Epson Home Cinema 1080 Home Theater Projector and Pro Cinema 1080 – Overview
et’s start with the Home Cinema 1080, since that’s the only one I actually got to play with. I am impressed. Of the three 1080p LCD projectors, this is my new favorite. The Panasonic may have a pixel structure that is for all practical purposes invisible, and has some great features built in for optimizing its performance, and the Mitsubishi, does give the feeling of being slightly sharper, whether or not it resolves any more detail, plus the Mitsubishi is super quiet. The Epson is the noisiest of the three, by the way.
Still, the Home Cinema 1080 has a killer list of strengths, the most significant are:
It’s brighter than the competition.
It’s the most flexible (although not by much compared to the other 2 LCD models).
It’s out of the box colors are pretty impressive, as is black level performance.
It’s got a great warranty, and support program.
And, if that weren’t enough – it costs less than any other 1080p projector at the time of this writing (4/07).
I should also mention the other two under $5000 1080p projectors. The first is the Sony Pearl – the VPL-VW50. This 3 chip LCOS (SXRD as Sony calls it), has the edge in black levels without any doubt, but is one of the least bright projectors in the group. I’d give the SonyVPL-VW50 the edge in “film-like” characteristics, and is probably the better choice for those seeking a perfect image under $5000. I found my test Sony to be pretty sharp, despite previous experiences at trade shows where I always suspected it was a bit too soft. That said, the Sony I tested, and the Epson are about even in sharpness.
The Optoma HD81, by comparison, has just dropped from about $7999 to $4299, so with discounts is still a chunk more than the Epson. The HD81 is also one of those very film like projectors, and is exceptionally strong on rich dark colors, a trait it shares with the Epson. The Epson is going to be more suitable for most folks, with it’s easy room placement – the Optoma lacks lens shift, and has only a 1.2:1 zoom, so mostly it’s for ceiling mount only. The outboard processor of the Optoma HD81 is a strength, in addition fo Gennum’s reputation for excellent processing, the Optoma simplfies wiring with only two cables needing to run from all of your equipment to the projector (a money saver), and compared to any projector without outboard processing, an amazing amount of input switching. (3 HDMI inputs, and that’s just the start). Potential Optoma buyers will figure out who they are, the Epson will have much more appeal to typical users.
I’ll just say this about the Epson versus the JVC. Don’t go there! The Epson is roughly half the price, and a great value. The JVC is just the best projector around (short of those really high priced 3 chip DLP 1080p projectors – and who knows… it may match them in everything but brightness). The difference in black levels, as shown, is dramatic, so the JVC is a step up. The Epson can muster out a lot more lumens in it’s brightnest mode, and has some other nice touches, but I watched these two side by side for more than an hour… It’s like a top college sports team, compared to a top pro team. Hey, the JVC is commanding almost twice the price. Which ever of these two you choose, you will get your money’s worth!
Pro Cinema 1080 – Ok this is basically the same projector but it lives in a different world, so it’s time to talk about all of that.
Epson has decided to market two lines of similar projectors. They have a good reason, but whether that matters to you or not, we shall see. The high volume market for projectors is mostly internet based, which, is strongest on projectors under $2000. On the other hand, there are literally thousands and thousands of local “install” dealers – many of them referred to as CEDIA dealers (the CEDIA organization dealers all do installation, often have a staff of people who are trained and certified, and most of them either have a professional calibrator on staff, or work closely with one. They also are generally allergic to any real discounting. As a result, local dealers tend to avoid carrying any projector that can easily be obtained online at heavy discount prices. Think I’m kidding, in most major cities (in the US) you can’t even find a place to get a demo of the most popular home theater projectors from Optoma, Panasonic, etc. So here comes Epson – on he lower end, the Cinema 400, and now the Home Cinema 1080, both Ok for online and “big box” houses (like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc.)
Then there is the Pro Cinema 810 (720p resolution) and the new Pro Cinema 1080.
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