Surprising prices

(Sorry for the lack of posts lately.)

Lately I’ve been quite startled by the incredibly low prices of a lot of gear. Right now I’m in the process of unpacking a fifty inch Panasonic 3D plasma TV. It’s RRP is an amazing $1,599. That was startling enough, but I noticed in a Good Guys catalogue the other day that it was selling for just $997. I remember very clearly when 50 inch plasma TVs (and these were mere 1,388 x 768 pixels models) finally inched below $10,000!

If you want 3D with this Panasonic, you’ll have to fork out extra for the 3D eyewear, but even so.

Also, I’ve just received word on the pricing of Epson’s new premium projectors — the EH-TW8000 and the EH-TW9000W. $3,599 and $3,999 respectively! Note that the 8000 is, basically, the upgraded EH-TW5500 (it has similar specs), except with 3D support (you get two set of glasses with it). THe 9000W adds WirelessHD.

These are on top of Epson’s other lower cost 3D projectors, released last month. Over the fold is the short article I wrote on that launch for The Canberra Times.


Well, Epson is busily upsetting the three dimensional apple cart.

Beginning towards the end of last year you have been able to purchase a 3D home theatre projector. The fact is, 3D is better on the big projection screen than it is on even a large LCD or plasma TV. The film-makers don’t have your 127cm TV in mind when they’re setting up the angles on those 3D cameras. What they are thinking about is the cinema screen. They’re expecting their film to be viewed in a darkened theatre in which are large proportion of the audience’s field of view is consumed by the screen.

You can do that at home for sure, but only with a front projector.

So how is Epson upsetting things? Well, of those new 3D projectors, the lowest in cost has been $5,499 (while several models are $9,999).

Epson is introducing not just its first 3D projector, but five different models. And two of them cost less than half of that $5,499.

At the entry level is the EH-TW5900, at $2,199. This comes without 3D glasses, but the built in 3D transmitter. So add optional glasses and you’re right to go. As with all the others Epson has tweaked the 3D performance for greater brightness.

One problem with all forms of 3D is that the image light must be divided between the eyes, so that each eye sees at most only half of the total output of the display. The tends to make it duller.

More light is lost due to the particular 3D technique used by all home theatre 3D projectors. They flash the left and right eye images in turn, and the 3D glasses flash transparent and opaque in time with this. But there must be a gap between the transparent phases for each eye, so much of the time both the left and right lens of the 3D glasses are opaque. If there weren’t this time then there’d be too much leakage of the left eye image to the right eye and vice versa.

I must stress that all this happens incredibly quickly. On a 3D Blu-ray disc there are 24 frames of picture per second. Most 3D projectors flash the images up on the screen at 240 times per second. Epson has tweaked this to allow a 480 times per second sequence, and this has the advantage of allowing the total black time to be reduced by roughly half.

Which makes for markedly greater brightness.

The next step up is the Epson EH-TW6000 for $2,499. This offers slightly better performance and includes two sets of 3D glasses. Then there is the EH-TW6000W. That ‘W’ signifies ‘Wireless’. As in, WirelessHD.

One of the problems with a projector is managing the cable. Very often your equipment is near the projection screen, while the projector itself is some metres away. Long HDMI cables are expensive and can be an eyesore. Epson is one of the first to produce products employed the WirelessHD standard.

Normal WiFi works in the 2.4GHz frequency band. Wireless HD operates at 60GHz. It is only short range — up to ten metres — but is said to be reasonably free of problems with people getting in the way of the signal. It works with full 1080p signals, including 3D and 60 hertz material.

There may eventually be a source products (Blu-ray players) and home theatre receivers which offer this, but for the moment Epson includes a WirelessHD transmitter with the projector.

Looking further ahead, Epson expects to introduce next month two high end 3D projectors. Both come with two pairs of 3D glasses but offer higher levels of performance, with contrast ratios of 200,000:1 (compared to 40,000:1 for the EH-TW6000).

The EH-TW8000 is the wired version, while the EH-TW9000W employs WirelessHD, coming with the transmitter.

With this range on offer, real big screen 3D looks like it will be available to a much wider audience than previously.

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