Posted on October 30, 2014 By Art Feierman
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.
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!
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!
Let’s take a look at some of those “special features” which start on the next page.
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?
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
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.. 🙂
Well done, and enjoy! -art
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.
Nice review, thank you kind Art
Thanks for reading!
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?
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
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.
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
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?
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
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?
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
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!
So I found a refurb Epson 5025 on the Epson website for $1599 and jumped on it! It arrives Tuesday and can’t wait to get it mounted and start tinkering!
So I found a refurb Epson 5025 on the Epson website for $1599 and jumped on it! It arrives Tuesday and can’t wait to get it mounted and start tinkering! I am really excited to see how this babay shines!
Hi Kevin, let us know how you like it after a couple of weeks.. -art
Hey Art, the 5025 is amazing! Much better black levels than the 3500! Its not supposed to be as bright as bright as the 3500, but with my 11 ft throw, its plenty bright for me. I paired with a 110″, 1.1 gain matte white screen and the picture is amazing! I ordered blackout curtains to help the image during the day, but baseball games and golf look great. At night (starting around 5pm actually), the picture is just incredible. My receiver controls my system so the lack of internal speakers is a non-issue. The 5025 doesn’t come with 3D glasses, but I don’t own any 3D movies so its not a big deal. I may buy the Samsung 5100s if I want to try it out. I did try the 3D on the 3500 and it worked great (I streamed Zootopia). Thank you for all the great advice!
An excellent, detailed review. I have a few questions. First, some context. Until last week, I’d been running a Sony VPL-AW15 since 2007 (a bit long in tooth, I know) and I was quite happy with it. However, the bulb “exploded” in mid-movie last Friday and, unlike the first bulb (that simply burned out like a regular lamp bulb), it left a permanent residue on the glass that lies between the lamp and the optical block–something I am not equipped to remove and believe would leave shadows on the four corners of the image if I tried a third bulb. Nine years is a good run anyway.
I know you’ve written in several places in the review that other projectors have better black levels for not too much more money, but, unless I am much mistaken, this one should easily best my AW15 in that regard. Add to that the better resolution and image processing available, and I think I’d come out ahead with this projector.
My intentions were to upgrade in a few years (hoping 4K projectors would fit my anticipated budget by then), so this has caught me a bit unprepared and my budget is limited (I’m in Canada and I’d like to stay below 2000$ CDN if possible–5030ub is nearly 1000$ more with taxes). I’ve been looking at TVs for the past week but while 4K imagery looks really nice, I still see some of the issues about LCD TVs that steered me to a PJ nine years ago and OLED is way out of budget. I should point out my screen size (small room) is quite small by PJ standards–64″ 16:9. I ran the AW15 in low lamp mode and it was plenty (albeit with almost zero ambient light). At that time, an equivalent size TV was 5x more $$$ and wasn’t necessarily better in PQ. My unorthodox approach made sense.
My questions are:
1) In ECO mode, with my current screen size (I could expand it to about 80″ if I make some room layout modifications, but that would be down the line), with some ambient light, would I still be too bright for comfortable viewing? I do like the idea of being able to have ambient light, as my wife isn’t fond of the very dim lighting conditions needed for the PJ that just died. I therefore spend more time watching alone than I’d anticipated when I set this up back in the day.
2) I currently sit about 8.5 feet from the screen (720p). Would that be too close for comfort with the brightness of the PJ? I know it will dim a bit if/when I expand the screen surface area, but I still need to be able to use it before then (right now, I’m making do with the 22″ TV I use for watching the news, adjusting settings on audio gear, navigating DVD-A or concert DVD/Blu-rays, or anything of short duration not warranting firing up the PJ. Don’t want to do that for too long.
3) In your “guesstimation”, would you say (scale of 1-10, 10 being best) I’d see an improvement more or less than 5/10 over my old PJ?
I know this is not the ideal PJ for my situation (small screen, very bright PJ even in low setting) but real world price considerations make this model the best option that fits my budget (DLP is not an option as I am very sensitive to RBE and I watch a fair amount of classic B&W movies–would have liked the special setting for such movies I’ve seen listed on some PJs. Any way to replicate that in a custom user setting?).
I may yet go with a TV (there are some well reviewed 55″ 4K models with HDR that fit the budget, which I have yet to see, and an articulating wall mount would give me the same relative size I have now) but the familiarity of an LCD PJ is also tempting.
Hi Paul, hmm, sounds like you already figured I’d mention the 5030UB, didn’t realize it was that much more in Canada. Check with Canadian dealers – if the price is low enough, go for a refurbished 5030UB! Make sure the warranty is the same up your way as down here, in the states, but I’m almost certain it is. Down here, Epson provides the same 2 years parts/labor warranty on refurbs as new ones, and they don’t send them out with lamps that have a lot of hours on them. Usually the best deal around. Not sure if that will get you close enough to your budget, but if so, it’s the “night and day” improvement choice. -art
I will look into a re-furnished unit, but given pricing discrepancies, I don’t know if it’ll fit the budget.
If I cannot locate an affordable 5030 and end up with the 3500, would a high contrast grey screen with a 0.8 gain rating (some months down the road) be a good option with the 3500? I guess they don’t get mentioned as much as they used to, but (unless I misunderstand how they work), such a screen would help tame the light of the 3500 in a darker environment while also helping its perceived contrast? I did a quick search and found 72″ and 80″ screens at Carada. I can fit the 72″ without modifying anything else in the room (I can go to 80″ if I get new furniture for my gear and make a few other changes in the room layout, but I’d like to avoid the extra expense–I’ve not seen any screen options below 80″ for fixed screens before). Just curious, trying to keep my options open.
Thank you for the reply. Any idea when 4K PJ with HDR/Dolby Vision and bulbless light sources are on the horizon? 😉
Yes it would definitely help (.8 gain HC grey screen, but if you can rationalize, and find a refurb should be somewhere not too far under $2000 if they are around (and they should be – also Epson’s likely to sell off a lot more refurbs shortly after the new 5040UB starts shipping.
OK a quick look shows that Visual Apex has 5030ub refurbs for $1899, but then ProjectorPeople at the moment has new ones for only $100 more.
there may be better deals out there somewhere, but with the 5040UB shipping soon, Epson’s not likely to dump a lot of refurbs of the 5030UB on the market, rather their first concern will be that their dealers sell off their new 5030UBs to make room for the 5040’s.
The reason I’m pushing you up, is you seem to want a serious home theater projector, and other than used, I can’t think of a better choice. No matter how they market the lower end Epsons, none are “serious” home theater, even if they are very serious “home entertainment.” -art
I did a search for refurbished units and, so far, they’re all in the US (best deal I found was 1777$US on eBay but after shipping, import duties, taxes, it puts me at 3000$ CDN–only CDN option I found, admittedly in a quick search, with a listed price was on Amazon.ca at over 5000$ CDN–I know I can do better than that). I’m not in an immediate rush (vacation is coming at the end of the week and it’s summer–don’t spend as much time indoors as in fall/winter), so I’ll keep looking. I fully understand (and agree) with your perspective. It’s just this is an unplanned replacement (hence the tighter budget). Were this a planned upgrade (was aiming at 2 years from now), the new 5040 would be on a very short list. I’m on the fence about stretching my budget now as I could move to something like the 5040 sooner if I “settle” for now. Still, you’ve given me lots to think about and I appreciate your suggestions and advice. Clearly if I do go with a 5030, I know I’ll be making a serious leap in quality. Is it at least safe to say even the 3500 will be a notable improvement over my old AW15 (should my hunt for a 5030 prove unsuccessful)?
Hi Paul, yep, I’m pretty good at helping folks spend (all) their money… To answer your other question, yes the 3500 will be a significant leap in picture quality. Black levels I would expect to be better, but not drastically so, still more than enough to notice without a side by side comparison. Don’t forget, you have a 720p projector (working from memory here), so just having 1080p native res means everything sharper, more detailed. And you get 3D. I personally really enjoy the immersion of a good 3D movie. (wish there were more). -art
You successfully persuaded me to go for the 5030 (guess my update above got lost in the shuffle). 😉
Just wanted to know if an HC gray 0.8 was still the recommended option for the 5030 as well, not for blacks but for dealing with brightness on small screen (probably 72″, possibly 80″–the available from sizes that fit–can’t go bigger in my current location) and for occasional ambient lighting.
Thanks again for the feedback.
Paul, I just went through the same dilemma you are going through. I ended up buying a refurb 5025 directly from Epson for only $1599 USD. It doesn’t come with 3D glasses and has 200 less lumens than the 5030, but otherwise its the same projector. I love the 5025!!! I have an 11ft throw to a 110″ screen and I can watch TV during the day without issue (granted its not as good during the day, but no complaints).
My 5030 arrived yesterday (got a great CDN deal–2200$ CDN or 1675$ USD). Big jump in PQ over my 9 year old Sony AW15 (720p LCD). But this thing is BRIGHT (I do have a small screen, though). I will very likely get an HC gray screen (not for better blacks–they’re also much better than my old PJ) but to tone down the brightness (even at 80 inches–max size I can fit, current is 64″–it will be much brighter than my old PJ for a long time). I watched about four hours of stuff yesterday and almost had to reach for the sunglasses. 😉
I’m sure I’ll be tweaking it further over the next few weeks, but already it’s looking good after going through the Disney calibration disc (I’m not going to get a pro calibration–not that fussy). Looking forward to checking out the Black and White Cinema option (I have a lot of old movies).
Glad you’re enjoying your new PJ. I know it makes me want to dig out a lot of favourite movies and see them again.
Congrats! Thats a really good price for the 5030. I hope you enjoy your new PJ as much as I am enjoying mine!
Enjoy Paul, I’m surprised about your brightness comment. The 5030UB is a flame thrower in Dynamic or Living Room, but puts out less than 1000 lumens in THX or other “best modes”. Sounds like: a) your Sony has needed a new, brighter lamp for some time. b. Give it a few days – my guess is you will get used to the brightness and like it better. Your system is probably just in “shock”. Even on an 80 inch screen (assuming typical .9 – 1.4 gain screen) the 5030UB should fit nicely into the range of brightness recommended for your local cineplex, if on the higher side, instead of lower side of the range. (The brightness range is from 12 to 30 (or is is 32) ft lamberts for a theater, with 16 being most typical. With a 1.3 gain screen in ThX, you are probably in the low 20’s (just guessing, not calculating. Just wait until you start watching some really dark scenes. That’s where the night and day difference will be. -art
I am slowly getting used to it. Don’t know if the Sony needed a new lamp for brightness sake as such, but it was a far less bright machine than this one at eco (and full, though I never used it that way) power. I do plan to go to an 80″ screen (I measured that size using the PJ’s zoom–biggest I can get). The options in that size that fit what I’d like to spend seem limited to Carada. I guess the Brilliant White would be okay, especially at the larger size (and thus somewhat dimmer picture than now)?
I will say the PQ jump remains amazing. I know 4K is coming in a reasonably affordable price but A) can’t miss what I’ve never had and B) without a side by side comparison, the 5030 is very impressive already. Also, I’m really happy at how easily it fit into place (same stand, same wires). No need to upgrade any gear (except add a 3D player for the kids, down the line, and that’s not a major expense).
So far, I’ve watched the two Abrams Trek films (prepping to see the new one), Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition (won’t be watching the theatrical cut any time soon), some Netflix and a bit of cable (each of which looked fine, though not as good as Blu-ray). Next will be a B&W classic to try that setting (I have a lot of such films, so I’m looking forward to trying it out).
Only thing, so far, where the old projector was better than the new is, partially, the dynamic iris–not in performance, of course, but in quietness of operation. I never heard the iris on the old Sony, while I do hear it on the Epson (if the soundtrack is very quiet). Same distance to the PJ from my seat (shelf just behind my chair). By no means a problem, but an observation.
Where did you purchase it from? I’m considering the same projector. I’m also a Canadian.
Update: found an excellent deal on a 5030 (new, full warranty, free extra bulb). Puts me at 2100$ CDN plus tax (msrp plus bulb would be 3100$ plus tax, so a fair deal for sure–reputable and official dealer in Canada). I can stretch that far (will simply delay the new screen a while longer).
Question: given the 5030 seems about as bright as the 3500, and my bigger screen will still be no more than 80″–most likely 72″–would you still recommend a 0.8 high contrast grey screen? I know the black levels won’t need it but it’ll be a small, thus bright, image and I’d still like the option of some ambient light for my wife and for hockey playoff parties.
Thanks for your feedback (and motivating me to aim higher). I can also rationalize it by avoiding other upgrades (all my gear is 1080p ready–players/streaming/AVR/DVR–while I’d have to upgrade all those things to fully implement a 4K/HDR solution). Besides, can’t miss what I’ve never had. 😉
If you can get it for around the same price as the BenQ HT2050, what are you thoughts on how they compare?
I’m helping my brother in-law with his basement room, which unfortunately will have light colored walls and a fairly shiny floor (not carpet) with a non-black ceiling. B/c of this, I’m leaning towards going with a gray 120″ Silver Ticket screen and the throw distance will be between 11′ – 12’6″.
Hi Tyler, I’d be leaning toward the Epson in his situation. Mind you I only got to review the HT3050 and HT4050, which leave’s some questions, but ultimately, the BenQ probably has just a slight black level advantage, one that the room will further minimize. Other than that, the advantages tend to favor the Epson, including warranty. Not sure whether the HT2050 has a small amount of lens shift, which could be helpful, but if it does like the HT3050, it’s a small amount for fine tuning, for example, not usable for high rear shelf placement. -art
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