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Epson EMP-TWD1 review

Sick of cables trailing across your viewing-room?

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Our Verdict

A simple, easy to use package, but performance suffers unduly

For

  • Price

  • no wires
  • colour and contrast

Against

  • Projection system is comparatively primitive

  • grid effect
  • noisy cooling system

Of all the available video display technologies,there is a general perception that projectors are the trickiest of them all.They need a screen,which generally is bolted to a wall or ceiling,much to the chagrin of Mrs projector owner; the way they're wired makes them look much like a junction box otherwise found under the stairs in the form of the house fuse box,and they need serious and largely incomprehensible tweaking,tuning and general mollycoddling.Lamp replacement costs also tend to add to concern.

This model from Epson may not have an answer to this last problem, but it is one of the first of a new generation of go anywhere,easy to use home cinema one-stop-shop video solutions.

Following hard on the heels of the Optoma MovieTime DV10,it looks and works like a projector,but it also includes its own internal JVC-sourced DVD player, stereo amplifier and speakers.It can be used without any further accessories if you're content to project onto a white painted wall, though a screen will give better results.It will play a variety of other disc types too,including CDs,MP3 compilations and others.

The projector section of the EMP-TWD1 is natively widescreen, but it is a low resolution device; the sparse crop of 854 x 480 pixels being less than required for full PAL DVD-Video 576 line playback without scaling (ie trimming down). Like most LCDs, there are broad black lines around each pixel,which has consequences which will be covered in further depth later.

With its wide throw lens, the Epson is designed to be used on a table in front of the viewing plane, but just in case you're in any doubt, the disc loading drawer and its display, and the loudspeakers (which of course should not be obstructed) are on the back panel: all interconnections apart from the headphone socket are on the front alongside the lens.

The internal sound provision is suitable for stereo playback, though a subwoofer can be attached to plug the rather obvious low frequency gap. It is possible to use headphones instead of the speakers,but if you're after the full multichannel deal, a digital optical output is available which can be connected to a Dolby Digital or DTS amplifier.

The downsides are obvious.As well as negating the price advantage of an integrated component like the EMP-TWD1, it also means waving goodbye to its essential simplicity and user friendliness as well as taking a hit on price. External sources can be played through the Epson,but the options are limited to composite and S-video, and stereo audio from a VCR, or perhaps a games console.

You may not regard this as an ease of use issue,but the sheer bulk of the projector may be daunting, especially if it ends up planted on a coffee table, as will often be the case by default. Otherwise the unit is very simple to operate, thanks to crystal clear main controls, and a generally helpfully designed and well sign posted remote control.

Even by LCD standards, the Epson is quite a basic performer, in the first instance because the cheesecutter grid pattern produced by the black lines dividing rows and columns of display pixels are not easily ignored.You will see the lines easily at a viewing distance of twice screen width, and with half-decent eyesight you may still do so from considerably further away.

Even if this unwanted reminder the underlying technology does pass you by, there is the inevitable residue of granularity as motion artefacts are distorted by the cobblestone view generated by the pixel structure. The fact is that unless you intend to project only up to a very small overall size,comparable to a glass screen TV, the Epson requires quite a large room before it makes sense.

To put the problem into some sort of perspective, a conventional LCD of the type used here requires about twice the resolution of an otherwise similar DLP to give a comparably clean and grid-free result onscreen. In terms of brightness and general optical punch, the EMP-TWD1 is clearly intended for a largish screen,but the limited resolution simply makes this impractical.

The lack of picture resolution has other consequences, especially with external video sources like Sky , including excessive chroma noise in pictures involving a lot of motion (one striking example was the recent Sony ad showing thousands of coloured balls flying through the air), and severe moiré, noticed particularly but not exclusively with black and white source material, especially from external sources treated as nonprogressive, and motion artefacts were also very obvious

Sound quality is good for a fully integrated unit,but this means no better nor worse than a mainstream TV set, and in no way comparable to any half decent audio system based on an amplifier and multichannel speaker system. But even here the overall impression is spoiled, in this case by the fan cooling system, which is subjectively considerably noisier and more intrusive than the quoted numbers imply. On the plus side there is a useful range of picture conditioning and trick play options for DVD playback, and raw colour performance is good while brightness and contrast are above average,which helps the Epson cope with rooms that are not fully blacked out.

The basic proposition is a brilliant one: a single box that handles everything concerned with DVD playback. It fulfils the ease of use criterion,and it can hardly be described as expensive,but in the final analysis it fails on its own terms. It's a perfectly adequate DVD player, albeit a simple one,but sound quality is well short of the standards we look for in these pages - and the projector can only be described as primitive with inadequate resolution and average pictures.