Epson EH-TW4400 projector

LCD has virtually replaced plasma TVs in the mass market (less than one in ten use the original flat TV tech) by getting technically better, and 3LCD projectors are looking to do the same in home cinema projection.

It’s got a long way to go because a lot of traditionalists favour DLP technology for its unbeatable cinematic treatment of video, especially high-def. But DLP has two problems. Firstly, it can cause a lot of people (this reviewer included) to see rainbows across the screen, and secondly, it’s now got the EH-TW4400 to contend with.

The creator of 3LCD tech, which is also used by the likes of Panasonic and Sanyo, Epson has been putting its invention to good use in recent years by releasing a long line of beamers that have slowly improved on a few of the tech’s old problems; blur and contrast.

The EH-TW4400 - a big and bulky projector available only in gloss white - has a quoted 130,000:1 contrast ratio. That may sound overblown and, frankly, hugely exaggerated, but behind the hyperbole the EH-TW4400 does deliver.

In our tests shaded areas of the image, as well as dingy movie scenes, did contain lots of detail. That skill with contrast also contributes to a colour palette that is nothing if not very cinematic. Although good with bright, outdoor or animated footage, the EH-TW4400 also proves adept with murkier fare such as Batman Begins and The Bourne Supremacy.

Another reason to buy the EH-TW4400 is its frame insertion circuitry. That may not sound very exciting, but it’s a huge breakthrough for 3LCD tech. We’ve seen it fail before on many LCD TVs and projectors, but here the process of inserting frames of video - with the aim of banishing blur and jerky movements that regularly blight Blu-ray - is done in a subtle, yet intelligent way that leaves the final image looking spotless. That’s crucial because incessant flicker and distortion around moving parts of the picture ruin almost all other incarnations of frame insertion.

With its high-def picture quality in the bag, the EH-TW4400 builds-in a few other features to tempt. Most are finishing touches that make projection at home a lot easier to stomach; its 1-2.1 zoom lens can be manually shifted - using levers on the top of the product - both vertically and horizontally. This allows you to put the projector almost anywhere in a room, though we would expect anyone in the market for a serious projector like the EH-TW4400 to have a dedicated cinema room - and a ceiling-mount.

Ins and outs are generous, with a couple of HDMI ports alongside Component video, a PC connection, S-Video and Composite video. There’s also a RS232 port and a Trigger, should you wish to sync it with your motorised projection screen. And that just about sums-up where the EH-TW4400 is destined for, though anyone with a bit of space and who dreams of pin-sharp, clean and involving high-def ought to consider Epson’s latest.

Verdict

This high-end projector produces near-immaculate pictures that are studded with realism; from close-up detail and skin tones to rich blacks and anti-blur tech, only its bulky size and bulkier price tag are cause for concern.