Projector Reviews

Epson EpiqVision LS500 Laser TV Review – Picture Quality

I will get into plenty of details relating to the LS500’s picture quality, but the really short version is that this Epson starts with one of the brightest laser TV pictures out there, and really good color.  Those have to be the two most important things to want in a 4K/HDR capable Laser TV!

Phil calibrated the LS500 for me, and with calibration, the Epson’s color becomes more accurate, but the default settings (Cinema, in particular) are pretty darn close, right out of the box, with good skin tones, etc., in both the “Cinema” modes. You will primarily use two modes: Bright Cinema and Cinema. You can enjoy either of those without adjustment. There are two more modes Game, and Dynamic.

Out-of-the-Box Picture Quality

Dynamic Mode is the brightest, roughly and, as is typical of most projectors’ brightest modes, proves to be too strong on yellows and greens. It’s a mode to use when you need every lumen. Epson’s Dynamic mode is a lot better balanced, and less yellow green than most of the competition. Some “brightest modes” on other projectors are pretty hideous. In my bright living room, as you can see in the football images, I normally use Dynamic on a bright sunny day, but find Bright Cinema to be bright enough for viewing on a cloudy day, or with my various “shades” closed, if sunny. My room is brighter than most, as you can clearly see from the photos.

Dynamic mode is almost 40% brighter than Bright Cinema, so there’s a lot of extra oomph for cutting through ambient light.

LS500: Cinema Mode, Calibrated: Passengers, 4K HDR UHD disk. Room view, night time, low lighting on. Spectacular for a "bright room" projector.

Cinema produces a slightly better image than Bright Cinema, at the cost of about 15% or so of the brightness (not too bad). For those familiar with Epson’s Home Theater projectors that have a “Cinema filter” (no Cinema filter for the LS500), the “same” Digital Cinema mode, is barely half of Bright Cinema. If you darken your room, use Cinema for HDR content, but when it’s brighter you can still use Bright Cinema for the extra pop.

The last mode is Game mode, which interestingly comes across less saturated than Bright Cinema. Not being a serious game player, I did not work with Game mode. Epson projectors are well known for being good gamers, and the LS500, should be particularly good, thanks to:

Gamers! The magic number is 16.7 ms input lag for this Epson LS500, which is a lot faster/better for gaming than most home projectors. “Accceptable” is input lag around 50ms. Good around 35ms. 16.7 represents a 1 frame behind lag with 60 fps games.

Seriously, only gaming monitors are significantly faster. For example, my 77” LG OLED (pricey, and fast) claims 14ms. Still, 0 input lag monitors are out there (and relatively very expensive). Bottom line:   If you aren’t competing nationally, the Epson’s 16.7ms you will almost certainly find to be something be just fine and really great.

Bottom Line: The LS500 is plenty bright! With it’s least bright mode still topping the charts at almost 1800 lumens. Let’s not forget, as you probably have read, laser projectors inherently seem brighter than lamp based projectors, measuring the same amount. Part of that is the wider color space inherent to laser light engines.

The Epson’s best mode, calibrated came in at 1795 lumens. For most folks, that might seem as bright as a 2500+ lumen lamp based projector, and that would be one very bright calibrated projector. What we used to call a “light canon.”

Only the maximum measurement was a disappointment, since Epson claims 4000 lumens. That’s just not like them to under estimate. That said, measuring UST projectors is tricky, to say the least. When I was doing full measurements I measured directly, whereas Phil measures the light off of the screen, in this case with a matte white screen, not an ALR/UST type.

More on measurements, and how the LS500 compares to other Laser TVs in the next section, which is Performance

More importantly, I have no doubt that the Epson is easily a lot brighter than the VAVA or the Optoma P1. It’s been a while since I had the LG HU85LA, but that one is likely about equally bright, or at least close.

Out of the Box Performance

No surprises here. Every mode but Dynamic has really good color. Dynamic, as noted, shifts to strong green/yellows. You can reduce that slightly, with little loss of brightness. That’s exactly what I have done for watching sports with my room hit with full sunlight.

I did not work with Game mode at all, so did not look at it from a color standpoint… That said, Nikki, one of our reviewers, is a hard core gamer, having an Epson UB projector. She loves gaming on it. This should be an even better experience (as it has less input lag than hers).

Dynamic mode's color is unusually good for a projector's brightest mode. Nicely done!

Skin tones, right out of the box, without adjustment, are very good in both Cinema and Bright Cinema. Calibration will improve on that, but I’d say that either mode has color, unadjusted, at least as good as most traditional LCD and OLED TVs.  Most of you will be more than pleased with the LS500’s inherently good handling of skin tones.

Skin Tones

Let’s keep this simple:

Skin tones in Dynamic mode are off – definitely slightly strong on green/yellows, but not too bad for a brightest mode.

Bright Cinema and Cinema both Calibrate very nicely, but look fine on skin tones, without any adjustment, just not quite as accurate.

Cinema looks especially good, and especially so on 4K HDR content. Again, some of the movie images were shot with the purple ambient light on, and it can be spotted on brighter scenes such as Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), in the cafeteria, where the purple easily shows in the background (sorry about that, probably should have shot at least one image with and without the purple light on, for comparison.

If anything, Phil’s final calibration, if off slightly when viewing, seems to add just a touch of red to the skin tones, but small enough that differences between the color balance on one piece of content compared to another, is going to be greater than any shift from this Epson’s color handling.

4K with HDR Content

HDR and 4K are the two “breakthroughs” of the industry over the past 5 years or so. 4K content, of course, produces a sharper image than 1080p content if you have the display that can take advantage – which, of course, this Epson can, as can the other 4K capable projectors and laser TVs out there.

The Epson is nicely sharp on 4K content. Not as sharp as non-UST type projectors around the edges, but great to watch.

HDR is the attempt to have more life-like dynamics to the image, but that requires a lot of brightness. Projectors all compromise between brightness and HDR. Without enough brightness – and no compromise – the image appears dim. No worries:

Epson’s controls let you easily adjust the “tone mapping.” I find in my room using Cinema, at night, I run the Dynamic Contrast setting at 8 or 9 (0-15), but if dealing with daytime ambient light, I may lower to 5 or 6.  You can save day and night versions, with the user memories.  It makes optimizing the image easy.

I watched my regular movies and some others, off of 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, with HDR, at night on the Epson LS500. The image proved dazzlingly bright, and extremely enjoyable. Black levels leave a lot to be desired, but then these Laser TVs are high quality “home entertainment” solutions, more geared for sports and general TV with a fair amount of ambient light. None of these Laser TVs is a match for pure highest quality viewing achievable from a dedicated home theater projector in a proper home theater with dark walls and other surfaces.

That said, watching Passengers at night (4K/HDR) with the lights off on the 120” screen is very much the theater experience you are looking for, especially if you are not a home theater fanatic like me.

4K Color

Epson is focused on brightness, as such, they did not attempt to produce P3 color. Two announced competitors will be the first of the triple-laser projectors – I am told those can hit the full P3.  Meanwhile serious home Theater projectors get close (ie. the Epson 6050UB measured about 95%).

There are real differences between P3 and good old REC709, but they are very subtle, compared to going from 1080p to 4K for sharpness, or from non HDR, to HDR.  As this projector is not for the hard core enthusiast looking for the most perfect picture in the most perfect conditions, For what it is worth, I don’t have a problem with the LS500s not trying to do P3 color.  I sure don’t care about it when watching my football…

Vibrant!

Sports Viewing

I have not had the opportunity to watch 4K sports yet, but 1080p sports looks great, as you can see in the many images. Only my room’s maximum brightness, no shades closed, is not great to watch (with sunlight streaming in). I expect most homes will have more lighting control than my room does.

Bright day, my very minimal drapes and coverings closed, great sports. View from my kitchen.

Lacking, is CFI – creative frame interpolation, which is “smooth motion,” that many competitors have. It’s nice to have but not a critical feature. Sports are at least 30fps, so inherently pretty smooth, but 60fps content is nicely smooth.

Dynamic mode's color is unusually good for a projector's brightest mode. Nicely done!

Back to real life viewing. This weekend I forced myself too watch the day NFL football games (Red Zone) on my 77” OLED. Great picture, but I do have to deal with reflections off the screen from all my windows/doors. Still, by the time the Sunday Night Football game came on, I just couldn’t wait to raise the 120” screen. And when I did, a whole different experience unfolds. And I can wander around to the kitchen, or outside on the balcony and still see the game.

Update:  I had the opportunity to watch one football game that was available from my Comcast cable company.  The extra sharpness was not impressive, there was too much compression it seemed, which diminished what should have been a more crisp/sharp looking image.  My issue, however, is with the “broadcast” not the LS500’s ability to put a rather sharp 4K image on the screen.

30 feet from the screen, still a decently large view from my balcony with the 120" screen and Epson.

Screen down, you are looking at a 77" OLED. It is far smaller, w/half the sq ft. Imagine a 50", which is 40% the size of the 77", and barely 1/6 the size of my 120" screen!!

All I can say is, watching sports on a screen that is five feet tall, and almost eight feet wide – is a BLAST!

football on Epson LS500
The LS500 looks outstanding. The 5 foot tall, almost 9 foot wide image will blow you away. Note the Epson LS500 at the bottom of the image.

Bottom Line on Picture Quality:

The LS500 combines some really good, well balanced color, putting up an overall nicely sharp 4K image (but not the sharpest), on a large screen, while having plenty of power for daytime viewing with reasonable light control. BTW, going with the 100” screen instead, will produce an image approximately 50% brighter still.

The Epson's vibrant colors look great in the evening!

Picture wise, this Epson is one of the best yet, in part thanks to the color, combined with one of the brightest images available.

Black levels definitely could be a lot better for the movie aficionado at night, but, overall, most everyone will enjoy the picture! This is a fun projector to watch. Or perhaps I should better put it: the Epson LS500 makes things more fun as you watch content projected large enough to essentially fill a wall!

A very dark scene from Passengers, I use tor observing black levels and dark shadow detail. LS500: great on detail, ok on blacks.