Epson EH-LS100 Full HD Laser Short Throw Projector Review
The average projector can throw a decent 100 inch image from across the average 12 foot room - something most people will be more than happy with. But, what if you don't want to have a projector behind you? Or your usable space at the back of the room is limited? This is where a short throw projector can work wonders.
The Epson EH-LS100 is different from your average short throw (or most projectors) - whereas most use lamps with a comparatively limited lifespan, the EH-LS100 uses a laser to project the image, meaning less power is required to create a beautifully vivid display with popping colours. Impressive stuff. It also brings with it a lifetime of around 20,000 hours of use.
Even more impressive is that it can do all of this with the projector sitting just a few centimetres from the wall - in fact, a space of just 6cm between the projector and the wall created a screen that spanned 70 inches - we're already into the same territory as the largest flat screen TVs - move it back to around 40cm and we're talking an image that would take up the full wall of an average lounge. We've not seen anything like this.
However, with this impressive functionality comes a pretty massive tradeoff - and when we say massive, we mean it. This projector is huge - when it was delivered to TDF towers, we're not joking when we say the box was big enough to fit two 8-year-old children in. While there was plenty of packaging materials to ensure save transit the unit itself was still impressive and cumbersome in equal measure - 50cm wide, 43cm deep and almost 20cm tall dwarfs any other home projector we've seen. It's a full 20cm wider and 20cm deeper than the Optoma GT1090Darbee short throw projector we reviewed last year. It's also twice as tall. It's also HEAVY - again the heaviest projector we've seen in a home environment.
With this size we're presented with something of a conundrum - a short throw projector is great for setting up a large screen experience without a permanent projector installation, but finding somewhere to a) put the EH-LS100 when it's in use and then b) finding somewhere to store it is actually something that makes it far less convenient a proposition than we'd like.
There is also no option to zoom or shrink the image optically - so you're stuck with the image size you get from the position the projector is in. In the average home (including the one we tested in) this will most likely mean lots of furniture shifting in order to end up with the display you want. One positive, however, is that there is a degree of flexibility afforded by both vertical and horizontal keystone correction - but digital image correction is always going to have some negative affect on the picture quality.
Our other reservation - and again it's a deal breaker for many - is while the image is beautifully pin sharp at the centre, the edges are anything but. There is a pronounced fisheye effect which means that the image is blurry in the extremities. The larger the screen the less obvious this is but at around 70 inches it is obvious and distracting to the point where I didn't want to go out of my way to watch films on it. It was also noticeable that lines weren't so much straight but wobbles.
Epson claim a contrast ratio of 2,500,000:1 - the highest claimed figure of a projector we've tested (our favourite projector to date - the Optoma HD50 - boasts a 50,000:1 contrast ratio). This doesn't translate to a picture that's any more vibrant than the competition. Similarly, the 4,000 ANSI Lumens while giving off enough light to allow the projector to look good even in the late afternoon light, doesn't really make the EH-LS100 look any more impressive than projectors boasting a lower figure.
The EH-LS100 is a full HD projector with it's 1920x1200 resolution offering slightly more height than a 16x9. At a time when 4K projectors are becoming more common, it's an interesting move on Epson's part to release a high end 2K device - but at it's sharpest their gamble pays off, it's just a shame this doesn't stretch to a consistent quality across the whole image.
In terms of connectivity, you won't be left wanting - three HDMI sockets along with copious other connectivity options including composite video, VGA, audio output, LAN and space for a wifi dongle. Also powered USB meaning streaming dongles can be powered by the projector itself. Another impressive feature was the sound which was on a par with the average TV - a benefit of the projector's size no doubt, which coupled with being set in front of the viewer meant the sound location was correct too.
In all the performance isn't as impressive as the EH-LS100's appearance may suggest. If the picture was as uniformly brilliant as it was at the centre of the image we might be able to overlook the logistical difficulties the projector presents, as it is the end result just doesn't feel worth the effort, nor can it justify the price when solid 4K standard throw projectors are available for over £1,000 less.