Review: Fighting the light with Epson's first portable laser projector
Folks considering adding a projector to their entertainment options may be after a few things in particular. Perhaps they want one that they can easily relocate to the garage or a friend’s place. Perhaps they want something that performs well in low light, and perhaps they want something that can project onto a ceiling, if the situation calls for it. These are the boxes Epson is looking to tick with the EF-100, the company’s first truly portable laser projector. New Atlas fired one up to see how it fares.
Epson’s EF-100 is available in a white or black casing, with our review unit arriving in black. It is a stylish addition to a lounge room in our view, with the rounded corners, copper accents and faux-leather finish adding a touch of swankiness to your coffee table (or wherever you choose to plonk it down).
Measuring 21 x 22.7 x 8.8 cm (8.26 x 8.93 x 3.46 in) and weighing 2.7 kg (5.95 lb), the EF-100 is certainly bulkier than projectors of the pico persuasion, but is still very much an item that can be moved around without too much trouble. We didn’t get an opportunity to try it out in different locations, but this size does make it quite easy to whip it out when it’s movie time and stow away under the couch when you need to clear the table.
Setup is pretty much a straightforward affair. The on-screen welcome guide runs you through the process and after a little fiddling with the focus wheel and a few keystone corrections, the picture was sharp, correctly oriented and ready for prime time.
We spent hours upon hours watching movies, TV series and sports on the Epson EF-100 in all kinds of lighting conditions, and in short, the picture is excellent. The laser light source outputs 2,000 lumens with a 2,500,000:1 dynamic contrast, so in a mostly darkened room it has no trouble whatsoever creating a bright, sharp picture brimming with vivid colors.
This can be as large as 150 inches (381 cm) if you have the space for it, though in our more confined testing area it still produced more than enough screen space from a distance of around 2 m (6.5 ft).
Media ports are found at the back hiding behind a soft rear panel, which easily pops on and off to reveal HDMI 2.0, USB Type-A and mini-USB connections, along with a headphone jack. There you can plug in streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast or Roku stick, along with a DVD player or gaming console.
There is also a built-in 5-W speaker, which we found works surprisingly well. Often times we found it perfectly adequate for catching up on sports or a little light entertainment, but for the full cinematic experience you’d want to connect something a bit more capable, which in our case was a Bose Soundlink Bluetooth speaker.
The Bluetooth connection is easy to configure, albeit a little buried in the menu – though once the speaker was set up for the first time the projector had no trouble finding it again. We did actually encounter a little audio lag, with the sound quite regularly falling a second or two behind the picture. Whether this is a fault of the projector, or due to the fact that the speaker is six years old, we can’t really say.
Another thing we that we liked about the EF-100 was the cleanliness and simplicity of the remote, which features a basic layout with buttons for keystone corrections, menu navigation and volume control. The pause and play buttons worked reliably when streaming Netflix via Chromecast, a much easier option than fiddling with the mobile app to stop a movie for a toilet break.
But what impressed us most about the projector and its laser-light source was that you don’t always need to be sitting in a dark room to enjoy it. Lowering blinds and closing doors isn’t a big deal, but it’s kind of nice to be able to watch things during the day without feeling like you’re sitting in a windowless basement. The image does suffer a little, which is to be expected, but by and large is still very workable.
We didn’t get a chance to check out the vertical viewing capabilities of the EF-100, but imagine you could do so without too much trouble by popping the rear panel on, with the air vents conveniently located on the projector’s side.
The EF-100 is priced at AU$1,699 (US$1,150) and is available now in Australia, Europe and Asia. We’d say that if you do all of your viewing in a fixed location and much of it in the day time, you might be better looking at a TV, as for that kind of money you’d be looking a decent 4K OLED setup for all occasions. But if flexibility and the option to go large with your screen size are the priorities, then the rather excellent EF-100 is an option that is unlikely to disappoint.
Product page: Epson