Epson EH-TW490 review

Is this budget 'home projector' better suited to the boardroom than the living room?

Although called a 'home projector', Epson's EH-TW490 is compact, weighs only 2.4kg and even arrives with a neat travelling case – in this regard, it looks like it's been designed as much for the travelling salesman as the movie-mad AV enthusiast. Furthermore, the resolution is only 1,280 x 800 (essentially 720p), although connectivity does include HDMI, so cash-strapped BD fans may well be interested.

Other inputs include a VGA port for computers, plus composite, S-Video and a USB port. Into the latter you can insert a flash drive containing JPEGs. The USB port can also display computer images if the supplied driver is installed on your PC; a wireless alternative is the optional WLAN link dongle. As with many projectors of its ilk, a 2W speaker is fitted.

The EH-TW490's imager is an RGB trio of 0.59in polysilicon TFT LCD panels. They're backlit by a 200W UHE lamp, which can be switched to 'eco' mode. This combination throws its light onto your screen via a shuttered 1-1.2:1 zoom lens, which, along with focus, is adjusted via thumbwheels recessed into the top panel. Next to these is a slider that electronically compensates for horizontal keystone-distortion. Basic operating controls are also top-mounted, although a remote is also provided.

The lens has a rather long throw compared to those of most domestically pitched units. If you want a 150in widescreen image, you'll need at least 5m of projection distance. Widescreen images of up to 310in are possible, but you'll need 10m of throw to play with. No wonder that backlight is so powerful; a brightness of 3,000 Lumens is specified.

Best to go green

With images of typical home cinema proportions, pictures are overly bright. The lamp-life-prolonging 'eco' mode (which also quietens a rather noisy cooling fan) is thus essential. Epson claims a contrast ratio of 12,000:1, which is no doubt achieved via the auto-iris feature. This makes quite a racket when scenes change in brightness and, even with its fast-acting mode, the feature's effects are visible on the picture. It's thus best turned off, but this brings a visible penalty – even after a basic calibration blacks are always dark-grey, and worse still there's little shadow detail in darker scenes.

As Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) and family escape Philadelphia (actually Glasgow...) in an RV in World War Z (Blu-ray), his jacket is rendered as little more than dark mush in the interior shots. And compared to a Full HD display, scenes like Jerusalem's zombie apocalypse are robbed of intricate details. Motion isn't particularly strong, either, with some noticeable judder on fast movement. On the plus side, colour fidelity – a traditional Epson strong-point – is more than acceptable.

Hardly a colossus of the home cinema world, then, but that's not to say the EH-TW490 doesn't have its place – it could be a worthwhile option if you plan to use it mainly as a presentation tool, with occasional domestic use.


Epson EH-TW490
£550 Approx

Highs: Pleasing colour reproduction; some business-friendly features; high brightness suits large images
Lows: Poor black levels; some motion judder visible; long projection distances

Performance: 3/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 3/5


3D: No. 2D-only
Ultra HD: No. 1,280 x 800 (i.e. 720p)
Connections: Composite; S-Video; VGA, HDMI; 2 x USB 2.0; phono audio
Brightness (claimed): 3,000 ANSI Lumens
Contrast (claimed): 12,000:1
Dimensions: 297(w) x 79(h) x 234(d)mm
Weight: 2.4kg
Features: 16:10 (rather than 16:9) aspect ratio; 3 x 0.59in polysilicon TFT LCD panels; 'eco' mode; 1.2:1 zoom lens; horizontal keystone correction slider; automatic vertical keystone distortion; built-in audio with 2W speaker; 5,000-hour claimed lamp life (6,000 in 'eco' mode); 29dB fan noise; 4 x customisable picture presets; 1.3-1.56:1 throw ratio; auto iris; proprietary video processing; onscreen pointer controllable with handset; JPEG picture playback via USB; wireless LAN option