have seen the new European TW5500 in comparison to the JVC HD750. Here's my report:
If the dynamic iris had no artifacts, I'd say there's no big contrast difference between TW5500 and HD750. Unfortunately the dynamic iris can't do magic. E.g. in a test image from Star Wars the JVC was just a touch better. And when clicking around in the Casino Royale menu (with black background), I could see the black changing with the Epson. So the HD750 does have the edge in overall on/off contrast, but I found the difference to be surprisingly small. However, I have to say that the ceiling was white (rest of the room black). Eventually the HD750 would have pulled ahead more clearly with a full black room. Or maybe not. Interestingly the TW5500 did noticeably better in the Star Wars test image compared to last year's TW5000. It seems that the dynamic iris gamma manipulations were improved in this year's model. Furthermore the TW5500 got an additional fixed iris added to the lens, which is supposed to eat stray light. This is supposed to improve the intra scene contrast. The TW5500 ist still just as bright as the step down model TW4400 which doesn't have this fixed iris. The Epson guy guessed that the lamp was driven slightly harder in the TW5500 to make up for the light loss caused by the added fixed iris. But he wasn't 100% sure.
pixel structure / SDE:
At home I'm quite near to the screen. So I double checked how far away I have to be exactly to not notice the pixel structure with the Epson, anymore. Unfortunately I can't give you a simple number. With 1.0x (screen width = viewing distance) I could detect a faint raster in the clouds. Maybe with an even brighter image it would have been more evident. At home I'm about 1.15x. I guess, personally I'd probably have no problems with SDE at my viewing distance. However, different people have different eye sight and I want all of my guests to have a perfect experience, too. So a small amount of concern still remains. It's not a big problem, though, and if you sit more than 1.15x screen width away, there should be no problem at all (unless you have extremely good eye sight and are very picky). Of course with the JVC there is no problem in any case. With the HD750 the pixels also look perfectly square. With the Epson they look more like a plasma TV. Ok, not really, but they certainly don't look perfectly square.
We projected one half of the screen with the TW5500, the other half with the JVC. Both in high lamp. Here the JVC was a bit brighter. However, the TW5500 in the light power mode (with a Europe only special external filter) would have been even brighter - but with imperfect colors.
Both the HD750 and the Epson can be calibrated quite nicely, AFAIK. The HD750 I've seen was carefully manually calibrated, the Epsons weren't. Consequently the JVC looked noticeably more natural to me in the split screen test. But that was not a fair comparison, of course, since (as I said) the Epsons weren't calibrated at all, but set to factory settings. Interestingly the TW5500 and TW4400 had noticeably different colors, although both were running with identical factory settings. Well, whatever...
I didn't have any personal experience with FI myself yet. So I first watched the Casino Royale scene with last year's TW5000. Yeah, I saw the artifacts. But honestly, I didn't find it *that* bad. However, the TW5500 didn't show any artifacts at all. But sometimes, when a new scene started, I think I've noticed a very slight judder. Ekki (cine4home) stated in his preview that the FI in the TW5500 prefers does nothing over introducing artifacts. So my guess is that sometimes when a new scene starts, the FI isn't totally sure what to do and thus deactives itself for a few frames. This would nicely explain what I believe to have seen. But I'm not really sure here. My impression was that the Blu-Ray player sometimes skipped a frame by itself or something. So the judder I think I saw might have come from that, too. Or maybe I just imagined it. Whatever. How shall I judge the FI? I'm quite unsure whether I'd use it for movies. With sports: Definitely. With movies? Probably not in the highest mode. Maybe in the normal or low setting. But I think I'd have to try watching a full movie with it turned to normal/low to be really sure about it.
The dealer was very excited about this feature. Personally, I found the images to look more natural (but also softer) with the feature turned off. Unfortunately we were not able to activate the normal or low settings. We could only use high or off (firmware not final yet). I don't think I would use the high setting. Sure, in some scenes such sharpening algorithms can show detail more clearly. But as I said, the images looked simply more natural to me with super resolution turned off. In two scenes I also could see strong edge enhancement with super resolution activated. One scene was the "Markusplatz" scene in Casino Royale. The other one a scene were James Bond (or was it his girl? don't remember) opened a laptop while sitting in some boat. I could see noticeable edge enhancement on the top of the laptop there. In both scenes there was no edge enhancement whatsoever with super resolution turned off. Maybe the normal or low settings would be more interesting for me. But I'm not really a big fan of sharpening algorithms, anyway. I simply prefer the more natural look, even if it's a bit softer.
Unfortunately I forgot to check the HD750's noise level. The TW5500 in high lamp mode is a bit more noisy than my Sony HW10, but I didn't find it too bad...
Taking price into consideration, the TW5500 absolutely is an alternative to the JVCs for me. However, if I compare the TW5500 to last year's TW5000, I don't see so much progress. The most important difference for me would be the improved gamma algorithm and the added fixed iris. Frame interpolation and super resolution are generally less interesting to me. But that's only my personal opinion, of course. Everybody has to decide for himself. Overall there doesn't seem to be much progress in 2009 with any company. Too bad. Maybe we'll get bigger improvements next year again?
A few additional nuggets from th Epson guy (since I don't remember his name, let me call him the "EG"):
(1) Laser light sources probably don't have much of a chance in Europe due to security concerns.
(2) LED will come sooner or later for Epson, too. However, it's too expensive right now. Also the blue LED is supposed to age faster than red and green, which is not a good thing, of course. The EG said that he doesn't anticipate Epson to use LED light sources for at least 2-3 more years (!!).
(3) LCD panel technology for projection seems to be at the end of the line. No big improvements in store for us, anymore. No 4k, either. Epson has already been working on their own LCOS panels for some years, though (!!). According to the EG LCOS could come in maybe 2 years from Epson. He believes Epson will bring LCOS projectors sooner than LED powered projectors!
(4) The lens memory functionality of the AE3000/4000 is not planned to be copied by Epson. The EG couldn't give me a good way to comfortably switch between cinemascope and 1,87:1 movies on my CIH screen, though, even though he tried. I hope that this made him reconsider his stance about lens memory...
(5) I asked about 4-panel technology (4th panel being used for brightness modulation). The EG said that the Epson devs had already done a statement about that technology. They said it would have advantages and disadvantages. Overall they decided not to use it for now. But the EG was not able to give me more details. He didn't seem to be 100% sure about what the Epson report about 4-panel technology really had said.
(6) According to the EG isn't not necessary to wait for 50 hours (or something) before calibrating the projector. He says you can calibrate the brand new projector. And you don't have to recalibrate after 500 or 1000 hours, either. Or even when you change the lamp.
(7) The EG says Epson projectors have a built in electronic which drives the lamps harder when they get older, so that there's no noticeable light drop over the age of the lamp. He said he doesn't know any other projector manufacturer doing this.
(8) The EG says the exact same lamps are also used in the business line of projectors and there they are driven much harder to output 3000-4000 lumens. In other words: The lamps are quite relaxed even in high lamp mode in the TW5500.
I hope this report was detailed enough for you guys...