Posted on December 11, 2020 By Art Feierman
Epson LS500 4K Capable Laser TV Review – Performance: Brightness, Audio Performance, Sharpness
Having personally reviewed something approaching 300 projectors in the past 17 years, Laser TVs tend to require a bit of a different approach to understand the brightness and how your room and viewing affect it. While one could say that commercial projectors are all dealing with lots of ambient light, just like these ultra short throw “bright room projectors” we call Laser TVs, the picture quality required for enjoyable home viewing is far more demanding than what is needed in the business/education world to present data documents, or even video clips.
As such we have to consider how well the Epson LS500 Laser TV, performs in conditions with lots of ambient light, but also with lower, and little ambient light.
The more lumens, the more ambient light the projector can tackle. As the viewer, however, remember, you’ll have different expectations for different content.
Example, you probably won’t care, on a bright sunny day, if you are watching sports, and choose a picture mode that doesn’t have great skin tones or even good ones, but will care that image really pops – aka not badly washed out.
But if you want to watch a movie, at night (most will have some very dark scenes), and low ambient light, then you want excellent skin tones and everything to look correct. Since we’re still not talking a dedicated home theater, we presume a good bit more ambient light than a home theater would have), so having enough brightness (including for HDR), still comes into play.
Let’s look at the numbers:
Epson EpiqVision LS500:
In the photo above, the Epson is tackling my worst case scenario – sunlight pouring in, curtains, everything fully open, etc.
By comparison, in the image immediately below, the Optoma P1, is tackling a similarly bright sunny day, but with the very light curtains (and blinds) closed. The Epson deals with the extra ambient light, but still outperforms the P1. That would be pretty much the case, with most of the competition. You can see the LG OLED behind the P1. I lowered the screen part way to show the difference.
Now let’s take a look at how the LS500 compares to the other recent Laser TVs we’ve reviewed.
Only the significantly more expensive Dell $5999 (no screen), a commercial, not home projector, and the roughly $25K Sony native 4K UST projector, the Epson is the brightest of those 4K capable Laser TVs reviewed to date! The LG is close behind, the Epson, overall.
*The LG HU85LA is very bright, in brightest mode, but exceptionally cool color temp, balanced, but not not as watchable as some.
Note: Epson vs LG – “calibrated” bright” modes: Epson 2115 lumens, LG 1942 lumens,
Other than the Epson being overall only slightly brighter than the LG, consider that the Epson’s brightest mode: Dynamic, offers better (and warmer) color than the similarly bright LG. If you need reasonable color, and max brightness, that favors the Epson by a healthy margin. (up to 50% brighter). The LG’s brightest modes can cut through ambient light about as well as the Epson, just not look as good.
With the easy remove (magnetic) front grill off, you can see the two small Epson speakers. Many competitors offer more power or larger sound, but if you really care about sound, you’ll own an AV receiver, and speakers. Even a modest such system $500 or so, should blow away all of these Laser TV sound systems.
The sound isn’t bad, but some other Laser TVs can perform markedly better. HiSense has put some very good/powerful sound in some of their models, and at least one model (Phil reviewed) ships with a 60 watt sub-woofer.
Epson’s audio out will not support adding a subwoofer, (annoying, but typical) only an alternate sound system, supporting an external sub-woofer, is a feature I have long recommended to all manufacturers with built in audio, but Epson still doesn’t support it. Plug in a cable into the audio out, and the internal speakers are automatically turned off. Too bad, as adding a small subwoofer would make for a really significant improvement for movie watching.
You will be perfectly happy with the Epson’s audio system for sports, and general TV, but could definitely be better for movies and music. It is better than the standard sound on most LCD and LED TVs.
If you are dropping $3K-$5K on a projector and you care about the sound quality, you want at least a better sound system than any of these Laser TVs have, although the HiSense, and LG are the best, with the Optoma P1 also out-performing the Epson.
Audible Noise: I’m talking fan noise. At full power the Epson is not one of the quieter projectors. It should be fine for almost everyone. But, if you are watching silent content, you will notice the fan noise, although it shouldn’t be a problem except for the most noise adverse, in which case, lower the brightness and the projector will quiet down (as most do)!
The LS500 supports 4K content, but does not meet the UHD standard of 8 million (overlapping is OK) pixels on the screen. Instead they only pixelshift to hit the screen twice for 4 million pixels, while the competition (all 4K capable 1080p DLPs) hits the screen 4 times, making them “UHD”.
Inherently, those others should be sharper – given comparable optics, image processing etc.
That said, all of these UST Laser TVs I’ve reviewed, have been less sharp in the corners than the traditional longer throw home projectors. The difference is visible if you get small text in the upper corners. In reality, I almost have to be looking for softness to notice. I don’t notice it while watching sports!
Certainly, this Epson – and the other Laser TVs, are more than sharp enough to easily demonstrate that 4K content looks noticeably sharper than standard 1080p content.
Epson’s image processing is especially good at making the Epson seem sharper than much of the competition. (I said “seem sharper”!) When you crank up this Epson’s Image Enhancement settings to 3 or 4 (2 I’ll call best setting, 3 and 4, appear sharper, but also the image will appear a little hard, perhaps on close ups of faces, etc. (We’re talking subtle differences.) Take a close look at the 1080 image below (click to enlarge). Image enhancement 4 will be perceived as being even sharper.
The Epson’s inherent data resolution and processing are better, in theory, than the optical path can fully reproduce. No surprise there, as that statement could probably be applied to all of the competition, except, most likely, the $25K native 4K Sony, which obviously isn’t really a competitor.
Overall sharpness is about comparable to the competition despite less pixel shifting. What it loses from less pixel shifting, it tends to make up with its particularly good image processing.
For Sports, anything requiring max sharpness (not movies):
When viewing 1080p, turn on 4K enhancement, use Image Preset 3 or 4. If 4K content, use the same setting, but since 4K, 4K enhancement is grayed out.
For movie and similar viewing: Set the image preset to 2, or 3. If you don’t mind “a touch over the top”, try 4, but, while I will often use 4 for sports, I can spot the slight hardness if I’m looking on movies, so rarely will go that high (usually where there’s a lot of CGI).
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