The ultra-short-throw projector seems to be coming of age in the home thanks to a combination of laser light source brightness and smart TV-like abilities, and Epson’s forthcoming 4K Pro-UHD ultra-short-throw EH-LS500 was one of the stars of Epson’s “Productivity and Efficiency” launch event held in Sydney last night. (The evening’s ‘efficiency’ was not at all affected by being held partially at the Archie Rose gin distillery.) 

“Even though TV panels are getting bigger and bigger, they can get nowhere near as big as a home theatre projector,” as Epson Australia’s Bruce Bealby said at the launch. “The LS500 has a screen size of up to 130 inches — to put that into context, that’s equivalent to four 65-inch panels.”

This screen size is delivered not by a ceiling or table projector but by a short-throw model which sits close to the wall, shining upwards to illuminate a screen or wall. The laser light source, together with Epson’s 3LCD Technology, delivers 4000 lumens of both white and colour light (other technologies have lower colour brightness than white brightness because of the use of a colour wheel), achieving a quoted 2,500,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

Long life is another benefit of laser light sources, with an expected 20,000 hours life in Eco mode, which Epson Australia equates to five hours use every day for 10 years. 

Resolution & HDR
The projector uses Epson’s 4K Pro-UHD, which accepts a UHD 4K input signal and delivers the full colour and High Dynamic Range (HDR) information from 4K signals, with a full range of HDR adjustments available, in addition to frame interpolation and Detail Enhancement functions.

Resolution is not native 4K but rather uses a 1920 x 1080 panel pixel-shifted once to deliver around four million pixels, half the number of actual Ultra High Definition 4K. Epson has strong arguments in favour of this technology over DLP technology which uses multiple pixel-shifting to achieve actual UHD, noting the value of better brightness and contrast, and especially Epson’s use of larger 0.74-inch panels, compared with DLP’s 0.47-inch panel for those DLP projectors using Texas Instrument's DLP470TP/TE micromirrors. That's a big difference in area, so each pixel is larger, brighter and, all other things being equal, also less prone to noise. The same argument occurs in the camera industry, where the argument of ‘more pixels’ versus ‘larger pixels’ invariably comes down on the side of larger pixels.

The benefit of this approach has already been proven by Epson’s EH-TW9400W home cinema projector (review here).

Smarts and sound
The LS500 has three HDMI inputs, and has space behind the rear panel to accommodate a Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick, either of which will make it easy to stream shows, movies and more under control of a smart device. USB power is provided to power such devices.

While there is an HDMI ARC connection or an analogue audio output to integrate with an external sound system, the unit also includes two built-in 10W speakers facing aft from the neat-looking unit, which will be available in either black or white.

An Ethernet network connection allows operation and status checks over a network from a computer or a smart device, and when using Epson iProjection for Windows or Mac, you can display up to four separate screens from the projector from up to 50 computers connected to the network.

Screen size
The effective screen size will be governed by the distance of the projector from your wall, and we might suggest that some of the press images included here look a little over-optimistic on the shallowness of bench required to achieve the image sizes indicated. For a 100-inch image the projector lens needs to be 62 inches from the screen or wall (the 'A' column in the chart above); for a 130-inch image the distance needs to be 82 inches, and the projector will extend out another 10cm or so beyond that lens distance. Go measure your bench space! If it can’t be accommodated there, the LS500 can be ceiling-mounted to achieve the required throw distance. Of course the final brightness of your image and its relative imperviousness to ambient light conditions will also be related to your final image size.

We are already enamoured with the ultra-short-throw projector oeuvre, and the new LS500 clearly loads the latest Epson technologies and a host of convenience features to take its appeal far beyond that of the previous EH-LS100, reviewed here    

The new EH-LS500 is expected to launch in Australia very late this year or early next, with the price yet to be announced, but whispered to us unofficially last night as possibly $4999, which would be very competitive with the already announced US pricing, although US prices include an ambient-light reducing screen in a choice for 100 or 120-inch sizes, which won't be coming to Australia. 

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