Epson Ensemble HD 6100: A Complete Home Theater System: Commentary, Summary and Conclusions
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 - Details
The Ensemble HD 6100 is the direct replacement for, and improves upon the older, and top rated Epson Ensemble HD 1080. It offers higher resolution (and a slightly better picture quality) than the lower priced Ensemble HD built around the Home Cinema 720. On the other end, it can't match the superb black level performance of the Ensemble HD 6500UB.
The Ensemble HD6100 should have its widest appeal to those preferring a 1080p resolution system, but less critical about picture quality than many enthusiasts.
The Ensemble HD 6100 should have a particularly strong following among those especially interested in sports and general TV and HDTV viewing, rather than those who are movie fanatics. It's no slouch when it comes to movies, but many serious movie fans will opt for the better blacks of the 6500UB.
In general terms of performance, the included Home Cinema 6100 projector is generally competitive with other entry level 1080p projectors including the Sanyo PLV-Z700, Mitsubishi HC5500, Optoma HD8200, and a few others, however, it is brighter than most of those, and at least as good in black level performance as any of those.
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 compared to the older Ensemble HD 1080
This is easy. The Ensemble HD6100 is the direct replacement for the older "1080". Physically, it's the same system, but for three changes. First, of course, the new system comes with the Epson Home Cinema 6100 instead of the old Home Cinema 1080. Second, the cradle for the projector has been changed. It pretty much looks the same but is slightly wider, to accommodate the 6100 which itself, is wider than the older 1080 projector.
Finally, there's the price difference, which, in the grand scheme of things, is perhaps, the biggest difference.
Let's start with the projectors. There are three differences of note. The most significant is the reduced cost of operation, as the new 6100 projector gets 4000 hours with the lamp on full power, vs only 1700 on the older one. That will bring about significant savings in the long run. Even in low power operation there are savings with the Home Cinema 6100 again rated at 4000 hours vs. 3000 hours for the older 1080.
Contrast has improved slightly for slightly better black level performance, and the newer model is a bit brighter, but not significantly so.
As far as the slightly larger cradle, there's not much else to be said about that.
Finally, the pricing - the Ensemble HD 6100 is $5999, a full $1000 less than its predecessor. The combination of the lower price, and the longer life lamp should yield a savings over 3 - 4 years of at least $1700. Now that's what I call an improved value proposition.
Ultimately, though, the newer Ensemble, from a picture standpoint is only a touch better than its predecessor, still even the same performance for that much less money would be great, so slightly brighter, and slightly improved black levels are an added bonus. For those really concerned about great black levels, read the next section.
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 compared to the Ensemble HD 6500UB
I said the comparision above was easy. This one is just a bit tougher. Now you are choosing between two systems that are in everyway identical except for differences in the projectors.
Let's put it this way. If you are primarily into sports and general TV and HDTV content, the Ensemble 6100 is a great choice. You get the 1080p resolution, but don't get the better black levels of the 6500UB projector. Those extra blacks are great on dark scenes in movies, but mean almost nothing when watching your favorite sport or sitcom. That said, the 6100 projector has slightly better black levels than almost all of its direct competitors, but can't match the more expensive Epson, and the other ultra-high contrast projectors (all of which are at least as expensive), when it comes to blacks.
In other words, the Ensemble HD 6100 is based on a very solid, affordable 1080p projector. Spending the extra $900 for the Ensemble HD 6500UB will be worth it to the movie fanatics, but perhaps not for the typical person who just wants a great, overall, home theater experience.
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 compared to the Ensemble HD 720
There's a $1300 price differential in selling prices between these two. $5999 for the 6100 version and $4699 for the 720. What you get for the extra $1300 is true 100p resolution projector instead of 720p resolution. Beyond that, you'll find a few other differences in the projectors. The 6100 is slightly brighter. It also has a higher contrast ratio, and with it slightly better black level performance, but both are fairly comparable in black levels performance, in that they are close, and both offer significantly less black level performance than the 6500UB version of the Ensemble HD system, which is one of the best of the ultra-high contrast projectors available (the 720 and 6100 are not considered ultra-high contrast).
In addition, the 6100 which is a generation newer than the 720, has significantly longer lamp life - 4000 hours in brightest mode, compared to 1700 (manufacturer's claims). In low power mode, the 6100 is again better, though not nearly as much, with a rating of 4000 hours compared to the Ensemble HD 720's 3000 hours. Over several years, if you run the lamp at full power, you'll recoup about $700 of the price difference. Thus, if you plan to keep yours for a long period of time, the 6100 becomes very attractive, in terms of value.
The Ensemble HD 720 makes a great "entry level" performance system, at a reasonable price, while the Ensemble HD 6100 makes a great solution for the money, for those wanting 1080p resolution, but aren't as critical as many enthusiasts, in terms of demanding the best in black level performance.
Tough call, depending on your budget, and your demand for 1080p resolution. Overall, the 720 is probably the better value, but that matters little for those who want to get a 1080p projector, and "be done with it."
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 System: Pros
- Very good skin tones (not the best, though) and overall picture quality - with a dynamic looking image
- Better than average black level performance (the 6100 projector) among "non-ultra-high" contrast projectors
- Extremely bright dynamic mode, for watching with more than a little ambient light present
- Good shadow detail performance
- Typically, the complete Ensemble HD 6100 can be installed in under 5 hours
- Above average brightness (6100 projector) compared to other similarly priced projectors on the market
- Two HDMI 1.3b inputs, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, etc.
- Average sharpness for a 1080p projector (we classify 1080p projectors in two groups - average, and "sharper still" there's a difference, but not great
- Universal remote control (very good) for ease of use
- Excellent placement flexibility due to 2.1:1 zoom and lens shift. Room depth of about 14 feet is minimum
- Long life, 4000 hour lamp (in full or low power lamp modes) - longest lamp life of any home theater projector with lamp at full power - reduces cost of ownership
- Very good menus
- Excellent warranty
- Good price performance
- And of course, a great solution for those who want adding a quality, complete, projector based home theater system to their home, with a minimum of fuss, research, and installation time
Epson Ensemble HD 6100 System: Cons
- Cannot match (or come close to) the black level performance of the $900 more expensive Ensemble HD 6500UB
- Epson does not provide full control of the projector with the Universal remote (they provide the standard Epson projector remote as well) (you can, however you can add the projector's control to the universal remote, just as you will add your cable or satellite box controls to it
- Additional sized screen options would be a plus - as small as 88 or 92 inches for those with smaller rooms (using spare bedroom?), and larger, say 110" for those wanting a larger image, and have the room
- Projector could be a touch quieter, but is definitely quiet enough, mounted in its cradle
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