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Epson EH-LS500 - review

Short throw projectors have many advantages: easy installation, functionality that works well in a small apartment, keeping warmth and noise generated during projection away from viewers . However, devices of this type are usually bought for business and education. Then Epson appears with a new category projector straight into the living room.

The Epson EH-LS500 is a 4K HDR ultra short throw laser projector operating using 3LCD technology. A short projection means that we need only a few centimeters of space relative to the wall to enjoy a picture with a diagonal of 60, 70 or 80 inches. By moving the projector 60 cm - 80 cm (depending on the mode) away from the wall, we can create an impressive, maximum 130-inch cinema environment without sacrificing image quality.

Let's start with the price: high or very attractive, depending on the context and use.

The Epson EH-LS500 was valued at PLN 12,799. This is a dizzying price, considering the purchasing power of a Polish customer. The price is also high from the perspective of ever cheaper home projectors, where for 2000 - 3000 PLN we can buy a device with the correct, acceptable image quality both during the day and at night. However, we are talking about long throw projectors that require at least a few meters of space, are loud, heat up, lose quality as the image is enlarged, and have a fairly short lifetime.

The Epson model is a laser projector. This means that the life of the light source inside the device is about 20 thousand. hours. That is roughly as much as in TV panels, and also about five times more than in the case of projectors with traditional lamps. Converted to days, it is 11 years with a daily use of the projector for 5 hours. In addition, the laser makes the projector much quieter while generating less heat. The laser light source does not have to heat up and works in principle immediately, immediately after switching on with the help of a remote control or a button on the housing.

With parameters closer to the television set than to a long-range home projector, the Epson EH-LS500 has no simple price equivalent. If we compare the projector to 130-inch TVs costing several hundred thousand zlotys, we have enormous savings. However, this will be an exaggerated comparison, because TV matrices offer better image quality, especially in terms of contrast. And if we compare the EH-LS500 to far-range home projectors, then we don't take into account Epson's life cycle several times longer, short throw and better image quality. Hence, at IFA 2019, projector specialists claimed that a new product category is forging: something between classic home projectors and cinema devices, used for professional home multimedia rooms.

The Epson EH-LS500 is one of the interesting-looking projectors available on the market.

You can see that the manufacturer was tempted to try to distinguish the device against the background of boring, similar office equipment. The EH-LS500 features elements characteristic of a modern living room, such as a material upholstery back. The projector tries to resemble a crackle, but of course the round, short throw optical mechanism has its limitations. Hence the quite exotic marriage of salon rawness, elegance and office pragmatism.

Interestingly (and extremely practical), the material beam on the back of the device is mounted on a magnet. Thanks to this, it is very easy to detach it, gaining access to the control panel with physical buttons. In the same place there is a capacious recess with HDMI and USB connectors (power supply). We can hide the streaming device in the style of Chromecast, Fire TV or Xiaomi Mi Box. Epson has never got its own Tizen-style SmartTV interface or Android TV, so it's glad that it strongly supports the installation of third-party modules.

Hiding the panel behind the beam goes hand in hand with HDMI CEC technology - the turned on projector will wake up the connected game console or Blu-ray player. Add to this the minimalist remote control included in the set, and operating on the control panel becomes completely unnecessary, not counting the first configuration of the device. Unfortunately, while in the case of HDMI connections the projector works perfectly, I have a great caveat for the USB-A socket. It only exists to connect to a dedicated Epson LAN adapter. Forget about playing movies directly from a pendrive.

Image quality, i.e. the age-old battle of DLP and LCD standards.

Most projectors on the market create an image using DLP technology. In a nutshell, the lamp light falls on a rotating RGB filter resembling a circle, divided into red, green and blue parts. Such a wheel rotates at a speed of several hundred revolutions per second, obtaining the desired color. After passing through the RGB filter, the light falls on the chip with a mass of moving mirrors, creating light or dark spots. Then the ray is reflected to the objective lens.

The LCD standard divides one light beam with the help of mirrors into three beams, passing through the liquid crystal panels: blue, green and red. Then the beams are combined in a prism, and then sent to the objective lens as a coherent, holistic image taking into account all the desired colors. So we have two different philosophies and two different image production techniques - which one is better?

A decade ago, assumptions were made: the DLP image offers better contrast and better black, while the LCD image is characterized by more vivid colors, greater brightness and better sharpness. This distinction between two standards is reproduced to this day in reviews and comments. Often wrong, because technology never stands still. For example, DLP has evolved in 3DLP with better colors (unfortunately at a barrier price of several hundred thousand zlotys), while LCD uses black filters to increase the contrast. That is why I recommend an individual approach to the model, not only to the standard.

4000 lumens. For this color, not white.

I have consistently held that 3,000 lumens is a value that is completely sufficient for a home projector. Also in the case of darker DLP models, in which the value of brightness refers only to white light, while the colors are noticeably darker. The Epson EH-LS500 is an LCD projector where darker colors are not a problem. The device offers up to 4000 lumens in white, red, green and blue, which is an impressive value.

In practice, the color easily reaches 3000+ lumens. Red on the loading screens in Red Dead Redemption 2 is downright vibrant. The colors are really vivid and complemented. Their profile is similar to that of standard LCD panels: there is a dominance of blue color. In turn, vivid green flirts with bile, which further enhances the brightness and sharpness of the color. Everything shimmers and builds a very good effect, as long as the scene in the image is bright and uses a wide spectrum of colors.

Thanks to the high brightness, the use of curtains ceases to make any sense. The Epson LS500 handles image display both day and night. The projector was the central source of the image in a bright, sunny living room. I never had a problem playing on PlayStation 4 because I didn't see something or the object was not clear. On the contrary - the eye quickly got used to the new type of display, treating it as the norm.

This is important, considering rainbow effect.

The problem of DLP projectors is the so-called rainbow, i.e. the unnatural color disruption resulting in the color obtained by the rotating RGB filter. Somewhere on the edge of human optics and consciousness comes to record that the desired colors are accompanied by other colors. As if substituting when the viewer is not watching or is losing focus. Because of this, many recipients have a peculiar feeling that something is wrong with a color image. Something unnatural but hard to explain.

Over the years and the progress of technology, the rainbow effect has been greatly reduced. However, it still occurs, which I experience myself, testing popular models for 1500 - 3000 PLN. The Epson LS500 does not have this drawback, due to the liquid crystal filters that are the essence of 3LCD technology. Despite the vivid colors, the color is not unnatural, while the image does not seem strangely artificial and impermanent. This is a great achievement in the field of projectors. Even newer ones.

Unfortunately, black could still be better. When watching a movie in a maximum dark room, you can see that black is really gray. Despite the use of black filters, the physical limitations of the projected image remain valid - after all, it is impossible to shine with black light, while the projector becomes emitting light over the entire surface of the image, without any areas or points of shutdown. Hence the gray black. In addition, bright spots on a dark background are characterized by an undesirable halo effect. I think that in this respect projectors for several thousand based on DLP technology will perform better.

But the sharpness and detail of the image is already outstanding.

Focus is one of the biggest advantages of the LCD standard, and the Epson EH-LS500 is no different. Not only liquid crystal technology, but also uniform laser exposure and high resolution of the projected image play for the benefit of high sharpness and detail. However, those who counted on native 4K will be surprised.

Native 4K short throw projectors already exist. Only that devices with such optics cost from several dozen to several hundred thousand zlotys. That is why many alternative solutions have been created to offer image quality close to 4K at lower costs. This Epson projector uses two FullHD images. The solution is to move each pixel diagonally to double the Full HD resolution, which gives a total of 4 million megapixels.

Thanks to the high resolution, the image from Epson does not lose quality when increasing the diagonal up to 130 inches. In addition, the image is characterized by a greater number of details, further enhanced by the use of LCD technology. The final result is very sharp and very precise. There is no question of losing signs or symbols. All fonts are very legible and the details are even overclocked. Thanks to this, all backgrounds do not lose quality, which is a nuisance to some projectors. Just keep in mind that it's still not UHD.

Epson EH-LS500 - a new category of home cinema - but for whom?

For classic projectors, creating a small movie theater requires a large room in your own home. All because of the necessary distance from the wall, at least 6 - 8 meters. Models like the Epson I have tested eliminate this problem with a short throw, while maintaining a high quality image. To make this possible, not so cheap fish bowl optics are used, which is significantly reflected in the final price of the product.

Of course, people who want to watch something in the garden from time to time, or turn on a representation match in a large screen spread, can choose much cheaper, much more mobile replacements. Projectors such as the Epson EH-LS500 are products to equip fashionable lofts and studios in skyscrapers in the very center of the city. The device will be useful wherever the space is limited, but the wallet does not limit it. Although black and contrast could be better, I would use such an Epson day by day as an image source from consoles and VoD services, being an alternative to a TV set in the living room.

Epson EH-LS500 - review


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