Review: Epson EH-TW9200W

Total immersion.

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Review: Epson EH-TW9200W
Supplier: Epson
Price: $3999.00

Walk into any commercial simulator and you’ll notice that they don’t use piddly 30 inch monitors to replicate the outside world. Nope, when it comes to fully immersing trainee pilots, drivers or tankers, there’s only one display technology that can pump out an image big enough to fill the user’s field of view – projectors. I’ve been a huge proponent of using projectors for PC gaming for years, partly because I use mine so extensively when simming. Epson is easily the market leaders in projector sales in Australia, so I was keen to see if its latest consumer model had the chops to replace my beloved Panasonic AE-8000 as my gaming projector of choice.

Like all Epson projectors, the TW9200W is based on LCD technology. This is a huge plus for gamers, as our hyper-developed visual systems are prone to spotting the “Rainbow” effect on projectors that use competing DLP technology. The native resolution of 1920 x 1080 is par for the course at this price range, and it’s also capable of displaying a 3D image. Unfortunately it’s limited to 24Hz, or 24 frames per second, when running at HD resolutions, a limitation of the HDMI 1.4 input this projector is endowed with. It’s possible to run at 1280 x 720 at 60 frames per second though, which doesn’t look half bad if the host PC has the grunt to enable downsampling or high levels of antialiasing. The projector uses stereoscopic technology to display 3D, so there’s a drop in brightness caused by the LCD shutter glasses, but I found the 3D image to be fantastic. There was minimal ghosting, aka crosstalk, an issue where objects in the scene have strange shadows around them. The high brightness of the unit, at 2400 Lumens, means it’s got the oomph to punch out bright images during the 3D mode, an area where other projectors struggle. Two sets of 3D glasses are included, and they’re very comfortable over extended periods of time.

Most gamers will use this projector in 2D mode and, provided the theatre environment is nice and dark, will be blown away by the huge improvement in contrast delivered by the TW9200W. Contrast performance is one of the key specifications of front projectors, as it dictates the amount of detail that the outputted image displays. Projectors also have issues with displaying black, due to the white screens they’re projected onto. I’m happy to report that the TW9200W excels in both areas. Epson claims a dynamic contrast ratio of 600,000:1, thanks to the dynamic iris employed within. This adjusts on the fly to match the overall darkness of the outputted scene. Earlier versions of this dynamic iris would often lead to the image becoming noticeably darker as a shadowy scene was displayed, caused as the iris adjusts itself. This effect is almost totally absent on the TW9200W, as the iris adjusts itself so quickly. The result is the best contrast performance in a projector of this price. 

Firing up a night mission in IL2: Cliffs of Dover revealed rich detail in even the darkest of scenes, while the inky blackness of deep space in Elite: Dangerous was beautifully replicated in the projected image. It’s hard to understate the difference in detail the improved contrast makes, but there’s also another new technology in the TW9200H that helps deliver a sharper overall image. Known as Super Resolution, it automatically adds sharpening filters to areas of the screen that appear blurry, leading to an overall more detailed image. 

Colour accuracy is also top-notch, with the included THX mode easily the best of the bunch. Those who want to spend a few hours calibrating the projector will appreciate Epson’s huge range of options, and I was able to get it looking perfect after a short play with the projector’s colour temperature slider. The use of three LCD panels inside the projector can lead to an issue where they no longer perfectly align over time, but Epson has included a panel alignment setting that resolves this. Considering most other projectors need to be serviced to fix this issue, this setting alone will save annoyance in the long run. 

If there’s one issue with projectors – other than their need for a darkened gaming environment – it’s that they can have higher latency than competing display technologies. Thankfully this Epson seems to be the snappiest projector produced by the company yet, provided the image processing option is set to “Fast”. While this does slightly downgrade the overall image, it removes any noticeable latency; I’ve read online tests pegging it at around 35ms, an excellent result for a projector. 

Many prospective owners might be put off by the need to darken their projector’s environment, but the short throw lens means it’ll pump out a huge image in even the smallest space. A small spare bedroom, or gaming den, is the perfect size for this projector, and the inclusion of lens shift means it can be mounted off-centre. Don’t worry about expensive cabling either; this unit includes a wireless HDMI link, so there’s no need to drag a cable between the projector and your PC.

This projector’s stunning contrast and black level performance sets it apart from earlier generations, and the difference is immediately obvious when firing up the TW9200W for the first time. With the best 2D and 3D image in the biz at this price range, it’s knocked off my Panasonic AE-8000 as my projector of choice, which is why I’m purchasing the TW9200W for my simming den. Throw a cockpit in front of this thing and you’ll have a simming experience that rivals the million dollar experiences used by professional simulators. 

PROS
• Best in class contrast and black levels
• Very detailed image
• Low latency
 
CONS
Not exactly cheap
• Laggy when certain image filters are applied
Power Award
10 10
Verdict
Epson’s TW9200W is the new benchmark in projection at the $4,000 price range, and is a must for any serious simulator fan.
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