Epson’s new range of high-end low-price projectors – with a dash of 3D

One of the heavyweight exhibitors at IFA was Epson and I spent a great deal of time getting to know their new range of home cinema projectors. I now desperately want a home cinema. Coincidence?

Epson debuted the first HD-Ready (720p) 3LCD home cinema projector featuring an iPod docking station, the MG-850HD. With inbuilt 10W stereo speakers, the MG-850HD plays music, videos and photos on a large, cinematic scale that can reach up to 300 inches. And obviously it takes standard HDMI inputs. The entry-level projector delivers equally high White and Colour Light Output of 2,800 lumens and a high contrast ratio of 3,000:1, ensuring high quality, even in daylight. We had a look at the MG-850HD and it’s a pretty simple plug and play device, especially given the ubquity of iDevices. This should make it an ideal entry-level device for people, especially given the £650 price tag.

Epson-Projectors

Even cheaper was the £550 EH-TW480, a 720p HD-Ready projector that gives a big screen experience on a budget. Epson’s entry-level offering was non too shabby and had decent picture quality but we only took a cursory glance before running off to see Epson’s 3D offerings.

As you probably know, Epson weren’t into 3D, so this release was a big deal. According to Madlyne Colson, product manager at Epson Europe:

We have previously stated that Epson would hold back on developing 3D home cinema projectors until we were confident that there was a strong commitment from content providers for 3D material. With the projection that 27% of households will be 3D capable by 2015 and over 40 3D video game titles expected to be released this year, now is the time for Epson to release its 3D projectors and give viewers the ability to watch 3D content on the big screen.

Epson released five high-end projectors offering a three dimensional experience that outshines the Mile End Genesis cinema in Stepney. The EH-TW5900, EH-TW6000 and EH-TW6000W are some of the most affordable 3D 1080p home cinema projectors I’ve seen, despite their equally high White and Colour Light Outputs of up to 2,200 lumens and contrast ratios of up to 40,000:1.

We spent some time with the medium range EH-TW6000W, which along with the EH-TW9000W are the first Wireless enabled Full HD 3D projectors. Even in imperfect lighting conditions, the quality was impressive and with the right content the 3D really pops (nothing can make Clash of the Titans look good). More importantly bog-standard 2D, which most of your content will be in for quite some time, looked amazing. And *most* importantly it was only £1649.

The EH-TW5900, EH-TW6000, EH-TW6000W are available from October 2011 and the EH-TW9000 and EH-TW9000W are available from November 2001.

Latest Gadgets at IFA 2011: Best of the best part one

It’s that time of year again, when the biggest and best in the tech world cram themselves into the labyrinthine Berlin Messe and proudly display their latest and greatest products. There’s *a lot* on display here and we’ll be looking in depth at some of the releases over the next few weeks. But until then here’s a quick run down of some of the more eye catching releases.

Best-of-IFA

One of the heavy hitters of home entertainment, Epson as you’d expect unveiled a series of new projectors. More unexpected however, was their sudden embrace of 3D after their refusal to jump in last year – apparently now the time is right. Even more surprising was the pricing – full details will be unveiled on Monday but they are clearly hoping to win over hearts and minds with some wonderful aggressive pricing.

Also unexpected was the launch of the Epson MG-850HD, which features a little iDevice dock enabling you to project slideshows and movies or play music, which was a nice feature on a budget device.

iDevices are never far from sight at IFA (I’ve never seen so many iPads as I did on my press bus) and Gear4 went to town with a range of cool new iToys. My favourite was Pocket Loops a keyboard attachments that you can slot your iPhone directly into.

They also had a range of Angry Birds iPhone docks that looked amazing – if you like Angry Bird. The AirZone home stereo speaker featured AirPlay, which is clearly the future of iPod docks.

They were most excited about the Renew SleepClock that monitors your movements in bed using beams of some description and wakes you up at the optimal point in your sleep cycle. Whilst similar devices utilising this technology exist, most involve wearing some sort of strap or bracelet so this is a lot more natural. They refused to let me nap in the little bed to test it out however.

The Alesis IO dock was there for the serious iPad musician and slots the iPad into a host of MIDI and high-quality audio inputs and outputs. The limitations of the 30-pin connector however, means that you can’t record simultaneously, which is a shame but this minor grip notwithstanding you can get some serious music made using this dock.

I was quietly mixing up a storm with Numark’s iDJ iPad peripheral. The jog wheels and fader are not the world’s best but are more than adequate for rocking a small house party and crossfading your Jive Bunny megamixes. There is a USB version that looks identical bar the connectors, although frustratingly you don’t appear to be able to use them interchangeably. Rather than simply buying one device and having two cables, flitting from laptop to iPad as you see fit, you apparently need to buy a dedicated controller for each. Boo! Still it’s a great device.

If you want to hear all those great sounds TDK had some amazing headsets on offer. Leading on from the wonderful sounds of the ST800s that we recently tested, the also had the high-end inner ear BA100 and BA200s on show – with balanced armature and dual balanced armature engineering. The sound quality was, as you’d expect, superlative.

To be continued …

Epson EH-TW5500 projector review

It’s big, it’s heavy – but it’s beautiful. No, we’re not reciting the tagline from Shallow Hal – we’re talking about the Epson EH-TW5500 projector – one of the biggest, baddest, bestest home projectors. Oh, and it’s one of the costliest too – around £4,000 at release, although thankfully you can pick one up for much cheaper now. We’re going to have a hands on with Epson’s latest and greatest at IFA in about a month’s time and thought we’d stop to have a look back at one of their flagship classic models.

Epson-EH-TW5500

A lot of thought has gone in to making sure the projector doesn’t detract from the movie experience, which is why if the TW550’s design could speak, it would say “shhh, you’re ruining the movie.” The bulbous body comes in a non-reflective, matt black finish – minimising distraction by melding seamlessly into the dark.

The TW5500 is also aurally unobtrusive, with the Eco mode producing just 22dB – deathly quiet.

Picture-wise, it’s phenomenal. We could go on about the Full HD output, an almost perfect sharpness at Blu-Ray resolution and the wonderful colour palette. Instead, we’re going to talk about blacks.

Epson boast of an ambitious dynamic contrast ratio of 200,000:1 – an incredible number. Unfortunately for sceptics, the performance is exactly as promised. The blacks in films are extremely dark – far more so than any other LCD-based projector. Honestly, it’s like you’re at the cinema.

Other great features include the 2.1 optical zoom, along with extensive vertical and horizontal image-shifting options. You can perfectly position the projected image from even most off-centre positions.

The projector is relatively small on inputs – but all the essentials are there. It takes two x.v.Colour-compatible HDMIs, a component video input, and an RGB PC input. This does make it extremely simple to set-up – especially with the included remote for changing input sources and turning the projector off and on.

The performance is exceptional – even at the price-tag. No serious home-cinema fan should go without one of these. If you break down the quality of projection – as well as an included five-year warranty on the projector and the lamp – the price feels a lot more reasonable.

For more info head here.

Epson TW450 projector review

In case you’ve forgotten, projectors are cool. They were cool ten years ago, when they cost an arm, weren’t very bright, had poor resolutions and the bulb ran out after 16 seconds, requiring an expensive replacement. Now that the Epson TW450 has fixed four out of five of these issues, however, projectors are very cool indeed.

Epson-TW450

The TW450 throws 2500 lumens (brightness) to a size of 33″ to 318″. It’s good in day-light conditions, and great in darkness. We pumped the size up to 140″ before we ran out of house and the picture was stunning.

The beautiful image quality is in part due to the brightness (you’d expect 2000 lumens for the RRP £600 pricetag), and part due to the 720p resolution. Standard quality DVDs look great, but throw on some HD footage (we tried Life) and you’ll be awe-struck.

The Epson has loads of input ports, including composite, S-video, component, VGA RGB, USB type B, USB type A, RCA and an HDMI. There’s no pass-through, however, so you’ll need to plug it into your computer everytime you use it.

The lamp will last 3000 hours in normal operation, and 4000 hours in eco mode. We really like the eco-mode: the brightness only dims a lit, power consumption falls and the noise level drops right down.

We noticed a bit of noise on the 29dB fan in quiet scenes, but in eco it fades right into the background. Whatever mode you’re in, however, you’ll likely be too engrossed in the outstanding picture to notice any noise.

There’s a built-in 1 watt speaker for no-hassle set-up, but you’ll be wasting an excellent cinematic experience if you play your sound through it.

Aside for its notable performance, the TW450 is extremely practical. It turns off instantly (no need for the fan to keep running), while the small size (228 x 295 x 77 mm) and light weight (2.3kg) mean it’s a cinch to move around.

Overall, we were blown away by the Epson. We never expected such performance from such a slight – and affordable – projector. Some might argue that for a perfect cinema experience, the fan is a little loud (in silent scenes) and the blacks aren’t as dark as they could be. We’d counter that no sub-£1000 projector could fix those issues, and you should stop being a pedant.

When you take into account  that you can get one for £498 at Pixmania (you’ll need this discount code), it really is a fantastic deal. We try a lot of electronics at Latest Gadgets, and we’ve never been so tempted to convert a review into a purchase as right now.

http://www.vouchercodes.co.uk/pixmania.co.uk

Photokina roundup

The world’s biggest trade fair for the photographic and imaging industry has just finished in Cologne. So what’s some of the big news to come out of it?

Samsung-NX100

One of the surprises was Fujifilm’s concept high-quality compact camera – the X100. No news about it had been leaked beforehand, so there was a lot of interest – despite the fact it was still missing many of its vital parts! A retro design, analogue controls and a hybrid opto-electronic viewfinder (translation: it offers the best of both worlds by allowing users to instantly switch between a bright, high-quality optical viewfinder and an electronic viewfinder with full shooting data) were tempting, even considering the fact that it has a fixed mount, fixed focal length lens (the 23mm f/2 lens has been optimised with the 12.3MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor for high-quality images) and comes with a hefty price tag of £900.
More over here.

Compact interchangeable-lens cameras only came onto the scene two years ago with the Panasonic G1, but are making great strides. Witness the Panasonic GH2, which has taken AF performance up a gear to compete with the best SLRs. This Micro Four Thirds camera shoots at 16 megapixels with a wider sensitivity range of ISO 160 to 12,800 and a faster, 23-point autofocusing system. You’ll also get 5FPS burst shooting and 1080i video at 60 frames per second instead of 30.
Read more here.

Samsung, meanwhile, showed off its Samsung NX100 with its intuitive i-Function kit lens. What’s that, you ask? Well so did I. Apparently, the i-Function button on the lens allows you to control the lens; scrolling through manual settings, such as shutter speed, aperture, EV, WB, and ISO. You can then use the focus ring to change parameters for each setting. The NX100 also boasts the same 14.6 megapixel sensor and 3-inch AMOLED screen as the NX10. The Samsung NX100 will come in black, white and brown and will cost £449.99 with the 20-50mm kit lens. You will also be able to buy a compact zoom 20-50mm F3.5-5.6 lens and an Electronic Viewfinder Flash and GPS tracker, while a 20mm f/2.8 wide angle Pancake lens, Macro lens and 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Super Zoom lens will be available next year.

The camera companies also recognise that photographers want tougher, more weather-resistant cameras for their shots. Step forward the Pentax K-5, the Nikon D7000 and the Olympus E-5, all magnesium-alloy cameras that have environmental seals that allow their owners to use them in bad weather (so that means August in the UK).

Casio chose a different tack, meanwhile, with its Casio EX-H20G, which offers a geo-photography facility. This means that as well as offering 14-megapixel images, the Casio compact is able to geo-tag your images – even if you’re underground or indoors. The locations of your pictures are captured on the Casio’s mapping software and shown on its 3inch LED screen. It also has a database of 10,000 tourist attractions, which the camera can recognise and tag – it will even alert you when you’re near one of them. You can then share your picture with family and friends on Picasa.

Okay, that’s the fun stuff for holiday snappers, but your more serious, medium-format fans have not been left out. Hasselblad’s 60-megapixel H4D-60 camera not good enough for you? Never fear, a 20-megapixel model is due out in the early part of next year. Mind you, it’s not all good news – each image will take 30 seconds to capture, so is hardly going to be any good for anything that moves (or breathes). But professional photographers who take glossy shots of watches, cars and the like will no doubt be intrigued.

Speaking of pricey cameras, Pentax debuted its interchangeable lens, medium-format digital SLR camera, the 645D. With its huge image sensor (44x33mm), the 645D takes shots at up to 40 megapixels, but it’s also pretty hefty, as its price tag – a whopping £9,999.99 with a 55mm SDM 645 lens.

Of course. It’s not just all about cameras. People who take great pictures, need great printers too, which is why Epson chose Photokina to launch its Stylus Pro 4900. Designed for the small office or studio producing photographic and fine art prints, the compact, 17inch production printer can produce 98 per cent of all PANTONE colours on a wide range of media up to 1.5mm thick. It can switch automatically between photo and matte black inks
Available from November at £2,295

More details here

TWIG: Logmein Ignition iPad app, Edifier Soundbar USB, Sony 3D HD projector

The Week in Gadgets

It has been another busy week in the world of gadgets. IFA in Berlin saw the unveiling of numerous interesting gadgets – Epson’s top of the range projectors, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, HP’s Envy laptops and much much more. We will be looking over a range of releases in more detail over the coming week. Apple released a slew of new iPods and finally updated the Apple TV. We had some initial thoughts here. Twitter released an iPad client with a futuristic and challenging UI. Meanwhile XBMC-based media server Plex could be built directly into DLNA enabled LG TVs. As my main moan with mainstream media servers is that they lack the elegance of XBMC, this is potentially the answer to sereval of my prayers.

Edifier-Soundbar

Edifier, who made the affordable Opera shaped Prisma speakers have released a Soundbar USB – a micro speaker system with a specially designed bass reflection port. Doing exactly what is says on the tin, the Soundbar is a easy way to beef up underpowered laptop speakers, or provide a little more oomph to your audio when you are on the go. Yours for £49.99.

Flying in the face of Epson’s bold claims that the world (or image quality rather) is not ready for 3D projectors Sony released its first 3D home cinema projector, the VPL-VW90ES. Projecting in Full HD 1080p (of course) Sony’s headfirst push into the world of 3D continues and the VW90ES uses active shutter glasses and an upgraded version of Sony’s 240Hz Panel which is supposed to minimise cross talk. Out in Europe in November, we are keen to take a look and see if the image quality passes muster.

Sony-3D-projector

iPad owners keen to work some VPN magic on their tablets should head to the App store and check out the latest update to LogMeIn Ignition – one of the better remote access apps that gives access and more importantly control to your desktop or laptop from your iPad. I’ve tried quite a few remote access apps for the iPad whilst the idea sounds great, actual day to day use is next to impossible – the all powerful WIMP paradigm just doesn’t helpfully translate to the multitouch era. LogMeIn recognise this and have worked hard to simulate a multitouch workflow – supporting pinching, swiping and left and right mouse clicks. Unfortunately, you still have to “learn” how to use the app – a little hints dialogue opens on log in, reminding you of the various gestures. However, once learned (and being honest it doesn’t take all that long) it is reasonably easy to select windows, transfer files or switch views in a multiple monitor setup.

The LogMeIn Ignition for iPad and iPhone app can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store for a one-time charge of £17.99 and the update is freely available to existing Ignition owners.

Epson unveils high-end EH-R4000 & EH-R2000 and budget EHTW3600 & EH-TW3200 full HD projectors at IFA

Latest Gadgets met up with the good people of Epson to talk about their new range of projectors at IFA.

Epson are world number 1 in projectors, so they have some interesting ideas about where the market will be heading. Most interesting was what they didn’t launch, and they boldly proclaimed there wouldn’t be any Epson 3D projectors on display at IFA. Nor would there be any pico projectors. I spoke to several Epson representatives about this and they all pointed to one of Epson’s core values – image quality and how it simply isn’t possible to produce high quality images either in 3D or from a pocket sized projector at the moment.

Epson-Projectors-IFA

This core value of high image quality was repeated again and again. When we were shown the Epson EH-DM3, which features an integrated DVD/DIVX player and microphone for karaoke, Epson pointed out that it can easily be used with the lights on, due to high quality brightness.

Projectors are expensive however, which can be off-putting to casual consumers – especially with prices of HD TVs crashing lower and lower. Epson are keenly aware of this and launched the EHTW3600 and EH-TW3200 – two entry-level 1080p projectors, with an image size of up to 300 inches and two HDMI inputs. Despite being entry level projectors, image quality is still high, powered by Epson’s 3LCD technology (there is a very detailed explanation on Epson’s website about what this is) and the projectors work in daylight, with an output of 1,800 (EH-TW3200)-2,000 (EH3600) lumens.

Serious home cinema enthusiasts – y’know guys with a dedicated cinema room, should check out Epson’s new high end projectors – the EH-R4000 and EH-R2000, which have ridiculously high dynamic contrast ratios (1,000,000:1 for the EH-R4000 and 500,000:1 for the EH-R2000). We shuffled into a room to watch selections from Ice Age, The Dark Knight Returns and Mission Impossible on Blu Ray via the EH-R4000 and the image quality was eye-poppingly good thanks to the HQV processor. The contrast was also impressive – especially in the darker sections of Mission Impossible 3. Definitely one to watch, (the EH-R4000, not Mission Impossible 3, which is mediocre at best).

• The EH-TW3600 is €1,399 and the EH-TW3200 is €999
• The EH-R4000 and EH-R2000 will be available from November.

****Update****

Epson contacted us with details of UK pricing, which are:

EH-R2000 £2999.99
EH-R4000 £4999.99
EH-TW3200 £899.99
EH-TW3600 £1299.99

Latest Gadgets at IFA preview: Tablets, docks and much much more.

IFA or Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin as it’s never called, is one of the world’s largest consumer electronics trade fairs and is held annually in Germany. Latest Gadgets will be heading down for the press day today. Here are a few things we’ll be excited about seeing.

IFA-preview

In the same way the iPhone redefined smartphone, the iPad is helping to reshape the world of tablet computing – and dramatically polarising opinion as it does so (someone is getting angry just at the mere mention of the iPad). Competition is rife and we are looking forward to playing with the new “iPad beating” Galaxy Tab tablet on display from Samsung.

Auluxe, makers of the Dew, which we described our love for here, are set to launch the Reverie II, a luxury iPod dock crafted from wood (pictured) that apparently takes 13 hours to manufacture. Altec Lansing and Pioneor will also be unveiling some iPod docks and headphones.

Epson will have the latest and greatest in their Full HD home cinema range and showing off developments in 3LCD projection technology.

We are also eager to see Viewsonic who have an affordable 3D camera that can record at 720p for £199 and a handheld 3D TV, 3D digital camera and 3D digital photo frame. Keen to jump on the *other* bandwagon this year as well, they will be previewing a 7″ tablet computer – the ViewPad, which is Android powered and features 3G, GPS, Micro SD and USB ports and front and back facing cameras. A dual OS 10″ tablet will also been on display. I’m most excited about seeing the VMP74, not just because of the name but due to its award winning HD streaming capabilities.

Of course some of the more exciting innovations come from the smaller names and we will be keeping an eye out for the new and unusual from all corners of the show.

Depending on WiFi connections and roaming charges we should be tweeting our findings via @latestgadgetsuk and will take an in-depth look at our findings over the next few days.