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Review: Epson EH-LS500W Projector- Ultra Short Throw with laser light source

Review: Epson EH-LS500W 3LCD, 4K PRO-UHD, Laser, Ultra Short Throw Super Resolution, 4000 Lumens, 130 Inch Display, Home Cinema Projector.

Epson also wants to replace your TV with this Ultra Short Throw projector with a laser light source. The Epson EH-LS500W Projector promises enormous light output, and HDR10 and HLG support. Is it enough to bring in the magic of the big screen?

Epson EH-LS500W Projector – specifications

  • What: Ultra HD 3LCD projector with laser light source
  • Setup: 3,840 x 2,160 (1,920 x 1,080 with pixel shifting), light output 4,000 ANSI lumens, dynamic contrast 2,500,000: 1, projection ratio 0.27 -0.37 (100 inch diagonal at 0.26 m), noise level 23-37 dB (eco mode, standard)
  • Connections: 3x HDMI (2.0, ARC), 2x USB (1x for optional WiFi and 1x power supply), 1x stereo mini jack out, 1x ethernet, 1x RS-232c
  • Lamp life: laser light source, up to 20,000 hours
  • Extras: HDR10, HLG, 2x 10 Watt speaker
  • Dimensions: 458 x 228 x 375 mm
  • Weight: 9.3 kg
  • List price: EUR 2,799

Epson EH-LS500W Projector – Design

This Epson differs from the design that we have seen so far with other Ultra Short Throw projectors. The general shape is retained, but it is less wide than the comparable models from Optoma or LG, for example.

Where does it really differ from its competitors? The arrangement of the lens. It is in a superstructure on the device, and it really does not look elegant. The Epson seems to inherit a little too much from business or education projectors in this regard. The workmanship is fine. The device is available in black (EH-LS500B) and white (EH-LS500W). The front fabric cover is magnetically attached and hides the controls, focus, and a few connections. The fabric is quite thin so that the impression of the speaker grilles is visible.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector – Connections

Connections to a UST projector are usually at the front (so on the side of the wall), and that is no different on this Epson. The minimum distance to the wall is about 20cm so they remain easily accessible. You will find two HDMI 2.0 connections, one with ARC, a USB connection for the optional WiFi adapter, a stereo mini jack audio output, a network connection, and RS-232C for control.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector

At the rear, (ie facing the seats), you will find behind the detachable speaker cover and an extra lid, another HDMI connection and a USB connection. They are in a small recess, and are intended to hide a USB dongle such as a Chromecast.

Epson EH-LS500W – Placement

You want to place a UST projector as close to the wall as possible, because that is its big advantage. The Epson has a throw ratio of 0.27. He uses this to put a 100 inch image on the wall from 62 cm away. But beware, that is measured up to the lens. In concrete terms, this means that the front of the projector must be 39 cm from the wall, and that the rear should ultimately be 76 cm from the wall. Average TV furniture is around 50cm deep, so you have to put that piece of furniture a long way from the wall, something you absolutely have to take into account. It therefore remains a good advice to look up the manual online before you get a UST projector and to check the placement carefully. With a projection offset of 114%, the bottom of the image is approximately 14% of the image height above the lens.

The Epson is equipped with a limited digital zoom (1.35: 1). You can reduce the image with that, but you will rarely want to. After all, the lens is usually as large as possible, from as close as possible. Those who use the zoom can also shift the smaller image a bit, so a little zoom can give you some flexibility in the setup.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector

UST projectors are notoriously tricky to set up. The Epson has a manual focus lever on the front, next to the control panel. It works quite smoothly, but fine tuning requires some patience. Although it was possible to bring the image into focus fairly evenly, we still chose to keep just a little more sharpness in the center and to give it a little focus at the top. Completely invisible in normal use, but this way you achieve the best results centrally in the image.

LCD projectors like this also have to align three LCD panels, which is a problem that DLP projectors do not have. Fortunately, this is provided on the EH-LS500 and after a few minutes of tinkering, the alignment was almost perfect. Finally, you can eliminate trapezoidal distortion, if the projector is not perfectly straight in front of the screen. This can either be done with a simple keystone correction horizontally and vertically, or you can correct the four corners separately.

The sound of the cooling fans varies greatly. It is directly linked to the setting of the laser light source, which runs from 50 to 100%. In the lowest position, the projector is extremely quiet, but in the highest position it makes a lot of noise, even when you are well away from it. Up to 70% thought the noise pollution was bearable, above that we thought the noise was too strong to really enjoy the film.

Furthermore, you have to consider all the pros and cons of UST projection that we discuss in this article. The most important? Know that even the smallest displacement will cause you to readjust the image. Provide a perfectly flat projection surface to avoid image distortion. We use a Projecta Tensioned Elpro Concept screen, an electrically retractable and stretched screen.

Epson EH-LS500W – Ease of use

Epson’s settings menus are convenient and well-organized, and they navigate smoothly. The ‘Home’ screen actually has little function. You can choose the input you are viewing and you will find a few shortcuts to image settings, but they will take you directly to the regular menu.

In the settings themselves we find an extensive arsenal of image improvements, settings for gamma value and a color management system. In addition to four image presets, you can create 10 presets yourself.

Remote control

We are only moderately satisfied with the remote control. Not a bad word about how it works, but the design could be better. The small black remote is very minimalist. It does not offer any shortcut for certain settings, not even for the image mode.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector - Remote

The ‘back’ key is at the top left, a somewhat awkward position. And the remote is not illuminated, combined with its black appearance, it is absolutely unreadable in the dark.

Functions

Unlike other UST projectors that want to profile themselves as a replacement for your TV, the EH-LS500 is not equipped with all kinds of smart TV functions. Or not our review model. Epson now has a version of the EH-LS500 that offers Android TV via an included dongle. You can hide it unseen and connect it in the small inlet at the front.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector

Since the Android TV version does not have a separate model number (at most the mention Android TV), you have to pay attention if you want that option. The Android TV version also receives the same price. If you connect the projector to the home network, you can easily display the image from your smartphone on the projector using the iProjection app.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector – Image processing

Image processing on projectors is always rather minimal compared to the impressive performance that you find on a TV. The Epson is no exception. Its image processing has a few strong assets, but also a few unavoidable limitations.

This 4K projector can handle 4K image signals perfectly, but it doesn’t use a native 4K panel. Like all projectors in this price category, it uses pixel shifting. The LCD panels offer a Full HD resolution, and thanks to the pixel shift technique (which can be activated in the menu as ‘4K Enhancement’) extra detail is created. If you want to know how this works, look in our background article about projectors.

The EH-LS500 delivers very nice images, but in terms of detail it should let the DLP projectors go first. He cannot show real Ultra HD detail, but the difference when you turn off ‘4K Enhancement’ is clear. So be sure to leave that on.

The image processing is generally very good, with good upscaling and good noise reduction even in the lower settings. A real asset are the ‘Sharpness’, Super Resolution’ and ‘Detail Enhancement’ settings. This allows you to give the image some extra detail and sharpness in very small steps. With the help of the ‘Image Preset Modes’ you can even quickly switch between different image processing settings.

The projector also has frame interpolation to make fast moving content a bit sharper. However, it has an important limitation, you can only enable it for 1080p24 content. And that also brings us to the main limitation. Frame interpolation, deinterlacing, and noise reduction do not work for 4K sources. The processor is probably not powerful enough for that. That can be a problem for those who connect a 4K-capable source. After all, it will itself upscale all Full HD content to 4K, so you can disable some image processing on the projector.

Epson EH-LS500W – Image quality

The EH-LS500 is a laser projector, and it packs a massive 4,000 lumens on paper. That should be more than enough for looking at ambient light, but does it make it?

In the brightest image mode (Dynamic), the projector achieves an astonishing 3,560 lumens! And even in the well-calibrated Cinema image mode, the maximum is still 2,460 lumens. With the laser at 50% strength (to keep the fan noise under control) we finally achieve 1,200 lumens in the Cinema image mode. That is still enough for a 120 inch image in some ambient light. So you don’t have to fear in that area.

How about the contrast? In the Cinema image mode we measure about 980: 1, which is decent, but certainly not overly good. There is a ‘Dynamic Contrast’ setting, which adjusts the laser light source in real time based on the displayed image. The contrast increases to 1,850: 1 for not completely white / black test images and even 3,350: 1 for full on / off contrast. We do notice that the algorithm only intervenes with relatively dark images.

Even with some limited light in the image, the black value dilutes quite quickly. The projector is therefore really not the best choice if you view a lot of dark material. That gets a somewhat grayish haze. But with clear images, the projector really is at its best.

The Cinema image mode has an excellent gray scale. But, as we see with more laser projectors, it is quite a challenge to get the color range right. The laser light source produces an intense blue, but green tends slightly towards yellow and is oversaturated. This gives green a very intense effect. Nevertheless, Epson has well balanced the color reproduction. The really big deviations only occur in the purest colors, and you rarely see them in the picture. Skin tones are decent, and the overall picture is really impressive. The generous brightness and intense colors really make the image splash off the screen.

Epson EH-LS500W – HDR

The Epson can also present good results for HDR . The limited contrast slightly sticks in the wheels in dark images, which look a bit too light but therefore also show a lot of black detail. But the color range is also rather limited. The projector does not exceed 73% DCI-P3 (53% Rec.2020).

And yet the Epson manages to create very beautiful images within its limitations. It owes this to good tone mapping, lots of light, and an easy-to-adjust setting to adjust the tone mapping. In the Cinema image mode we see white detail up to approximately 1,500 nits. The projector does ignore metadata, and white detail is lost with very bright images. Fortunately, that can be adjusted perfectly.

In the settings, look for Dynamic Range, HDR10. You can adjust it between 1 and 16. In concrete terms, this shifts the brightness curve from bright with little white detail to dark with a lot of white detail. The default setting is 8. For those who want a little more clarity at the expense of highlights, we recommend 6, for those who want to see all the white detail you can go up to 10 or even 12. If you feel that white detail is missing, for example because highlights look a bit flat, play with a higher setting.

The Epson supports HDR10 and HLG.

Epson EH-LS500W – Gaming

With an input lag of 28.6 ms in the Game image mode, the Epson is a surprisingly good choice for gamers. You can also enable the ‘fast’ mode in the image processing settings, which eliminates most of the image processing.

Epson EH-LS500W – Sound quality

The 2x 10W solution that Epson chose for the sound does not seem to differ much from the competitors on paper. But the speakers really seem a bit tight to us. Dialogues are clear and background music sounds good, but that’s about the range you can expect. A lot of bass is missing. And you can overdrive the speakers with somewhat too aggressive high tones. In short, there are no really smashing soundtracks. If you want to connect an external audio solution, you should keep in mind that the projector does not offer an optical digital output, only analog stereo or HDMI ARC.

Review equipment

For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Spectracal Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze any HDR problems. Our projection screen is a Projecta Tensioned Elpro Concept with HD Progressive 1.1 canvas.

Epson EH-LS500W Projector – Conclusion

The Epson EH-LS500W is the first UST projector with LCD technology to pass by us, and it immediately leaves a strong impression. Yet there are also points to work on. If a projector wants to seamlessly replace the TV, it must have a built-in smart TV platform. The Epson doesn’t have that, at least for the time being. However, the same model will be released with an Android TV dongle very soon, for the same price. The audio performance is rather poor, we are looking for a little more punch and impact. And this LCD model offers a rather mediocre contrast.

But he also has some very strong assets. Its impressive light output can produce very strong images on the screen, even in very large format. The color reproduction could certainly be a little better, but Epson has found a very nice balance within its limitations. That produces good results, especially when you look at colorful, clear content: children’s programs, nature documentaries, soaps, animation, sporting events … Even if you leave some lighting on, the Epson can really come out with a strong image, and in that case the limited contrast not a heavy showstopper. As always, those who really want to look at ambient light will choose an ALR screen (Ambient Light Rejection) for the best result.

Negatives

  •  (For now) no built-in smart TV platform
  •  Substandard audio performance
  •  Moderate contrast
  •  Noisy in the highest position

Pros

  •  Ultra Short Throw, easy to install
  •  Impressive clarity
  •  Good color performance, despite limitations
  •  Long life laser light source
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