Epson Powerlite 96W Projector - Image Quality
4-10-11 -Mike Rollett
Epson Powerlite 96W: Color & Picture Quality
As usual, I connected my laptop to the 96W via HDMI and fed the projector its native resolution (1280 x 800). Right away, the 96W displayed the sharp image and accurate colors we’ve come to expect from Epson multimedia projectors. Unlike many projectors, the 96W’s colors are quite good in Dynamic (the brightest) mode. This means you can make full use of the projector’s lumen output even with photo presentations, without the result looking unnatural. However, if you don’t need the full lumen output, dropping down to Photo or Theatre mode will give you the most accurate colors, with better contrast contributing the greater image depth.
As a result of the very good color rendition, photographic images displayed crisp, well-saturated colors. Small details were well defined as well and various nature photos viewed looked quite natural, without any particular color oversaturation or deficiency.
As is typical of projectors in this class, there is a movable electronic zoom that allows the user to zoom in on a particular section of the screen. The zoom feature can then be combined with the on-screen pointer to focus in on details in photos or charts. Both features can be controlled from the remote.
Below are examples of different image modes of the 96W. First is Dynamic mode, then Photo mode, then Presentation mode, and finally Theatre mode.
Epson Powerlite 96W: Readability
The 96W provided a very sharp, clean image with our usual variety of source material. Bringing up our usual spreadsheet with a range of text sizes and colors, small (8 pt.) text was easily readable on a 90” diagonal projected image. This was also true of white text-on-black and yellow text-on-dark blue backgrounds as well.
Some projectors, when fed higher-than-native resolutions combined with different aspect ratios, have difficulty accurately displaying the different colored text/background combinations in the spreadsheet. This was not the case with the 96W, which did an excellent job with both. Switching to 1680 x 1050, the 96W handled the text spreadsheet quite well, with only a minimal color bleed at the smallest text size. The 96W also did an excellent job on lower resolutions, like the old standard XGA (1024 x 768) resolution. There was a little bit of blue fringing with white text on a black background, but again, only on the smallest font size. Additionally, there was only minimal loss of sharpness in the text. Typically, 3-chip LCD projectors don’t achieve the high sharpness of their single chip DLP counterparts and the 96W is no exception. That being said, if you regularly have presentations that require the smallest details to be displayed with laser-like sharpness, you’re probably going to be looking a higher resolution projectors.
Overall, an excellent performance for any projector, much less one in the 96W’s price range.
Above, the Epson Powerlite 96W projector in native resolution.
Above, the Epson Powerlite 96W projector in 1680x1050 resolution.
Epson Powerlite 96W: Video Performance
To check the 96W’s video performance, I used the DVD playback from my laptop computer, connected via HDMI. As we’ve come to expect from Epson’s 3LCD projectors, video from any source looks very clean, with well-saturated colors. Using Theater mode, skin tones were natural and bright colors were well saturated. The Theater mode of the 96W can make use an auto iris that, when activated, can improve the contrast ratio to 2000:1. A 2000:1 contrast ratio would be considered low for a home theater projector, but it is a good ratio for a projector this bright and contributes to a more film-like image with video. The auto iris is also available in Dynamic mode as well. Of course, using the projector in Eco mode will give you even better perceived black levels, so if you have good light control that would be the way to go. For daytime TV or video viewing (like sports events), the extra brightness of the 96W provides for a highly watchable picture that is not washed out, as most home theater projectors would be. Additionally, the good color reproduction of the 96W in Dynamic mode makes it a good choice for classroom video presentations where light control is at a premium.
As a lot of video also has sound, it should be noted that the 96W’s built-in 16-watt speaker will be more than adequate for any normal-sized classroom, negating the need for add-on, powered speakers. While the 96W is not designed to be used for movie or TV viewing, it’s nice to know that it certainly could be used for that in a pinch, while still providing solid picture quality.