Look Out Competition: It’s Fun Time! Epson Is Shipping Their First, Smart, Under $1000 Home Entertainment Laser Projector – HD Res, and 2000 lumens!

Epson EF-100 Product Shot

Epson’s new EF-100 is shipping this month (Jan 2020), after an official US launch at CES (aka The Consumer Electronics Show), on January 6th, where it is being demonstrated. There are two versions – the EF-100W – in the white finish, and the EF-100B finished primarily in black but for its very cool copper-looking trim.

If you want to watch football in your living room, watch a late night movie on the ceiling in your bedroom, or entertain the kids in their bedroom with a Disney movie, or perhaps Sesame Street in the bonus room, then you should definitely put this projector on your short list for fun.

Epson EF-100W and EF-100B Product Shots
Compact and powerful. Movie an EF-100 from room to room, take to friends, use outside for sports or movie nights… Sound is built in, to make things easy.

You will find links to more info on the new EF-100B and EF-100W and additional Epson projectors below.

Editor's Note

I started out planning to write a typical product announcement piece from CES.

Epson, however, wanted to be sure to we really got the word out, with more of a consumer perspective.  The bottom line:  This is another paid “Advertorial” written by your friendly neighborhood projector editor/reviewer.  My goal is to present you with less hype, and more practical insights than you’d find in a marketing brochure or press release…  -art

Meet Epson’s New EF-100

We are waiting for our EF-100 to arrive for review.  In the mean time I’ve learned a lot about the EF-100, which I will share with you here.  This should hold you until our full review publishes.

This Epson EF-100 projector, first of all, is rather unique when compared to the rest of Epson’s lineup of projectors for the home.  It’s certainly Epson’s smartest projector to date, running an Android operating system which most of the (relatively few) smart projectors out there also rely on.  (Note, the Epson LS500 projector previously announced (and discussed below) is also smart, but not shipping until Q2.)  I expect a number of popular apps will be already pre-loaded, but will confirm.  I would expect, though, at least Netflix, Amazon and a few others.  More streaming and other apps, of course, can be downloaded from the Android store!

Note:  Further down the page, I will also touch on briefly, a few of my favorites – that is, other especially noteworthy home projectors from the folks at Epson.

EF-100BATV_Lifestyle_livingroom_couple
EF-100W and EF-100B
Brightness2,000 Lumens (Color AND White!)
Light SourceLaser - Micro-Array
Laser Life12,000 Hours at High Power, 20,000 at Low (20K Hours = 40 Hours a Week x 50 Weeks x 10 Years!)
Technology3LCD Panels (No Rainbow Effect)
SmartsAndroid Operating System, Google Assistant, Chomecast, Pre-Loaded Apps, Android App Store
Native ResolutionHD 1280×800 (Slightly Higher Than 720p HD)
AudioOne Rear-Facing 5-Watt Speaker, Stereo Audio Out for Speakers or Headphones
Dimensions8.25" (W) x 8.94" (D) x 3.5" (H)
Weight6.1 lb
Warranty2 Years Parts and Labor, with Rapid Replacement Program for Both Years
The EF-100W – It’s white with silver trim. The recessed lens offers digital zoom, while 3 adjustable feet make setup quick. Run an app like Netflix, or hook up a Blu-Ray player, streaming stick or cable/satellite. Epson easy!
The EF-100W – It’s white with silver trim. The recessed lens offers digital zoom, while 3 adjustable feet make setup quick. Run an app like Netflix, or hook up a Blu-Ray player, streaming stick or cable/satellite. Epson easy!

Epson’s projector line-up covers most of the home market segments, but they also dominate when it comes to commercial projectors especially in the education markets.  But, I digress.

About the only home market projectors that Epson doesn’t sell, are those tiny pico projectors, most of which are “toys”. Toys, as in with lower resolution and with most producing from 25 to 200 lumens compared to this Epson’s 2000 lumens!

The EF-100 was designed from the ground up for real home entertainment

That is to say, this class of projector is built for fun, for you, or your whole family. Sports, TV, streaming, movies. No, you don’t need to have a house full of kids.  I can see plenty of non-family type individuals buying this projector for themselves – primarily for sports viewing, perhaps.

My understanding is that the EF-100W and EF-100B are not designed for really serious high speed gaming, (Epson has other models that are, but the EF-100s will be fine for many other types of games.  The Nintendo Switch comes to mind. For example,  I’ll end up playing my fave game, a version of Risk – by Lux Deluxe (I play vs computer or online players but it’s more strategy than speed),

The thing with “home entertainment” is that we’re talking using this projector in normal rooms – living, family, bed…rooms or perhaps outside for a movie night, or Monday Night Football. Or if you score an EF-100, perhaps you’ll throw a big time Super Bowl party.

Note: If your goal is to dedicate a room to viewing movies and other content in near pitch darkness (like your fav cineplex), the EF-100 is not the projector for you. (Epson has plenty of projectors that are designed for just that – see below.)

EF-100B, EF100W Capabilities

Feature-wise, these projectors are identical (but for the cases). These projectors are short throw, in that they sit closer to your screen or wall, than traditional home projectors.

Epson says the EF-100 projectors can handle a 150” screen with some ambient light. Based on our reviews of other Epson projectors, that’s going to be true, but with more than minor ambient light present, most folks will want to keep the image from 90” diagonal to 120” diagonal. That’s plenty big (a 120” is in picture area, is almost 4 times the size of a 70” TV)!

Thanks to the laser light engine, the EF-100s can be placed horizontally, off angle, or even vertically (shooting at the ceiling or floor). You can place one on table top, or mount it using a ceiling or track lighting mount. At only 6 pounds, weight is not an issue.

Don’t try this at home, the blood will all rush to your head! Seriously, this is a professional photo. To enjoy vivid colors like seen here, your bedroom can’t be this bright.

Note: I will add in real life images, when our review unit arrives.

There is no zoom lens, but there is 1.35:1 Digital Zoom, so if are getting too large an image, from where you can place the projector, you can easily scale the image down in size.

The projector has a cleverly designed single HDMI input with a short cable. There’s even room to stash a smart stick for your streaming, such as the Amazon Firestick or a Roku, right inside the unit. There is also  USB-C and an audio out.

Resolution is standard HD – that is, it handles 720p without any compression. In reality the Epson, like many projectors, goes with the slightly higher resolution 1280×800 which is WXGA. That’s definitely not an issue. This is a home entertainment projector. Epson could have made it higher resolution – full 1080p HD, or even 4K, but these are trade-offs against price and other performance, such as the laser light engine and the benefits it brings. You can get sharper images elsewhere, but not with a laser engine, 3 LCD design, smarts, and 2000 color and white lumens. To get an idea of the high end of the home entertainment range, see the blurb below on the LS500!

Sounds Good!

Obviously, you can’t expect world class audio, from a 5 watt mono speaker in a very small box that’s smaller than a toaster oven, but Epson’s EF-100 offers you the option of using the provided stereo audio output, to feed headphones, or perhaps a powerful stereo or surround sound system (go for it!).

Picture Quality!

Expect excellent color!  If there’s one thing consistent from one Epson projector to the next (we have reviewed dozens over the past 20 years), is some of the best looking color, right out of the box. The EF-100 should be no exception. It offers multiple preset picture modes designed for different viewing.

Color ModeDescription
DynamicThis is the brightest mode. Best for prioritizing brightness.
Bright CinemaBest for projecting vivid images.
NaturalBest for adjusting the image color.
CinemaBest for enjoying content such as movies.

Having great black levels for handling really dark scenes (in a really dark room) is perhaps the most significant difference between home theater, and home entertainment projectors, (also, to a lesser extent, brightness is a difference). I can’t even think, though, of a single under $3000 laser projector from anyone, with really good black levels. The thing is, the potential home entertainment market is far larger than the home theater one.

Although the EF-100 lacks a dynamic iris to improve black level performance on dark scenes, Epson has equipped this projector with Automatic Luminance Adjustment. Now that sounds (from the manual’s description) a lot like using the laser light engine to lower overall brightness on dark scenes to improve black levels, as a dynamic iris would. Iris’ typically have far more range though. I’ll be curious to see how well that works when I do the review, but I would expect a slight improvement over “entry level”, but don’t expect “quality home theater” projector black levels.

In order take advantage of those far more expensive “theater” projectors, ideally you want a dedicated room, with dark walls, floors and ceilings (like mine). The really good home entertainment projectors like the EF-100, though, are far more affordable, and traditionally really thrill their owners. Because they are fun!

Place the EF-100 on a table top, project on to a screen (ideally, they aren’t expensive), wall or ceiling. On a wall, brighter content, which pretty much includes almost all sports and a lot of HDTV/streaming, should look great under modest to moderate ambient light.

Important to Consider: The right screen will significantly improve your viewing experience. It can deliver a better picture in much brighter room lighting than a projector will deliver on a white wall. The difference isn’t “night and day” but it can be huge! (That type of screen, which absorbs ambient light, are called ALR screens – and offered by a number of screen manufacturers.)

The bottom line on Epson’s new EF-100 projectors: Expect massive enjoyment!

Pros

  • 2,000 Lumens of Laser Light: Plenty of brightness to project the kind of large images just not possible with today’s LCD/LED TVs
  • Colors should be brilliant, and vivid, with really good color and skin tones
  • Very Smart – load on your favorite apps – for streaming services and more.
  • Great Warranty – not just two years parts and labor, but if there’s a warranty issue those two years – Epson will simply replace your projector – normally within 2 business days! No muss, no fuss (they pay all freight too!)
  • No Rainbow Effect to distract viewing (RBE affects a small portion of the population – including me).
  • Compact and Portable (but not battery powered)
  • Very Portable: Small footprint and 6 pound weight. Backpack it!
  • Easy to set up and use

Cons

  • Resolution could be higher (i.e. 1080p) but that would make for a more expensive projector. If you sit too close you will see some screen door effect.
  • Since it is not designed for really dark black levels (aka, a home entertainment projector), it won’t be great on really dark scenes, in a fully darkened room, of course there aren’t any $1K projectors with great black levels – that starts at over 2x the price – and those are “home theater” models.
  • No Bluetooth audio – That would have been nice, but, in fairness, most gear with bluetooth output, end up with the problem of latency – with the sound being out of sync with the video.
  • No built-in battery. (Projectors this bright, would need big, heavy batteries to be able to play for a couple of hours.)

Looking to Pair an ALR Screen with your Epson EF-100 Projector?

We wrote about Ambient Light Rejecting Screens in our 2019 Holiday Guide to Five Great Home Theater Projectors Over $2000. Click the link to check it out! It’s near the bottom of the page.

The Legend of Epson

Those of you just becoming familiar with projectors may not be aware, but Epson has long been the dominant projector brand on planet Earth for most of two decades. (Depending on the source of research (i.e. PMA), and types of projectors compared), Epson typically is considered to have 30% to over 50% of the US/North America market. No other “player” even is close to having 10% market share. Epson’s parent, Seiko Epson, is a $10 Billion company. Epson was created by Seiko (yes the watches) after they invented the first electronic printer, for the 1960 Tokyo Olympics. The rest, as they say, “is history!” (Disclosure: I worked for Epson for 4 years in the early ‘80s. Long before projectors.)

If you have read all this so far, and have concluded that the EF-100 isn’t the type of home projector you are looking for. I get it. In that case consider:

These are my favorite other Epson home theater and home entertainment projectors. We’ve reviewed/written about almost all of these. Epson’s entire line-up of home projectors found on their own US website number 44 models, but in fairness, perhaps 1/3 of them are close outs. Still that’s leaves them with many more models than any competitors offer.

Other low cost Home Entertainment Projectors

You can start with three models under $500 (from $359 per the Epson store), and many more under $1000, but one favorite of mine is the Home Cinema 2150 – listed for $899 (but often on sale).  It is wireless, has a dynamic iris, and is bright, yet I consider it to be “half entertainment, half theater.”  Excellent picture for the money.

Half Home Theater Half Home Entertainment

The 4K capable Home Cinema 3200, and 3800, with list prices in the mid-$1000’s are Epson’s least expensive 4K capable projectors!
The 4K capable Home Cinema 3200, and 3800, with list prices in the mid-$1000’s are Epson’s least expensive 4K capable projectors!

Most recently introduced are the Epson Home Cinema 3200 and 3800. We reviewed the HC3200. These two sell for over $1000, but are 4K capable. Again, expect excellent color, and also in addition to the 4K, you’ll get better black levels. The HC3800 cost a bit more, but has a respectable sound system (the HC3200 lacks speakers). These two do 4K with HDR, supporting both HDR10 and HLG standards! With 27ms input lag, these two are really good gaming projectors!

Epson LS-500 Laser Projection TV

Epson-LS5000-Product-Shot

This is Epson’s ultimate Bright Room – Living room projector.  Shipping the 2nd quarter of 2020, this announced 3LCD laser projector is an ultra short throw, sitting just below your screen, for easy setup, and convenience.  Its 4000 lumens of laser light is exceptionally bright, making it one of only two UST projectors I’m considering for my own living room.  The LS500 when it ships next quarter, will be be bundled as the LS500 Laser Projection TV, including your choice of a 100″ or 120″ diagonal fixed ALR screen designed for UST projectors.  Myself, I’m going to use it with a different screen, a motorized one, to make my wife happy!

And it is really smart, with its Android operating system, google assistant voice control and apps.

Many will think of the LS500 primarily as a home entertainment projector –  for certainly that is it is!   Yet combine t’s smarts, with 4K handling, a super sharp image, and great color, it will also give you one impressive “theater” type experience as well, at night when you can make your living, family, or bonus room very nicely dark!  I expect many of these will end up in dedicated home theaters.

The Epson LS500 laser TV “dazzled” under full trade show floor lighting on this 120” diagonal screen!
The Epson LS500 laser TV “dazzled” under full trade show floor lighting on this 120” diagonal screen!

Epson’s Serious Home Theater

Epson-Home-Cinema-4010-and-Pro-Cinema-4050

Epson offers four true home theater projectors – the Home Cinema 4010 and 5050UB, and the Pro Cinema 4050 and 6050UB. The 4010 and 4050 are almost identical (case color, price, warranty and what comes bundled with them).

Epson-Home-Cinema-4010-and-Pro-Cinema-4050

It’s the same between the Home Cinema 5050UB and the Pro Cinema 6050UB. Check out our HC5050UB review ($2699 list price.) I do consider the HC5050UB to be the best value, and the best under $3500 projector for home, at this time. These two are bright enough for bright rooms (measured over 3,000 lumens when reviewed). And they’ve “got game” with about a 27ms input lag – for serious gamers!

The two UB’s have great black level performance for great dark scenes. You’ll have to spend about half as much again, to find a projector that can beat it at black levels, but the HC5050UB has a feature set, including lens memory, exceptional placement range, big sound (for a projector), motorized features, full HDR support and way more, that cannot be beat under $10,000!

Passengers photo - Epson 5050UB
A scene from Passengers, projected by the Epson Home Cinema 5050UB.

If you are creating your dark room theater, with a $3K budget, most likely the HC5050UB should be your entire short list.  Yes, there are other good projectors under $3K, but none I would take over this one.  -art

Taken with the similar HC5050UB, the image appears to have a certain clarity not found on many projectors.
Taken with the similar HC5050UB, the image appears to have a certain clarity not found on many projectors.

Folks that’s all I’ve got for you – If you are looking for a killer entertainment projector, your first, perhaps, one under $1000, definitely check out the EF-100. If the EF isn’t your “cup of tea,” I’ve provided links below for our reviews of the others mentioned, and also the LS500 which isn’t yet available to review. Also. below, you’ll find links to Epson including their info for the EF-100 projectors.

Enjoying the big picture has never been easier, made more sense, nor cost less dollars than today.  What are you waiting for?  -art

News and Comments