It’s been six years since I reviewed my first projector. During this time, I’ve reviewed around 10 units of various makes and specifications. For the past three years, I’ve also been using an Epson projector as my TV. I chose the brand as a result of its history, quality and support. The brand has recently released the Epson EF-100 projector (Epson EF-100W and EF-100B) to the market.
The unit carries the title as Epson’s first portable laser projector, as well as its smallest consumer projector.
This means that the Epson EF-100 isn’t your conventional projector. The projector has been geared toward outdoor and on-the-go viewing, rather than a fixed unit in your living room.
However, there’s a lot required to create such an environment for the Epson EF-100 to thrive. Has Epson managed to achieve this?
Epson EF-100 Projector Build and Design
On that point of being the smallest projector the brand has released, that’s obviously true at the time of its release. The Epson EF-100 measures 210x230x92mm, which is about 60cm narrower than your conventional projector. It is a bit taller than most, but only by around 10-15mm.
The unit weighs in at 2.7KG. Interestingly, while it is fairly compact and portable, it weighs similarly to that of other projectors in the same category. The contents of the box don’t include a carry bag, so you may want to invest in one if you’re planning on lugging it around often.
The biggest design change, however, resides on the rear. Unlike many of its other projectors, the rear is enclosed with a mesh covering to close off any of the ports. Instead, you’ll need to feed the cables through a hole.
Having been built as a portable, outdoor unit, the cover was designed to keep dust and particles from blowing into any of the port openings. While it may be dust resistant, it’s not completely immune and doesn’t offer any water resistance either.
The configuration of the ports, once the cover is removed, is also quite a lot different. The changed layout also makes room for your streaming stick or mini PC, which can plug in via the HDMI port. It also has a dedicated microUSB cable to provide additional power to your stick if required. It’s quite a neat setup.
Epson EF-100 Projector Setup
Given the changes in the design of the laptop, the setup has also changed slightly. Instead of the simple plugin all the cables and turn on approach, there are some configurations to consider.
If you’re going for the straight HDMI cable from an external source, then you can plug it into the HDMI port. You will still be required to open the rear and position the cable accordingly, but it’s not too complicated.
With the support for Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku and Apple TV, you can plug the device directly into the HDMI port as well. If the dongle requires an additional power source, simply connect the microUSB cable and you’re all set.
The Epson EF-100 also supports audio streaming via Bluetooth to an external output. This option requires you to access the menu in order to pair it with the Bluetooth speaker and the likes. This part is trickier than the rest, as the audio device needs to be searchable before pairing can happen.
Display and Performance Having switched from my Epson EB-U04 projector to review the Epson EF-100, the first thing I noticed was the pixelation. The reason for this is that the Epson EF-100 doesn’t support the same 1080p resolution, but is instead 720p. Well, technically it’s 1280×800 native, so slightly higher than 720p.
Running the same settings as my projector connected to my PC wasn’t ideal, as the enlarged viewing size made it quite difficult to read any text. Placing the unit closer to the wall (or screen) provides a lot more focus and you’re able to set the screen size to something a lot more acceptable to allow for less pixelation.
The Epson EF-100 does support zoom between wide-angle and TV size to make adjusting the screen size much easier. At the same time, you can also adjust the XXXX if the projection angles aren’t perpendicular.
There are two big differences between the Epson EF-100 and the Epson EB-U04. The first of these is noticeable. That’s the brightness. On the former, the brightness is listed at 2,000 lumens with the latter at 3,000 lumens. Interestingly, the brightness on the Epson EF-100 feels higher, whether it be standard or eco mode. This could be down to the age of the bulb, but surprising nonetheless.
Staying on the discussion about the bulb, the Epson EF-100 has a light source that is said to last up to 20,000 hours. Both units feature Epson’s 3LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) laser technology. That said, the Epson EF-100 is some 3-4 years newer, so the technology would most likely have advanced during this time.
In any event, that 20,000 hours projected lifespan of the bulb is double that of the Epson EB-U04. Given that my previous bulb lasted close on three years before needing to be replaced, this would push the Epson EF-100 bulb to a massive 5 to 6-year period. That’s impressive.
On higher brightness, it’s a difference of 5,000 versus 12,000 hours.
Back on the topic of the resolution. Viewing text was always going to be a struggle. That’s not what you’re going to be using a projector for in any case. Switching to gaming and movies and things are quite significantly better. With the added brightness, the quality is very good, even with some sunlight shining into the living room. Given that the unit was designed for outdoor use, that’s understandable.
The only downside is the slight lack of contrast. However, it’s worth pointing out that the settings were tweaked to provide the optimum support for ad-hoc screens, which could include walls, ceilings, wood panels and the like. The increased brightness causes some of the contrast issues, but you’d much rather prefer brightness and visibility over contrast, any day.
The original price of the unit is a bit on the steep side, at R23,999. Irrespective of its portability, its effectivity double the price of the Epson EB-U04, which includes support for a native 1080p resolution.
Epson recently launched a promotion on the Epson EF-100 via Takealot – which sees the price reduced to R16,999 and comes with a free Xbox One S 1TB thrown in. That should be more than tempting for anyone in search of purchasing a portable projector.
A loan unit was provided to Fortress of Solitude for the purposes of this review.
Epson EF-100 Projector
Epson’s first take on a portable and compact projector isn’t a bad one. Needless to say, using the Epson EF-100 as a fixed living room projector isn’t going to be winning many prizes compared to other units within its own range. The projector was meant for the road and designed that way. It does an excellent job of this.
- Portable design
- Streaming stick support
- Indicated bulb lifespan
- Native 720p resolution
Ease of Learning
Ease of Use
Value for Money