If an 80-inch TV is too small, this Epson could be a big deal
The $3,000 Epson LS100 is an ultra-short-throw laser projector designed to appeal to people who want a truly gigantic screen without needing a big, dark room to put it in.
In the 15-odd years I've been reviewing TVs, one thing has remained the same: Bigger is always better. And TVs have grown in size and shrunk in price over the years, but maybe they can always get bigger, and more affordable, right?
OK, technically the LS100 is a projector, because Epson doesn't make TVs (anymore). And it still needs a screen, sold separately, or at least a big swath of blank wall. But it's a special kind of projector called ultra-short-throw, meaning it's designed to sit right below that screen or wall, not halfway across the room like a typical projector -- so you can walk around without casting shadows on the screen. It's also really bright, so you don't need a dark room to get a watchable picture.
With a price of $3,000 the LS100 is a lot more expensive than a typical TV, and that's before you buy a screen. It's not aimed at people who want a typical TV, or even those seeking a high-end, high-performance set like a 65-inch LG OLED (also $3,000). The LS100 target audience is people who prioritize sheer size above all else, to the extent than a perfectly good 80-inch LCD TV like the Vizio E80-E3 ($2,800) still isn't big enough.
How big is big enough? Let's ask Rodrigo Catalan, senior product manager for projectors at Epson America. "The Home Cinema LS100 Digital Laser Display is designed to allow people to enjoy life-size images in Full HD up to 10 feet diagonal with the lights on and the shades open – all at a fraction of the cost of a 120-inch traditional flat panel display."
Ultra-short-throw projectors aren't exactly new. At the high end with 4K resolution there's Sony's VPL-VZ1000ES ($25,000) and the 100-inch 4K Smart Laser TV ($10,000), while units cheaper than the Epson include the Optoma EH320UST ($1,600), Optoma GT5500+ ($1,500) and LG PF1000UW ($1,100). The LS100 aims somewhere in the middle, with a higher brightness than the LG and other LED-powered units (a key for big pictures and surviving room lighting) and a laser light engine that the Optoma lacks.
The lamp-free laser system, similar to the one that debuted on the Epson LS1000 in 2015, lasts for 10 years or more, depending on usage, and can turn on and achieve full brightness in 5 seconds. Like other Epson projectors the LS100 uses a 3LCD arrangement, which in our previous tests has eliminated the "rainbow effect" (color breakup) seen on DLP projectors like the Optoma, at the expense of worse contrast (black levels).
I had a brief demo of the LS100 earlier in New York and it looked very good. The picture was sharp (I didn't miss 4K resolution) and bright, although as expected it got washed out when I asked the representatives to brighten the lights. It was installed with a specialized 120-inch screen from Screen Innovations, which cost as much as the projector itself, but of course much less expensive options are available (this $180 screen, for example). More expensive screens will reject ambient light better and some are designed specifically for ultra-short-throw projectors. The cheapest option, of course, is just to use a wall.
Here's a quick look at the LS100's other specifications. It ships this fall.
- Ultra short-throw design
- 1080p (full HD) resolution
- 4,000 lumens brightness
- Laser light engine with 20,000 hours of life
- 3LCD chip technology
- 3 HDMI ports