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Maybe you’re interested in a home theater, but being an average Joe (like most everybody else), you don’t have a room in your home you can designate as a viewing room, and you sure as heck don’t have a few extra thousand dollars to plunk down for a laser projector. You’ve maybe already experimented with cheaper home entertainment projectors and been disappointed by their lack of brightness and the rainbow artifacts in their projected images. In that case, don’t bother reading our ViewSonic M1+ review, which is a low-res model.
The Epson EF-100 may be made just for you as a bargain-priced projector with a laser light source, far less costly than competing laser offerings such as an Optoma 4K projector and one of the best projectors. Epson calls the EF-100 a ‘mini-laser,’ and that’s an apt name as it’s probably the world’s smallest 3 LCD projector (branded as Epson Microlaser Array Projection technology), and while EF-100 isn’t 4K, it does have a resolution suitable enough to throw large image sizes with outstanding color accuracy and excellent brightness. If you’re new to ANSI lumens, check out our guide to what are lumens on a projector.
If you’re shopping for laser projectors, consult GR’s Best Laser Projector buyer’s guide to compare the Epson EF-100 against many other notable laser projector offerings.
The Epson EF-100 is a modestly priced DLP laser projector that is highly portable and can throw an outstanding bright picture all the way up to a 150” (diagonal) screen size. But, if you want a similar model under another brand, read our LG HU80KA 4K UHD review.
Epson made some reasonable trade-offs in introducing a laser projector at this price point. The resulting Epson EF-100 laser projector is a pretty good compromise of capabilities to deliver home theater fun for the masses. Perfect for watching a movie in a living room during a party, watching football in your converted “man cave” garage, setting up a Disney movie shown in the kid’s room, or having a backyard movie night.
The target consumer for EF-100 likely may already own an LCD TV that delivers 4K resolution and is looking at projection more as a supplemental fun viewing experience –an ability to view a 100+ inch image is more the goal than technical picture purity. After all, a 120” diagonal screen size is 4x bigger than a 70” flat screen TV, and that larger picture is what’s noticed as the experience.
All that being said, the 1280 x 800 native pixel resolution of the EF-100 (a.k.a. WXGA, which is better than 720p but less than 1080p) is a very good-looking picture thrown with the brightness of a laser light source by one of the smallest, lightest, and least expensive projectors. If you’re interested in a true 1080p model, then check out our Optoma HZ39HDR review.
The EF-100 microarray laser light source is mated to an advanced 3LCD chip, so you get brightness with robust vivid color and black density that’s free of any “rainbowing” or color saturation issues. The EF-100 has four preset color modes, and a remote control as well.
To sweeten the pot, Epson includes their branded Android TV dongle, which enables a Wi-Fi connection, the Android App Store, Chromecasting, Google Assistant, and preloaded apps so you can stream for Netflix, Hulu, etc. The dongle plugs into the EF-100’s single HDMI port and the USB Type-A port for power. It tucks away into a recessed compartment in the completely covered projector when it’s all hooked up. You could certainly plug any streaming device (Apple TV, etc.) or any video, computer, or game source input into the EF-100, but it’s only got one HDMI port, so you’ll need to do some cable swapping.
The EF-100 has one rear-facing speaker (fairly good fidelity but mono), a 3.5mm audio out, and Bluetooth support for sending stereo audio to an external soundbar or wireless headphones. With the Android TV streaming dongle in place, and Bluetooth wirelessly streaming audio to external speakers, the EF-100 effectively becomes a wireless TV projector (save for the power cord).
While not designed for serious game players (it’s got too much input lag), the EF-100 is great for casual game nights and perfect for game platforms like the Nintendo Switch.
The Epson EF-100 is rated as 2,000 lumens, but it’s complicated by the fact that this rating is for the WXGA 16:10 aspect ratio, and most content uses a 16:9 aspect ratio. So, in the end, the EF-100 is only outputting 1800 lumens, which is still high white and overall color brightness. Enough to project 190” diagonal in a darkened room, and an 80 to 90-inch screen size in rooms with ambient light. Although, if your lamp doesn’t seem to be bright enough, you’ll want to learn how to test a projector lamp to ensure it’s still working properly.
On the other hand, with the brightest of the preset color modes, the EF-100 can throw a bright enough image in a room with lots of windows during daylight hours. Contrast is acceptable but not the best, with the Cinema color mode scoring the most contrast detail.
So, if you’re wondering how to set up a projector outside, like this one, we can help you with that.
The Epson EF-100 is easy to set up and does have some nice placement options. Focusing the lens in manual. Move the projector to adjust image size and position and use the manual horizontal and keystone adjustments to square the image. For an 80 to 100-inch screen size, you’ll need to place the EF-100 anywhere from 6 to 7.5 feet from the screen. A UST (ultra short throw) projector, such as the VAVA 4K projector, is not.
There’s also a digital zoom for adjusting image size downward, although using it reduces brightness somewhat. One of the cool features of the EF-100 is the many ways it can be oriented. Lay it flat, stand it up like a book on a shelf, or put it upright on its back, throwing the image onto a ceiling. Viewing while lying down is interesting as well as practical since the ceiling is often the largest unobstructed flat surface in a room.
Laser projectors are typically bigger boxes than lamp-based projectors. The Epson EF-100 is a notable exception, and probably why Epson calls it a “mini-laser” since it’s about the size of a lunchbox (3.6”H x 8.3”W x 9.1”D) and weighs all of six pounds. Easily store it on a bookshelf when not in use, and just as easily throw it in a backpack and take it to your friend’s apartment the next time you’re invited over. The EF-100 case is stylishly finished in a faux leather covering that’s highly durable. It comes in all white or in black with copper trim. Epson rates the laser lamp life of the EF-100 as 20,000 hrs. For reference, assuming you run the EF-100 for 5 hours per day (improbable), the laser engine has 11 years of life.
Consider, too, that the EF-100 has multiple settings to reduce laser light output. Remember that rated laser life is not the amount of time until failure but rather the time until the laser’s brightness is reduced by 50%. The bottom line is that you’re unlikely to have to replace the light source in the EF-100 as you would need to do in a lamp-based projector. And the warranty for the EF-100 is a 2-year replacement warranty. Any problems and Epson will send you a new one.
The Epson EF-100’s compelling value proposition is portable fun. Compact with excellent portability and a very bright respectable image quality. If you can forego 4K, then it’s a pretty good choice and will deliver lots of fun times for a modest investment. If you’re considering a dedicated viewing room, then 4K is probably a must-have, and the EF-100 is not a fit. You’ll need to invest a bit more for a projector like an Optoma 4K projector, or a whole lot more for the Optoma UHZ65. If these are among the features on your must-have when purchasing a projector: super bright, low lag, good for gaming, and easy setup, try the Optoma GT1090HDR.
Alternatively, you can also view another Optoma model, like the Optoma GT1080HDR review, which has very low input lag and great picture quality.
The Epson EF-100 is a terrific mini-laser projector delivering a bright image with excellent color and includes Android TV. Very portable and stylish looking, it works well for movies, is great for sports viewing parties, and is perfect for backyard movie nights.