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By Hanleigh Daniels 26 August 2013

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If a massive HDTV or Ultra HD Smart TV is beyond the reach of your limited entertainment budget, another more affordable option remains HD projectors the likes of Epson’s EH-TW550.

This HD-Ready (720p) projector sports support for 3D viewing and packs a very simple setup whereby users merely plug in the power cable and connect their notebook, gaming console via HDMI. The projector further boasts a variety of other connectivity options including an S-video port, two USB 2.0 slots, and a component video port to broaden a user’s connectivity options.

Picture quality

The EH-TW550 tops the Epson MG-850HD projector (quick review) we tested last year, both in its good 3000 lumens (MG-850HD had a lumens tally of 2800) and its high contrast ratio of 5000:1 (compared to 3000:1 on the MG-850HD).

The EH-TW550 delivered a massive boost to the colour output of the videos, which enables a night and day difference between the video playing on our notebook’s LCD display and the image being projected on the wall via the projector. Colours appear nicely saturated to the same extent as one gets on an AMOLED display when compared to an LCD screen on smartphones.

Colour can be further optimised for gaming by selecting a special game mode, with additional colour modes available for watching movies (theatre mode and living room mode) and enjoying 3D content (3D Dynamic and 3D Cinema). During testing, we prefered the living room mode, as it delivered the most AMOLED-like deep blacks and nicely saturated colours, with the game mode delivering a brighter picture but slightly more washed out colours.  

Consuming content in the 3rd dimension and sound performance

Epson recommends that users view 3D content via its USB-rechargeable active shutter glasses for 3D viewing that are sold separately for a pricey R1 300. The projector does not convert 2D content into 3D, so users need to have their own 3D movies to watch. We turned to 3D clips from LG UK’s 3D YouTube channel, which displayed well enough using the standard issue 3D glasses we got at Nu Metro cinema after watching Pacific Rim (review) in 3D.  

Sound output was far less impressive, as the EH-TW550’s 2W stereo speakers produced a sound that was far too soft, barely audible above the drone of the projector’s distracting fan noise (around 29 dB). In addition, the sound also becomes very tinny above medium volume, with the quality suffering at maximum volume as a result of this, while bass is also sorely lacking. Our suggestion - rather hook it up to your speaker set.

According to Epson, the EH-TW550’s lamp should last for around 4000 hours or a cool 5000 in economy mode, which, depending on your gaming addiction, can either be too short or enough to not be concerned about the costly bulb replacement.

To the point

Epson’s EH-TW550 projector delivers an excellent picture quality with vivid colours, deep blacks, and high brightness, although sound quality is not good. This projector also supports 3D viewing and boasts a variety of modes delivering enhanced settings for each viewing setting and type of content consumption. All of these features comes at a recommended retail price of R10 247 (including VAT), which is around R3 000 less than what you can get a full HD projector sans the 3D support for.   

All things considered the EH-TW550 ticked all the right feature boxes for us, but we just wished that it offered a bit more sound bang for its R10k+ pricetag.    

Pros:

Excellent picture quality.

Bright picture thanks to good ANSI Lumen tally.

Vivid colours.

Offers 3D viewing experience.

Cons:

Audible fan noise.

Unimpressive sound output. 

PROS
Excellent picture quality; bright picture thanks to good ANSI Lumen tally; vivid colours; and offers 3D viewing experience.
CONS
Audible fan noise; and unimpressive sound output.
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