Posted on May 24, 2011
The Epson Powerlite Pro Cinema 9700UB (“Ultra-Black”) home theater projector is the more expensive, more sophisticated sibling of the Home Cinema 8700UB. This comparison is to help you decide if the Epson 9700UB projector is more suited to your needs than the 8700UB, which we reviewed in-depth.The 9700UB ($3199) is unique from the 8700UB ($2199), in that it comes finished in black as opposed to white, which is much better if you’re mounting your projector against a dark ceiling or want more subtly in your theater space. The Pro Cinema 9700UB also has a three-year parts and labor warranty, whereas the its sibling has the same overall package, but for only two years. Also of note is that authorized local installing dealers only sell the Pro Cinema, while online dealers and some “big box” houses carry the Home Cinema. Lastly, the 9700UB has a more sophisticated anamorphic lens support. Otherwise, the Pro Cinema and Home Cinema are virtually identical.
This year (2011), however, the Home Cinema 8700UB started offering anamorphic lens support, which has, in the past, been restricted to the Pro Cinema series UB projectors like the old 9500UB and the current Pro Cinema 9700UB. There is a critical difference however. The better endowed 9700UB allows you to use an anamorphic lens without a sled, as it has two anamorphic aspect ratio modes. One for standard use of an anamorphic lens, or Cinemascope movies, and the other which allows you to still watch 16:9 (HDTV, etc.) and 4:3 content, with the correct aspect ratio, even with the anamorphic lens still in front of the projector’s lens.
With the less expensive Home Cinema model, you don’t get that second mode. So to properly watch, say, HDTV, you do need to move the lens out of the way. Therefore you would need a motorized sled (or a manual one) for the lens. Note, a motorized sled costs at least as much as the difference between the two projectors. For that reason, most people wanting to go with an anamorphic lens setup are probably going to save money by opting for the Pro Cinema 9700UB projector.
At the $3199 MSRP price, the 9700UB also comes with a ceiling mount, as well as a spare lamp. The 8700UB comes with neither of these additions. The ceiling mount and the spare lamp, coupled with the extra year on the warranty, add up to being worth several hundred bucks – a hefty chunk of change. These are all great perks to consider, as they save you out of pocket expenses if you want to ceiling mount, your lamp begins to die, or if you have any maintenance issues during your projector’s life.
Like it’s less expensive white sibling, the Epson Pro Cinema 9700UB projector offers exceptional black level performance, plus it has very good brightness (especially when you need extra lumens to enjoy HDTV and especially sports, without turning off all the lights). It is also a significant advantage that the 9700UB is sold by local installing dealers, because that means you have some “local support.” So even if the guys at your friendly neighborhood projector dealer are probalby going to charge a little extra to install the projector, they are also going to be around if there’s an issue. As mentioned previously, the extra year on the warranty, plus the included ceiling mount and spare lamp, are also a few of the 9700UB’s perks that save you money in the long run.
The projectors in the Epson UB series have been considered perhaps the highest performance home theater projectors at their price point for several years now. Last year’s 8500UB won our Best In Class award, and no doubt these new Epson’s will be competing again for that top honor in next month’s report
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