Epson EMP TW700

Home theatre experiences should be big, but often projectors are too expensive. Have we found the diamond in the rough?

Home theatre experiences are the very thing that can make or break a good movie. Say you’ve just rented Star Wars and you’re coming home to watch it on your dinky little TV. I don’t think George Lucas meant to have you enjoy Luke Skywalker beating the crap out of a bunch of bad guys on a little box.

These days we have big screen LCD and Plasma sets. Many of us have screens at 40 inches diagonal and above giving us relatively high resolution images. Just think, you can now have better quality Luke Skywalker arguing with Han Solo.

But the full blooded movie experience just isn’t the same unless you’re watching it on a screen that totally envelops you. Think about it: when you go to the movies and watch a movie, the sheer enormity of the screen takes precedence and sticks you inside the movie. Truth be told, a 40 or 50 inch screen in your home doesn’t quite do the same.

So what you need is a projector.

“But Leigh,” you say to me wondering how it is you actually know my name when the byline is all the way at the bottom of the page, “projectors are so expensive and the good ones don’t have the speakers built directly into them.”

Well yes, that’s true. To go with a projector, you will probably need a decent little amplifier or DVD speaker system. Luckily, with prices dropping to ridiculous lows – and I’ve seen some hitting the hundred dollar mark lately – having a separated sound system isn’t all that unusual. So now you can plug a projector in!

“But Leigh,” you say again, “that still doesn’t solve the issue of a projector being expensive.”

And that’s where things change a little because the Epson EMP TW700 shifts the game a little bit in favour of high definition viewing while still keeping prices pretty good.

Let’s not be coy, shall we? Projectors are often overpriced display devices that we all crave the idea of watching a movie from like our very own cinema. It’s that three-, four-, or more-thousand dollar price point that makes many of us step back. But the TW700 is different here because while its Recommended Retail Price is $2,999, its street price seems to be good enough to make me sit up and take notice.

The EMP TW700 is another one of Epson’s home-theatre projectors with a similar design to the TW1000 and TW2000 we reviewed only recently. It sports more or less the same plastic façade and design as those two models and while it weighs less and is white, it’s a very similar looking piece of equipment.

The specifications have changed a little though as while the TW1000 and TW2000 both supported 1080p for true high definition in every sense of the word as manufacturers are using it today, the TW700 supports 720p. While not as high definition a picture as 1080p, 720p is still considered high definition.

The quality is quite excellent as you’d expect when pumping through a high definition picture. We tested with Xbox 360, HD DVD, and Blu-ray titles to see how good of an image they were. The picture quality is colourful and solid with an evenly lit picture and the images are mostly crisp.

The TW700 suffers a little as – while you can change the level of sharpness using one of the unit’s menu settings – the lack of brightness from different distances still make it a projector that is literally best used when the lights are off and the room is dark.

With support for component video and HDMI, this little projector doesn’t cut down on features letting you get a decent amount of value for your money. And that’s really the area where the TW700 doesn’t let down because you can find it at street prices of anywhere between 1700 and 2200 Australian dollars at the time of writing this.

Those sorts of prices that are attainable make it one of the better valued projectors on the market. I say this because you can still find projectors out there that cost that much and only have RCA and monitor D-Sub connections. Those ones won’t even touch a high definition standard.

That’s one area where the Epson EMP TW700 really excels. While I absolutely adored the TW1000 and TW2000 for the cinema quality visuals, they were a little *ahem* out of my budget.

But as I reviewed the TW700, I kept on thinking to myself that because 720p is still a high definition standard and because the price of this was pretty good, I was still watching a high definition projector. Sure, it wasn’t 1080p, but I think most people would be pretty hard pressed figuring out the difference when they’re also saving money while they’re at it.

If video quality is your ultimate need then you’ve probably thought the sound part through and have a home theatre amplifier and speakers to back it up, and if that is you, you probably will want the EMP TW1000 or TW2000. But if you actually have a budget but still want a high definition home theatre without the significant cost, you really can’t go wrong with the EMP TW700.

Product: Epson EMP TW700

Vendor: Epson

RRP: $2999

Website: Epson

Reviewed by Leigh D. Stark