Epson EH-LS800 Super Ultra Short Throw Projector Review

Posted on 22nd February, 2024

Epson EH-LS800 Super Ultra Short Throw Projector Review

Ultra Short Throw projectors are hot right now, and the EH-LS800W is the cream of this company's laser TV crop. Steve May supersizes his viewing…

Epson

EH-LS800 Ultra Short Throw Projector

US$3,499 RRP

Epson is no Johnny-come-lately to Ultra Short Throw projectors. It's been selling them for years, both to demanding business customers, and home users, and on the evidence of the EH-LS800W, it's got the form factor down to a tee.

Design-wise the model is certain to impress, with its curved fabric grille and modernistic lines. It's available in either a black or white finish. We have the latter on our test bench. A cursory glance and you may not even realise that this is a projector at all. It looks more like a futuristic music system. Only the mirrored lens up top gives the game away.

The EH-LS800W is positioned at the high end of its market, although it's not quite in the wallet-busting league of the Leica Cine 1. Expensive, yes, but put in context, a 98-inch (or thereabouts) TV will cost something similar, if not more, but lacks a UST projector's ability to blend in with the background.

UP CLOSE

The EH-LS800 tops Epson's EpiqVision Ultra range, priced ahead of the stablemate EH-LS650W/B by about a quarter. It offers class-leading brightness and is enviably equipped. Measuring 341x695x156mm [HxWxD] and tipping the scales at 12.3kg, you'll need a fair amount of space to accommodate it, though. 

The projector sports a sound system designed by Yamaha. It boasts 2x 10W stereo output, and can be used as a music-only Bluetooth speaker, if you've run out of box sets to binge. There's also a digital optical audio output, USB ports and headphone minijack. There's no integrated TV tuner.

Side-mounted connectivity comprises three HDMI inputs, one with ARC (Audio Return Channel). One HDMI input is exclusively assigned to gaming; you need to access it via the Game menu, which is a little unconventional. This Game input supports 120Hz @60Hz, and 4k sources at 60Hz. Epson quotes input lag at under 20ms, which is good for a projector. 

The EH-LS800 is built around the Android smart TV4 platform, but this is a little light on content. I suspect most users will connect a standalone streaming media stick for a more comprehensive selection of apps. For this audition, I used both streaming services, and 4k discs played from a Panasonic UHD Blu-ray player.

Menu niceties include motion smoothing, a motion sensor, image-enhancing Super Resolution mode and variable gamma settings. The projector ships with an uncluttered remote control featuring a dedicated Google Assistant button and integrated microphone. Menu navigation is intuitive enough, courtesy of a central wheel. Unfortunately, this zapper isn't backlit, which should be mandatory for any projector given its likely dark room use.

PERFORMANCE

The EH-LS800W is designed to cast a very large image from virtually no distance at all. Image size is dependent on the distance from a screen or wall, but 150-inches is certainly achievable with only moderate shuffling. Just parked some 3cm from a wall, I found it threw a room-engulfing picture.

Setting up manually is a little fussy, but only because there are too few points of adjustment on the geometric patterns provided. A little bit more refinement would be a big help. Setup can also be aided by the Epson Setting Assistant app. Once squared up, there's a focus ring on the side of the unit, hidden behind a pop-off flap, to dial in picture sharpness. There's no autofocus like some rival UST models.

Epson estimates that the laser light engine employed by EH-LS800W is good for 20,000 hours, which apparently translates to ten years of undiminished brightness with average use, taking it well past the usual product replacement cycle. You can consider the projector to be maintenance-free.

Unlike DLP rivals, this Ultra Short Throw beamer is built around a 3LCD image engine, and that's significant. This technology does not suffer from the rainbow fringing which is a common trait on single chip DLP devices. It's listed as a 4K model, but it's not natively 4K. Rather, it uses clever pixel shifting to create a 4k dense image. Epson calls this 4k Enhancement.

I couldn't help but be impressed at just how bright and dynamic this Epson looks out of the box. I've tested a lot of Ultra Short Throw models and this one takes the brightness biscuit. If you want to supersize your sports in the afternoon, as well as hunker down in the dark for a late-night movie, it's just the ticket. 

Colour fidelity is excellent, with bold primaries and deep hues. Animated Marvel show What If, on Disney+, makes full use of the available gamut. Season Two opens with a chase sequence that's both dark and moody yet colour-rich. 

Epson quotes a light output (both white and colour) of 4,000 lumens, which is comfortably more than rival Ultra Short Throw models from Hisense and Leica, to name just two. Certainly, it's bright enough for use in a partially lit room, although obviously, it's at its best in a fully dark space. Dynamic contrast is rated at 2,500,000:1.

This inherent brightness helps with its HDR handling. Projectors tackle HDR sources rather differently to flatscreen TVs. As they lack any precise pixel control, they need to be able to preserve specular highlights without raising the surrounding black level or squashing shadow detail. If a projector has a low lumens output, this can result in the projected image appearing overly dim with HDR fare. That's not the case here.

Avatar: The Way of Water (Disney+) showcases the projector at its best. This Epson relished the movie's vibrant hues and bright environments. Streamed in 4k, and pixel shifted for UHD, Cameron's space opera looks superb. Images of Pandora are sharp and dynamic, with almost three-dimensional depth. 

Epson's 3LCD laser light engine similarly impresses with Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift (4k Blu-ray). There's no smudging of fast-moving detail. The underground car park drift-off (chapter 7) is crisp and judder-free, with a splendid HDR sheen evident on the competing cars.

If there is a caveat, it's that black level performance is slightly compromised, with deeper blacks presenting as darker grey. When Nebula drifts through space, in that aforementioned What If…? episode, the cosmos isn't quite pitch black. That's not to say the image lacks depth. Even in a fully darkened room, near black shadow detail is evident, but it's not fully black either.

The projector's HDR effect is adjustable, using a simple slider control variable between 1-16. It's worth experimenting with this to find a compromise that works best for your content. I settled on 9/10. HDR coverage is limited to regular HDR10 and HLG, but there's no Dolby Vision.

Available picture options cover Natural, Cinema, Vivid and Dynamic. I found the Cinema mode to offer the most pleasing overall balance. With Super Resolution set to 4, and Auto Contrast Enhancement on 5, the picture really pops.

So how large should you go? While Epson claims a 150-inch picture maximum, it's probably not wise to push it to the limit, as there's some shortfall in brightness at such extremes – 100 to 120-inches is probably the sweet spot. While I imagine most users will project the EH-LS800W on to a convenient white wall, Epson offers two fixed ALR (Ambient Light Reflecting) screens for those looking to maximise performance. These come in 100- and 120-inch sizes. If you're intending to cast onto a white wall, you may struggle to get every corner pin-sharp, but that's the convenience conundrum posed by UST projection.

While single chip DLP devices tend to have the edge over 3LCD when it comes to really granular detail, there's something rather more filmic about the 3LCD presentation. That lack of rainbow fringing definitely helps. Variable motion interpolation removes typical 24fps judder, without exerting too much influence. Frame interpolation options include Off, Low, Normal and High. For the most part, I found pictures were reassuringly cinematic, rarely succumbing to the dread soap opera effect. 

Operational noise tops out around 32dB, and is certainly noticeable. Thankfully, the projector's sound system is more than able to mask it. Behind the forward-facing grille is a 2.1 speaker set-up that's easily loud enough to help mask operational noise, and the soundstage is wide. I wouldn't describe its performance as musical, but it's comparable with other all-in-one UST models, and better than most other projectors. There are six audio presets offered: Theatre, TV, Studio, Stadium, Concert and (bizarrely) Karaoke. There's also some surround virtualisation, but it's not overly compelling. Keep things simple I say, stick with Theatre or TV.

THE VERDICT

I am impressed by the EH-LS800W. It's a superior Ultra Short Throw projector with a sensationally bright and cinematic picture, making it particularly suitable for sports and general entertainment, as well as a lifestyle home theatre solution. The Android TV implementation may be basic, but the sound system is robust enough for most uses, and thanks to an interior-friendly design, it's a lot easier to accommodate than a conventional long throw projector, or a massive telly. 

For more information visit Epson

    Steve May's avatar

    Steve May

    Steve is a home entertainment technology specialist. Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve is also the editor of the lifestyle website The Luxe Review and has an unconditional love of glam rock.

    Posted in:Applause Awards 2024 Visual Projectors Home Theatre Visual
    Tags: epson 

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