Epson Ensemble HD 1080 Complete, Projector Based Home Theater System Review

Home Cinema 1080: Black Level and Shadow Detail

Black Level Performance

All considered, black level performance is good, but hardly exceptional. Here lies my biggest complaint about Epson’s decision to provide the Home Cinema 1080 projector as the heart of the Ensemble HD 1080, instead of the newer Home Cinema 1080 UB. While the older Home Cinema 1080 does a good job in terms of those black levels, the Home Cinema 1080 UB is exceptional, with definitely the best black level performance of any projector under $3000, and only matched or beat by 3-4 projectors selling for up to twice the price.

What does this mean? It’s true that the hard core enthusiast would really prefer the better black levels from the UB. That said, most folks – and I mean the vast majority of potential owners of the Ensemble HD 1080, simply would never notice the difference, unless seen, side by side, and even then, most probably wouldn’t care.

Overall, the black level performance is still much better than most projectors of just a few years ago, and while there are “blacker blacks” out there, like with many of todays competing home theater projectors, the Epson has achieved an acceptable level of black level performance that will please the typical buyer. Nothing like space scenes for black levels. Here are a couple of images to give you a good idea. Remember that the monitor you are viewing this on, is probably an LCD monitor, and even if the Epson had perfect blacks, your monitor can’t even approach the black levels of the most average projector!

Ensemble HD 1080 Shadow Detail Performance

Epson has been very consistent when it comes to shadow detail performance. They do a very good job, but a number of competing projectors can do a little bit better. What they lose in dark area shadow detail is still very slight, compared to the best of the competition. This can be helped a little with some tweaking of the system’s gamma settings (great controls), but for the typical consumer of a product like this – they will never know, nor appreciate the subtle differences. Even the newer UB version shares the shadow detail performance of the Home Cinema 1080, and falls a tad short of the best.

Below is a sequence of images from Space Cowboys. This is an extremely dark scene, and so that you can overcome the limitations of my dSLR, and see into the darkest areas, these images are overexposed. Look to the details in the blinds in the back of the scene.

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