Supersized TV
Sound & Vision|February - March 2021
Remember the rear-projection TV (RPTV)? RPTVs were big, boxy contraptions housing a projector that beamed an image at the rear of a screen mounted on the set’s front surface.
By Al Griffin

While necessarily inelegant compared with the sleek flat-panel TVs that eventually replaced them, the RPTV in its heyday solved the problem of getting a big image— screen sizes topped out around 80 inches diagonal—without having to resort to a room-dominating two-piece system with a ceiling-mounted projector and separate projection screen.

The reason I bring up RPTVs is that ultra-short-throw (UST) projectors like Epson’s new EpiqVision Ultra LS500 remind me of the category, mainly because they deliver maximum image size while taking up a minimum of space. Epson even calls the LS500 a projection TV, most likely because it’s sold as a complete solution with 100-inch ($4,999) or 120-inch ($5,999) ambient light-rejecting (ALR) screen included.

While most of the other USTs Sound & Vision has reviewed have used DLP technology, the LS500, in keeping with other projectors from Epson, is a 3LCD design. Also similar to the company’s other models, it features 4K PRO-UHD tech that diagonally shifts pixels on the projector’s 1080p display chips to double resolution to just over four million pixels. The LS500 supports the HDR10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma HDR formats and uses 12-bit video processing to eliminate banding noise and other compression-related artifacts in images. Epson’s UST model is also spec’d for an impressive 4,000 lumens light output—a big help toward beaming sufficiently bright images in the well-lit spaces it’s likely to be installed in.

The LS500 comes with an Android TV dongle that connects to an HDMI port under the removable grille on its front panel. The Android TV interface is populated with streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube, and you can download others such as HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Peacock, Disney+, and Vudu from the Google Play store. Chromecast built-in is also supported for “casting” from an Android or iOS device. A compact remote control included with the LS500 is designed for easy browsing and playback of streaming apps, and it also has a built-in microphone to enable Google Assistant voice searches. To try this out, I pressed the centrally located Google Assistant button, uttered “James Bond,” and an array of Bond films, along with a synopsis for each plus links to apps where they were available for streaming or purchase popped up onscreen. (My choice: From Russia With Love, starring the recently departed Sean Connery—the first and best Bond.)

Although Epson’s handset simplifies app browsing, with no backlit keypad or direct buttons to access inputs or picture modes and adjustment menus, I found it to be a step down from the excellent remotes the company typically packages with its projectors. Using it made me wish the company had packaged both remote types with the LS500.

Other features tucked beneath the projector’s front-panel grille include a 2 x 10-watt stereo speaker system and a full set of control buttons for switching inputs and navigating onscreen menus should you misplace the remote. There’s also a manual lens focus adjustment that’s used for setup. The screen-facing rear panel contains two additional HDMI 2.0 inputs, one with ARC for connection to an outboard audio system or soundbar, a minijack stereo audio output, and LAN (Ethernet), RS-232C control, and USB type-A ports.

Looks-wise, the Epson’s streamlined form and front-facing mesh speaker grille (both black and white case options are available) make it exceptionally living-room friendly. I simply grabbed an available end table to support the LS500 for my installation, but it would certainly make an elegant match with many low-slung credenzas or media consoles.

SETUP

As noted above, the LS500, a product aimed at DIY-inclined home theater enthusiasts, ships with either a 100- or 120-inch ALR screen designed for short throw that you need to assemble and install. Since I already had a 100-inch diagonal Screen Innovations Zero Edge screen with 0.6 gain Short Throw material on hand, Epson agreed to send me just the projector itself to simplify the review process. The one caveat was that I had discuss the LS500’s screen—something I will now do.

Epson has a comprehensive video on the Epson America YouTube site that guides you through assembly and installation of its screen. Basically, you need to fit four sides of an aluminum inner frame together, attach screen material to it using tension-creating springs, and screw on the four sides of an outer frame. Once that’s done, you attach the included brackets to your room’s wall (you’ll need to use a stud finder and a power drill for this step) and then hang the screen on the brackets (wearing the included white gloves and tapping the services of a friendly helper is required here).

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