January 29th, 2008 Art Feierman
What I really wanted to say, was “coming soon – to a website near you”, but that made the title way to long. Yes, it’s that time of the year. I only have two more 1080p projectors on my short list, to review. One is the new Sony VW40, and the other, one of the SIM2 projectors – an over $10,000 model. Sony just advised that the VPL-VW40 should arrive next Monday (just in the nick of time, to be reviewed, and make it into the Report, and SIM2, who had hoped to have a projector out to me already, can’t give me a firm date. So, here’s the plan: Read the rest of this entry »
January 16th, 2008 Art Feierman
OK! CES is over, and I’m back to the “grind.” In this case, the grind is primarily finishing up the HC-1080UB projector review. I’m going to keep this somewhat short (for me), and with the review scheduled to publish Friday night – 11/18/08, I don’t want to give away the whole story here. However! I’ve been getting pounded by emails, all saying – when will the review be out, so I can decide between the Epson and this projector or that one.
First of all, this Epson is an outstanding projector. The last time I was this enthused about a projector was almost certainly the JVC DLA-RS1, almost a year ago. Prior to that, (and despite it’s limitations as a low cost 720p projector), the Panasonic PT-AX100U, some 15 months ago. Since those two, I’ve been impressed by a number of projectors, including the newer JVC RS2, but in cases like that, I’m seeing a new model which improves a bit over a predecessor. Not so with the Home Cinema 1080UB, and its sibling, the Pro Cinema 1080UB. These two (my comments on the Pro, are based on the Home version projector), are a major step up over their predecessors. They’ve crossed the threshold to enthusiast class projectors, that will appeal to purists.
Let me put it this way. With the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, the long standing advantage of black level performance (the “Holy Grail” for many hard core enthusiasts and “purists”), by DLP projectors has just ended. The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, not only matches the black level performance of most of the 1080p DLP’s, but exceeds it. Simply put, the better the black levels, the darker the areas that are supposed to be black, and near black. No fixed pixel projector (everything but CRT), can actually “produce” black, the best they can do are very, very, dark grays, and that varies a lot.
All my usual review image photos have been taken, and this evening I’ll be doing analysis and comparing those images with those of the competition to really nail down how good the black level and shadow detail performance of the Home and Pro Cinema 1080UB’s are, compared to DLP, other LCD, and even the LCoS projectors. As of right now, it is an LCoS projector (liquid crystal on silicon – a reflective – rather than transmissive, variation of LCD technology), that offers the best black levels, and the champ is the JVC DLA-RS2. FYI: JVC calls their LCoS D-iLA, Sony calls theirs SXRD. After the RS2, next best seems to be the RS1, with the Sony VW60 close behind. Next, and possibly better than the two Sony projectorss (almost certainly the equal or better than the VW50 Pearl), comes the Epson, and that means I think it is at least the equal of the best known single chip 1080 DLP projectors as well! That’s pretty sensational for a projector that is selling for under $2800 (US$) (Home Cinema version) right out of the gate! (more on the Pro version below). And that’s saying a lot.
If that isn’t enough, the Epson is bright. In best mode, Theatre Black 1, it puts out about 450 lumens, and even after “taming” dynamic a little to maintain the brightest image, while improving the color balance, it managed over 1500 lumens in Dynamic mode. The difference in brightness between the Epson, and my RS1, this past weekend for football viewing, had me just loving the Epson’s extra lumens. Switching to movie watching, when I viewed Casino Royale segments first on one, then on the other, I could barely tell the differences in black levels and shadow details (but yes the JVC had the advantage). OK, beyond that, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB looks and cooks like the older Home Cinema 1080, with almost no changes. It does support 1080/24fps while I seem to recall, the older model didn’t. That’s a real plus as well.
I don’t think the Epson will support an anamorphic lens, but still checking on that. And that brings me to the Pro Cinema 1080UB. The key differences are:
- Black case instead of pearl white
- Higher price point ($3999 with spare lamp and mount), vs $2999 less $200 rebate, for the HC1080UB
- Different Presets, i.e. Silverscreen instead of Theater Black1… (smoke and mirrors?)
- ISF Certified. (Better color out of the box – that was the case last year, I haven’t seen a new “Pro”)
- Two extra modes for ISF Day, Night
- A 3rd year warranty!
The Pro is sold by local CEDIA type installing dealers, the kind that will also calibrate your projector to your room and other gear, while the Home version is available from select online resellers and some “big box houses”. I hate to say it, but if someone swapped out my RS1, even with it’s minor advantages, and replaced it with a “UB”, you’ld hardly hear a complaint out of me. I’m that impressed!
OK? Enough? Back to finishing up the review (which of course will repeat much of this). -art
January 14th, 2008 Art Feierman
Ok, this is nothing new. Just about everyone who ever commented on the Blu-Ray vs HD-DVD war, pretty much has concluded that Blu-ray has effectively won the war, based on Warner and New Line’s back to back announcements at the start of CES, that they would no longer support HD-DVD.
I know I did another quick blog at the start of CES, so consider this the final on the issue, sort of a wrap up.
I don’t have any hard numbers, but my best guess is that, going forward, assuming no new announcements, HD-DVD will have something less than 50% of all movie titles available, while Blu-Ray will have about 80+%. Either Universal or Paramount dropping their exclusivity for HD-DVD will move Blu-ray to the 90%+ range.
And in Europe, Blu-ray has been even stronger than in the US. (not in sales, but in sales compared to HD-DVD) And in Japan, it sounds like disc sales favor Blu-ray by something close to 10:1.
Remember, the number of people with Blu-ray players, is still rather small. So, Toshiba and their HD-DVD partners, could perhaps pull a miracle out of their hat (mixed metaphor?). I just can’t see what that miracle could possibly be.
However, until Blu-ray players drop below $100 (certainly before the end of 2008), most homes still won’t have any hi-def player. And, until there are many times the current number of hi-def players out there, something “could” happen to change things. Just don’t count on it.
All considered, though, this major shift in the war, is highly visible, and I think that many people holding out for a clear winner, will now get off the fence and go with Blu-ray. It will be interesting to see how much Blu-ray player sales ramp up in the first quarter.
Now, if only New Line will finally bring out Lord of the Rings. The three movie set, is probably the biggest, and most waited for hi-def release, and even it’s announcement of a release date (let alone its actual shipment), should be another big nail in the HD-DVD coffin.
To all you projector owners who haven’t picked up a hi-def player – what are you waiting for now? Believe me, even those of you with entry level and older 720p projectors will marvel at the huge difference between your standard DVD’s and Blu-ray. Join the party, making the move to hi-def is like doing a major upgrade to your projector. -art
January 6th, 2008 Art Feierman
Well, the war isn’t over yet, but the Blu-ray camp gets a big boost with two major studios dropping HD-DVD.
Of course, when I wrote on this last, it was August when Paramount joined Universal as HD-DVD only, announcing they were dropping Blu-ray. Paramount’s exclusive does not include Spielberg’s extensive collection of blockbusters. Universal has always been exclusively HD-DVD
This time though, it is Warner, and they announced they were going exclusively Blu-ray, and that was followed by New Line Cinemas doing the same thing.
I don’t follow the market shares of the studios, but Warner I understand, has the largest film library. And with New Line Cinema’s move, that means the long awaited, (and still no date), Lord of the Rings, will also be a Blu-Ray exclusive. Some of Warner’s major recent movies include, the Oceans 11 series, Harry Potter, The Departed, Lethal Weapon, Phantom of the Opera, etc. I just found a Warner Press release from last January, saying that at the time, they had 6 of the top 10 top selling HD-DVD titles… Hmmm.
The war isn’t over, but this is definitely really bad news for HD-DVD. Perhaps HD-DVD has something still up their sleve, certainly the Paramount deal was a coup for them, maybe they have another surprise. I just can’t thing of what it might be. Just remember that only a very, very small small percentage of people who own DVD players, have purchased a hi-def player. Or maybe, HD-DVD will just give away 10 million HD-DVD players. That might just do the trick. Ok, back to reality for a moment!
So where does that leave consumers? HD-DVD still has the advantage in terms of lower priced players, but after that, Blu-ray now has a dramatic advantage in number of movie titles available. Retail wise, before this, Blu-ray retail sales, have been beating HD-DVD every week. In addition, Blu-ray has an even larger marketshare in Europe, and in Japan, it’s something like 8 or 9 to 1 over HD-DVD.
Should you still consider an HD-DVD player? It may not be a totally unreasonable idea, afterall, those discs you invest in now will still work fine in a decade, and even if your player breaks, no doubt there will be new HD-DVD players available for years. (And they will be cheap.) And if you can’t find $99 players, I expect you will be able to very shortly. Think this way, the typical HD-DVD disc is about $5 less than Blu-Ray. So, if you buy 20 discs on HD-DVD, the savings pays for your player…
But, at this point, I have to think that the smart money will find the extra bucks for a Blu-ray player. Certainly, many rationalize the extra upfront expense by buying Sony PS3′s as an excellent $399 player, and a great game console, to boot. Or, look for one of those deals for a Blu-ray player, at $250 – $300, with $100 to almost $200 in free movies.
Personally I’ve been cheering on Blu-ray, for quite a while, so I’m pleased, but I’m not fanatic about it. Still, the sooner this is all settled, the more people that will jump in. And when we can get up to some serious numbers of users, we hopefully will see prices of the movies start coming down. I hate walking into Best Buy and seeing most movies at $29.95 and many more at $34.95, while relatively few at $24.95.
I’m looking forward to the day when most are at $20, and Wal-Mart has a blow out bin of $8.99 Blu-ray discs. Sadly, that is probably not going to be the case for a couple of years.
One thing I think the Blu-ray camp is not addressing, is that most people today have more than one DVD player in their home. We have one with each TV, and that’s not uncommon. With players still somewhat expensive, people are concerned that they can only watch their new movie in the one room they have a blu-ray player in.
You never know, maybe we’ll see a smart promotion – buy any 10 Blue Ray discs, for $300, and get a free Blu-Ray player…?
Well, that’s the news so far. I’ll be at CES this week, and if I hear any other staggering news on the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD wars, I’ll do a post. -art
January 5th, 2008 Art Feierman
First, Happy New Year to all!
I had hoped the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB would arrive a week or two ago, so I could complete the review prior to leaving for The CES show on 1/7/08. Alas, it finally arrived late on the 3rd. I’ve already logged a number of hours on the 1080UB, and I’ll say to start, it is most impressive.
At CEDIA in September, the look I had at the pre-production of the Pro Cinema 1080UB (I think it was the pro version – months ago), impressed me. Claimin a 50,000:1 contrast spec, this Epson, even considering it uses a dynamic iris, it has led me to hope that the Home Cinema 1080UB will prove to have the best black level and shadow detail performance yet, from any LCD projector. (And possibly challenge the best of the DLP’s and, dare I say, the JVC LCoS projectors?)
I haven’t measured, or calibrated the grayscale balance, as I had to finish off the last review, which just happened to be the Home Cinema 720, but while I’ve been writing up the HC720, I’ve been watching the Home Cinema 1080UB!
And so far – Wow would be a good word. Black levels are definitely VERY good. Last night my family watched The Departed, which just arrived from Netflix (in Blu-ray format). Plenty of dark in that movie, and the UB performed excellently.
After the movie ended, and the rest of the family called it a night, I put on some segments of The Departed, again, and switched back and forth between the HC1080UB, and my RS1, in my theater room. Unfortunately in that room, I can’t switch quickly, since, if I leave the JVC on (mounted up high), it still sends a small amount of light to the screen, which of course would affect the UB’s image. Since I have to shut the projector down, it takes at least 5 minutes after power up, before the image is relatively stable, in brightness, etc.
But, I digress. The important point is that the black levels in the letterbox areas, is actually very close between the two. My JVC seems to be a little brighter with both in best modes, and to have a bit lower gamma overall, but the Epson may well prove to be competitive with the RS1, if not as good at black levels and shadow detail, at least fairly close, and defintely more horsepower in brightnest mode.
Oh, if only the Epson had arrived last week. Then, I would have had the JVC RS2, the Sony VW60 and a Panasonic PT-AE2000U all sitting in my testing room for comparison. Unfortunately, the last of those shipped back early on Wednesday, and hours after Fedex left, then I get the email saying the Epson would arrive the next day. Alas!
Right now I’ve got the Steelers Jacksonville playoff game on, and like other Epson home theater projectors, it is bright, dynamic, and overall a great projector for sports.
Tonight I’m going to do some measurements and adjustments, and also shoot a few side-by-side images against it’s little brother, the Home Cinema 720. I can tell you right now, that while there are similarities, the HC720, isn’t particularly strong on black levels, and the 1080UB, most certainly is.
Also on tonight’s agenda, I’ll be viewing a few segments from the usual movies I use for the review. My goal is to post some additional comments tomorrow evening (Sunday night), because I won’t be able to finish the review until I get back from the show.
One last thing. Epson is offering up two versions, the Home Cinema 1080UB, with fairly wide distribution, and a local dealer Pro Cinema 1080UB. Generally, when they do this, it is the same basic projector, but the Pro version which sells for a lot more, has different presets, and is ISF Certified, including the two ISF modes for calibrating Day and Night settings.
For those of you setting their clocks by my reviews (which are usually a couple of days late), I’m hoping to publish the full review on Tuesday or Wed, the 15th or 16th.
And, one more time Happy New Year! -art