Epson Home Cinema 6100 Projector Review

Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700, PLV-Z3000

Epson vs. PLV-Z700:

It’s all about Price vs. Performance!

The Sanyo PLV-Z700 clearly owns the title of lowest priced 3LCD 1080p projector, and seems to be the lowest price 1080p projector overall, give or take an occasional closeout of one of the older Optoma projectors.

The most defining difference between the Sanyo PLV-Z700 and the Epson Home Cinema 6100 is definitely the huge difference in brightness. The Epson is almost twice as bright in best mode (although the Sanyo has at least one “almost best mode” with good brightness (which is Brilliant Cinema). In that mode, the Sanyo actually beats the Epson, but, again, it’s not really it’s best picture quality, but still very good, even if it isn’t as good as Epson’s best mode.

When it comes to brightest mode, not contest. Dynamic mode on the Sanyo doesn’t quite get to 1000 lumens, but it jumps to 1310 lumens with Brilliant Color engaged. That still leaves it about 35% less bright than the Epson in its dynamic mode.

The other major performance difference is in terms of black levels. The Sanyo left me a little “wanting” even compared to the other 3LCD entry level projectors. The Epson, by comparison, is enough better to be really respectable, even if no match for the ultra high contrast projectors. (A high contrast gray surfaced screen does really help out the Sanyo.) The Epson has a distinct advantage here, not that great, but enough to make a difference! It’s the difference between “close but no cigar”, and “just good enough”. The Sanyo is ok, the Epson, is simply better. When it comes to dark shadow details, however, is an area where the Sanyo bests the Epson. Epson’s shadow detail performance has, historically been good, not great. The Sanyo definitely reveals more detail in those really dark areas. A win here, goes to the Sanyo, although when you combine shadow detail, and black level performance together, the two are, overall, very close to each other. Sanyo’s warranty is 3 years parts and labor with a fast-turnaround program, compared to Epson’s two years, with overnight replacement. I have to give the Sanyo the advantage here. Sanyo, however does not replace initially defective projectors, choosing to repair them instead. Discuss with your dealer, as to how they handle that issue. (And keep in mind that only a very tiny percentage of projectors are likely to have a problem out of the box. Both Epson and Sanyo provide excellent placement flexibility. The Sanyo is very quiet, the Epson is not. Both are more than quiet enough in low lamp mode, but the Sanyo is definitely noticeably quieter when both are in full power. The Sanyo’s fan noise, even in full power will not be an issue. The Epson 6100′s fan noise, however, will be enough to dissuade a few potential buyers that plan to run at full power. Both are pretty good, in terms of color handling, “right out of the box” and both can be improved with a basic, end user calibration. I like the Sanyo for the rock bottom price, which makes it a more expensive, but reasonably so, alternative to 720p projectors. For those not minding the extra $400 or so for the Epson, however, I give it the overall advantage. All considered, I’d say they both offer comparable price/performance. With the Epson, you pay more, and get a little more for your extra dollars.

Epson vs. PLV-Z3000:

Here, the tables are somewhat turned around. The Sanyo PLV-Z3000 is the more expensive of the two, by about $300 street price (including rebates) as of this writing.

Right out of the box, the Epson offers the better color accuracy. Both, of course can use a good end user calibration, which improves the Epson slightly, and the Sanyo a good deal. One note, the limited color controls on the Sanyo do make calibrating it properly, a much more difficult challenge, as Mike – who calibrates all these projectors for me, has reminded me of, repeatedly. He can’t understand why these two 1080p Sanyo’s have less color controls than their lower cost 720p PLV-Z60. Neither can I.

What do you get for your extra money? First, in most ways, the PLV-Z700 and PLV-Z3000 are the same – placement flexibility, warranty, general features, so I won’t repeat any of that.

You get the least expensive of the “ultra high contrast” 3LCD projectors with the Sanyo. Let’s start with black levels, as that is the most significant difference between the Epson 6100 and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000. When reviewing the Z3000, it had the poorest black level performance of the “ultra high contrast” projectors, so the first thing I was curious about with the Epson, is whether it’s best of the lower cost 3LCD home theater projector black level performance could rival the Z3000. As it turns out, it cannot! While the Epson is good, the Sanyo is definitely a step up, even if the Sanyo isn’t a match for the more expensive Home Cinema 6500UB.

Then there are the “advanced” features – essentially support for higher frame rates (96 or 120) and creative frame interpolation. The Sanyo has both, and implements their creative frame interpolation very well (better than the first versions of the 6500UB). That gives the Sanyo a plus for sports viewing, and, if you like creative frame interpolation on movies, there as well. The “live digital video” look to Sanyo’s creative frame interpolation is there, but not as severe as the Epson 6500UB’s.

So, with a longer warranty on the Sanyo (though no overnight replacement), and a relatively small difference in pricing, why consider the Epson?

The bottom line answer to that question, is brightness. The Sanyo, PLV-Z3000, is typically Sanyo, in that it is one of the least bright 1080p projectors in “best” mode. It’s Pure Cinema mode defaults to only 326 lumens. With changes to the dynamic lamp settings and turning the dynamic iris off, and using it fixed and mostly open, the Sanyo gets up to 445 lumens. Essentially, the Pure Cinema mode, is no frills. Doing what I just mentioned essentially puts you in Creative Cinema mode – things like dynamic irises in full operation.

Still, that 445 lumens is almost exactly two-thirds the brightness of the Epson in its best mode. Not quite a “best mode” Sanyo also offers up their Brilliant Cinema mode, which when maximized with the iris fixed, gets up to about 520 lumens, still well short of the Epson. (Without the dynamic iris feature engaged, the Sanyos black level performance definitely decreases, but remains better than the Epson)

The Sanyo does better in brightest mode. We clocked it at 1453 lumens, but the Epson is still more than 1/3 brighter!

So there you have it, you can have the same sort of features (and newest LCD panels) as the 6500UB, in the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, but for a price that is slightly closer to the Epson Home Cinema 6100, than to the 6500UB.

The question is – do you need the lumens of the Epson? If so, You’ll choose the 6100, or spring for the more expensive 6500UB. Otherwise, it comes down primarily to whether you can afford the extra for the Sanyo over the 6100. Keep in mind, that you can expect twice the lamp life with the Epson, so over 3-4 years, that could save the heavy user the cost of two lamps, and a lighter, “movie only” user, the cost of one lamp. (We figure about $350 a lamp average, for projectors in this class.

It’s a very interesting choice. For those of us, with screens larger than 100″ diagonal, (without going to high gain screens), the Epson is the way to go, but if you are a small screen person, 100″, 92″, 84″, etc., well the Sanyo has the advantage, in my opinion!

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