COMPARED TO THE EPSON TW5350S.
I've had the XGIMI H1 for a couple of months now and it has been a fantastic projector. However, I've been wanting to get a second opinion compared to other projectors, so I had arranged with an acquaintance at a well known electrical store (Nojima) to meet and compare with their best selling projector, the Epson TW5350s.
This store has a nice collection of headphones, speakers and AV items with many of them well over $1000 and up to $15,000. The trick was that I was going to give them a blind test, which means that I would be covering up the XGIMI and Harman/Kardon brands and labels on the H1.
The TW5350s is an older projector, but it is still rated highly on local review sites for sales, popularity and satisfaction in Japan (Epson makes up over 50% of projector sales). That's pretty impressive for something that came out in 2015 and still selling at around $800 to $900 ($900 at Nojima's). Also, it has been rated as the preferred projector over the Benq 1070 and even the HT2050. It is a good projector and it was my choice before I ended up with the H1.
I was excited the night before preparing for this meet, so I got my DSLR and lenses ready, my tripod ready and batteries charging. When I got there I realised that I forgot to bring those batteries :-( Didn't want to make the 1 hour trip back home to get them so unfortunately I had to make do with the faithful old S5 phone again. It didn't matter as I was more interested in user feedback based on it being a blind test.
They had a $2500 120" projector screen up there, so it's pretty much the best alternative to my wall :-p
The room has no light leakage so viewing could be held in complete darkness, but there was only one store person (Matsuno) in the shop (and it was a different guy to the one I was familiar with) so he had to leave the doors open while catering to other customers around the shop. I pretty much had the room to myself most of the time.
They had their own amp, theatre speakers and a demo disc ready.
Matsuno really liked the H1's all-black packaging. He thought it was "Sony-like" and luxurious, so the initial impression was good. The Epson's packaging by comparison was pretty generic.
He certainly did not expect the H1 to look so different to the Epson. Matsuno was impressed by the build quality. He thought it could have been something made in Germany or Europe.
He was also surprised by how few buttons there were on the H1 and its remote.
Certainly the H1 felt like a more premium product, so I asked him how much did he thought it was worth based on his first impression. He said maybe around 140,000yen (about $1300). The Epson was selling for 108,000yen at his shop, so I don't think he was being too generous about the H1, everything here is pretty expensive.
We started both H1 and TW5350s at the same time. The H1's LED lamp booted up immediately while the Epson took a bit longer. If you're only going to be using the projector occasionally or just for the weekends then it may not be a big deal, but since I use mine every single day then the long start up and shut down time will eventually annoy the hell out of me. I'm impatient, or maybe I'm spoilt with how technology have continued to improve things dramatically.
After booting up both machines, the H1's Android system was already loaded and ready with the main cursor hovering over youtube on my system. You also have access to other applications like Kodi or XGIMI's own media player where you can access media from internal and external storage as well as via wifi.
The Epson had no such features. It simply waits for you to connect something else to get it going. I expected it to have a USB port and it did so I brought along a USB drive full of 1080p trailers hoping that it would be able to play back something. It didn't. The TW5350s is an older generation projector that requires HDMI/VGA/composite connectivity, and that's good enough for most people. Personally it was a disappointment to me because my sub $200 LED projector also had USB connectivity and the ability to playback videos/music via its own built-in media player.
The other thing I found about the Epson was that to disable the projection you have to use the lens cover that slides over the lens manually. For the H1, it was a matter of accessing "Turn off LED" via the remote.
I can't get used to the idea of a projector that can't even demonstrate its capabilities straight out of the box, which brings up my next point, portability. If you had to carry a projector and you need to present some videos that you created or downloaded then you'll need to bring your laptop, media player, speakers and cables. Basically the whole works. Anybody who has been in this situation would know it all too well, and sometimes it's a laborious task setting everything up and putting them away again. I think for portability, it is very hard to beat the H1 with its built-in Android system and speakers.
Another point to add is that the H1 only runs at 80-130W, while the Epson runs at 307 Watts. Just recently, I took it out to a parking lot to test it out on a large wall with a 150w AC to DC car convertor in my car. It would not have been possible with a lot of projectors if I was out on the road, camping or I need to project a movie outdoors.
There is a noticeable fan noise coming from the Epson that sounds very similar to my sub $200 projector. It's not terrible but it's there. The H1 is not dead quiet, but it is quiet. It's not a picky subject for me but it may be for others. I think Matsuno at this point was thinking that he was probably looking at something worth a lot more than 140,000 yen as the Epson hasn't had a great start based on what we tested so far.
IMAGE QUALITY COMPARISON:
According to XGIMI, the H1 follows color standard DCI-P3 to customize each frame with optimal color tone, recreating the true color tone from every original source. Thus, it joins a list of other products that also uses this standards (Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Pro,
Samsung Galaxy Note 7, Apple's iPhone 7 , Microsoft's new Surface Studio and Apple's new MacBook Pro notebook computer were released with P3 displays).
When Matsuno inserted a DTS demo disc for the Epson, I thought the picture quality was very decent. The lack of contrast didn't really bother me and it appeared to be sharp enough for the most part.
Then I put up the H1 and this happened:
The Epson is in the foreground, the H1 in the background.
Could the H1 really be that bright? Or maybe the Epson wasn't position right? When Matsuno was positioning the Epson, I noticed that he was adjusting the focus dial a lot. Unlike the H1 where it is done via remote, these focusing on the Epson needs to be done on the projector itself. I can see this being a bit inconvenient especially if the projector is situated on the ceiling, but then that could be something that some people are used to.
Here's a snapshot of the Epson during playback of one of the videos from their demo disc:
Before anyone was wondering the H1 does have an HDMI port (2 of them), so we shared the same source to both projectors:
Regrettably with a poor camera to use and unsteady hands, it is hard to appreciate from these samples just how much brighter, sharper and better the H1 was.
Here's a text comparison between the two:
H1 on the top, Epson underneath it. BTW, The text were not exactly pure white as they were more off-white. So the Epson looks a bit off here. It was also less sharper than the H1.
I played a movie trailer on the same DTS demo disc and paused at this scene (the room wasn't dark as the doors were open and the S5 continued to struggle taking pictures under this lighting):
I think some people would like the "film-like" appeal of the LCD-Epson (left) as it gives the kind of smooth impression and skin tone that seems to be popular these days, but the softness didn't appeal to me at all as it was missing details that you might notice from a DLP projector like the H1 (right). The Epson offers a bunch of picture effects like CFI (smooth motion), detail enhancement control and dynamic Iris, which will appeal to people who like these sort of things. I used to think that I wouldn't mind having some of these extra techno-wizardry features, but when they're used as a selling point to add another $500-$1000 to the price tag then it's not something that I really have to have. Another thing I noticed was that the Epson looked more "yellow/greenish" during playback while the H1 was more towards the reddish side.
In terms of brightness uniformity, both projectors had corner to corner brightness. In fact, I was impressed with their uniformity which were better than any of my TVs that had some weird vignetting or backlight bleeding.
I did not like the DTS test disc at all, the samples here were dull and more drama-like than action. I really wished I could have used the videos I brought on my USB as I had the latest trailers and Full HD demo videos like in the following samples:
RESULT: H1 if you prefer sharpness and better contrast, Epson if you prefer the film-like look and can deal with less sharper images with less contrast. The Epson's input lag time is quicker than the H1 but far worst with FI turned on.
I think it is really important to add that it is difficult to capture photos exactly the way you see projected in person. The setup that I have at home is a textured, bumpy wallpaper and a grey screen with some unknown gains (bought specifically for the Epson), but at this test site it was the first time that I got to use a $2000 white screen. Here we can see that the black levels of the H1 on the right are not as good, but they are still way better than the Epson which is terrible on the left. The black levels of the Epson wasn't something that would bother me if I put it in the right situation and with the right screen, so I was prepared to deal with it. But since getting the H1 I don't need to deal with anything. It does so many things right that the lack of deep black becomes insignificant to me.
SPEAKER SOUND QUALITY:
This is not really fair comparing the Harman-Kardon speakers of the H1 with the Epson, but the Epson is fitted with a 5w mono speaker and is by default an unwilling participant of this unfortunate test. Basically, it was slaughtered the way a flute would get blown out by a tuba. I once mentioned that the dual 45mm 7.5-watt Harman Kardon speakers were not all that special because they weren't positioned like stereo speakers and they didn't have the boom and oomph of a subwoofer necessary for an immersive movie experience, but the longer I used it the more I began to appreciate just how useful it was to have a projector with some decent speakers without having to turn on the amplifier, speakers and subwoofers. The fact that they could also be used as standalone speakers for bluetooth devices connected is a huge bonus.
Sound wise while playing "November Rain" via bluetooth from my Samsung S5, the mids were more prominent with the bass having far less impact than I would have liked. However, if you use SOUNDALIVE from the S5's media player and set it to "rock" it becomes dramatically better. The bass sounded punchier and responsive without overwhelming the mids and highs which sounded much cleaner. I personally would have liked these speakers to be a little louder and a stronger bass but that's probably getting a bit much for a reasonably small device.
At this point, my friend Matsuno was becoming far more interested in my H1 than in his Epson and he really wanted to know the brand behind my projector. So the time came to revealing the H1 and the price and suffice to say he was shocked that it wasn't German and that it wasn't 140,000 yen ($1300). I had a feeling that he might be feeling a bit uncomfortable but he was a good sport through it all. For Japan, it's very hard to compete with China and Korea on price point alone and so they'll probably be focusing on developing their higher end (and highly priced) product lines.
I look back at what could have been, an Epson TW5350s in my room attached to a MINIX NEO64 media player instead. Life may have been quite similar, I would have enjoyed a different projector.
Then I look at the things I wouldn't have had. Like the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of LED and the ability to start up and shut down quickly, the built-in Android system, the easy-to-use remote control, the built-in Harman/Kardon speakers, its portability, amazing accessories and all the clever features mentioned in this review. All at a price point that was so much lower than the Epson here in Japan.
I think this comparison has done a lot more than to convince me that the H1 was a much better projector for me than the Epson. It also convinced me that it was easily the better media player than the Minix. This had a greater impact on me because...I don't need them anymore!
The other advantage is that the LED bulb allows me to use this projector without any worries for as long as I like. Gone are the days where I can only watch a maximum of 3 hours a day on some projectors (ie. Optoma). Gone are the days of worrying about lamps shattering into pieces all over and the mess created inside the projector (I mean...really?). The peace of mind of not having to worry about these things is worth considering an LED projector.