Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Home Cinema 6500UB
Epson's Home Cinema 6100 and Home Cinema 6500UB are inherently very similar. The primary differences are the better black level performance of the 6500UB, and its higher price. As a result, this is a relatively short comparison article.
Home Cinema 6100 vs. Home Cinema 6500UB - An Overview
There is about a $600 street price difference between these two Epson projectors. To look at them, they are physically identical but for darker side caps on the Home Cinema 6100, but inside, the the Home Cinema 6500UB has newer, better LCD panels, new polarization, and is optimized to produce truly superior black levels. The Home Cinema 6100 received our Best in Class award in the Entry Level 1080p projector class, while the Home Cinema 6500UB picked up the same award in the mid-priced $2100 - $3500 Class (although they shared the title with the Panasonic PT-AE3000). Ultimately, though, here you have a competition between two best in class projectors in different price categories.
Basically, all you have to do, is decide if the Home Cinema 6500UB is worth the extra roughly $600. At least you won't have to worry about spending more money for the 6500UB, but not getting some features the "other" projector has. In this case, every capability of the Home Cinema 6100 is duplicated (or improved on) in the Home Cinema 6500UB.
As stated, the two Epson projectors physically appear to be identical. Both are smaller projectors, finished in white, with an off center mounted manual 2.1:1 zoom. Manual lens shift controls are on the top, as is the control panel. Cable connections (inputs and outputs) are located in the back. The lamp can be changed out from the top, so no need to unmount these projectors when ceiling mounted.
Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
The primary difference between these two models is their black level performance. Because of the 6500UB's better black levels, it does affect the overall look of the projected images.
Black level performance:
Thanks to the latest Epson LCD inorganic LCD panels, dark rest state, and new polarizing technology, the Home Cinema 6500UB produces superior black level performance. That is the major difference between these two projectors.
Below are several side-by-side images taken with the two projectors. In all of the images, unless otherwise noted, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB is on the left!
The first image from The Dark Knight, is probably the most telling one, you can clearly see the difference in black levels, in the dark areas that frame the the people.
While the Home Cinema 6100 does a pretty respectable job, the Home Cinema 6500UB is downright exceptional, especially for the price.
The two Epsons are fairly comparable. At first glance the 6500UB seems to have a little less dark shadow detail, but much of that is illusion. The detail is there, it's just darker, so harder to spot, especially if there are bright parts to the scene you are viewing.
After calibration, both projectors end up with a comparably good image in terms of color accuracy. They definitely look a bit different in a side by side comparison, but both look very good and accurate, when viewed by themselves. (That's true of almost any projectors viewed side by side - subtle differences in color performance tend to be very noticeable, even when both projectors look equally "right" by themselves).
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture:
Both projectors excel at "pop and wow". That said, the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB has the advantage, thanks to those awesome black levels. It just looks noticely better on dark scenes, and to a lesser extent, it looks better on mixed scenes (bright and dark areas). Bottom line - the 6500UB has the better picture.
Same image, slightly brighter - interesting how the color balance shifts slightly, just from different exposures - a camera issue:
Although the Home Cinema 6100 claims an extra 200 lumens, we couldn't find them!
The Home Cinema 6500UB claims 1600 lumens, compared to the 6100's 1800 lumen claim. However, both projectors we measured were within a few lumens of each other after calibration. I've got to call this a tie! Anyway you slice it, though, both are pretty bright in "best" mode, and easily the brightest of all the competition we've reviewed near their price.
What About Sharpness.
Same optics, etc. No discernable difference as far as I'm concerned. Both Epson's exhbited some defocus issues as the projectors warm up, but Epson has already made changes to correct that. We haven't tested the updated versions, but of the two original Epsons we had here, the 6500UB did not exhbit any defocusing that you would normally notice at typical seating distance. The 6100 exhibited more, but simply waiting until it was warmed up, before doing a final focus, was sufficient for our purposes, as When first powered up, even then, with our sample, the amount of out-of-focus was slight, and not normally noticeable, unless you put up a menu or other "signage". Hey, it takes projectors 5-10 minutes just for colors to stabilize, as the lamp comes up to full temperature.
Epson Home Cinema 6500UB Creative Frame Interpolation
Epson has put creative frame interpolation in the 6500UB. This is a new feature only found in 3 different projectors on the market right now (four if you count the almost identical Epson Pro Cinema 7500UB separately. Epson tries to do a lot, but has limited success. It does just fine doubling standard 60 fps to 120 fps by adding a "creative frame" in between each pair, but trips up (quite a bit) when trying to add 4 frames between each pair with 24fps (movies). We don't recommend using that. Overall, their CFI works well for sports.
The Home Cinema 6100, by comparison, lacks any CFI, so, while not all of Epson's CFI modes provide benefit, it picks up an advantage here, for the ones that do work well.
You'll find extensive information regarding CFI, and the issues, on the site, in the 6500UB review, and in multiple blogs. That said, it should be kept in perspective, and not a big deal.
Home Cinema 6500UB vs. Home Cinema 6100 Bottom Line:
Two excellent values here. As I see it, I can think of only three reasons, however to choose the Home Cinema 6100: First, your budget. Anyway you slice it, (at least in the US), the Home Cinema 6500 costs about 1/3 more - roughly $600 at this time.
The second reason for buying the 6100 is that you just want a really good projector and aren't concerned about the black level performance difference. The Home Cinema 6100 is an excellent projector in its own right, it's just that the 6500UB is better, primarily thanks to the black level performance difference.
Lastly, you are placing the projector in a room that can't be fully darkened, so the bulk of the advantage in black level performance is lost.
The Home Cinema 6500 does have additional advantages - the better CFI modes, being one example. The higher frame rate abilities are another. Lastly, the newer LCD panels may offer longer life.
Buy the Home Cinema 6500UB, if you can, but if you aren't really into the last 5% of performance, the Home Cinema 6100 will serve you extremely well. I have an Epson Ensemble HD 1080 system in my second theater. I have been able to swap out the standard older Home Cinema 1080, for the Home Cinema 1080 UB. Basically, those are the older versions of these two Epsons. I can appreciate the difference, thanks to the better black levels, but, I must admit, I don't think my wife has noticed any difference, and she uses the room more than I. (To be fair, she mostly watches TV in there, not movies).
Take your pick. In our comparisons you won't get an easier decision between two projectors - you've got "Best In Class" and "Even Better" so to speak.