Until recently the idea of replacing the large television in the corner of the room with a projector has always been a fantasy, but with prices of projectors coming down in price and the technology getting better however the chance to rid yourself of the TV and replace it with something you might find in the local pub is fast becoming reality.
In steps the home/user friendly Toshiba ET1. From the moment you get it out of the box to the moment you turn it off after watching your first life size movie you know that this model is geared at that consumer and projector newbie.
First off is the shape. Gone it seems, the days when projectors were boring, square blocks of beige that threw out an image. The Toshiba ET1 is circular, white and well styled for something that you are going to want to grace your living room décor. Combined within the design is a titling stand rather similar to the ones you use to find on CRT monitors and this makes it ideal for changing the viewing angle of the projection with ease and without the hassle of raising one foot one side and then having to try and match it on the other. It also means however that Toshiba expects you to have this unit sitting on the coffee table (you can ceiling mount it if you want) to bring out every time you want to watch television or a movie rather than being a permanent fixture as there is no locking mechanism once you've got it set.
For those who can't be bothered connecting the projector to an amplifier, the unit comes with two 5W speakers to get you out of trouble. Testing them with a variety of movies and games we wouldn't suggest relying on them to give you a home cinema experience, however rather like a digital zoom on a digital camera, they are suitable enough to get you out of trouble if you really can stretch the audio cable that far.
When it comes to the projection of your feed, the ET1 offers plenty of options. Furthermore its ability to work in a confined space- you only need to be 75cm away from the wall to project an image again shows that this is for the small living room rather than the conference hall or home cinema set up- means that you can be up and running even in the smallness of hovels. However a small minimum area does affect the maximum area and the ET1 is only capable of projecting up to 100in from a 2.5metre range before the picture decides to go a bit awry. For most this will be fine and 100in is still enough at this level of projector and for the home user.
Inputs include component video, S-video, composite video, a service port, stereo and audio imputs, a 15-pin PC jack and more interestingly an RGB-capable Scart socket.
Using the projector was very straightforward thanks to an easy to use menu system and on the most parts an automated setup. Further tweaking can be done either on the control panel on the projector itself or via the included remote control.
In tests the projector faired very well with a variety of test footage. Whether it was a DVD movie or X-box game the 600:1 contrast ratio provided bright and well balanced images with some depth, not as much depth as the 3000:1 offered on the HCT1100 from NEC, but then this is one third of the price.
The ability to project in a 16:9 widescreen format helped with films and widescreen television broadcasts, however like most projectors we would recommend a darken room to get the best results.
Overall this is one hell of a projector for the price if you are looking for some big picture movie and gaming fun. Okay so it isn't up there with the more advanced cinema models, but then for most of us we don't need the more advanced cinema models. What we want is something that is affordable and works and luckily for Toshiba the ET1 does just that.