The key feature of the EMP-TWD1 is its integrated DVD player and stereo speakers. Intelligently-designed to be placed in front of viewers on a table or the floor, the projector's DVD tray, LED display panel and speakers are facing you on the opposite side to the lens. Manual lens shift and vertical keystone correction also allow the projector to be placed off-centre, whilst maintaining an undistorted picture. We're quite impressed with the overall look of the unit, with its Apple-esque glossy white finish and compact, neat design.
The EMP-TWD1 has 3 LCD (liquid crystal display) panels at its core, which Epson claims doesn't suffer from colour break-up (aka "the rainbow effect") that is sometimes apparent in DLP (digital light processing) units. The projector outputs 16:9 images with VGA resolution (854 x 480 pixels), although this is not as high as more expensive home theatre projectors, such as Sanyo's Z3.
Using the self-luminous remote control, brightness levels on the EMP-TWD1 can be adjusted up to 1200 lumens to achieve the optimal picture for your environment. Four high-intensity colour modes can be adjusted to compensate for various amounts of ambient light in the room -- where the curtains are pulled closed during the day, for example -- while the two "Theatre Black" modes dim the brightness to attain maximum contrast (up to 1000:1) and higher quality images in very dark rooms.
The built-in gear takes its toll on the overall heft of the EMP-TWD1, which weighs in at around 7kg. While this is a home theatre projector not designed to be taken carried about to business meetings, the lack of a handle or carry bag makes relocating the projector a two-handed chore. While the EMP-TWD1 has everything you need to watch a DVD, its external inputs are limited. In particular, there are only analogue video jacks, with no provision for digital video connections, such as DVI or HDMI.
Epson has over 15 years history in creating LCD projectors, delivering its first LCD video projector in 1989. The Japanese-based company claims it is the largest manufacturer of projectors with an 11.1 per cent slice of the market, putting it just ahead of rivals InFocus and NEC in the combined home and business space. According to Epson, it is number two in Australia with 12 per cent market share, with BenQ nudging 1 per cent in front as of Q2, 2005.
For AU$2,499, the Epson EMP-TWD1 is a reasonably low-priced, widescreen home theatre projector. Its built-in DVD player and speakers will entice those looking for a big picture, ease of use, and no fuss in regards to cabling (other than plugging in the power cord, of course). With its built-in DVD player and speakers, all that is needed is an extension cord, a large flat surface, some friends, and a big bowl of popcorn, to bring cinema into your own backyard. It is expected to be available in stores mid- to late-September and then we'll see how it stacks up against another all-in-one unit, HP's ep9012 Instant Cinema projector.