Epson EH-TW490 review

Epson EH-TW490 review

The EH-TW490 is a slim, gloss-black budget 720p projector (actually 1280 x 800, 16:10 aspect ratio) aimed squarely at the gaming community, and intended for white wall use. See all digital home reviews.

It's 2D-only, but given the modest price tag that's unlikely to put people off. Build quality is solid and at just 2.4 kg it's eminently portable. A carry bag is included, making it easy to cart over to your mates. See also what is the best projector?

Connections include HDMI, S-video and composite for legacy kit, VGA and USB 2.0 A/B. The projector can read JPEGs from a thumbdrive, but not video files. Navigation through its menu is fast enough.

The EH-TW490 projector is a doddle to set up, with horizontal and vertical keystone correction to help square up the image, and top-mounted manual focus. The throw is generous too. At 4 m you'll cast a 120-inch image; it's bright enough to go larger if you can squeeze more distance.

The dumpy white remote control offers access to the usual Epson user interface. There's a good selection of presets here: Dynamic, Living Room, Cinema and Game.

You won't benefit much from getting your hands dirty with additional calibration, but should you feel a need there's the usual selection of brightness, colour, tint and sharpness gauges on hand.

Like so many other sub-£1k multi-function projectors, there's a lo-fi sound system onboard. Driven by a 2W amp it does the job when you want an impromptu gaming session and can't be bothered with the faff of wiring up a proper sound system.

Epson EH-TW490 review

Operationally, the EH-TW490 is reasonably well behaved. An Eco lamp setting keeps fan noise down to around 29 dB. However, opt for the brighter Normal setting and the lamp goes full beam and the fan noise increases to a not inconsiderable 37 dB.  You'll quickly want to calm things down again.

There's actually no visual penalty running the projector in Eco mode, as it's so darn bright anyway. Eco is said to extend the life of the 200W lamp, from 5000 hours to 6000. With a rated best-in-class 3000 lumens output, the little Epson is perfectly usable in rooms with moderate ambient light.

Epson is the prime mover behind 3LCD projection, having produced more than 90 million LCD panels over the past two decades. The HTPS (high-temperature polysilicon) TFT liquid crystal panels used in this model are notable for their vivid colours and comfortable, cinematic viewing.

Unlike rival DLP technology there are no niggling artefacts. There is a catch though: the EH-TW490 just doesn't do blacks. As a consequence, there's a limited sense of theatrical dynamics. This is fine if your source is a Wii U, but less so if you're planning a Werner Herzog marathon (Disney's Tangled is probably a happy medium).

A dynamic iris tries hard to add some shadow detail, but it's noisy and largely ineffectual. You'll end up turning it off.

As befits a budget 720p model, there are no fast frame rates or image interpolation tricks on offer either, however this isn't really to the detriment of the projector nor a criticism.

The EH-TW490 handles motion well at 100/120 Hz and 24 Hz Blu-ray sources pan horizontally without judder. Of course, hooking a PlayStation 4 up to a 720p projector doesn't deliver the crispness you'll see on a 1080p panel. Indeed, there are jaggies in the image which rather undermine that Next Gen vibe. Stick with the Xbox 360-era kit though and you'll be fine.

Epson EH-TW490 review

Epson EH-TW490: Specs

  • 3LCD image engine
  • 1280 x 800 resolution
  • USB JPEG playback
  • horizontal/vertical keystone correction, Eco mode
  • integrated 2W sound system
  • HDMI, S-video, phono AV, VGA, USB 2.0 A/B
  • ?warranty: 24 months, lamp: 36 months or 3000 hours
  • 297 x 234 x 77 mm (wdh)
  • 2.4 kg
  • 3LCD image engine
  • 1280 x 800 resolution
  • USB JPEG playback
  • horizontal/vertical keystone correction, Eco mode
  • integrated 2W sound system
  • HDMI, S-video, phono AV, VGA, USB 2.0 A/B
  • ?warranty: 24 months, lamp: 36 months or 3000 hours
  • 297 x 234 x 77 mm (wdh)
  • 2.4 kg

OUR VERDICT

There's no doubt that gaming on a really big screen is a fabulously engaging experience, and Epson's EH-TW490 seems to have found a sweet spot in terms of price and performance which could encourage more to take up the sport. From this gaming perspective, the lack of a decent black level on this projector isn't quite the crippling problem it might have been for movie fans. For gaming, TV sports and bright, breezy movies, we rate the EH-TW490 good value for money.