Epson Cinema 550 Home Theater Projector- Overview

This is the final version of our review of the Epson Cinema 550 home theater projector. The General Performance section has been completed.

The Epson Cinema 550 is an especially good overall projector, but it earns a Hot Product Award for what it does exceptionally well, handle Hi-Def sources, especially with its settings designed to work in rooms with significant ambient light. The Epson projector combines excellent preset modes with its brightest in class 1400 lumens. Now lets be clear, the Epson 550 is excellent on DVD’s too, but it truly shines with Hi-Def.

At a Glance: Epson Cinema 550

Brightness: 1400 lumens, Contrast: 3000:1 Zoom Lens: 1.5:1, Resolution: WXGA (1280×720), Aspect Ratio, 16:9. Projector type: 3 LCD panels

A quick note: The first Epson Cinema 550 I received turned out to be a pre-production projector, complete with photocopied manual. I don’t know how early on this projector was, but I immediately found a few problems. A quick call to Epson, and voila’, 48 hours later a full prodution Epson Cinema 550 projector arrived. Many of the images below were shot on the pre-production model and it seems the production one is better is several areas, including improved color in the Theater Dark 1 and 2 modes.

Let’s get started!

Background: Epson was one of the very first players in the LCD projector home theater marketplace, going back close to 5 years. Their early on Epson built TW100 was considered to be excellent for its day (it was also sold under the Yamaha brand). Since then Epson has had several more generations of home theater projectors, each exceeding the performance of the earlier models.

The Epson Cinema 550 looks to be the third major new LCD based home theater projector (with 720p native resolution) to enter the market in the last 6 weeks. It joins the already popular Panasonic PT-AE900u and the Sanyo PLV-Z4, which just started shipping, six weeks, and 2 weeks ago, respectively. For the first time, the Epson Cinema series will be sold online (by apparently just a handful of dealers) in addition to the traditional CEDIA local dealers.

The Epson Cinema 550 replaces their now discontinued Cinema 500 projector which recently took top honors in a major consumer review magazine. (Can I mention Consumer Reports?). The Cinema 550, is the brightest of the new home theater projectors in the $2000-$2500 price range, with a claimed 1400 lumens. (Most competing projectors are 800 – 1100 lumens. That makes the Cinema 550 projector the one that can best deal with ambient light. Note, however, that the 30-40% extra lumens compared to the competition, is not a night and day difference, but you can think of it this way. It can handle a 110″ screen with a given level of room lighting as well as a 1000 lumen projector can do with a 90″ diagonal screen under the same ambient lighting.

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