Ever since TVs went supersize the projector-makers have been patiently waiting their turn for mainstream glory, but there have always been two perceived dealbreakers: projectors don’t have built-in speakers and they’re not bright enough to be used in the day.
Cue the Epson Home Cinema 3800 (in the US market) or EH-TW7100 (in the UK market and worldwide) projector, which is a member of Epson’s 4K PRO-UHD Series of pseudo-4K projectors.
Brighter and with much more contrast than its sibling, the Epson Home Cinema 3200/EH-TW7000, is this projector up to task of supersizing movies in superior quality? You better believe it is.
Price and release date
The Epson Home Cinema 3800 / EH-TW7100 was released in late 2019 and is available now for $1,700/£1,700. That price puts it on par with other faux-4K projectors on the market, and way less than true 4K models.
Design and features
Like all affordable 4K-capable projectors, the shiny white 3800/EH-TW7100 is a pixel-shifter. The ‘4K enhancement’ technique, called ‘E-shift’ by Epson, works thus: a 4K image is split into two Full HD images, with each one projected side-by-side to create an ‘enhanced’ 4K image. However, despite not being a native 4K creature, the 3800/EH-TW7100 has plenty of other features to tempt.
Chief of which is its native brightness. At 3,000 lumens, a contrast ratio of 100,000:1 and 10-bit colour processing, it ought to be able to create a likeable image in any ambient light conditions, and at any time of day.
Based around Epson's own 3LCD engine, the 3800/EH-TW7100 is also capable of projecting in sizes from 40-inches to up to 500-inches in diameter, which is … way too big.
However, perhaps the real stroke of genius is that the 3800/EH-TW7100 has two audio options; its own built-in 10W stereo speakers mounted on the back of the chassis near the ins and outs, and Bluetooth for streaming audio to an external speaker or soundbar. Ins and outs comprise two HDMI inputs, two USB ports, a 3.5mm stereo mini jack audio output to take sound to a ‘proper’ sound system, a 12V trigger and RS232C for attaching the 3800/EH-TW7100 to a home control system.
As well as 4K, the projector offers HDR10, HLG and even both flavors of 3D (if you’ve still got any such ambitions), and its lamp is rated at 5,000 hours in its least brightest mode.
Measuring 410x310x157 mm and weighing 6.9kg, the 3800/EH-TW7100 is not exactly travel-friendly, though it’s easy enough to fetch from a cupboard for special occasions. Since the stereo speakers are mounted on the rear, we’re talking a coffee table kinda setup for the 3800/EH-TW7100, where its curved corners create a look that’s just about soft enough, design-wise.
Setup with our 80-inch test screen was straightforward enough, with the 3800/EH-TW7100’s 1.62 optical zoom creating a crisp image from around 2m from the screen. Something we love about some Epson projectors – including the 3800/EH-TW7100 – are the manual lens shift levers (vertical 60% and horizontal 24%) that make positioning a dead-on image that much easier.
The remote control is standard Epson issue, with large, well-labelled buttons and a useful orange backlight. One button toggles through its Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Natural and Cinema picture presets, though there are exhaustive manual tweaks to cycle through if that’s your thing.
If you’re obsessed with the 4K HDR footage being pumped out by the likes of Netflix, the 3800/EH-TW7100 will only half impress you. Its 4K pixel-shifting is a great workaround. No, it doesn’t look quite as sharp as true 4K, but almost no-one can afford a true 4K projector, so that’s a moot point. The Irishman on Netflix looked sharp enough for us at 80-inches, with the extra detail (compared to Full HD) introducing an extra dose of realism.
The 3800/EH-TW7100 can be fed a diet of 4K HDR material from either an Ultra HD Blu-ray player or from smart sticks like Chromecast/Amazon Fire TV Stick/Roku/Now TV, and though it copes well with the uptick in dynamic range, it’s not really built for such exquisiteness. With HDR engaged it produces ultra-colourful, crisp and clean images from both dark and bright scenes, but don’t expect reference-quality HDR.
That said, colours in The Irishman consistently impressed, and dark, dingy scenes were always clear and involving. Absolute top-grade black levels and ultra-fine shadow detailing are not quite in the gift of the 3800/EH-TW7100, but its dynamic iris gets it pretty close – and certainly close enough for almost all viewers.
The presets generally impress. If you’re watching in daylight, head straight for the ‘Bright Cinema’ setting. In a near-blackout, ‘Cinema’ has the most pleasing look out of the box, though that will depend on your own tastes. Just avoid ‘Dynamic Cinema’; as always, this very bright mode over-saturates and generally degrades the image.
There’s also a frame interpolation option in the onscreen menus that’s designed to take the motion judder out of pans on TV, and add some fluidity to sports, though sadly it doesn’t apply to 4K footage. In our test it worked well, though it’s best to keep it on a relatively weak setting to avoid any video nasties.
Until recently projectors didn’t have speakers, but though they’ve quickly become standard, the 3800/EH-TW7100 is one of few around with actually very impressive speakers. Sitting behind a projector to watch a movie – and getting your audio from the projector’s rear instead of from either side of the screen – is always a little challenging, but the 3800/EH-TW7100’s stereo speakers at least have some noticeable stereo separation.
If you’ve got a high octane movie soundtrack pumping, don’t expect too much, but it’s absolutely fine, for TV, sports and games (and most movies – it worked well for the dialogue-heavy The Irishman). The provision of that Bluetooth streaming options means that the 3800/EH-TW7100 can be relatively easily slotted into a living room’s existing home entertainment system, or even used with a pair of wireless Bluetooth headphones (it even boasts the aptX HD codec for hi-res wireless transmission).
Crucially for a projector that claims to be effective during daylight, the 3800/EH-TW7100 goes bright enough without turning-up the fan noise to intolerable levels.Though rated at 31 dB and as low as 20 dB in eco mode, during our tests the 3800/EH-TW7100 registered above 50db when the bulb was on maximum brightness. However, this is a quiet projector and on the ‘Cinema’ mode its noise was not noticeable.
Image-wise the 3800/EH-TW7100 is not a bleeding-edge projector, so don’t expect absolute top-draw detail, black levels and best-ever HDR, but feed it a varied diet – from Full HD to 4K – and it impresses across the board. Add some impressive built-in speakers and a tempting option to stream audio to a soundbar over Bluetooth, and the 3800/EH-TW7100 looks like a good value option for the living room.
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