies like Toy Story 2 and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me looked much better.

HDTV programs with evenly distributed lighting also projected well. My D-VHS recordings of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and several CBS and NBC sports events reproduced beautifully, but a recording of Alias had many dark scenes with little or no shadow detail.

Assuming you don't mind the screen-door effect common to LCD projectors, the Epson PowerLite TW100's three-panel LCD color-imaging system is, in my opinion, always preferable to the segmented color wheel used in DLP projectors at similar prices. That's because there's no flicker observed in bright scenes, and no brief glimpses of rainbow artifacts when you blink your eyes.

If you're interested in a reasonably priced front projector for your home theater that has an adequate number of inputs and the necessary controls for tweaking the image, the TW100 is definitely worth a look. It's less expensive than Sony's new VPL-VW12HT ($6499) [full review scheduled—TJN], but with all the functionality and more image adjustments. The PowerLite TW100 is a very good value that can give higher-priced home-theater projectors a run for their money.