Epson EH-LS100 ultra short throw projector review

The EH-LS100 is a pro-AV ultra-short-throw (UST) projector demobbed for consumer use.Similarities with Epson’s straight-laced EB corporate UST projection range, from design through to specification, are obvious. But I’m not complaining. The EH-LS100 is unfeasibly bright and gloriously over-engineered.

These sorts of projectors can be found at both the stratospherically high-end of the projector market, and the more affordable. The Sony LSPX-A1, a 4K laser model, sells for a giddying $30,000, while the lamp-based Optoma GT5000 will cost you just £1,000. The EH-LS100 treads a new middle ground. It’s a large 3LCD 1080p model that employs a laser light engine. Has Epson found a magic formula, or is this class-defining hopeful a bit too quantum for its own good?

UST projectors are niche but useful. They cast a bigger-than-a-TV image in rooms where the physical layout might prevent a traditional projector install. Barn conversions with vaulted ceilings can be a challenge, but with a UST beamer you can park it right up against the wall. And, of course, you can get up and walk around while it’s in use, because you’ll never stand in the way of the projected image.

This PJ is solid-feeling (and weighs 11kg) and fairly businesslike in styling, although a few curves soften the blow. Connections run to three HDMI inputs (one with MHL), enough for a Blu-ray player, set-top box and media player/games console, as well as VGA in/out, USB (for JPEG and AVI file playback) and composite. Be aware that the inputs are recessed down under, so you won’t be casually plugging HDMIs in and out. As with all UST projectors, setup is straightforward.

The projector sits square to a wall, so you’ll not need scads of keystone correction, although there is +/-3% horizontal and vertical adjustment provided. If you want extra height, you can raise the feet, and there’s arc correction for other geometric anomalies. A focus lever, located under a latch by the air filter, snaps everything into sharp relief.

Images might typically be thrown between 70in and 130in. Their size is dictated by how far away from your wall you put the PJ. It works from just 6cm. I found I could effectively fill the best part of an entire room wall (bigger than I could physically measure), casting from 48cm.

Even with the image at this size, there was no visible pixel structure. The panel is a 0.67in 3LCD device with a 16:10 aspect ratio, so you get a slight grey border top and bottom.

While best results will be achieved beaming onto a fixed screen, that’s not really how the EH-LS100 is intended to be used. Sat before a white wall, the display melts from view when not in use.

Burning desire
Fired up, this is astonishingly bright, a consequence of that corporate DNA – Epson quotes a white and colour light output of 4,000 Lumens, coupled to a 2,500,000:1 contrast ratio. Even in a brightly lit room, images remained entirely watchable. It's more a media room solution than hardcore home theatre.

With all that brightness comes some notable running noise. Select any of the Dynamic, Bright Cinema or Game viewing modes and the Epson ticks over at a high 39dB. This is certainly too loud to comfortably enjoy a movie, but it drops to a more accommodating 30dB in Cinema mode. At this point an external sound system would go some way to masking its output, but it's still not ideal.

A supplementary Light Source Mode offers selections for Normal, Quiet, Extended and Custom brightness. On anything other than Quiet, the projector immediately goes into noisy fan hyperdrive. In Quiet mode, brightness drops to 2,800 Lumens – actually still as potent as many conventional projectors.

A laser light source means the EH-LS100's lifespan is conservatively rated at 20,000 hours, so you’ll never need to worry about maintenance. And the brand suggests that there will be no drop in brightness or colour intensity over a ten-year period. Judicious use of its lower power settings can, we're told, extend laser life to approximately 30,000 hours.

Another benefit of a laser over a lamp is near-instant on, so no warm-up time is required.

There’s inevitably a limit to this PJ's black level performance, but subjective contrast is high. In fact, the EH-LS100 positively shines with vivid content. Yellow-orange fireballs arc across the sky at the opening of Transformers: The Last Knight (Blu-ray), exploding red on the battlefield. When Merlin rides to confront the Ghidorah Transformer, the hillside is verdant green. Sometimes the colours are a bit unsubtle, but this projector knows how to do pretty.

Image adjustments include the usual parameters (brightness, contrast, saturation and sharpness, etc). There’s also variable Dynamic Contrast, but there seems to be no compelling reason to move away from its fastest option. For deeper control, you can access RGBCMY and gamma tweaks from Epson's advanced menu.

I’m struck while using it just how easily the EH-LS100 brings big images home. It’s tailor-made for large, open-plan rooms, the kind of designer space where big floorstanding speakers seem at home but a 55in TV would look sadly lost.

Britannia is given scale and impact, this cinematic Sky Atlantic original series conveyed with good detail. Fill your wall with Mackenzie Crook’s druid prosthetics and you get a sense of the craftsmanship in the production, so easy to miss on a smaller screen.

Seth MacFarlane’s space romp The Orville (Fox HD), which has a ravishing colour palette, similarly looks ace. In deep space sequences the dazzling ships and glowing planets help to mask the less-than-stellar black level.

Admittedly, it would be nice to see a 4K iteration, but as Epson has so far only unveiled a native 3LCD 4K projector for the commercial market, this would seem a way off. And even faux 2160p image processing would ratchet up the hardware cost.

Furthermore, it’s Full HD performance is fine for Blu-ray and HD TV. That smooth, photographic presentation doesn’t lack for clarity; there’s no pixel grit or screen-door grain. Its inherent brightness makes this a media room projector in the truest sense, bringing monster images to rooms that are multifunctional spaces.

For convenience, there’s a 16W sound system onboard which makes a functional noise, but, as mentioned earlier, the EH-LS100 obviously deserves to be hooked up to something more powerful.

A PJ like no other
While the price tag positions this model against lower-cost 4K DLP projectors, this UST laser PJ offers something rather different. It’s designed for well-lit environments, and is itself both astonishingly bright and rudely colourful. Maybe every white wall should have one.


Epson EH-LS100

We say: Epson’s bright, colour-rich UST laser projector is just the ticket if you want mega images with minimal home cinema faff, although this suits locating in a room with ambient light.

Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5


3D: No  4K: No. 1,920 x 1,080  HDR: No  Connections: 3 x HDMI inputs (1 x MHL compatible); VGA input; VGA output; composite input; stereo minijack input; stereo minijack output; RS-232; Ethernet; 3 x USB  Brightness (claimed): 4,000 Lumens  Contrast ratio (claimed): 2,500,000:1  Zoom: 1.35x (digital)  Dimensions: 494(w) x 188(h) x 437(d)mm  Weight: 11kg

Features: 3LCD projector; laser light source; 16W built-in speaker; claimed laser 'lamp' life of 20,000 hours (30,000 hours in Eco); 30dB minimum claimed fan noise; Dynamic, Bright Cinema, Cinema and Game picture presets; JPEG picture view (via USB); manual vertical and horizontal keystone correction; 70in-130in image size; compatible with Epson's iProjection app

Epson UK