- Cute, small design
- Bright, colourful pictures
- Runs quietly in Eco lamp mode
- Below par black-level response
- Runs noisily in Normal lamp mode
- Colours affected by greyness during dark scenes
Key Features: LCD projector; Full HD native resolution; 2200 lumens max brightness; 1.2x optical zoom; Claimed 35000:1 contrast ratio
What is the Epson EH-TW5300?
The EH-TW5300 is an LCD projector designed with home-entertainment in mind. Despite costing only £580/$870, key features include a high 2,200 lumens of claimed brightness, a Full HD resolution, a dynamic contrast ratio claimed to be 35,000:1, MHL mobile phone connectivity and 3D playback.
Design and Features
Aesthetically, the EH-TW5300 will be perfectly at home on a coffee table. It leaves a relatively small footprint by projector standards, and what there is of its chassis is easy on the eye thanks to its curvy frame, rounded edges and a high-gloss white finish.
What sits slightly uncomfortably is how the silver-metal trim surrounding the lens is straightened off by the unit’s edging, but you’re sort of distracted from it by the tasteful detailing of the lens mount.
A large vent sits on the left side of the fascia, which raises initial concerns about potential light spillage. Happily, it turns out that the only thing escaping through this will be heat.
The lens itself looks promisingly large for such an affordable projector, while a large hole cut in the top panel provides access to simple and reasonably responsive zoom and focus rings.
Turning to the EH-TW5300’s rear, you’ll find a good set of connections. Highlights include two HDMIs (one with MHL support), a VGA input, a USB 2.0 port, and a composite video input (although I’d recommend you avoid using this if at all possible).
The USB port can be used for connecting USB storage devices or compatible digital cameras for playing slideshows directly through the projector.
You might be interested to know that there’s a £599/$899 variant on the EH-TW5300, the EH-TW5350, which adds Wi-Fi Direct and Miracast to the connectivity options, as well as the ability to control the projector via the Epson iProjector iOS/Android app.
The EH-TW5300 is well specified for its money. As we pointed out at the start of the review, it claims to be capable of shunting out an impressive 2,200 lumens of brightness – although this drops to 1,500 lumens under the Eco lamp output setting. Plus, Epson is keen to stress that this brightness applies equally to colour and white light; there’s no compromise here as you get with rival, single-chip DLP technology as a result of its colour-wheel system.
While we’re on the subject of LCD versus DLP projectors, the EH-TW5300 will be immune to the latter’s rainbow effect issues too – although the EH-TW5300’s image can be expected to degrade more over its lifetime than tends to be the case with DLP projectors.
The EH-TW5300’s claimed contrast figure of 35,000:1 is eye-catchingly high for a sub-£600/$900 projector, even if it’s only achieved via a dynamic iris system that adjusts the light output in response to the image content.
I was also struck by the projector’s claimed lamp life of 7,500 hours (in Economy mode), which is almost twice as high as the lamp lives quoted by many rivals.
The EH-TW5300 supports 3D playback if you add a pair of optional active shutter 3D glasses, and the 3D playback is supported by a 480Hz driving system to reduce crosstalk ghosting noise.
Perhaps the most surprising discovery on the EH-TW5300 given its price is a frame interpolation processor, designed to calculate extra frames of video to remove judder. Whether this processing system turns out to be a help or a hindrance remains to be seen.
One last feature to mention here is the inclusion of a built-in speaker. However, its mono 5W output means it’s unlikely to be able to compete with the surprisingly decent sound emitted from some of BenQ and Optoma’s latest projectors.
When it comes to physical setup aids, the EH-TW5300 is hit and miss. There’s a decent 1.2X optical zoom for this level of the market, and a physical slider for adjusting keystone to get the sides of your image straight. There are also screw-down feet at each rear corner and a drop-down leg under the centre of the front edge.
The zoom and focus rings are accessed through an opening in the top panel, and respond reasonably accurately to small movements.
However, there’s no optical vertical image shift to help you lift or lower the image into the right place on your wall or screen. To be fair, this isn’t a feature you’d normally find on more affordable projectors – although the £659/$989 BenQ W1110 I recently tested did come with a vertical shift.
The EH-TW5300’s on-screen menus manage to provide a surprisingly varied number of picture setup tools, including colour management, a series of themed presets, Normal and Eco lamp settings and a two-level Dynamic Iris system. They even feature some video-processing options including frame interpolation, detail enhancement, noise reduction and MPEG noise reduction.
Most of your calibration tricks will, for reasons discussed in the picture quality section, focus on trying to get more black level out of the projector. But really the only useful options are to set the lamp to Eco for anything approaching dark-room conditions, and leave the Auto Iris set to its Normal mode (the Fast mode tends to be too frenetic and causes a lot of noise from the projector’s dynamic iris).
You can try nudging down the brightness to a level around the early 40s, although this tends to affect the colour balance and shadow detail a bit too heavily. The 46 level used by the Cinema mode is probably as low as most people will want to take the brightness.
Other tips would be to turn of all noise-reduction processing, at least when watching HD, and to use the Frame Interpolation system for sport – and even then, only on its Low setting.
While there’s plenty to like about the EH-TW5300’s pictures, ultimately, they’re undermined by a single but crucial flaw: poor black-level response.
With its high claimed contrast ratio, I’d hoped that the EH-TW5300 might overcome the usual black-level issues that affect affordable LCD projectors. But this wasn’t to be.
Dark scenes and dark areas of otherwise bright scenes both looked significantly washed out and grey. Immediately this made them look unrealistic and, as a result, hard to engage with.
So severe is the lack of black level that it inevitably impacts the projector’s colour performance. In dark scenes, the constant infusion of greyness leaves dark colours and skin tones looking muted and “off-key”.
This isn’t such an issue if you’re using the projector in a fairly bright room. However, it’s still there – especially since it has such a “cooling” effect on dark scene colour temperature. Also, there’s no getting round the fact that we’ve seen other similarly priced projectors – including the recently tested BenQ W1110 – perform much better in dark rooms while still being very watchable in ambient light.
One other, lesser issue with the EH-TW5300’s LCD pictures when compared with those produced by DLP projectors we’ve seen recently is that they leave you feeling a little more aware of the image’s pixel structure. This is particularly an issue over diagonal and curved lines, where you can see greater jaggedness in the EH-TW5300’s images.
The TW5300’s black-level issues are made all the more maddening by the fact that, in many other ways, its pictures are pretty decent.
Bright scenes, for instance, look impressively dynamic and rich, with some striking colour and peak white brightness. Although colours look a little off-key in dark scenes, they look credible as well as punchy in bright scenes.
HD sources look phenomenally crisp too, as well as jam-packed with detail. What’s more, much of this detailing remains visible during dark scenes, despite the impact of the grey clouding. This ensures that dark scenes at least enjoy similar sense of depth as bright scenes, even if they still look unnatural for other reasons.
This clarity extends to the projector’s motion reproduction, which looks clean – it’s only troubled by quite natural amounts of judder. If you wish, you can remove judder almost completely by using the Frame Interpolation system on its mid or high setting. However, the result will be some unwanted processing side effects such as haloing around moving objects or shimmering over moving backgrounds.
The unwanted side effects reduce using the Low frame interpolation setting, but the picture seems to stutter every few frames in a way that’s more distracting than the slight judder the feature is meant to counteract.
It’s worth reminding you, too, that the LCD technology at the EH-TW5300’s heart is immune to both the rainbow effect striping and the low-level green speckling noise that can affect some cheap DLP projectors.
It is, overall, easy to see from the EH-TW5300 that Epson knows its way around a projected video image. However, it’s also apparent that in order to get to this level of Epson projector technology, where its colour, sharpness and detail strengths are joined by a satisfying contrast performance, you’ll need to spend more than the asking price of the EH-TW5300.
3D Picture Quality
The EH-TW5300 is actually at its best in 3D mode. The dimming effect of Epson’s rechargeable 3D glasses – should you buy them – subdues the projector’s black-level shortcomings quite effectively, leaving you free to enjoy the surprisingly detailed and sharp quality of the 3D pictures on display.
This sharpness is only very rarely besmirched by any crosstalk ghosting noise, while – using the default settings – the projector’s brightness stops it from looking dull and devoid of shadow detail.
The only issue here is that the default setting sets the lamp to its Normal level. This results in a huge surge in noise from the onboard cooling fans – so much so that you may well prefer to turn down the lamp to Eco for 3D, even though this inevitably results in a dimmer image and some slightly hollow dark areas.
On the upside, the EH-TW5300’s audio sounds more powerful than you might expect from a mono 5W speaker. Voices sound reasonably clear, even during action scenes, and there’s a surprising amount of audio detail too.
Bass is at a premium, however, and the speaker can distort at high volumes. Worse, unlike some of the other projectors we’ve tested recently, the EH-TW5300’s sound doesn’t project far beyond the physical confines of the projector. This means it invariably sounds hugely dislocated from the pictures it’s supposed to be accompanying.
Other Things to Consider
Considering projectors are by their nature best used in a dark room, it’s a pity that the remote control Epson provides with the EH-TW5300 doesn’t carry any button backlighting. Such a shortcoming is exacerbated by its rather crowded layout, which makes it all too easy to press the wrong button by mistake when you can’t fully see what you’re doing.
In terms of running noise, the EH-TW5300’s abilities depend greatly on the lamp mode you’re using. In Normal mode – as noted in the 3D section of the review – the cooling fans make quite a distracting racket rated at around 37dB. In Eco mode, however, the noise drops to just 27dB (on a par with the recently tested BenQ W1110 and W2000) and is hardly ever a distraction.
There is an issue with noise elsewhere, however. For with the Auto Iris active – which is necessary to try to counter the worst of the EH-TW5300’s black-level shortcomings – you can clearly hear some distracting clicking and squeaking noises as the iris goes about its light-adjusting business.
Finally, if you’re of the opinion – not unreasonably – that the EH-TW5300 might make for a highly affordable big-screen video gaming display, you’ll be pleased to hear that input lag is in the region of 30ms. This is provided you turn off all the image processing apart from the auto iris. This is a pretty tidy result for an LCD projector, and one that shouldn’t leave you too exposed when going toe to toe in Call Of Duty with people using dedicated gaming monitors.
Should I buy the Epson EH-TW5300?
The EH-TW5300 could find a market with people looking for a cheap projector to go into a room that can’t be completely blacked-out. Its lack of black-level depth is really its only serious image problem, so if you’re unlikely to be using it such circumstances it’s going to be particularly noticeable, then the TW5300 is worth considering.
However, if you’re looking for a serious gaming or movie-viewing machine, you’d be better served by the Optoma HD28DSE and BenQ W1110 for example, which adapt better to dark-room environments and don’t generate anything like as much dynamic iris noise.
The EH-TW5300 certainly looks the part, and initially it performs well too. However, a grating lack of black-level response accompanied by a distractingly noisy dynamic iris means that true movie fans would be better looking elsewhere.
Scores In Detail
- 2D Image Quality : 6/10
- 3D Image Quality : 8/10
- Design : 8/10
- Features : 7/10
- Value : 7/10