Posted on December 11, 2020 By Art Feierman
Epson EquiqVision LS500 Laser TV Review – Summary: The Big Picture, Overall Performance, Competition, The Bottom Line, Pros and Cons
Laser TVs like the Epson LS500 are a relatively new class of displays for the home. In a sense they are the logical replacement for the “big screen” TVs of 20 years ago, except back then “big screen” was 50” or 60” diagonal. Now those are just average TV sizes. Today’s Big Picture, comes from projectors, as it long has.
The difference is that today, you can achieve a movie theater sized experience, in your living room, den, or any other room, without having to dedicate a room to it as has been typical of home theaters/caves.
That big screen – projected experience has been around for 20 years, but it’s only been very recently that:
The real, large screen experience has become as easy to own as mounting a large (but much smaller) LCD or LED TV on your wall. Also consider that the LS500 and other Laser TVs are smart – just like smart TVs from the likes of Sony, LG, Samsung, Visio, so fully capable of streaming and more.
As of this writing, the LS500 is likely still newest to ship, as I received the review unit just a few weeks after Epson’s first US shipments (also, Phil had it first to calibrate it before sending it cross country to me to review). I’ve now logged 129 hours on the unit (can’t say I’m watching it closely for all of that, at least half, though, was football!
Picture Color: Editor’s note: In the football image above, as well as other photos taken in the evening or night time (including from the movie Passengers), tend to exhibit a slight shift toward purple in the whites. That is not due to the projector, but that in the evenings we do run a purplish/blue light in the living room, and it is being picked up by the camera. Because this is a “bright room” projector, I wanted the shoot to be how my room normally is. By comparison, in my theater, there would be no lights on when shooting images at night. You can see that color light in various room shots. -art
Typical evening room lighting fr TV and sports (the actual shades of purple, etc. do vary, we like to tinker.) This purple-is light has affected my nighttime photos
Aurora - aka Jennifer Lawrence - in Passengers: 4K HDR. Skin tones look rather good despite the photo definitely picking up the purples from the room lighting (my bad!)
Glorious! "enough said!"
Another "off-angle" evening photo, to show both the screen, and the reasonable amount of ambient light. Even with the ambient, great skin tone.
Full sunlight, late afternoon, pouring into the room - worst case scenario of the LS500 in an unusually bright living room.
This shows the rest f the room, overlapping the previous photo, to give you an idea of "how ridiculously bright" a room can be.
Daytime (sunny), but with curtains, etc. drawn.
LS500 image 4K, HDR, from Passengers
The star of The Mandalorian, aka "baby Yoda" (except it isn't). Disney+ darkens the top and bottom of images when I pause it, to shoot. But "baby" looks great.
One of the things that makes this Epson LS500 unique is how it comes to you. It arrives in one really large box, including the screen, which you quickly, easily assemble (15 minutes – mostly attaching a lot of small springs – easy enough) that keep the screen tight onto the frame. The mounting tool helps you quickly figure out exactly where to mount the screen once you place the projector. I did not get to work with that, since I used my own screen, but my friend Carlos at Epson has put together a great installation video…so, check it out.
As mentioned elsewhere, mounting a screen to the wall is relatively easy compared to mounting even a 40” LCDTV to the wall. No wires to run to the screen, but plenty to the TV… You will need a stud finder, and a level, but you would need both of those to mount any TV to a wall.
This Epson comes with a choice of a 100” or 120” fixed wall screen. If you are in a situation where you need a motorized screen, then look to Elite Screens, Screen Innovations and others for either riser screens (like mine) or motorized screens that mount to the ceiling or the wall near the ceiling. My wife was not going to allow me that large wall to be empty screen most of the time, so I had already gotten my 120” screen long before deciding which Laser TV to buy!
This Epson, claiming 4000 lumens, although it did not hit claim, it still measured brighter in it’s brightest, and in its best modes than any of the other Laser TVs we have reviewed of late.
The LS500 ended up measuring slightly brighter than the next brightest current Laser TV we’ve reviewed,, and up to almost twice as bright in its best picture quality mode as some of the competition.
The Epson has 3000 “usable” lumens in its brightest mode, combined with some reasonably good color. Over 2100 lumens provide really good color in calibrated Bright Dynamic, and 1800 lumens in the best mode – calibrated Cinema.
I’ve already bored you with a great many photos of the Epson in action on my 120” screen under different lighting. Just remember, my room is especially bright, by almost any standard, during the afternoons. And the shades I have block very little light. I would venture to guess than 99% of all living rooms and dens out there are far better places to put a Laser TV than my own living room. Yet, it works great, except when the lighting is at its worse in the afternoons when sunlight pours into the room. Most folks rooms aren’t as bright as my room gets at its darkest during the day!
Still it’s the combination that impresses: All that brightness combined with excellent color.
Make that very good color right out of the box (better than almost all), and right on the money when calibrated!
The LS500 has 3 HDMI inputs – one in the front (behind the grille) for the Android OS stick, and all the smarts, and two in the back. HDMI 3 supports ARC, so that audio coming in over the internet to the LS500 can be sent over HDMI to an AV or stereo receiver. (Same as with smart TVs). As noted, the sound system is smaller and with less bang than most of the competition, in part because this is the smallest of these projectors in size.
Still, I always recommend spending at least $500 (for a “home theater in a box” audio solution), or more for AV receiver and speakers. If you are investing $4000+ in your “video” then your audio should rival it, and that’s not going to happen with these laser TVs, and is sure not to happen with a regular LCD TV. Live it up, get great sound to go with a great picture…it won’t break the bank!
This Epson LS500 it is brighter than all our recent laser TV reviews, based on our measurements (rather than claims).
Only the Dell S718QL, which is a UST commercial projector, with a similar design to these laser TVs, proved significantly brighter, but it has a $5999 price for the projector, no screen, compared to the Epson LS500 at $4999 with the 100” screen!
The image below, like the one right above (that’s Epson’s 100” screen), taken on the show floor at CEDIA 2019, when this Epson was first announced. The LS500 below, is hitting the 120” screen instead. The performance was rather amazing considering how bright a trade show floor is!
The Epson outmuscled The LG HU85LA, the next brightest projector, by modest amounts, but the rest came in markedly lower in brightness.
All of the laser TVs we’ve reviewed use an Android OS for smarts except the LG which has long had its own OS. The LG shares the same OS as their TVs. That’s your closest competition.
The LG will have slightly better black levels (for night time viewing), and a bit bigger sound, but again, it is more expensive. Current discounted price on the LG (no screen) seems to go down to about $5500, which is still $500 more than the List price of the Epson with the 100 inch screen).
The VAVA and one of the HiSense models are less expensive, as is the Optoma P1, but those three are definitely not as bright. The Optoma P1, for example sells in the low-mid $3000 range without screen, while the VAVA comes in hundreds below $3000.
Here are two images: The first is the Epson under the worst possible conditions – tons of sunlight and no drapes closed. The Epson is washed out but watchable for sports.
Now here’s a similar setup, room brightness wise, but with the Optoma P1 I reviewed back in May of this year. In this one image, also full sunlight, like the Epson image above, the P1 was faint enough that I lowered the screen partially so you could compare the P1’s brightness to the LG TV’s.
While the P1 was not watchable at all under this much light, the Epson did a passable job. When my curtains, etc. are closed (still a pretty bright room), the P1 performed about as well dealing with the ambient, as the Epson does with the coverings all open. That’s what more usable lumens will do for you!
Figure the “value” of Epson’s 100” and 120” screens are roughly $1000+ in your calculations.
Some of these models needed calibration to achieve even “good” color (VAVA), while others did much better “right out of the box,” but none offers as good overall color, right out of the box as this Epson LS500.
As value propositions go, the Epson looks to be at least as good as any of the Laser TVs. They all have somewhat different feature sets, but have similar overall capabilities. Most, have CFI – for smooth motion, which this Epson lacks, but I’ve never considered CFI to be a critical feature, as I rarely have used it myself, in all the years of owning and reviewing projectors.
As I pointed out, the Epson has some respectable sound (for a “big TV”), but not a match for some of these others, notably the LG, VAVA and Optoma, (I was only able to add a sub-woofer. to the LG,) but again, great video, invest a little for some far better sound, if you are into movies or music. That recommendation is true for all the Laser TVs I’ve reviewed.
As Epson only offers the system with screen, your choices are 100” or 120” diagonal. That said, should you have other needs, the Epson can support sizes smaller and larger than those. They provide positioning info up to 130” diagonal, and, I believe (from my memory) down to 80”. Personally, if your screen has to be smaller than 90” I would say just buy a large OLED TV.
Epson’s Laser TV is one of the best options out there for a “bright room” environment. It installs about as easily as any projector/laser TV, and while assembling the screen takes 10-15 minutes, it’s not hard at all. No wires to run, just align the projector on a low table in front of your screen, and start enjoying.
This Epson is bright enough for just about any “common” room with decent lighting control. True, the experience will be better if your walls, floors, ceilings are not white, but that is even true for TVs (which have issues with reflections from lights, due to their shiny reflective surfaces.
Picture modes: When you need the max brightness (sports/sunny day, no shades) use Dynamic
For the rest of your viewing, except at night with the lights off, you’ll probably find Bright Cinema to be your go to choice. Use Cinema for HDR content or regular content, when ambient light is low enough. Remember that the difference between Cinema and Bright Cinemaa – after Phil’s calibration worked out to Bright Cinema being slightly less than 20% brighter, than Cinema.
Recommendation #2: As I finish this review, it’s Dec 7th. Go buy one – treat yourself, it’s the holidays! You almost certainly have the time to still have it arrive, assemble the screen, place the projector and start watching, ahead of the holidays!
Cinema Mode (least bright) daytime, shades closed
An extremely dark scene - The black levels of this Epson, like those of other "bright room" laser TVs is not a match fr excellent "dark room" (home theater) projectors, that require an excellent room.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: 4K UHD with HDR (disc). Photo taken in evening.
Passengers: 4K HDR UHD disc: At night, looks really good. This movie has too many very dark scenes for daytime viewing (even on a great OLED TV!)
Overall, this Epson should be an absolutely awesome game player, in addition to being killer for sports viewing and similar. BTW those 4K videos Apple TV provides as screen savers (including some incredible videos of cityscapes, are something to behold at 120” diagonal in 4K. (Sometimes I’ll put on great music, but just run the Apple TV 4K screen savers for the picture.
This Epson is missing a few features, but none critical, as far as a Laser TV goes. Physically it’s not only especially small, but as noted, available in black or white, so it should blend nicely into your soon to be a “not so common” room viewing experience.
Reminder, when considering this Epson: When paired with their 120” diagonal screen the front of the Epson sits further back from the screen than most laser TVs, by several inches. Pay attention when deciding what piece of furniture you will be putting the Epson on, in terms of depth. With the smaller 100” screen that should not be a problem. Most of the competition sits a little closer, but also most of the laser TVs also sit further below the bottom of the screen than the LS500. Neither solution is better, it’s just what works best for you.
Very Bottom Line: I believe the Epson’s value proposition is really very good. It easily earns the Hot Product Award it received from us. BTW, Epson pretty much has the best long term reputation for support and for reliability, going back to the beginning of the modern projector era. I do hope eventually Epson will offer the Laser TV without the screen, to give those who want to splurge on a motorized screen, a bit better deal, but some of the other Laser TVs also come bundled with a screen.
Just remember, Laser TVs are like LCD TVs you don’t buy them for the ultimate picture, you buy them for the viewing experience. A dedicated home theater projector will appeal more to the hard core enthusiast such as myself. If not for that, I would almost certainly buy this Epson, (the other I’ve considered is the LG. I am still deciding what to do, myself. My options are different than most, because, of two things:
The Epson EpiqVision should certainly be on your short list. Besides, aren’t you tired of watching great content, on tiny sets like iPhones, laptops, and 65” LCD TVs.
If your last TV is, say a 50, 55, or 65”, you will be totally blown away watching the same content (or similar) on a 100” or 120” system. -art
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