Epson's LCD-based EMP-TW10 was one of the first sub-£1,000 projectors to tempt UK enthusiasts, but it's beginning to get a little long in the tooth now. So while it originally impressed, the question must be asked about its current pulling power - particularly given the specifications of some of the newer kids on the budget projector block...
The EMP-TW10 is one of the more attractive projectors around. It's larger than most, but carries its weight well thanks to a cutesy lozenge shape, pretty mix of cream and silver in its colour scheme, and a slick, polished finish.
Sadly the EMP-TW10 carries no digital video inputs. But it does offer component video inputs ready for high-definition and progressive scan material from suitable sources (albeit scaled to fit the native resolution of the panel), as well as a 15-pin VGA jack for PC connections and S-video/composite video inputs.
The quoted brightness level of 1,200 ANSI Lumens can be considered high for such a cheap LCD model, and it's a relief to find it employing a native widescreen chipset.
The EMP-TW10 is also noteworthy for having an impressively short throw-distance ratio - ideal for use in smaller rooms - and an 'Automatic Cinema' filter designed to boost colour reproduction by artificially enhancing black levels. There's also a Theatre Black mode which reduces lamp intensity to boost bulb life and reduce fan noise.
The EMP-TW10 couldn't be easier to set up - especially as it has an unusually flexible 1.54x optical zoom, making it easier to fit into a variety of room sizes. Features are accessed by straightforward menus, but I wasn't totally enamoured by the tiny remote control - it's too easy to lose down the sofa.
Despite its age, the EMP-TW10's pictures still impress. The unit's build quality is excellent, offering zero light 'spillage' and helps deliver deeper blacks than many of its budget LCD rivals - especially if you opt for the Theatre Black setting. In fact, dark scenes look so good that viewers might think Epson has been conservative with its 800:1 quoted contrast ratio. That said, the EMP-TW10 still falls short of entry-level DLP projectors in the black level department.
Colours impress, if only because this model largely avoids the over-ripe tones that can characterise low-lit scenes. Edges show no sign of colour bleed and are sharply rendered. The picture is more satisfying than you might expect given the EMP-TW10's average 854 x 480 panel resolution.
Unfortunately, several elements of its picture performance let the EMP-TW10 down: scanning lines are present, even with progressive scan inputs (if only the Epson had included some kind of scaling, such as Faroudja's DCDi).
The other concern is the visible chicken wire effect, whereby you can make out the grid-like construction of the LCD panel. It's not overt, but it is apparent.
While Epson's EMP-TW10 is a good example of what budget LCD projection is capable of, time marches on. The low resolution of its panels and comparative lack of brightness make it a far less compulsive proposition than some of its rivals. The time is right for Epson to unveil its next generation model...