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

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB vs. Sony VPL-HW15

It really is a shame. I reviewed the Sony HW10 last year and really liked it. The same is true this year for the VPL-HW15 projector. While I do recognize some real advantages to the Sony, over the Epson, here’s a case where, for me, I strongly favor the Epson. I favor it, probably, though, more than it deserves.

The Sony provides a more elegant image. It has controls that enthusiasts and purists really will like. It’s LCoS (Sony calls theirs SXRD), so pixels are completely invisible at any normal distance, rather than just below the radar. And, the Sony is particularly film-like. It’s also a nicely styled projector, with a little more class – more like the JVC projectors, and some other more expensive models.

Where the Epson shines though, first of all, is in “brightest” mode. No comparison. The most lumens we could measure out of any mode that looked good was only 664 for the Sony, compared to 1309 for the Epson! That’s HUGE!

“Best” mode, however, the two are very similar, with a very small advantage to the Sony – 536 lumens compared to 499 (that’s only 7%, not enough to fight over, especially since the Epson’s lamp likely will last about twice as long, and therefore after a few hundred hours be at least as bright as the Sony).

Both projectors use dynamic irises, and have excellent black levels. We compared the Sony to the older 6500UB, and the Epson had a slight advantage, so the new Home Cinema 8500UB should have a little more advantage, but still not a really large difference.

Placement flexibiliy favors the Epson. The Sony has a mid-range zoom, 1.6:1, compared to the 8500UB projector’s 2.1:1. Where that difference may be critical is for those who wish to shelf mount. The overall range of the Sony is short, for example, for a 100″ screen (a very good size for the Sony), the furthest back the projector could be placed would be 16 ft 4 inches. That may not be far enough in many rooms. The Epson, by comparsion can be placed as far back (same 100″ screen) as 21 feet.

The Epson projector has a slightly more dynamic look – that “pop and wow” factor. The Sony is more subtle. In that regard, the Sony, is more like the JVC RS10 in picture, but the Epson is more fun. I don’t know, if I didn’t own an RS20, and was buying just one projector (I have two theaters), I might like the Sony better, but, I do really like the extra horsepower, features, and black levels of the Epson. If no where else, the Epson pulls away from the Sony on those really dark scenes I so like.

Pricewise, they are very similar, so any price difference is not likely to be a deciding factor.

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB vs. Panasonic PT-AE4000

View a more in-depth comparison of the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB vs. Panasonic PT-AE4000U in our Home Projector Comparison Report 2010.

Ahh, wouldn’t you like to know. OK, the PT-AE4000 is arriving 8 days from the time I’m writing this. Don’t expect me to update this, however. The comparison between the Home Cinema 8500UB and the PT-AE4000 will appear in the Panasonic PT-AE4000′s review and competitor’s page.

And, because this is the “hot matchup” again, this year, days after the Panasonic review is published, I’ll have a long head to head comparison article as well, complete with a lot of side by side images.

Relative to the older Panasonic, the PT-AE3000, this Epson has it whooped in brightness (the new PT-AE4000 gets a boost in “best” mode brightness, though still, supposedly a step down from the Epson). The Epson also has a very real advantage in black levels. Though both are “ultra-high contrast” projectors, the Epson is a step up. Both new projectors have better blacks than last year. Although I can’t comment from first hand experience, the Panasonic has improved its blacks, perhaps more than Epson has, but the word out there, is that when it comes to dark scenes, the Epson still is the best anywhere near its price.

Old and new Panasonic projectors can emulate an anamorphic lens, which the Epson cannot (or support an anamorphic lens). Both have CFI. The older Epson’s CFI was not as good as the PT-AE3000′s but the 8500UB’s as been siginficantly improved, and comparing the Epson CFI to the new Panasonic’s should prove interesting.

The Panasonic has power zoom and focus, the Epson is manual. The Panasonic comes with a one year warranty, and a mail-in registration card that provides a second year. Note, the Panasonic warranty and extension together specify 2 years or 2000 hours, whichever comes first. Heavy users may use up their warranty late in the first year, and many will not make it to the end of two years. Epson handily wins the warranty battle with 2 years, no such restriction, and overnight replacement.

The Panasonic projectors always seem to cost $400 – $500 less than the Epson. There is a trade-off, though, beyond features and performance. Epson’s lamp is rated 4000 hours at full power, the Panasonic only 2000 hours. This can save moderate to heavy users about $100 or more a year. At 20 hours a week, the Panasonic needs a $400 lamp every 2 years, the Epson needs a $300 lamp every 4. You can do the math. Still, for folks on a tight budget, the Panasonic is still hundreds less, up front.

Hang in there for the PT-AE4000 review for the “bottom line” on these two projectors.

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