If you've got cash burning a hole in your pocket, then Epson's projector could work for you. It's got a great picture, decent sound, and it supports games as well as any TV would. The inclusion of AndroidTV OS is a nice touch, too. It's great at everything it tries, with only the price bringing it down.
After the first evening of using the Epson EH-LS500B 4K projector, we were certain that we had to own it. After checking the price, that idea was revised a little. Why? Because we don’t have R50,000 to throw at a projector. Perhaps one day…
Full disclosure: the walls we used to test Epson’s projector aren’t actually flat. They’ve got a little bit of a rough edge to them. We say this not because Epson’s gear performed badly, but rather the opposite. Once the lights were off, little deformities behind the picture, caused by the wall, were invisible. The room we used to test the projector was also extremely bright. The EH-LS500B handled the conditions well, but as with any projector, it looks far better in the dark.
Built for a home
The Epson EH-LS500B was designed for your home. It’s not some dodgy set-up solely for watching the rugby while braaing. Epson deserves better than that. Being a close-thrown projector, it works best when in a designated spot close to a wall, right where a TV would go.
This projector is a beast, weighing nearly 9.5kg. You’ll want to set it up once, and never again. It’s not particularly heavy, but getting it out of the box is stressful. If you drop it, you’ll waste R5ok without even turning the thing on. It’s a delicate piece of equipment. Fortunately, we kept our cool and it all worked out.
The EH-LS500B measures 458 x 375 x 228mm (W x D x H). Despite its size, it fits well on most TV stands.
Once it’s on the TV stand, it does its best to blend into the décor. Yes, it’s black (and only black), and it’s discreet enough to fit in everywhere. It looks professional, whether you’re viewing it from the front or rear. Mostly the rear, because that’s where you’ll view it most of the time. In other words, it’s a black box with a bulb sticking out the top. But it’s not what’s on the outside. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Prettiest at night
Remember those not-so-smooth walls and bright lightbulbs? We worried that they would cause the Epson to suffer. Surprisingly, they did the opposite. The Epson didn’t care about the lightbulbs and laughed when told about the walls. Okay, not really, but we could see it wanted to laugh. On the inside.
The Epson is a ‘short throw’ projector, meaning that it’s meant to sit close to a wall. You might be worried about how close (or far) it has to be. It’ll live comfortably more or less exactly where your TV did, unless you had it wall-mounted. In that case, you’ll need a small shelf or something. It’ll also replace your TV, provided your TV is fairly large.
Its smallest size is 65in, climbing to 120in at its largest. We opted for a smaller size, due to wall constraints, and it worked perfectly. If you’ve got a bigger living room, and corresponding wall space, this 4K UHD laser projector should fill the void in your… lounge.
We whipped out the PlayStation 5 for testing. Playing Rocket League on a large screen late at night adds another level of enjoyment to the game. If you’re worried about input lag, don’t be. The projector kept us involved in the high-speed matches taking place. We missed a few shots, but that’s on us. But the frames. The frames! They are smooth as butter. We played everything without ever noticing a drop-off. Epson claims a refresh rate of 240Hz, and we have no trouble believing them.
Epson’s projector includes four picture choices: Dynamic, Cinema Day/Night, and Game. We found ourselves using the Dynamic mode most since it offered the best picture and colour quality at all times of the day. Unfortunately, Dynamic mode pushes the projector to its maximum noise levels, which was a bit of a shame. But we’ll get to that later.
Features and Issues
There’s no shortage of ports surrounding the box, so you’ll rarely ever run of places to plug into. There are enough inputs to rival most TVs. Three HDMI ports, a USB-A, a USB Mini-B, and a LAN port, as well as the oddly-named RS-232C (which we doubt you’ll ever use), are present.
Not bad right?
And it has AndroidTV OS built right in. It includes everything you’d expect: Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, all pre-installed. All we needed to do was connect to WiFi and we were streaming in moments. It may not seem like much, but not having to download and install apps is a huge plus. But then, we’d expect nothing less for this price.
One of the very few downsides to the EH-LS500B was the noise it makes. It’s loud. We’re talking original release PlayStation 4 loud. Preparing for takeoff loud. The THX noise (but for twenty minutes) loud. Its noise level depended on the mode in use and, unfortunately, the best picture mode is also the loudest. It’s not really distracting enough to overshadow the internal 10W speakers, but it’s something to consider.
The speakers are decent. They’re not mind-blowing, but they’re better than expected. But for R50,000, we should hope it would have serviceable sound. You’ll benefit far more from a soundbar, but you don’t need it if your budget has suddenly run dry.
Read More: LG QNED 65in 4K TV review
Epson EH-LS500B 4K verdict
The price is where the Epson EH-LS500B 4K projector lets itself down. Yes, it’s all great technology, but R50,000? It’s out of reach of the average South African. For that sort of budget, you can own a substantial TV and a soundbar, without the noise. But you’re not going to scale up to 120 inches of screen for R50k.
Epson is clearly aiming this at those with money to spend. Despite the price, the Epson was a great experience as a TV replacement. It would work as part of a larger, well-financed setup dedicated to minimising its issues. But if, like most, you don’t have R50,000 to spare, you can get 65 inches of TV for far less. Best of all, it’ll only make the noises it’s supposed to. If you hear cooling fans inside your TV, you can take it back. They’re not supposed to do that.