Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB Projector Review

This year’s Epson UB review is based on receiving an Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB. Whle I’ll discuss the slight differences between the Home Cinema 8500UB and the Pro Cinema 9500UB at times, most of the time I will refer to the projector as a Home Cinema 8500UB as it is the more popular and less expensive of the two. There are no significant performance differences that I am aware of, in terms of picture quality, brightness, sharpness, black level performance, etc., although the Pro version does have a few extra bells and whistles.

The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB was awarded the Best In Class Award, and the Pro Cinema 9500UB was awarded our Special Interest Award in our annual Home Projector Comparison Report -April 2010.

Update 6/2011: We recently reviewed the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, the replacement of the Home Cinema 8500UB. Click here to read the projector review of this new Epson projector.

October 2009 – Art Feierman

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB Projector Overview

The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and its twin, the Pro Cinema 9500UB are almost identical. Here are the key differences:

The Home Cinema 8500UB: Sold online and local, through authorized dealers. It comes with a 2 year warranty with overnight replacement, and is finished in a white cabinet. It will launch around Thanksgiving, with a street price under $2500!

The Pro Cinema 9500UB: Sold only through authorized local installing dealers. A similar warranty and replacement program, except three years on both, instead of two. The Pro has support for 3rd party anamorphic lenses, which the Home version lacks. Both projectors are THX certified, the first under $5000 projectors that have achieved this status. My own JVC RS20 (an $8000 MSRP projector), was the first under $10,000 projector to earn THX’s certification that I am aware of, when released at the beginning of the year. There is one difference though, with the JVC, if you select THX, many of the color controls are locked out. I found the THX mode on my JVC therefore to not end up as good as their Cinema mode, once it was fully calibrated. Not so for the Epson which still allows control of almost all image functions in THX mode, and we were able to use it as the basis for our final calibration.!

The basics. The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB is the replacement for the 6500UB, one the two Best In Class award winners ($2100 – $3500 selling price). The new 8500UB builds on the 6500UB with additional improvements and a couple of new features, but it certainly resembles the 6500UB in all ways, just better.

The Epson has more placement flexibilty than any other under $5000 projector I can think of, with a 2.1:1 manual zoom lens and lots of vertical and horiztonal lens shift, which means it will work in almost anyone’s idea of a home theater, family, or bonus room.

In Epson parlance, UB stands for Ultra Black, and this is Epson’s 3rd generation UB projector. Each newer generation produces blacker blacks than the one before, for richer, dynamic looking dark scenes, and further enhancing the vibrance of brighter scenes. So far, no other under $3000 projector can match its black level performance, and that’s a big advantage for these Epson projectors.

Our review is based on a sample unit that seems pretty finished, unlike some other pre-production units we’ve recently looked at. When working with early units, sometimes there are issues, that are not expected in production projectors, but so far, I haven’t encountered any. That’s a very good thing! Some time after the Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB ship, I’ll bring in a full production unit, to see if it’s brighter, etc.

The hot new spec with the new Epson projectors is the 200,000:1 contrast ratio, up from 75,000:1 last year. I’ll discuss this in depth on the image quality page. Ultimately, it looks like this year’s buyers, are going to get a similar, but improved projector, and likely spend less money for it, as well. For those expecting a major breakthrough in performance, this doesn’t seem to be the year. Almost all of the projectors reviewed in the last three or so months have been better than their predcessors, but nothing revoloutionary. That said, the Home Cinema 8500UB, and Pro Cinema 9500UB are excellent projectors, they’ve raised the bar a bit, in the mid-priced, sweet spot of the market – $2000 to $4000 projectors.

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