Projector Reviews

Epson EpiqVision LS500 Laser TV Review – Hardware

Overview

The Epson LS500 is a 4K and HDR capable Laser TV – basically an ultra short throw projector, with a built-in speaker system. Like all of them, it does not have 4K native resolution panels,. Like most of the 4K capable laser TVs, it uses 1080p panels and relies on pixel shifting to further work the data to sharpen the image.

The LS500 comes with 2 remote controls, one of which, however is not so much for controlling the projector, but an Android remote should you want to use the included Android OS stick with a different device, not this projector (that had me stumped, figuring out why there were two). Epson does not mention what the 2nd remote is for, in their manual.

The Lens, unlike other UST projectors is above the rest of the projector in a housing. It is close to the front.

The front has a gray grill cloth (dark for my black LS500) which is also available in white. That cover is held on by magnets and is almost effortless to remove.

Behind the cover, you’ll find the speakers to the outside, a focus control additional inputs (HDMI and USB) and the place for the Android OS stick and cables to connect it. The third HDMI is intended for the Android stick. Without the stick, the Epson is a typical not smart projector, but with the same picture quality. Finally, the control panel is located in there as well.

The rest of the inputs and connectors are, quite naturally, found on the back.

The LS500 is the smallest of the 4K capable projectors we have seen, except for the old LG HU80KA which is a much smaller, dimmer projector, that is not remotely competitive with the Laser TVs like today’s Epson, VAVA, Optoma, or LG’s own, excellent HU85LA, which is one of my favorites and a direct competitor of the LS500.

As Easy as Installing a Wall mounting an LCD TV (easier!)

A Laser TV still isn’t as simple to set up as an LCD TV placed on a table top. But many people mount the larger LCD and LED TVs to the wall (50” and up, mostly, I would think). As to the really big ones – 71 inch, or 77 inch or larger, most folks that don’t have furniture long enough, prefer to mount.

Mounting the Epson screen is far easier than wall mounting an LCD TV. The rest is even easier!

Wall mounting a TV means not only mounting it, but getting power and sources to it. You can let the wires hang, or do the install properly, with the wires running through the wall to a nearby table with other equipment, such as a Blu-ray player, AV receiver and bigger speakers, cable box…

Wall mounting a Laser TV is different. The projector sits on the same table as any other gear, making connecting everything far easier. Instead, however, of mounting a 30-75 pound TV to your wall, you end up mounting a 100 to 120 inch (or larger) screen to that wall. No wires to run up the wall.

Bottom line, a laser TV is likely the easier installation for you, or the Geek Squad (yes Best Buy carries this Epson). That is just the total opposite of most dedicated home theaters, where the screen is mounted to the wall, but the projector is ceiling mounted, or on a shelf at the back of the room, creating wiring challenges. Epson provides an interesting piece of cardboard in the box, which you set up to determine exactly the positioning of the projector to the screen. I didn’t get to use it, as I’m using my own screen, but Epson’s got a great short video showing how to do it.

The Lens

Epson's rear facing lens sits in a housing above the projector, an atypical design.

Can’t miss it, it sticks up. It’s big (the front element). And it is housed so that the glowing lens isn’t visible at all when sitting in normal positions. You might see a little of it if watching from far to the side, but not enough to distract.

UST projection lenses are challenging. While there is a focus control, as with other UST projectors, I find the LS500 to appear to be a little less sharp than standard, normal through projectors, such as Epson’s Pro Cinema 6050UB, which, similarly priced, would be a great choice if you were doing a traditional really dark home theater. (But the 6050UB is lamp, not laser).

If you go looking for the softness, it will be greater toward the top, but generally fine. In the upper corners however, that’s where, if there’s some text, it’s not difficult to spot the softer focus. That said, few will have an issue. I never notice it while watching my football (mostly 1080p) and when watching 4K movies, I notice only when looking for it.

Inputs and Connectors

speakers behind magnetic grille
Front of LS500 with cloth grill removed. Dual 10 watt speakers are on the far left and right.

Most are located on the back, close to the screen. If you are facing the back of the Epson, from the left:

First is a LAN ( wired network) connection, next over are HDMI 1 and HDMI 2. HDMI 2 has ARC (return channel for audio). Further to the right are a service port (USB) and a standard USB-A. Below those inputs is a stereo audio output, and below it, an RS-232C serial port for old school “command and control” of the projector, from a computer or other device. Way down low, you’ll find one security slot to secure your projector with cabling. Just to the right of it, is the recessed receptacle for the AC power cord.

Moving to the front, remove the front grill cloth (magnetically held in place. The built-in speakers are at the far left and far right. In addition to those:

  • The Control Panel
  • The Focus control (vertical slide)
  • HDMI 3 (with ARC) This is normally used to hook up the provided Android OS stick.
  • A USB style 2amp 5 volt power port, to power the Android stick. (alternately it could charge 3D glasses or other 5 volt devices, when not powering the Android stick.
  • There are two adjustable feet below the front.

Sound system – by Epson

I already mentioned in special features, but let’s touch on The LS500’s audio system again: A pair of Epson speakers with 10 watts per channel provides enough volume to handle loud action flicks, but as you would expect, no deep bass, and little “middle bass” (but more than a typical large LCDTV – but that’s why some folks spend a lot on expensive sound bars.

The Espon’s not bad, but as a hard core audiophile, I highly recommend to anyone that really likes music, to get a proper sound system. For a Laser TV like this, with prices around $5K, spending say, 20% of that on a sound system certainly seems reasonable, but even a $500 or so system will blow away the sound in any of these Laser TVs (Only the big HiSense, which ships with a sub-woofer has any chance against a $500 system – that’s my 2 cents). Music lovers will be missing out big time listening to music festivals and concerts through the speakers of these Laser TVs. That said, in the pecking order, the Epson impresses me less with it’s sound than projectors from VAVA (Harmon Kardon inside), InFocus (NuForce inside) etc.) Several of the are in the range of being about twice as powerful as the Epson (but again, it will fill your room!).

Remote Controls (2)

Perhaps the strangest thing about the LS500 is the removable android stick for the OS. Not only is it removable (you have to plug it in as part of setting up the projector – takes 30 seconds), but it apparently works as a stand alone Android computer. The second Epson remote control is only mentioned in the manual in a picture of what’s in the box! That’s it.

So, no documentation, but plug it into a computer’s HDMI, and give it power, and you should be able to grab Netflix or other streaming content just as you would if it was in the Epson.

The standard remote control shares some of the good and bad of others.

The bad is always the most obvious! No backlight on the remote. I hate that. People normally have lighting down at least in the evenings. Epson’s home theater projectors starting at $2000 all have backlit remotes!

As I mentioned, I was confused by the two included remotes. I talked to Philip (Lead Technical Editor of Projector Reviews) and he thinks the remote with more buttons on it is for someone who wants to easily access the projector’s settings along with the entertainment features. Since most customers, once the set up the projector, aren’t constantly fiddling with picture settings. Epson includes a more basic remote (the one with less buttons) focused on the entertainment experience.

Let’s talk about a few notable buttons on the LS500’s remotes:

You will see two bright white buttons (that helps find the remote in a darkish room) with the first button used to access YouTube. The second white button shows you the Apps on the projector – those preloaded and those you add, from the Google Play store. One click from that screen takes you to the store where you can download additional apps. As I mentioned, I downloaded the Disney+ app into the Epson to watch The Mandalorian.

Overall this remote is small, the buttons are nicely spaced, and the icons are white and readable if the room isn’t too dark.

Bottom line: It’s a nice, small remote, works well, only major problem is it should be backlit!

Epson LS500 standard remote control (A second one provided for Android stick if used elsewhere)

Use this Android remote should you remove the Android OS stick from the Epson, to use elsewhere

Control Panel

The LS500 has a very typical control panel for Epson home projectors.

Normally I tackle a projector’s control panel before the remote control, but since this Epson LS500’s control panel almost duplicates the remote, no additional comments are needed. It makes sense to do it after. That’s especially true since you are unlikely to use it, unless you can’t find the remote.

Android Menus

The LS500 Homescreen, featuring the familiar Android OS look and feel.

The Android OS is typical, so if you have ever used any other device running android, you will feel at home.  For that reason, I will not go into the Android home screen or menu choices within, other to say, you can load apps, adjust settings…

Projector Menus

Epson has been using the same menu structure for probably more than 15 years.  It is well organized.  All the projector’s smarts are in the android OS, so very separate. This first image is the Projector Info screen, which shows quite a bit of useful info, including the resolution and more about what is being projected.

Note that while Epson has tried to simplify the menus for this laser TV, the projector has the same complete set of adjustments to fully and accurately calibrate it. In the image player below are a few more menus as a sample, including the HDR tone mapping.

Bottom Line:  Excellent menu system.