Epson pioneered consumer laser-powered projection with the EH-LS10000 back in 2015, and continues to push boundaries with its new EH-LS12000B. This is an upgraded EH-TW9400 rather than a direct evolution of the LS10000, so it employs a traditional three-chip LCD design rather than Epson’s version of LCoS (liquid crystal on silicon), which was used on the older model.
The LS12000 also retains most of the TW9400’s features, but obviously swaps the regular lamp for a longer-life laser light source. There are a few other differences, such as an updated version of Epson’s PRO-UHD pixel shifting tech to project a 3840 x 2160 pixel image, and the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 inputs with support for 4K/120p and HDR10+.
The Epson EH-LS12000B might be an affordable option, but it delivers a pleasingly high-end performance. While not technically native 4K, it is capable of accepting a 4K signal and displaying it in a way that creates a higher resolution experience. It’s doubtful anyone would notice the difference between the Epson and a native 4K beamer, unless they were looking at test patterns and who on earth would want to do that?
Unlike the TW9400, the LS12000 doesn’t use a filter to deliver the DCI-P3 wide colour gamut, and while this results in a brighter HDR experience, it does mean the colours are less saturated. In testing, the TW9400 hit an impressive 98%, while the LS12000 measured 88%. However, the images still looked very colourful, and most people would struggle to compare the two.
The LS12000 immediately impresses with a Blu-ray like Liquorice Pizza, producing bright, vibrant and accurate images. The picture appears free of optical aberrations, and the picture processing upscales the 1080p signal to perfectly match the projected 4K image, bringing out all the details. The blacks and shadows are also nicely rendered, although this isn’t the Epson’s strong point.
Moving on to a 4K disc like Ambulance, the LS12000 remains impressive with visuals that are crisp and detailed. But it’s with the HDR that this beamer really wows, and after a few tweaks on the slider the results are fantastic. In brighter scenes the laser’s 2,700 lumens have a chance to shine, while the motion handling is also excellent even without resorting to frame interpolation.
The LS12000 is less impressive with dark HDR scenes, which is obvious when watching the 4K disc of Morbius. Since this film involves vampires it primarily takes place at night, and the shadows appear dark grey rather than black, plus it’s hard to make out individual details within the gloom. Epson’s claims of a 2,500,000:1 contrast ratio only apply when the laser is turned off.
The HDR slider can help with black levels and shadow detail, but there’s always a trade-off. Moving the slider lower will bring out more detail in the shadows, but ruin what blacks there are and simultaneously clip the highlights; conversely, moving it up brings back the detail in the highlights, and the blacks to a degree, but crushes the shadows instead.
The Epson supports HDR10+, and while this format’s dynamic metadata undoubtedly helps with the overall HDR tone mapping, the projector’s inherent limitations are still apparent. To be fair, very few projectors at this price point handle HDR blacks particularly well, and all the competing DLP models suffer similar limitations and also introduce other artefacts like rainbows.
The EH-LS12000B looks like the TW9400, with a similar bulky matte black chassis based around a central lens (which appears to be identical) and forward-firing cooling grilles that are now slightly larger. The bodywork is solid, the styling simple but elegant, and the EH-LS12000 retains a motorised lens cover – which is a nice touch.
There are basic controls at the rear of the projector, plus a full-sized remote with a handy backlight. Epson offers a choice of stand or ceiling mounting with an optional bracket, and includes a removable cable cover to keep things tidy at the back. Setup is simple thanks to mortised lens control, along with 10 lens memories for those using a 2.35:1 screen.
Epson has given the menu system a makeover, with an interface that looks slick and modern. Key features include frame interpolation, and image enhancement controls for sharpness and noise reduction. There are also controls for setting the brightness of the laser from 50 to 100%, and applying dynamic contrast to adjust the laser brightness depending on the content.
The LS12000 includes a full complement of calibration controls, but the Natural colour mode proved most accurate out of the box, with errors below the visible threshold. The laser light source not only delivers 2,700 lumens, but also has a 20,000-hour lifespan. It also doesn’t run too hot, with the fan noise measuring an acceptable 30dB, even with the laser at 100%.
Epson has dropped 3D from the LS12000, which will disappoint some, but on the plus side it has included a pair of HDMI 2.1 inputs. These support 4K/120p, eARC, HDCP 2.3 and HDR10+, along regular HDR10 and HLG. There are also three USB ports, a 12V trigger output, Ethernet port and RS-232C connector, all of which will doubtless please custom installers.
There are various dynamic range controls, including sliders for adjusting the tone mapping of HDR10, HLG and HDR10+ content – the lower the setting, the brighter the HDR image. Sadly the EH-LS12000 isn’t a ‘set and forget’ HDR projector (although few are), and you will need to tweak the sliders depending on how the content is graded – the higher the nits, the higher the setting.
The LS12000 is an interesting option for gamers, thanks to its big, bright 4K HDR images and support for super-smooth 120p higher frame rates. An input lag of just 26ms ensures the experience is responsive, while the laser’s long lifespan will undoubtedly encourage marathon gaming sessions without having to worry about the lamp dimming or needing to be replaced.
The Epson EH-LS12000B is an excellent home cinema projector that delivers bright, detailed and accurate images at a very competitive price. The HDR is often excellent although a degree of tweaking might be required, and the blacks levels and shadow detail sometimes disappoint. The loss of 3D is a shame, but otherwise this impressive beamer is hard to fault with a host features not found on the competition. The inclusion of a laser light source and HDMI 2.1 inputs really set it apart, making the LS12000 ideal for anyone wanting high-end performance at an affordable price.
Ambulance (4K Blu-ray)
This action-packed heist thriller is an adrenaline shot of unadulterated vehicular mayhem that boasts picture and sound to match. Crisp native 4K visuals, stunning HDR, and ultra-dynamic Dolby Atmos sonics deliver pure demo heaven from beginning to end.
Morbius (4K Blu-ray)
This Marvel vampire flick isn’t a classic, but its is often case it boasts some impressive 4K visuals that will test a display’s ability to handle deep blacks and shadow details. An immersive Dolby Atmos soundtrack rounds out an impressive audio and video experience.
Liquorice Pizza (Blu-ray)
This 1970’s coming-of-age drama boasts plenty of beautifully recreated period detail, with a cavalcade of colourful cars, clothes and decor. Shot on 35mm film, the movie retains a lovely sheen of grain that makes it look like it was made in the decade in which it’s set.
The Epson EH-LS12000B delivers bright and punchy laser-powered HDR images at an affordable price. A host of high-end features that include HDMI 2.1 inputs make this competitive beamer the best choice for any home cinema enthusiast on a budget.