Acer H9500BD Home Theater Projector Review

Time to summarize all we learned about the H9500BD projector from Acer, and our conclusions

Acer H9500BD Projector - The Bottom Line

Wow, I really like some things about the Acer, and also have several complaints. While there are some really good strengths, and I really wanted to give the Acer H9500 projector our Hot Product award based on those strengths, had to settle for the still noteworthy, but not as significant, Special Interest award.

 

Click Image to Enlarge

Image from the movie Red

Scarlett Johannson from Ironman2

Image from Narnia: Dawn Trader, 3D disc

Image from Ironman2

Image from Ironman2

Let’s break out the H9500BD projector by 2D and 3D, starting with normal 2D performance.

The H9500BD is basically a home entertainment projector, but it does excel at black level performance for its price, which will appeal to some enthuisasts. Further, the 1.5:1 zoom, combined with lens shift gives it much better placement flexibility than all but one or two other sub-$2000 home theater projectors.

That placement flexibility makes it easy to also put into a home theater, or mount in any other room you designate as a permanent room for this Acer projector. Of course, as a home entertainment projector, a lot of owners may not have a permanent location, moving from room to room, or stashing it betweeen viewing.

Color accuracy could be better. “Out of the box” is very watchable, but you have limited ability to improve it further with a calibration due to the lack of othe color controls used for grayscale balancing. Realizing that most people buying a sub-$2000 projector are not going to calibrate, that probably doesn’t concern them, as color is already pretty good, just a bit thin on red.

Bottom line, you can get more accurate color with some competitors. The question is, will owners care? If you are an enthusiast – probably. If you are the traditional “wife” or “friends” almost certainly not. Still, our job here, is to give you perspective to consider the trade-offs and by the best projector for use by you and yours. If you are an enthusiast demanding accuracy, etc. this one probably isn’t for you based on color.

More to the point, though, per Mike (our independent calibrator), the Acer offers an implementation of Brilliant Color, as do most DLP projectors. Brilliant Color cranks “many things up” (my best way of describing), including in this case, doubling brightness. With that comes the usual “over the top” of a heavy Brilliant Color implementation. I suspect that this level of BC, pushes skin tones too much, although that slight thinness in reds, is helping, by preventing skin tones from being more over the top, compared to a more natural looking projector.

With limited time, decided to pretty much ignore turning off BC, and considering the H9500 as a 500ish lumen projector in “best” mode (instead of about 1100), due to his warning that the color gamut is worse without BC running. I figure the combination of the reds and a worse color gamut, isn’t likely to make this projector popular with people looking for great color. I think they will do better with one of the competitors that can be fully calibrated, such as the Epson, or the Optoma of the new, other 3D capable projectors at this price or below.

The black levels are the one strength that will appeal to enthusiasts. The Acer easily beat the lower cost Epson Home Cinema 3010 at blacks, and should do the same against the Optoma HD33.

So, for the enthusiast, the Acer is strong in a couple of areas, but has some offsetting weaknesses.

For the average non-enthusiast who just wants a big image and all the benefits, the Acer has more appeal, but, at the same time, tougher competition. I say that, because the Epson is still a good deal brighter. Now both easily have the 2D brightness for a dedicated theater, with a very large screen. For movie watching both can easily handle 130 inch diagonal screens – in their “best” mode (in the Acer’s case with BC on). But the Epson has a fair amount of extra lumens for tackling non-movies in ambient light. Don’t get me wrong, the Acer’s still pretty bright – call it an entry level “light cannon” just the Epson is one step further up when it comes to brightness.

The lens shift makes the Acer the most flexible of the under $2K 3D capable projectors, especially if mounting. But it can help when moving from room to room.

Forgetting image quality, performance, and placement flexibility, and looking at some other things: The Acer comes with a basic warranty – a significantly lower value than the ones that come with some competitors, but about the same, as the rest. I’m not a fan of its remote control, but then, as a reviewer, I use a remote a lot more than a normal owner does. This one, in part, will make you want to buy a universal. The best thing about the remote’s ergonomics is that it’s white, so easy to find in a really dark room.

Let’s switch to 3D considerations:

The one particular strength of the Acer H9500BD projector in 2D was brightness. Not so in 3D. In 3D, brightness is well down from 2D brightness (before you put on the glasses). The H9500 seems much closer to the “best mode” a drop of several hundred lumens, than its “brightest”. This leaves projectors like the Epson 3010 and the Panasonic, still significantly brighter. On the other hand, whereas the Acer had a almost 40% more lumens in 2D brightest mode, in 3D, the Acer’s one mode, should produce about equal brightness as the Optoma in 3D.

Regarding brightness therefore, the Acer H9500, compared with the other two 3D capable competitors we’ve reviewed, has no brightness advantage against one, and comes up well less than the other competitor, in 3D brightness. Mind you, color in 3D is better than the Epson’s 3D Dynamic mode, but, Epson’s 3D-Cinema, definitely beats the color quality of the Acer.

In 3D, by now, you’re probably thinking, “hmm, that Epson looks like it’s got the big advantage” and that would be true, but for two things that, between them, do a lot of leveling of the field. For reasons I can’t understand, Epson doesn’t let you use their CFI for smooth motion, nor their Dynamic iris, in 3D. While blacks aren’t critical in 3D since the images start out darker, it’s still a significant difference. After watching the two side by side, the acceptable Epson blacks (considering the 3D content) came up well short of the rather excellent blacks in 3D of the Acer. Score points for the Acer.

 

The Very Bottom Line on the H9500BD projector:

The Acer, over all, has multiple strengths and weaknesses. Overall, it’s a very good projector, but it just couldn’t master either 2D, nor 3D to be my favorite choice (or right up there) with either. That due to color in 2D, lower brightness than the Epson (where lumens really count – in 3D) in both modes and overall, an average warranty (short – only one year). If you want better color you can consider the Epson or the Optoma and maybe one or two others still coming.

Still, the overall very good brightness and also really good placement flexibility, plus do make the Acer a competent home projector.

It’s more an issue of determining if this is the right one for you. I have no doubt, that for the non-enthusiast, non-purist customers they are likely targeting, will be most pleased, and if they didn’t know that other projectors in some ways better, do exist, they would go through life perfectly happy.

What I’m trying to say, is that the Acer isn’t my taste if I was shopping the price range for a 2D/3D projector, but that doesn’t mean it’s not just dandy for a lot of other folks. Few projector shoppers are quite as finicky as I am.

If you are the type that doesn’t notice your LCDTV is a bit over the top in picture – “sunburned looking faces” lack of color detail, etc. as most LCDTVs are in their brighter modes (and the way people watch them), the Acer will fit right in (and look better). Just find a room, and screen.

BTW, the Acer H9500BD does have a feature mostly found on education projectors – it supports shooting on colored walls. Never a great idea (ugh, for home theater), but not everyone has a screen or a pure white wall.

$1699! It’s priced pretty nicely, actually. The projector comes with 1 pair of 3D glasses. By comparison, the $1499 Optoma has none, so the Acer’s about $100 more. The Epson Home Cinema 3010 comes with 2 pair, for $100 less, so about a $200 less projector, if paying the usual $99 per glasses.

As more of a “challenger” than being the “product to beat”, though, the Acer would likely be better priced at $1499 street price. We assume MAP to be roughtly street pricing, and $1699 is the lowest number Acer publishes.

As I have said, this Acer is a mix of strengths and weaknesses. If the price is right, though, it certainly does enough well, to be considered if any of the areas of its strengths appeal to you more than you are concerned with the weaknesses. Most of those simply aren’t real issues for average LCDTV type consumers, who just want it all simple: Buy a projector, plug it in, and watch it. Those really shopping the features, and performance are likely to end up with some other projector – mostly enthusiasts, of course. Which are you?

All that quibbling aside, (and I quibble to some degree about every projector), the Acer H9500 really is a nice projector. Spend a good deal more and you can find projectors that easily blow it away, but at its price, it is worthy of a serious look.

 

Acer H9500BD Projector: Pros

  • Bright – not the brightnest in the class, but up there
  • Handles large screens for 2D viewing.
  • Respectable overall color
  • Skin tones are very good post calibration
  • Dynamic iris for black level performance that’s excellent for the price range, and it operates in 3D too
  • Very good shadow detail
  • Above average lamp life for lower cost of ownership
  • Above average placement flexibility, including lens shift
  • HDMI 1.4a inputs (3) allows for support for Blu-ray 3D content
  • Includes one pair of white 3D active glasses
  • Loaded with inputs and connectors
  • CFI – smooth motion – also works in 3D as well as 2D
  • Documentation – better than most!
  • A good, though not exceptional value proposition

Acer H9500BD Projector: Cons

  • Colors controls do not allow for calibrating the grayscale. While color is respectable, a grayscale calibration would further improve it.
  • Warranty is a basic one year. That’s less than average – the low end of the range
  • Brilliant Color sometimes makes scenes (or skin tones) a bit over the top
  • Could be brighter in 3D
  • Only one pair of glasses included
  • Glasses could be more comfortable, not bad, fairly light, but several others, my friends say are more comfortable
  • Remote control – layout and buttons (range is fine)

That’s it, folks. Tough call on this one, not a “slam dunk” or “pretty much best around”, just a projector with lots of good things, and a number of rough edges. I gave it the Special Interest award, because, when “push comes to shove” their target buyer – a sort of average Best Buy consumer I presume, will most likely be perfectly happy with the Acer H9500BD home entertainment projector, once they get it home. If that sounds like you, check it out.

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