Epson Home Cinema 3500 Home Theater Projector Review

Epson Home Cinema 3500 – Street price under $1700, “light cannon” brightness with almost 3000 measured lumens, Epson’s Super-Resolution, 3D, and improved black levels are highlights of this new Epson projector.

 

Home Cinema 3500 Projector - Overview

For the sake of clarity, although this review is titled the Home Cinema 3500 Projector Review, the projector Epson sent us, and that I worked with is actually a Home Cinema 3600e.

We titled this review the Home Cinema 3500 for two reasons:  First, these two projectors are identical except for one feature – Wireless HD. All performance issues, picture quality, warranty, etc. are identical.  The other difference is the price.  The official street price of this projector is $1699, while the Wireless HD version (3600e)  is $1999.

Secondly, the Home Cinema 3500 is one that most people are interested in, and will buy, since a relatively small slice of folks  looking for a projector need a wireless HDMI solution.  Thus, the HC3500 is the one most people  will be searching for.  We wanted you folks to find this easily.   We will also release a one or two page mini-review focused on the HC3600e, that is built around this full review, but discusses on the Wireless HD feature, using it, and how that affects the overall value proposition.

Great, now let’s get started!

The Home Cinema 3500 is the replacement primarily of the Home Cinema 3020, but, Epson also discontinued the old, and venerable HC8350.  The Home Cinema 3500 and 3000 are the two closest new Epsons, so one would say that they also replace the 8350, although the differences are greater.  The Home Cinema 3000 ($1299) the third new model, has a number of differences from the other two, so it will be reviewed separately, with a full review, when we receive one.

Consider the Home Cinema 3500 to be first and foremost, an incredibly bright home entertainment projector – rather than Home Theater.  But, unlike most of them, it offers a lot of placement flexibility more typical of home theater projectors.  Further, it has improved contrast specs, and we expected going in, improved black level performance, a feature considered most important in a home theater projector.   Those black levels are improved, although still no match for Epson’s UB series projectors such as the Home Cinema 5030UB ($800 more), which may be pretty bright, but are definitely home theater projectors by definition.

Certainly, you can consider the HC3500 to be an extremely bright home theater projector, but in that regard, it would have to be considered relatively entry level.

Simply stated, this is a great projector for rooms without great lighting control, but it also does a very respectable job in a fully darkened room/cave that folks think of as real  “home theater.”

We’ll discuss the black level performance in depth in our Picture Quality pages, since that’s a key feature that is often a key difference between home theater and home entertainment.

The Home Cinema 5030 comes well endowed with features.  There’s more zoom range than found on almost any other sub-$2000 projectors.  Lots of inputs, plus both vertical and horizontal lens shift, and a pair of unusually powerful speakers.

The projector is smart enough to handle MHL (that will be discussed in Special Features), has multiple eco modes, and multiple picture modes.  It should be noted that the HC3500 also has some pretty good color, right out of the box.  You really can unbox it, plug it in, feed it a source, and start watching.  Of course hopefully you’ll have a proper projector screen, but even shining it on a near white wall, will probably blow away your friends.  The Home Cinema comes with a much better than typical warranty and support program, for peace of mind.

I mentioned extremely bright.  The Epson 3000 claims 2300 lumens, while the HC3500 and HC3600e claim 2500 lumens  both white lumens, and color lumens.  That said, the unit we have here easily measured higher than claim.   That means plenty of brightness to tackle ambient light.  No need for a cave to enjoy this projector, although, a dark room always makes for a better picture.  Still I enjoyed quite a bit of college and NFL football, over two weeks, while allowing far amount of ambient light in the room.  No problem!

Think of it this way:  Pair the Home Cinema 3500 with a proper 100″ diagonal screen, and you’ll find this projector is probably brighter than most LCDTVs!

So, why anyone would want to watch their favorite sports team play on some tiny 40 or 55″ LCDTV, which they could watch on a 100″ or 120″ or larger screen, always confuses me.

Note please, this isn’t Epson’s brightest home entertainment projector, but close.  They have some adapted commercial projectors for the home with up to 6000 lumens.  I’m personally installing the 5200 lumen Pro Cinema G6550 in my bright living room in the next few weeks.  That series of home entertainment projectors are several times the price of this HC3500!  But I digress!

Let’s start off with a list of some of the key highlights of the Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector!

Home Cinema 3500 Highlights

Epson has built in a lot of capability into the Home Cinema 3500.  Almost all of these highlights  will be addressed in greater detail in this review!

  • 2500 claimed lumens (white and color lumens) for brightest picture with really good color
  • 3LCD technology – multiple advantages, including more brightness from less watts
  • Improved contrast – 70,000:1 for darker black level performance
  • Epson Super-Resolution enhances detail, to produce an exceptionally sharp image
  • Picture In Picture
  • Full color calibration controls
  • Fast processing mode for Gaming
  • 10 User savable picture presets
  • Two hefty built in, rear facing speakers
  • 3D ready, includes two pair of active 3D glasses
  • 3rd party, low cost “universal” RF glasses also available
  • Supports HDMI-Link to control other devices with remote
  • Backlit remote control with excellent range
  • Great Warranty and Support – 2 years, with 2 year rapid replacement program

Let’s take a look at some of those “special features” which start on the next page.

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AZ 1,499.99 Experience extraordinary image quality and blockbuster performance with the bright Home Cinema 3500 projector, perfect for your living room or dedicated home theater. Offering up to 3x Brighter Colors than competitive models, Epson 3LCD projectors ensure

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News And Comments

  • Sre Harsha Remella

    Hello Art,

    Thanks for another great review! I had waited for your review of the Epson 3500 to make a decision on a projector for our living room.

    I am ready to make a purchase now but noticed that Panasonic PTAE8000U is selling for about the same price at Projectorpeople.com.

    Can you please comment on how the two compare in terms of picture quality?

    – Sre

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Hi, The PT-AE8000U is more of a home Theater projector, the 3500 more
      home entertainment. The Epson is brighter, but can’t match the
      Panasonic on those very dark scenes that call for great black level
      performance.

      So, if you have the right room (can
      get it very, very dark), are an “enthusiast” (want best picture
      possible), etc., who enjoys movies, then I’d recommend the Panasonic.
      You won’t need the extra brightness of the 3500 (it would help with 3D).
      The Epson will have the better 3D btw, but not enough to affect your
      decision.

      In other words, if what you want is a
      serious home theater projector, then I’d say, go with the Panny, or the
      new Home Cinema 5025UB that I mention in the video on the 3500/3600e,
      but I didn’t know about yet, when I reviewed the HC3500. At $1999 (US),
      it’s $400 more than the 3500 and about $100? more than the Panasonic,
      but should have the best black level performance, and it should have
      about the same brightness as the Panny. Budget allowing for serious
      viewing, I’d lean toward the HC5025UB over the PT-AE8000 (which
      afterall, is in its 3rd year).

      If you just want
      a brilliant image for things like sports and TV, and if you don’t have
      great lighting control, then you won’t appreciate the better black
      levels of the Panny or HC5030UB.

      Hope that helps. -art

      • Sre Harsha Remella

        Thank a lot for the very timely response! The prices I was looking at were $1600 for the 3500 and $1630 for the PT-AE8000.

        We don’t have perfect light control in our living room but we will also have a wall mounted LCD TV for causal watching. So, when we do use the projector, I expect the ambient light to be fairly low (mostly reflected light off the white walls and ceiling, may be an occasional hallway light etc.).
        I am somewhat of an AV enthusiast and was looking for the projector with better picture.

        We ultimately ended up going with a refurbished 5030UB with 2 3D glasses and 2 year warranty from Epson for $1630.
        It seemed like a good deal and offered us better picture quality and brightness.

        I agree with your recommendation of 5025UB in the $2000 price range though. If we didn’t have these well priced options, we would have strongly considered it.

        Now on to finding a well suited, reasonably priced screen for our setup.. :)

        • ProjectorReviews.com

          Well done, and enjoy! -art

  • Guiseppe Mario Mazzola

    Hi art got a question for you.I have still not made a buy on any epson projector.I wanted to know this.I myself am a big movie watcher .That being said i want to know compare to the epson 3500 to the 5030UB is there a big big differenct in the picture.I have a good feeling black level’s are going to be alot much more enjoyable on the 5030UB then 3500.I am haveing a hard time to really deside on witch one i should buy.The 5030Droped price tag to 2,299 idk if that will stay that price soon tho.It just might do you know anything about that.

  • Catherine Willis

    Nice review, thank you kind Art

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Thanks for reading!

  • Kevin Robinson

    Great great great review! I have a room with a fair amount of ambient light. Could I max out the zoom for night viewing (106″), then reduce zoom to make the screen smaller (60″-70″) during the day to make the picture even brighter?

    • ProjectorReviews.com

      Hi Kevin, you absolutely can. Well, unless you ceiling mount and cant reach the projector. Two thoughts for you to consider:

      First, depending on how bright a projector, I personally have been known to do just that – project to a smaller image size, although, for me, that tends to happen for 3D viewing since 3D loses about 2/3 of the brightness.

      The second point is: Plan B. Getting a screen that will “reject” much of the ambient light (with new “ALR” screens, typically done optically by absorbing rather than reflecting light from “off angles.” Such screens in fixed configurations now start under $1000. Unfortunately motorized ones, so far, only come from Screen Innovations, and start around $4000. (That will change as several competitors are planning (as soon as they work out the kinks) also bring out motorized ALR screens. -art

      • Kevin Robinson

        Thanks Art! My media room has 4 windows that I can use blackout shades on to really lower the ambient light. There is also a 3 ft wide walkway to enter the room, but the doorway is on the same wall that the screen will be on (about 2 ft to the left of the screen) so no direct light should be able to get to the screen. I really like the Epson 5030 at $1699 refurbished, but the 3500 refurbished at $1099 seems like a great deal too. I am hoping the difference in black levels is minimal since I would prefer to put the $600 difference towards a screen.

        • ProjectorReviews.com

          Hi Kevin, well, first of all, I’ll tell everyone in your situation that between the HC3500 and the 5030UB, “Spring for the 5030UB” It’s really a major step up. The UB’s define “lowest cost” serious home theater projectors, and have been since they launched the first UB’s perhaps 8 years ago.

          The difference in black levels is anything but “minimal” it’s closer to “massive difference.” And that’s why you should splurge if you can.

          Now perhaps some helpful news. Or maybe it will throw you into complete disarray.

          Today Epson announced the HC5040UB. So, maybe, just maybe you’ll see some additional price drop on the 5030UB refurb, but that is iffy at best.

          I won’t tell you you should by that one, because it’s a major advance over the 5030UB, and with the extra – comes a huge price increase to $2999. The new Home Cinema 5040UB, however, offers pixel shifting, lens shift, and accepts 4K content from streaming (ie. Amazon, Netflix) and Blu-ray UHD.

          But that’s double your budget. And being by far, the least expensive projector with those capabilities, don’t expect it’s price to come down anytime soon (a year minimum). I’m hot on the new UB, can’t wait to review it. I wish Epson would have held the price to $2299, but considering all the changes and capabilities it’s very aggressively priced.

          Well, good luck in the hunt. Let me know how it turns out. -art

          • Kevin Robinson

            Thanks again for all your help and advice. As the expert, I’m glad to see you advocate for the 5030 instead of walking the line of “choose what you think works best for your situation or budget”. Nothing wrong with that advice, but if you say the 5030 is worth the extra money, I will make it work! After all, this is a 3-5 year investment. What are your thoughts on buying a used 5030? I have seen a few for $1000-$1100, but not sure how they hold up long term?

          • ProjectorReviews.com

            Unless you can find one “dirt cheap” (as low as the 3500), I’d say stick with the refurb. Epson refurbs come with the same 2 year parts/labor warranty, with the same 2 year Extra Care rapid replacement program. (If you bought a new 5030UB, and it had a warranty problem they’d ship you a refurb.)

            Also last I checked Epson doesn’t send out refurbs with really old lamps.

            At least a few years back they said, if I recall correctly, that they replaced bulbs that had more than 50 hours on them. Back then, though lamps were typically rated about 1000 to 2000 hours, they are much higher today, so perhaps the number has changed. The point is, Epson’s sort of anal about support, which happens to be a good thing. At any rate, if you were to buy a used one, I’d stick to one that’s less than two years old (so it’s still under warranty) and make sure you get proper proof of purchase. I’m almost certain Epson doesn’t care if you are the original owner or not, as long as its in their two year from initial sale timeframe.

            A 5030ub should provide you serious home theater enjoyment for your 3-5 years – basically until you true 4K projectors are affordable, and you can’t hold yourself back any longer. (and there will be tons of 4K content). -art

          • Kevin Robinson

            Thanks Art! I love that Epson is so diligent about their warranty. I will probably stick with the refurb.

            Would a grey or white screen be better suited to the 5030?

          • ProjectorReviews.com

            If you have some ambient light, off to the sides (I think that was you who mentioned, then I’d go with a high contrast grey, as they can really help out a bit.

            Elite makes an affordable one that’s about “halfway” in that it’s what I call a light gray high contrast (can’t think of the name). With Da-lite think HC CinemaVison or HC Da-Mat… -art

          • Kevin Robinson

            Thank you! I really appreciate all your help and guidance and I’m sure many others reading this will appreciate it for their setup too!