With the birth of Blu-ray comes the re-birth of home cinema projectors, but until now affordable Full HD 1080p models have been very expensive. Leading the charge in the circa-£1000 market comes Epson with its feature-rich TW2900, a no-nonsense projector that tries to take the fear out of huge home cinema.
It does that primarily with a novel lens shift system. Two manual levers sit above the lens - play around with them to create a huge (up to 300-inch) and accurate image on a screen or wall even if the TW2900 itself is placed well off-centre. It makes it possible to consider placing it on a small table or shelf, though its meaty dimensions probably preclude the latter option.
Small projectors can often be hot and noisy, problems that the TW2900 skillfully avoids despite its high brightness (1600 ANSI lumens) that allows it to be used in less-than-blackout conditions.
Image-wise, the TW2900 is a good value performer. Using 3LCD tech, it's fitted with an all-new D7 panel and features a 10-bit Pixelworks video processor alongside a feast of connectivity options. A couple of HDMI inputs seems reasonable at this price, especially since a games console can be hooked-up via its Component video input. Also available on the TW2900's rear are ports for S-Video, Composite video and a D-Sub 15-pin input for a PC. Also back there is a RS-232 port so control of the TW2900 can be built into expensive "one button" home cinema control systems from the likes of Crestron and AMX. You know the kind of thing - press "movie" and the blinds fall, the lights dim and the movie starts playing.
Back in the real world, the TW2900 makes a good stab at Blu-ray, showing more than enough detail and sharpness from Full HD sources to make movies very enjoyable. We've seen other projectors draw out more detail - and produce a more contrast-heavy picture - but not at this low price.
Brighter fare is handled supremely well, and aside from occasional blur and flicker over tiny moving objects, the picture is excellent; colours are rich and close-ups of people realistic. It's all very cinematic, but it could do with a slightly smoother feel.
It's the kind of picture you'd find selling for over £2,000 barely a year ago, though Epson is by no means alone in issuing value-busting Full HD 1080p models.
If the TW2900's price and lack of pure brilliance makes it well suited to the mass market, there is a nod to home cinema nuts with bigger ambitions. Just like the Philips 21:9 LCD TV we've reviewed previously, the TW2900 can be adapted to watch Cinemascope-size movies (also called letterbox or anamorphic 2.35:1) via a special anamorphic wide mode, though for that you will need to buy a third party anamorphic lens. These go for at least a few grand, and if you're prepared to spend that much, it's probably best to go for a higher-end projector, too.
What the TW2900 lacks in perfect contrast and detailing it makes up packaging together simplicity of use with a consistently impressive image that will impress most users.
It's no benchmark beamer, but as a mainstream attempt at bringing Full HD projection into a realistic price bracket, Epson's TW2900 proves an excellent choice.