Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, 9500UB vs. JVC DLA-RS25, HD950
In this comparison, the winner of our mid-priced class Best In Class award - the Home Cinema 8500UB, as well as the almost identical Pro Cinema 9500UB, do battle against a Best In Class, Runner-Up winner of the premium class: The JVC DLA-RS25, and, of course, it's amost identical sibling, the JVC HD950. You should also remember, that the one projector that beat the RS25, is the RS35, which is basically an RS25, but built from the very finest of the components and assemblies.
This is a comparison for those seeking truly superior performance in a home theater projector, who must decide if the far more expensive JVC projectors are worth the difference to them.
4/25/2010 - Art Feierman
Let's start by defining the differences between the two Epson projectors, then, the differences between the two JVC projectors. From there, we can move forward with how the Epson projectors fare, against the JVC projectors.
The differences between the two Epson projectors, their Home Cinema 8500UB, and the Pro Cinema 9500UB, are slight. Everything the Home Cinema 8500UB is capable of, the Pro Cinema 9500UB does exactly the same, but the 7500UB has some extras.
Pro Cinema 9500UB projector - Extras and Differences
- Internal support for an anamorphic lens
- ISF certification, and two additional settings modes: ISF Day, ISF Night
- 3 year warranty, with overnight replacement vs. 2 years with overnight replacement
- Minor changes to the CMS (Color Management System)
That covers the extras.
- Pro Cinema 9500UB finished in black - 8500UB in white
- Each preset color mode has a different name (than on the 8500UB), but are fundamentally the same
- Pro Cinema 9500UB sold only through authorized local dealer network, which can provide installation
- Pro Cinema 9500UB is more expensive, but includes a ceiling mount and spare lamp - Still, the Pro nets out to a higher price than the Home version
JVC DLA-RS25 compared to JVC HD950
The only differences I am aware of are:
- DLA-RS25 is sold by the JVC Pro division, the HD950 by their Consumer division
- DLA-RS25 is slightly prettier - with gold trim, instead of silver on the HD950
- Different dealer networks - but both are designated to be "authorized local installing dealer only" distribution channels
Essentially, JVC is marketing these two essentially identical projectors through two different divisions, and except for the trim, have no other differences.
OK, with that out of the way, let's just say that technically, because of distribution methods, the 7500UB is the more direct competitor to either of the JVC projectors.
Still, both Epson projectors cost less than half of the JVC projectors. Are the JVC projectors worth the difference?
I have to weigh in on this one as pretty unbiased. Afterall, just over a year ago I purchased a JVC RS25 (the RS25's predecessor) for my main theater. Similarly I have an earlier Epson UB projector - the first one, t Home Cinema 1080 UB, installed in my smaller theater as part of an upgraded Epson Ensemble HD home theater system.
To digress for a moment: The Ensemble HD 1080 (that I have) received our Outstanding Product of 2008 award (our highest honor), and is discussed elsewhere in this Report, as well as having an extensive review on our site. Note, the Ensemble HD is designed as an "instant" home theater solution, complete with projector motorized screen (with all front speakers built in), cradle for the projector (with rear speakers built in), subwoofer, equipment rack, an AV receiver with DVD player, and a pre-programmed universal remote. It's designed to be fully installed in less than 5 hours.
Back to business. So as not to continuously have you read "Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB" or JVC DLA-RS25 and JVC HD950, I will refer to the projectors simply as the 8500UB and RS25 unless otherwise noted. You can just read into it, that I'm also talking about the 9500UB and the HD950.
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB vs. JVC DLA-RS25 Projector Overview
Let's start off with how these two significantly different priced projectors are similar, then we'll get into the differences. The Home Cinema 8500UB currently has a street price of $2300 (after rebate), while the Pro Cinema 7500UB is officially $3500 but includes mount, spare lamp. and longer warranty. Both JVC models have an official MSRP of $7995.
Both Epson and JVC projectors are about as flexible in terms of placement in the room, as you will find. Both have at least 2:1 zoom lenses, and extensive lens shift. Both have two year warranties (Epson, though has a replacement program for both years). Both companies are well known for excellent support. Both are exceptional in terms of black level performance, a key demand among those seeking best performance.
Both JVC and Epson projectors are three chip devices. Epson uses 3 of the most advanced LCD chips. (Epson designs and manufactures those LCD panels or "chips", and also sells them to all the other LCD projector manufacturers including Sanyo, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, Hitachi...) JVC uses LCoS chips (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), so they are still "LC" but their chips are reflective, rather letting the light pass through (transmissive) like the traditional LCD panels. JVC designs and manufactures their LCoS chips which they refer to as D-iLA (Direct Digital Drive Image Light Amplifier) - talk about a mouthful... In our reviews we keep things simple by referring to them as LCD (or 3LCD) and LCoS.
The key differences are:
The JVC projectors are definitely brighter (around 50%) than the Epson projectors when comparing best picture modes.
When you want to use a brightest mode, for viewing with some ambient light (especially HDTV/sports), the Epsons are more than 50% brighter than the JVCs.
The Epsons have exceptional black level performance, but the JVC is simply the best in this regard. Also the JVC manages the best blacks in the industry without using a dynamic iris. The Epson projectors have manual zoom and focus, while the JVCs are fully motorized (including lens shift).
I'll stop there, because everything will be covered in more depth below.
I've been starting off this section with a comment on the physical appearance of the projectors being compared. In this case, the JVC, well, is just a clean, elegant looking unit, with shiny piano finish, and tastefully added gold trim around the lens, and a thin line on the top and sides. It's hard to argue with the styling. (note, the JVC HD950's trim is silver not gold, so just as good looking, but perhaps not as classy).
The Epsons are boxier. They've made an attempt at styling, but I seriously doubt anyone will give them an award. The 9500UB comes in shiny black finish simillar to the JVCs, but the 8500UB is white with silver trim. The JVC projectors are definitely a full size larger than the Epsons, which are about "average" in size.
OK! With that out of the way, we can get into the more important, non-aesthetic differences.
Both brands projectors have their lenses offset from the center. While the JVC lens is recessed, (and hidden behind a motorized door, when the projector is off), the Epsons have a large lens barrel sticking out.
As mentioned above, the JVC has motorized focus, zoom, and lens shift, a nice touch that makes setting it up easier. The Epsons lens is completely manual.
The JVC has its control panel on the top, and it's nicely laid out. Epson puts theirs on the side (right side if viewing from the front). That's a minor difference but I prefer the JVC layout. Of course after initial setup, we all rely on the remote control, not the control panel.
JVC has their input panel (cable connections) on the right side running from front to past half way back. The Epson panel is in the back. Some folks will favor the back location of the Epson. Historically, most projectors do have their input panels on the back. The disadvantage to that is that you need a little extra room behind the projector for cables to stick out. Others will favor the JVCs side solution, but that may depend on your room. If you enter the room from a projector's side, you'll prefer that the cables come out of the side you can't see. In my own setup, we enter the room facing the left side of the JVC, so I like, (my wife loves) that the inputs on the right, and out of sight.
None of these projectors (if ceiling mounted) require that you unmount the projector to change the lamp - a very good thing!
Epson and JVC projectors are designed to work well, whether ceiling mounted, shelf mounted, or on a table top (unlikely as it is that people will put them on a table "permenently).
Both projectors have two infra-red sensors for their respective remote controls. The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB have a well laid out remote control with excellent range. One of my biggest complaints last year, about the JVC DLA-RS25 and HD750 is that their remote control was underpowered, and has very short range. I have the RS25, and I find it annoying. I have to point the remote backwards and up right at the projector. I've never once gottent a successful bounce of the screen/front wall. The good news, JVC fans, is this year's JVC remote has excellent range. It was nice as long as I had one of the new JVC's here, I put away my RS25's remote and used the RS25 (or RS15, or RS35) remote with my RS25.
Both brands of projectors have identical selections of inputs. There are 2 HDMI inputs, fully HDMI 1.3 compatible with support for Deep Color, 24fps, CEC, etc. Both offer one component video input (3 RCA connectors), and an analog computer input that can be instead used as a second component video input. Both have a 12 volt screen trigger.
Top image: JVC DLA-RS25 cable connection area. Lower image: Epson Home Cinema 8500UB connections
Bottom line: The JVC RS25 looks nicer than the Epson, and the motorized aspects of the lens are a nice convenience. The preference for where the cable connections are located will be a personal choice. The motorized lens cover keeps dust and cobwebs away from the lens. The improved JVC remote puts it on par with the excellent Epson remote control.
When it comes to placement, as stated above, both are extremely flexible. The differences are small, and not likely to matter to 98% of buyers. Basically, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB can be placed about one inch closer to a 100" screen, or about nine inches further back, but that's nothing considering that the JVC has a range of 10.2 feet of range from front to back, for that sized screen, while the Epson has 11.1 feet.
In terms of lens shift, the two projectors are just a little more different, with the Epsons (for a 100 inch screen) being able to be mounted as high as 22.7 inches above the top of the screen surface (the best we've tested can do 24.5 inches). The JVC's 15 inches is still very generous, but if you have a high ceiling, (and 100 inch screen) that JVC projector will have to hang down an additional 7.7 inches. Hardly a deal breaker (especially since it is prettier)!
Both projectors have filters that require occasional maintanence. BTW, they are serious about you maintaining the filters. Following the recommendations will likely have your projector running a little cooler, and your lamp might last a bit longer as a result.
Bottom line: Styling - JVC! Physical placement flexibility: Epson, (but by the smallest of margins), Inputs - essentially identical. Size - if smaller is better (maybe in a small room), Epson advantage. Remote controls: Comparable, both with good range, and good but different layouts and priorities.
One additional note: The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB does not have internal support for an anamorphic lens, the Pro Cinema 9500UB does. If you believe you will want to buy an anamorphic lens, now, or later, the choice between the two Epson projectors is simple, forget the 8500UB and buy the 9500UB. Since it costs, typically, at least $800 for an external processor to add that capability (units like the DVDO Edge), the 9500UB ends up costing less than a 8500UB with outboard processor.
Moving on to what those considering these projectors really care about - Picture Quality!
Comparing the Projector's Picture Quality
For the side-by-side images below, the Epson 8500UB is on the left, and the DLA-RS25 is on the right.
In my mind, there is no aspect of picture quality (keeping brightness out of the equation) where the Epson projectors can beat out the JVC projectors. That makes the real issue, "am I getting my money's worth when buying the much more expensive projector?" or "I realize the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB does a great job, but will I be truly happy, knowing that I could have bought the JVC and would have an even better viewing experience?"
The answers will be personal decisions, which will most strongly be determined by the level of perfection you demand, and the budget you have. Your room comes into play too. For example, if your room has white/off-white walls, ceilings, that will negate some of the advantage of the JVC's better blacks.
For both, out of the box performance could be improved, but just barely!!! This is a big change of last year, and in both cases, thanks are deserved to both companies for getting THX certification. No, make that for having a THX mode. In both cases, the THX mode provides excellent results, right out of the box. Neither THX mode allows a whole lot of modification. The JVC allows almost no changes, and the Epson though offering a little more, still is limited in the THX mode. But then, what the hell, it looks great. We got better results after our calibration with both projectors, but, truth is, that may be more due to lamp variation from one projector to another than our skills as calibrators.
We calibrated the JVC RS25, and it looked a little better than the THX mode. Even the older JVCs without the THX mode always had a great "out of the box mode" (Cinema 2, for the RS20). Our calibration resulted in just a tad more pop to the image, but essentially the same, perhaps a tiny bit more green than THX mode.
The Home Cinema 8500UB, by comparison, also has a great THX mode, and calibrates really well. Still, the skin tones aren't quite as natural as the JVC offers. It's a little bit less "natural" feeling, just a tad hard by comparison. That's more of a dynamic issue than color, but we're talking skin tones, and the JVC is the more natural of the two.
Black level performance:
As great as the Epson does black levels (definitely the best of any of the projectors in its class), better than most of the more expensive ones, the JVC is unmatched at any price (short of a CRT projector). The Epson, on dark scenes without any significant bright areas produces stunning blacks, dark, inky, and so good that few would be disappointed. In mixed scenes, the Epson's dynamic iris can't close down as far, and black levels won't be as good. On bright scenes, well, the iris won't be in use, so black areas won't be as dark. Still, keep in mind that black level performance is by far, most critical on dark scenes. The eye is drawn to the brighter areas. Let's say you have a black helicoptor in front of a brightly lit building, the blacks on the Epson may not be as black as the JVC,, but you aren't likely to notice, or even care, or have anything to complain about, regarding the difference on that scene.
On the other hand, once again - the JVC is the best there is. Blacks are close enough to black that the letterboxing on movies is dark enough that you don't even notice the bars (at least not with a good HC gray screen). This may be a solid win for the JVC, and a key reason you would spend the extra for the DLA-RS25, but that doesn't diminish the fact that I can only think of two other projectors in the report, regardless of price, besides the RS25 (and RS35), that can beat the Epson, and those two are the less expensive JVC RS15, and the Sony VPL-VW85. The first being $5000 and the other, even more expensive. In other words, JVC - best, Epson - one of the next best choices.
In the image above (Epson is on the left in all these side-by-side comparisons), Both do pretty great blacks. In the image below, with a slightly brighter exposure, you can see that the Epson's blacks are now noticeably lighter than the JVCs. That's the Epson's dynamic iris at work. With the bright shuttle in the the image below, the two projectors separate in terms of black level performance. The shuttle's brightness is enough that the Epson's iris can't shut all the way down, thus the starfield and planet get a lot brighter. The JVC's starfield only gets a little brighter due to the slightly different exposure. Thus, on dark scenes, as I've said, they are close. On scenes mostly dark, with some bright areas, the JVC pulls away from the Epson in performance.
Still the Epson does a pretty impressive job considering it's less than 1/3 the price, and when you consider how excellent the JVC RS25 performs (and how easily it also beats all the other projectors around its price range).
Neither projector fits into the "very best" performance levels in terms of revealing dark shadow detail. I have to say these two are extremely close, and a tie, for all practical purposes. If you get up close and are looking
Look to the enlarged image above, as well as this dusk/skyscraper/SWAT van image below.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture:
The JVC is just excellent overall, in terms of look and feel. I've seen other projectors that demonstrate a little more pop and wow, but the JVC, with its lumens to spare, in best mode, should still be more impressive, simply because most "pop and wow" specialists, like the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB / Pro Cinema 9500UB, aren't as bright. As a result, in a typical environment, in best modes, the JVC and the Epson aren't that different in terms of the dynamic look to the image.
For those engaging CFI, I give a slight advantage to the Epson's CFI as it has less noticeable minor artifacts.
One more side-by-side, again, from The Dark Knight (Epson on the left):
Finally, three more images from each. Epson first:
JVC images start here:
OK, while the Epson does great, the JVC is the overall superior projector for movie viewing. Wait though, the Epson get's its day in the limelight too, and that is for sports viewing, and a lot of HDTV content. Here it's simply the case of having more lumens to spare. The Epson can put out almost 50% more lumens on the screen than the JVC at its brightest, but not with as good color. In brightest mode, the Epson has a noticeable green caste. None-the-less, when you are fighting a lot of ambient light you'll gladly accept some extra green in exchange for cutting through the ambient light. And when you don't need every last lumen, you can drop down to the Epson's LivingRoom (8500UB) or Cinema Day (9500UB) and still have almost 1200 lumens in brightness (compared to the JVC's just over 850 lumens). Thus the Epson, with pretty good color is still about 40% brighter.
Bottom Line in terms of image quality:
The bottom line, in this case, is the same as the top line: The Epson just can't match the JVC RS25, in most areas. The two are comparable in sharpness, and in shadow detail, but the JVC consistently has a definite, though not great advantage in terms of skin tones, black levels, and overall look and feel. On the bright side for those on tighter budgets, the Epson 8500UB - and 9500UB - come up awfully close considering they both net out to less than a third the price. And, again, the Epsons will typically be the better choice for sports viewing.
Epson 8500UB, 9500UB vs. JVC RS25, HD950 Projector Performance
I've touched on this above. The Epson in "best" mode (TheaterBlack 1) measured a very healthy 491 lumens, definitely brighter than average. But, in "best" mode, it's no match for the JVC RS25's dazzling 775 measured lumens in its "best" mode.
When you need maximum lumens, the JVC, sadly really doesn't get noticeably brighter, as we measured it in Dynamic mode at 844 lumens (below average). By comparison, the Epson is a light canon. In LivingRoom mode, it cranks out 1215 lumens, almost 50% more than the JVC. Better still, when you are desparate for every last lumen, the Epson's Dynamic mode measured 1566 lumens, the brightest of all the projectors we tested (although we believe the Optoma HD8000-LV will easily beat the Epson, as it should produce more than 2000 lumens, based on its predecessor's performance).
So, a clear win for JVC in terms of "best" mode brightness, and an even bigger win for Epson for "brightest" mode brightness.
What about sharpness:
Both the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and the JVC DLA-RS25 fit into the average sharpness category. Both, in reality, have very good sharpness, but there are a few projectors (mostly DLP's) that we consider "sharper still" such as the InFocus projectors in this review. These two projectors are close enough to be considered tie in terms of sharpness.
Both projectors are quieter than the respective projectors they replaced, and both are roughly comparable. They are now, what I would call on the high side of average when run in the high power lamp modes. Those people who are the most noise adverse, might, that's MIGHT, have a problem with either of these at full power, and no one will be concerned about either when in low lamp mode.
The rest of us should be fine with the noise levels these produce. I would say both are 4-5 decibles quieter than the noisiest projectors (mostly DLP).
Let's call this a tie, even though the JVC is probably a db or two quieter overall.
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, Pro Cinema 9500UB vs. DLA-RS25, HD950 - Special Features
Well, the JVC is pretty thin on special features. It will take a 24fps source, and do a 4:4 to it, to output at 96fps. The Epson can do that too.
The Epson, of course, has a full CFI (creative frame interpolation) suite, although the current version has problems with applying CFI to 24fps sources, so you are best served using it only with 60fps content, such as sports over HDTV, where it creatively takes the 60fps up to 120fps. I must note, that as of right now - mid-March, Epson is promising a much improved CFI implementation. While they can't pinpoint the date, it sure sounds like dealers will have them in stock, within the month. Epson has also said, to myself and others, that they will have a way for those who have already purchased their Epson, to get the CFI firmware update. Hopefully it will be by download, but if not, it sounds like Epson is prepared to pay to bring units back in, and upgrade them, then ship them back, or something similar.
Epson vs JVC - Bottom Line: Which to Buy?
If you want the great value, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 7500UB are tough to beat. (Remember, if you are thinking anamorphic lens now, or in the future, go with the Pro Cinema 9500UB because of its internal support for those lenses).
On the other hand, if the JVC DLA-RS25 price tag isn't out of reach, and, if you already appreciate the value of great black level performance, and want the best there, plus stunning color performance, then, by all means you will get your money's worth with the even better JVC DLA-RS25. It really is that simple!
A different thought: There is a compromise. You may want to consider the JVC DLA-RS15. It's priced about half way between the Home Cinema 8500UB and the JVC RS25. True, it can't match the black levels of the RS25, but it still does slightly better blacks than the Epson. It also can't match the color accuracy of the RS25, but it comes close, and I would have to consider it, too, to be slightly better than the Epson in this regard. Again, ask yourself, whether you'll be second guessing your decision in a few months.
Throwing in a monkey wrench: Hold everything - what about 3D? For those of you planning a "last purchase", and struggling between these two, think about 3D. Now I don't think anyone expects people to watch nothing but 3D content, with their 3D glasses on, but hey, most of the new LCDTVs coming out, except for the more entry level ones are being touted as 3D ready. I'm sure we'll see a number of 3D 1080p projectors this fall. Depending on your interest, some may choose to go with the lower cost projector. for perhaps a year or more to see how the possible 3D scenarios play out.