Master of the data projector, Epson's attack on the home cinema market continues apace. This isn't the brand's flagship model (expect a 1080p version of the TW700 this summer) - but it is a versatile and reasonably affordable 3LCD option that, on paper at least, looks worth considering over rival DLP models.
You certainly get some bang for your buck; the TW700 is huge. Despite its attractive, shiny white shell, it's hard to imagine anyone whipping out a product this size for an impromptu viewing of Walk the Line, as we did.
With its oversized lens, the TW700 is versatile enough to fit almost any room. A combination of vertical and horizontal lens shift - which is altered manually - a 2.1x optical zoom and some effective keystone correction allows the TW700 to make an excellent short-throw projector from almost any position, even in small rooms.
It's capable of producing a 60in diagonal image from just 180cm and can be positioned off-centre and well below the level of the screen.
Crucially, however, it doesn't deliver half as good an image from 10 metres away from the screen. So while it makes a good solution for a small room, the TW700 is not going to appeal to owners of huge home cinemas.
There's also plenty more about this projector that we like. Connectivity is generally pleasing to the AV eye, although there are one or two points to bear in mind. There's only one HDMI input, which, given its status as an occasional piece of AV equipment rather than as a candidate for a ceiling-mounted custom install, is perhaps not a problem. There's also a set of component video inputs and, unusually, a way of getting a Scart-only source into the TW700. An adaptor is provided for Scart that attaches to a 'D' input, something we've only ever seen on Epson projectors.
Alongside these is a S-video input, a D-sub PC input, a 12V trigger and a RS232 serial port.
The resolution is 1,280 x 720 pixels, which means that scaling will be necessary for any source other than HD images from an Xbox 360.
Other features include an auto-iris optical system that reduces brightness during murkier footage, something that should help give a blacker image - often a problem with LCD projectors. Epson even claims that the contrast ratio reaches 10,000:1.
Increasing the size and position of the image is child's play because the lens angle can move more than most projectors. We were also really impressed with the remote control handset. Not only is it well built, logically designed and backlit in orange, but instinct alone will also guide most users around its onscreen menus. It's also one of the most comprehensive zappers we've ever seen, featuring advanced tweaks such as adjustments to gamma, skin tone and colour temperature levels.
As with plasma versus LCD in the flat TV world, there's a technology battle raging among home cinema projectors. Unlike the vast majority of manufacturers' reliance on DLP technology at this price point, Epson has chosen 3LCD.
The execution of the technology on the TW700 is generally a success. The oft-noticed chicken wire effect, where the actual grid on the LCD panel itself can be seen overlaid into the onscreen image, is nowhere to be seen. Sharpness is always high and impressive brightness levels help add to the impression of a precise, clean and vivid image. This is especially true with the Dynamic colour mode with its stunning peak whites.
It's a different story with blacks. Despite Epson's grand claims to the contrary, the TW700 can't compete with DLP projectors of a similar price when it comes to handling dark areas of the picture. Some greying over is evident on Cash's jacket throughout Walk the Line, and at the very least the TW700 demands a blackout to stand any chance of producing fine detail over such material.
That's a shame, because the strong brightness means that some images are even watchable during daylight - although this does make the TW700 operate at its loudest. And it's significantly noisier than the mere 26dB achieved by the contrast-heavy Theatre Black modes that lower brightness levels.
At least the other great bugbear of LCD technology, blurring over motion, never becomes a major issue for this projector so quick camera pans never catch it out.
Colour tones are also a high point, with skin tones especially realistic. The other side of that coin is that general colour vibrancy never goes beyond acceptable.
While pictures are generally impressive there's little to elevate the TW700's performance above those of its LCD competitors, while DLP projectors are still preferable for truer cinematic images demanding higher contrast levels.
Having said that, the TW700's high level of versatility is hard to match at almost any price point.