Posted on November 9, 2017 By Art Feierman
Laser light engines bring multiple benefits to projectors. Still, it’s true that there’s definitely a price premium up front to having a long life laser light engine in a projector, but as the extra cost continues to shrink the trade-offs are looking more and more appealing. It’s not so much about that the Epson LS100 claims a 20,000 hour life – even at full power – that works out to 40 hours a week for about a decade – assuming you don’t take it with you on vacation – which you could!
There are other benefits – color is far more stable than with lamps. With lamp projectors, for example, our calibrator always wants to put 100 hours on the lamp before calibrating because the color will change a visible amount in that time. Of course we’re reviewers. In a home setup, a calibrator may favor a lot more hours than that, before calibrating, especially with today’s lamps often claiming 3000 – 4000, even 5000 hours at full power. (High power projectors are usually on the low side, sometimes still down around 2500.)
Along with more stable color, comes, of course, no lamps to buy and replace, so the hassle aspect is gone. Lamps are generally pretty inexpensive these days, from well under $200 on lower cost projectors to the $300 – $500 range in higher end home theater projectors.
Add to the list – fast power on (and off) – just a few seconds. Now that isn’t a huge thing for most people, but, remember, lamp based projectors take a minute or really more like two before color starts looking really good and stable. So for those in a hurry…it’s another plus
There’s another benefit as well. The laser engines themselves have a wider color gamut, they can do visible colors and subliminal ones that lamps can’t. This is a bigger thing with 4K projectors however, which have a color standard – BT.2020 that can maximize the laser engine’s ability. Count that as a minor extra benefit for a 1080p projector like this one.
Four thousand lumens is brighter than the typical home theater projector by a factor of 2! This let’s the projector “play” in rooms that aren’t theater/cave style, as in very dark, often with relatively dark walls, floors and ceilings (think movie theater like).
Perhaps more importantly, the Epson easily beat its claim, and even post calibration it loses very few lumens from the maximum it’s capable of. There are plenty of 2000 and 2500 lumen projectors that by the time they look really great, are down below 1500 lumens, getting close to 1000.
Consider, in a dedicated home theater or other suitably very dark room (including “caves” – sorry, I used to say “man-caves” but someone told me that was sexist – ok) with a typical screen, all you really need is 450 lumens to have the same brightness as the movies playing at your local Cineplex!
I’ve been using a slightly more powerful “crossover” projector (like the LS100, has its roots in the business world) in my living room, and especially bright one, at that – see our Bright Room Projector video.
The key in bright rooms, is to have both a bright projector, and a screen designed to help deal with ambient light. The good news is that those types of screens, previously thousands of dollars, are more available today, and start well under $1000!
For my bright room projector testing, I have one of those screens a motorized SI Slate – designed for regular throw projectors, mounted on my wall between two sets of glass doors looking out into the bright sky, water, and hills.
For reviewing the Epson LS100, however, I also have a 100” diagonal ambient light rejecting screen, one specifically designed for UST projectors. I have a stand for that one, and bring it out of my testing room into the living room for reviews like this one.
Effectiveness of the combination of UST projector and UST light rejecting (ALR) screens – pretty good, but know this, not as good as a regular throw projector with a regular light rejecting screen. Still, the combination produces impressive results!
I’ll say a few words about the technology of UST, but, more important are the practical aspects. Remember those old big screen TVs – ie the Mitsubishi’s that dominated family rooms a decade ago. Unlike projectors they gave us a much larger than usual screen size, without having a projector far back in the room.
Today LCD TVs, of course, keep getting larger, (and projectors brighter) but they still aren’t practical over about 80” diagonal, where they get very expensive.
Enter UST – which can sit on a table, credenza, etc, right in front, and slightly below the bottom of the screen. No more walking between the projector and the screen and getting that bright light in your eyes, and also blocking the view of your friends and family.
UST projectors use unusual optics to spread the image across the screen with even brightness. And it works, I would say there are some minor distortions compared to a projector mounted 10-20 feet back, but nothing you are likely to care about, if you notice at all.
Epson offers a focus control, which some UST projectors lack. I think that gives it the wider screen size range than some others. BTW UST designs are great for gaming too, because you are sitting behind the LS100.
The LS100 is “merely” a 1080p projector. I’m writing this review, while publishing our review of the new Sony VW285ES – that’s the first, and only sub-$5000 ($4999 of course) true 4K projector to hit the market. Like this LS100, it is just starting to ship.
There are other projectors capable of handling 4K content for less – that includes, for example, Epson’s best selling 5040UB, which is a few hundred less than this LS100, but is standard throw, and lamp based. (Remember, there’s always a significant jump in price for laser, and many are pixel shifters, which can resolve a bit more detail than standard 1080p projectors.
Not so, the LS100 – it is a true 1080p projector. While visiting Epson and seeing an engineering sample of the LS100 before it was announced at CEDIA, Epson pointed out that the LS100 will work with Blu-ray UHD players (4K), which is very true.
But, you won’t be watching 4K, because, what’s going to happen, since this projector really isn’t designed to, all the Blu-ray UHD players (well at least the four I’ve used – and there aren’t that many), will recognize whether a display can accept 4K. If not, it processes it down to 1080p. Whether you get any improvement that way compared to a 1080p disc, I’m not sure. It certainly won’t be looking like 4K with BT.2020 color and HDR (high dynamic range).
But it does mean you can start buying 4K resolution HDR, BT.2020 movies, so that if you decide to upgrade in a year or three you won’t be sorry all your discs are 1080p.
At the end of the day, it’s about the picture, so lets just say for now, as a 1080p projector the LS100 produces a very nicely sharp image.
I will always recommend watching a big image with an appropriately big sound system to deliver brilliant highs and solid, powerful base, in addition to a good mid-range, so I’m not a big fan of relying on any projector’s built in sound.
That said, having this 16 speaker system will provide good sound quality without that bass. So, listen on your surround sound or stereo system in your primary room, but if you want to haul the projector outside, for example, for a movie night under the stars, having that sound system makes life easy!
Another benefit is when you are projecting directly from mobile devices using MHL. That’s when you need a speaker on board, because, your phone or tablet won’t be hooked up to a stereo our surround sound system.
Have a traditional home automation system at your place? The Epson LS100 projector supports several major protocols, including Crestron, Control4 AMX, and Extron, well, that’s pretty much the big four of networking!
The same optional $99 module that works in most Epson projectors, plugs into the LS100 as well. One of the extras that that affords is the ability to project content directly from your computer, phone, etc., using Epson’s app, if you add the $99 wireless module. The module plugs in on the side of the projector.
MHL is a protocol for HDMI and for mobile devices. With MHL, for example, you can show content by plugging in various MHL capable devices into the LS100. Unlike most normal throw projectors, this UST Epson is likely to be table top, where it’s easy to plug in devices temporarily whether through HDMI or USB.
USB – Epson has three on this projector, one we’ll call a service port – which could be used to allow users to upgrade the LS100 if and when Epson should decide to add features with a firmware upgrade.
The others– can be used for content with its built in JPEG player – so take those photos, get them on a thumb drive, and just plug into the USB port.
And you can use one USB for remote mousing. That is typically a popular business/education projector feature, but has home applications as well.
Let’s say you are doing what I often do when writing these reviews (so I’m not spending too many hours staring at my MacBook’s LCD display. I use Apple TV to put the same content on the screen of my projector. Once up there, if I’m not typing, I can get up and use a remote mouse Most are well under $50, to navigate around the screen, turn pages, open programs and documents, all away from the keyboard, anywhere within range of the remote mouse – usually at least 25 feet.
Put that USB drive in one USB, with your photos on it, and run your vacation slideshow – to bore your friends – from anywhere in your room. They will thank you, no doubt.
Of course, this LS100 – with its business/education breeding, can easily double as a very serious business or classroom projector, where remote mousing is a great feature to have and use.
Or at home you could, for example, flip through your family photos, videos, or other things from your computer, from anywhere in the room!
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