The EMP-TW20 is Epson's current entry-level home cinema projector, and being an entry level model it's not one that's been particularly optimised for beauty. That's not to say that it's terrible to look at, but it is rather large (373mm by 295mm by 111mm without the feet extended) and not terribly light at 3.5kg. Seemingly because everything has to look like an iPod these days, the EMP-TW20 is decked out in an off-white colour, although the iPod comparison is rather lost when you look at the very plain connection panel at the rear of the unit. The TW20 offers simple connectivity through the rear of the unit, with sockets for RGB, S-Video, composite and component video. Given that the target market is unlikely to have the EMP-TW20 on permanent display, it's acceptably designed for an item of home decor.
Controls on the top of the unit are mostly mimicked on the unit's small but busy remote, which worked very well from a variety of angles during our testing. Focus and lens shifting wheels adorn the top of the unit and are easy enough to access, as well as being far enough away from the projector lens to adjust without cooking your fingers.
Epson hypes the EMP-TW20 as being easy to set up, and we'd partially agree. It's certainly logically laid out, and the menus are easy enough to follow, but for reasons we could never quite ascertain, when first powering up it would send its display signal directly downwards. As soon as a video signal went through to it we'd get an image where we'd expect it to be and things were fine thereon -- but it's something that did throw us at first.
The TW-20 uses an LCD projection mechanism that utilises Epson's E-TORL (that's Epson-Twin Optimised Reflection Lamp for those who like acronyms) technology. On a pure specifications front, it's a 16:9 aspect ratio projector with a 854 x 480-pixel resolution and has a 135W lamp with a top brightness of 1200 ANSI lumens. Its contrast ratio tops out at 1000:1. It utilises Epson's Cinema Filter technology, which adjusts the presented colour tones for accurate colour reproduction. It also has an interesting take on progressive scan, as it sends any progressive scan image directly out to display, rather than reinterpolating it; in theory this should reduce blur and pixellation of images onscreen.
We tested the TW20 with a variety of material, from films to TV programs to console games, with varying results. For a projector billed as a home cinema, it wasn't too surprising to find that it offered the best results with DVD movies. We weren't expecting to be blown away -- this is just an entry level projector at the end of the day -- but we could see where Epson's heading with its Cinema Filter, as there was a noticeable improvement in quality when viewing a properly shot film as opposed to a hastily assembled TV program, and especially in contrast to using the projector for gaming, where elements like onscreen text tended to be a little on the murky and impenetrable side.
Special note must be made of the integrated speaker in the TW20. Normally the integrated speaker in any projector's just about good enough for making out AM-radio style sound if you're lucky, so we were pleasantly surprised to find reasonable quality sound emanating from within the TW20's large casing. We wouldn't use it for movie watching, but for less audio-critical endeavours like gaming, it's surprisingly adequate. On the sound front, the projector itself is a touch noisy in operation, although that can be lessened by dropping to the Theatre Black modes, which chop about 5dB off the operating noise -- and it's quite noticeable when it does.
The TW-20 isn't a high end projector, and it doesn't pretend to be. If you've already invested in a similar inexpensive projector in the past few years, this wouldn't be a step up -- more like a step sideways with a few technical improvements along the way. For the first time buyer, however, this is a well priced and positioned product.