Toshiba ET20 Projector Review - Image Quality
For those of you, used to my extremely long review pages, on most projectors, this one will be a lot shorter. The ET20 is not a contender for those seeking best image quality, their dollar can buy, that's not what it's built for. While its image quality is respectable for what this projector is - an all-in-one, those demanding best image quality period, need to look elsewhere. For example, an InFocus IN72, and a $200 HTIB (Home theater in a box which consists of speakers, subwoofer, receiver/with DVD player), will find that the IN72 produces the better image, and a good $200 HTIB, will produce more good sound.
The ET20, though is about a convenient, portable solution, so this section and the General Performance section (as well as the Summary) will try to keep in mind, that this isn't a "pure performance" play, but a compromise, by its nature.
That said, the Toshiba ET20 starts off by providing some good, very watchable color performance, especially on TV signals. It's not that it can't do movies, but although there are four preset modes - Theater 1, Theater 2, Standard and Dynamic, all have "cool" (bluish) color temperatures. They match the color balance on normal TV and HDTV broadcasts. By comparison, movies are designed for a warmer (more redish) color balance. There are numbers associated with these - TV - cool colors - more blue, are about 7500K - 8500K, while movies are best at 6500K. The Toshiba ET20's preset are all in the 7500K - 8000K+ range, so red seem a little thin when movie watching. That said, for movie watching, I'd rather be a bit cool, than too warm.
With the color balance in mind, on flesh tones, I have to say I immediately enjoyed the Toshiba ET20, but on cd's could see that a little more red would have improved the flesh tones.
Here are a couple of our usual images from Lord of the Rings, The Fifth Element, and I, Robot.
As with most of our reviews, you may click on many of the images to view larger versions.
Everyone of them is very respectable. More to the point, despite the cool-warm issue on movies, I found the projector very easy to watch and enjoy.
OK, I'd like to make a couple of comments about the four presets (Dynamic Theater 1, etc.), before I go on. This because, the presets aren't set up the way the similar names are set on most other projectors.
Dynamic: Typically Dynamic on most projectors is designed to squeeze out every last lumen, push the greens to boost lumens, oversaturate the colors, raise the brightness, type setup). Dynamic normally the brightest mode, and designed to sacrifice color accuracy, in exchange for maximizing the ability to deal with lots of ambient light.
Theater 1, 2 "Theater" or "Cinema" modes (one or the other are found on most home theater projectors) are normally the "best" mode. They tend to be less bright, have more accurate color (and grayscale) balance, and have a higher gamma, to provide a rich dark image, that brings out shadow detail and provides a lot of "pop" to the image.
And there's always that Standard, or Normal or Natural mode that is usually somewhere between Dynamic and Theater/Cinema modes.
With the ET20, however
Interestingly, with the ET20, I found the gamma's to be too low (low-mid, mid, and hi-mid colors too bright), giving a slightly washed out look, or let me restate that, a less dynamic look.
The Theater modes of the ET20 behaved more like the Video mode, or Normal, Standard, etc, I just mentioned, and favored for TV. As I result, I favored Dynamic for movie watching.
The other modes worked fine enough, but I actually thought, for example, that Theater 1 worked will with some ambient light (which would have wiped out deep shadow detail anyway), and on TV sources. I didn't spend more than a few minutes on Theater 2, but it is similar enough.
Here is the same image shot in each of the four modes: I tried to give you about the same exposure on each.
Dynamic: This one can be clicked on to enlarge, the other three cannot.
Trust your own judgement as to which setting works best. Since the overall color balance is consistant, you'll find Dynamic gives you the pop and high contrast look, while the other settings are less "dyanmic" looking, but raise the gamma to provide a lighter overall image that may work best with the ambient light.
In the case of the images below, most have been shot with Dynamic mode, but I will also show you one image shot on several of the modes, so you have an idea of what it would be like switching between modes yourself.
Toshiba ET20 sharpness
The limitation here, is the resolution, not the sharpness. Being a 480p resolution DLP projector, you are going to be slightly aware of the pixel structure at normal seating distances. Only when you get back to about 2x screen width will the pixels no longer will be easily visible, but rather only in credits and bright whitish stationary areas. (like clouds perhaps).
Still, the pixel structure (typical for DLP) is somewhat soft (a very good thing), and I found that although I am extremely adverse to the pixel structure visibility of 480p LCD projectors like the MovieMate 33s, found that after a few minutes I stopped noticing the structure and was completely absorbed in the movie.
So, overall sharpness is just fine for a "low resolution" home theater projector.
Toshiba ET20 Black Levels and Shadow Detail
Thanks to the 2000:1 contrast ratio of the DLP chip, the Toshiba does a pretty good job on shadow detail, pulling out about as much detail as could be expected. Better than the Epson MovieMate 33s. That same 2000:1 contrast ratio though, is at the very low end of today's DLP projectors, and, as expected, black levels are not particularly impressive at all. You can immediately see, when popping a movie into the DVD slot, that the letter box areas above and below the image itself, that the blacks are pretty middle low gray, definitely brighter than more expensive DLP projectors, as well as LCD projectors using dynamic irises (no we won't go into that here). Again, though, black levels are better than the Epson, and roughly comparable to the MovieTime DV10.
The real point here is that overall performance of the ET20 all-in-one projector is more than acceptable for the job it is primarily tasked with. Providing a lot of fun watching movies, sports and TV, in a less than ideal environment, in an all in one package, that is easy to move around, and set up.
Here are a number of dark scenes for your consideration, on some I have shot the image so you can see the letterbox above and below the movie, and even the dark of the frame below that. If you look closely you can determine how "light" the blacks are.
The image above is a good test of shadow detail, and you can find this image in most reviews. Prlejectors with poor shadow detail don't reveal much in the shed or along the bottom of the image.
Here's the same image below, but overexposed, to better reveal the dimmer stars, and also the black levels. (A typical digital camera can't capture the full range a projector can project - from brightest to darkest, so I typically will use two images to help you determine how well a projector does. In reality, what you see on the scren is closer to the lower image.
Time to look at the practical side of the Toshiba ET20, as we move to the General Performance section.