Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector Review

How does the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?
- Art Feierman

Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Epson Home Cinema 8350

When I first saw the improved contrast spec of the Epson Home Cinema 8350 I thought its blacks might have improved enough to seriously cut into the 8700UB’s sales, by coming close to the 8700UB in performance. It was not to be. While the difference between the 8700UB and the 8350 is a little less than last year’s duo, it’s still a dramatic difference on a lot of dark scenes. As an added bonus, you do get some anamorphic lens support, and more significantly, creative frame interpolation, and a few other goodies. The 8700UB reigns supreme over the 8350. If you are buying performance, yes, the 8700UB is worth the difference, even though the Home Cinema 8350 is a bit brighter.

Here are a couple of comparisons showing the black level performance differences. Please note, the lower cost Home Cinema 8350 is on the left side:

And the same frame, but intentionally over exposed:

While you can seed the black level differences a bit in the sky and buildings, this isn’ the type of scene where you really want great blacks. It’s the scenes where most of the scene is very dark, and few bright areas at all, such as these:

And finally, our classic, overexposed, night train scene from Casino Royal:

As you can see, the black levels of the Home Cinema 8700UB (right) are clearly much darker than on the Home Cinema 8350. Projectors like the BenQ W6000, Panasonic PT-AE4000, and other more expensive models will be closer in blacks to the Epson 8700UB than the 8350.

Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. HC6800, HC7000

Little has changed. The Mitsubishi HC7000 I best describe as an elegant projector for smaller screens. If 100 inches or less, you get excellent black levels, a super quiet projector, and power zoom and focus. Although the HC7000 is aging, and could use some creative frame interpolation, and other goodies, it’s a clean projector with a great image for smaller screens, and has the advantage of being an exceptionally quiet projector – a real plus if your average or smaller screen is in a small room where the audible noise is more of an issue.

I’ll give the HC7000 this, I get emails from folks owning just about every different home theater projector out there in these price ranges, and while I don’t get a large amount about the HC7000, it seems that HC7000 owners are particularly fond of their projectors. Seems the HC7000 is one of those that tends to almost always “exceed expectations.”

The Epson of course has the extra lumens, and more dynamic features, but is manual in terms of lens, though it does have more zoom range.

The Mitsubishi HC6800 lines up differently with the 8700UB projector. First of all, it’s more similar in price, than the more expensive HC7000, and it’s far more comparable in terms of brightness. On the other hand, the HC6800′s black levels are more like the 8350 than the 8700UB. The HC6800 has its strengths, but black levels are not exceptional.

Like the HC7000 this Mitsubishi HC6800 is exceptionally sharp for a 3LCD projector, sharper – slightly than the Epson. It also happens to be brighter than (in “best” mode) all the ultra-high contrast projectors I’ve been mentioning, except for the BenQ W6000.

Who should buy the HC6800? Those not hung up on black levels. My wife typically has watched at least 10 hours a week on our old Epson Ensemble HD system. She’s hardly critical (I have to constantly remind her to switch to Theater Black 1 mode, for movie watching), but that makes her a more typical TV and movie watcher than most of us. If I was able to subsitute the HC6800 for the old Epson 1080UB (which would still have a black level advantage), Lori wouln’t notice the change in black level performance, but she almost certainly would notice the extra brightness, and maybe would stop watching so much stuff in one of the Epson’s brighter, but less accurate modes.

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