The average consumer behaviour, when it comes to putting gadgets to good use, is far from ideal. Having observed average buyer in electronics industry over the years, I have noticed that there's the optimum way of consuming technology, and then there's the popular way of doing the same. Take the example of the majority's purchase decisions when it comes to home cinema solutions. The ideal way to watch movies is on a large screen with the lights out, or at least considerably dimmed. Under these home cinema conditions, projectors provide the cheapest and the best means to have the largest screen possible.
It's funny then that even those who seek a big screen expressly for darkened cinema rooms consider buying standard flat panels, when their main USP is better performance under bright lighting conditions. This is where projector detractors tend to pull out the cost card, but that's exactly where the Epson EH-TW550 comes in. With a price tag of Rs 62,699, this projector is less expensive than plain-vanilla 42" LED-backlit LCD TVs from brands such as Sony, LG and Samsung. However, unlike these TVs, it can not only project a massive 10-foot image from roughly 12 feet away, but it can do that in 3D. So now that I have got your attention, let's see how this affordable 3D projector really performs.
The sliding lens cover assembly is quite nifty
Design and build quality
Being an Epson product, the EH-TW550 projector uses the company's proprietary 3LCD technology, which is supposed to provide brighter colours than single-chip DLP-based projectors. However, one of the major possible dampeners for most user could possibly be the fact that this projector isn't Full HD. With a resolution (or pixel dimensions, to be precise) of 1280 x 800, this has been advertised as an HD Ready (720p) solution. While this may put off some people, the fact remains that this doesn't really matter much over larger viewing distances. In fact, lower pixel dimensions of 1280 x 800 also translates into much better performance for gamers, who can then obtain better frame rates even with lower spec'd gaming rigs.
The TW550is quite light at just 2.7 kg and features a utilitarian but relatively compact black matte chassis that comes with a carrying case. The projector has been pretty well designed—something that's apparent with the inclusion of a convenient slider lens cover that automatically turns off the lamp as well as audio circuitry. It features two IR sensors on the fore and aft sides, which should allow you to use the handy remote control from any orientation. The compact remote, however, could have benefitted from better placement and design of buttons, which can get confusing to operate due to their identical shape and size.
The on-device controls are well thought out. Just behind the smooth focus and zoom rings, you have a slider for horizontal keystone adjustment. This is a quick and convenient way to adjust for off centre placement. The navigation controls at the top of the device allow you to surf through the menu, as well as quickly access important features such as source selection, volume and horizontal keystone adjustment. There are plenty of vents at the front, sides and back that prevent the projector from getting too hot. The inbuilt fan is a tad too loud, though. The TW550 lacks lens shift, which isn't a surprise at this price.
Connectivity options are decent with the inclusion of HDMI and analogue inputs along with direct USB connections to laptops
Connectivity and features
Another feature to note is that the projector seems to use accelerometers and/or a gyroscope to sense the orientation and adjust the keystone settings by default. However, since this adjustment is digital, this causes the image to distort and lose clarity. It's better to just turn off the auto keystone adjust feature from the menu and align the projector manually to preserve image quality. Thankfully, this can be achieved with ease thanks to three available points of adjustment.
On the connectivity front, the TW550 is pretty well sorted with one HDMI input, in addition to VGA, S-Video and Composite analogue ports. Additionally, you also get two USB inputs—a USB B input for fetching video directly from laptops and another standard USB port to stream content from mass storage devices. This feature is pretty nifty indeed for those on the move. The Epson even sports a 2 watt speaker, which, like all projector speakers, is of no real use. The lamp life is rated at 4,000 hours in the normal mode and 5,000 hours in Eco mode, which is pretty good even when you consider the fact that the real-world durability will not match these numbers.