Epson Home Cinema 6100 - Competitors
How does the Epson Home Cinema 6100 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?
12/15/2008 - Art Feierman
This section compares the Epson Home Cinema 6100 home theater projector to the competition. Here you will find our impressions of the Epson projector as it stacks up to existing projectors we have reviewed.
Please note here, as I won't mention it below. The Epson Home Cinema 6100 does not offer internal support for an optional anamorphic lens. Most of the competition does, however, let's face it, are you going to consider buying a $2000 projector and then spend $4000 on an anamorphic lens/sled combination. Those with the money for an anamorphic lens, will certainly have the money to consider more expensive projectors like the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, with their improved performance.
Before we get going, one more thing for your consideration. I'm getting a lot of requests from people on tight budgets, wondering if they should keep saving to get a 1080p projector, instead of the lower cost 720p projectors. I just want to say this: Manufacturers today, are putting their best technologies into their 1080p projectors. In fact, most manufacturers are replacing their 1080p models annually with newer/better. By comparison, 720p projectors are now only being replaced about every two years. More to the point, any of the entry level 1080p projectors, and certainly the Home Cinema 6100 is one of the best of them, overall, outperform any of the 720p projectors. One might say that the typical 720p projector is an older, lower resolution, not quite as impressive, sibling, of their newer entry level 1080p model So, if you are a performance oriented enthusiast, you probably will want to wait. That said, there is another approach as well. A good 720p projector today is typically $1000 or less. Buy one now, and, if you wait to replace it, for two years, you will probably be able to find a projector equivalent to those selling today for $2500 - $3500, for $1500 - $2000. In other words, If you two step it that way, your total dollar layout will be about the same over the years, but your "step up" projector will end up being better than what you would by today with only $2000 or so.
Home Cinema 6100 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
The Home Cinema 6100 is actually the replacement for the lower end Home Cinema 1080 (not the "UB"), however, the closeout pricing on the UB has been pretty close, though a little more expensive than the 6100's current street price, so we felt that many would be interested in how the new Home Cinema 6100 stacks up to the discontinued Home Cinema 1080 UB.
It's pretty straightforward. The Home Cinema 6100 cannot match the black level performance of the 1080 UB. The older projector has a distinct advantage in this regard. Brightness is roughly comparable between the two, so not likely to be a deciding difference. The 6100, though, thanks to the lamp improvements, should be a little bit brighter.
The Home Cinema 6100 is a little quieter in terms of audible noise, which should be a plus for those who are "noise adverse" especially those ceiling mounting with the projectors mounted almost directly above their seating position.
From a cost standpoint, while the 6100 starts out a little less expensive (after considering the closeout rebates on the UB), it further separates from the UB in terms of cost of operation, thanks to the new lamp in the 6100 being rated 4000 hours at full power, vs. the UB's 2000 hours. That can be a substantial savings over several years, especially for those that do general viewing, and not just movies, on their projectors. Even in low power, the 6100's lamp is rated 4000 hours vs. 3000 hours for the 1080 UB - a smaller operational savings, but one that can still save several hundred dollars over two or three years use.
The 6100 appears to be a little bit sharper than the old UB. We consider the 6100 to be "sharper than average" for a 1080p projector, vs. average for the older one. They use the same lens, so we can't define the "why" for the slight sharpness improvement, but an improvement is there. Is it a big enough difference to be a deciding point? For some, the answer is yes. The older Epson is fine, but no one ever complained about being sharper still. Let's say, you will appreciate the subtle difference, regardless whether it is something you would pay more to have.
Warranty on both projectors is the same, and better than industry average, with an industry average 2 years parts and labor, but Epson provides their overnight replacement program on both, making their warranty superior to most others.
For serious movie viewers - I favor the old UB for it's black level performance, but otherwise, the Home Cinema 6100 simply offers more bang for a few less bucks.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500, HC6500
I'll start by comparing the Epson 6100 with the less expensive HC5500.
Here we get into the heart of the competition. The Mitsubishi HC5500 is another, current, entry level 1080p projector. It is slightly less expensive (with rebates) than the Home Cinema 6100, and that is the HC5500's key advantage. The Home Cinema 6100 has a distinct advantage in brightness. Let me clarify that. When viewing movies in "best" modes, the two projectors are very similar in brightness, with the Epson having a slight advantage in lumens, but not enough to matter.
The real difference comes when you need lots of lumens, typically for viewing sports and general TV/HDTV content. Most folks don't want to view such programming in a "cave" (fully darkened room) - especially sports.
When comparing brightest modes, the Epson is almost twice as bright as the Mitsubishi, and that is truly a substanial, and important difference, for many shoppers. With our old testing equipment, in brightest mode, the HC5500 managed only 1061 lumens, compared to 2057 lumens for the Home Cinema 6100!
For those with smaller screens, the Mitsubishi lamp life, in low power mode, is even better than the Epson's: 5000 hours vs. 4000 hours. This is probably due to the larger than normal drop in brightness of the HC5500 (26%) when switching to low lamp mode. The Epson though, is rated 4000 hours in full lamp power, twice that of the Mitsubishi. It is my belief (based on feedback), that most projector owners tend to run in full power, and if you buy into that assumption, the Epson has the advantage for most buyers, in terms of cost of operation.
The HC5500 does a pretty good job in terms of those "all important" black levels, for an entry level 1080p projector. The Epson does as well, however, and we give it a slight advantage in this area. They are close, however, and, put another way, they are almost identical to each other, relative to comparing the 6100 with any of the "ultra high contrast" 1080p projectors, including Epson's own 6500UB, the Mitsubishi HC7000 and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000! The difference in terms of black level performance between these two, is not likely to sway you one way or another, other factors will be far more significant!
One of the biggest differences between the projectors is placement flexibility. You can't beat the Epson at this, with lots of lens shift, and a 2.1:1 zoom. By comparison, this Mitsubishi projector (unlike their more expensive HC6500 and HC7000), has very limited zoom - only 1.2:1 - and a bit more limited lens shift. Because of the limited zoom, the HC5500 won't work shelf mounted, in a lot of people's rooms, as for a 100" screen, the furthest back it can be placed is only 12.8 feet (compared to the Epson's just over 20 feet). That makes the Mitsubishi a ceiling mounted projector in most rooms.
Shadow detail on both Mitsubishi's and the Epson is very good, but not the best. It's a close call, but I'll give a slight edge to the two Mitsubishi projectors over the Epson.
Sharpness: Close enough to not matter, both produce a very nicely sharp image.
Warranty: Epson and Mitsubishi both provide 2 years parts and labor, but Epson wins for offering their overnight replacement program for both years. If you have a warranty problem with the Mitsubishi projectors, you'll have to send it in, and suffer downtime waiting for repair and return.
The Mitsubishi HC6500, in general performance, closely resembles the HC5500, most notably in brightness and black level performance. The big difference between the two Mitsubishi projectors is in two areas:
First, is pricing! While the HC5500 is typically less expensive than the Epson Home Cinema 6100, the HC6500 is a few hundred more than the Epson (US pricing).
The second difference is in placement flexibility. The HC6500 has a zoom lens with more range, allowing it to be placed as far back as 16 feet, five inches. That's still not a match for the Epson's 20 feet and change, but enough to allow many to shelf mount the Mitsubishi HC6500 in the back of their rooms. Still, a significant number of owners will not be able to place the projector far enough back and will still have to ceiling mount.
As mentioned above, the HC6500 is about the same in black level performance as the HC5500 and therefore the Epson as well, but, again, with the Epson having a slight advantage.
Both Mitsubishi projectors are extremely quiet, compared to the Epson's slightly noisier than average performance in terms of audible noise. That may well be a deciding factor for a number of shoppers.
The Epson is a decent looking "box" in terms of physical styling. That puts it on par with the HC5500, but the HC6500 is a particularly attractive projector, physically. It definitely wins in terms of looks - although most of us are more concerned with image performance. Still, the black HC6500 will help with the wife factor, compared to the white finished, plain looking Epson.
Bottom line: The Epson has a significant advantage in brightness when you need one of those "brightest" modes for viewing, and that's probably the biggest single advantage. Placement flexibility may come into play, especially comparing the HC5500 to the Epson 6100, but less so with the HC6500. Much lower audible noise, however, significantly favors either Mitsubishi. The HC5500 also has the pricing advantage, whereas the HC6500 costs more than the Epson. Sharpness differences are not a factor, nor, should shadow detail be one, although the Mitsubishi's are a touch better than the Epson at shadow detail.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700,
Epson vs. PLV-Z700:
It's all about Price vs. Performance!
The Sanyo PLV-Z700 clearly owns the title of lowest priced 3LCD 1080p projector, and seems to be the lowest price 1080p projector overall, give or take an occasional closeout of one of the older Optoma projectors.
The most defining difference between the Sanyo PLV-Z700 and the Epson Home Cinema 6100 is definitely the huge difference in brightness. The Epson is almost twice as bright in best mode (although the Sanyo has at least one "almost best mode" with good brightness (which is Brilliant Cinema). In that mode, the Sanyo actually beats the Epson, but, again, it's not really it's best picture quality, but still very good, even if it isn't as good as Epson's best mode.
When it comes to brightest mode, not contest. Dynamic mode on the Sanyo doesn't quite get to 1000 lumens, but it jumps to 1310 lumens with Brilliant Color engaged. That still leaves it about 35% less bright than the Epson in its dynamic mode.
The other major performance difference is in terms of black levels. The Sanyo left me a little "wanting" even compared to the other 3LCD entry level projectors. The Epson, by comparison, is enough better to be really respectable, even if no match for the ultra high contrast projectors. (A high contrast gray surfaced screen does really help out the Sanyo.) The Epson has a distinct advantage here, not that great, but enough to make a difference! It's the difference between "close but no cigar", and "just good enough". The Sanyo is ok, the Epson, is simply better.
When it comes to dark shadow details, however, is an area where the Sanyo bests the Epson. Epson's shadow detail performance has, historically been good, not great. The Sanyo definitely reveals more detail in those really dark areas. A win here, goes to the Sanyo, although when you combine shadow detail, and black level performance together, the two are, overall, very close to each other.
Sanyo's warranty is 3 years parts and labor with a fast-turnaround program, compared to Epson's two years, with overnight replacement. I have to give the Sanyo the advantage here. Sanyo, however does not replace initially defective projectors, choosing to repair them instead. Discuss with your dealer, as to how they handle that issue. (And keep in mind that only a very tiny percentage of projectors are likely to have a problem out of the box.
Both Epson and Sanyo provide excellent placement flexibility. The Sanyo is very quiet, the Epson is not. Both are more than quiet enough in low lamp mode, but the Sanyo is definitely noticeably quieter when both are in full power. The Sanyo's fan noise, even in full power will not be an issue. The Epson 6100's fan noise, however, will be enough to dissuade a few potential buyers that plan to run at full power.
Both are pretty good, in terms of color handling, "right out of the box" and both can be improved with a basic, end user calibration.
I like the Sanyo for the rock bottom price, which makes it a more expensive, but reasonably so, alternative to 720p projectors. For those not minding the extra $400 or so for the Epson, however, I give it the overall advantage.
All considered, I'd say they both offer comparable price/performance. With the Epson, you pay more, and get a little more for your extra dollars.
Epson vs. PLV-Z3000:
Here, the tables are somewhat turned around. The Sanyo PLV-Z3000 is the more expensive of the two, by about $300 street price (including rebates) as of this writing.
Right out of the box, the Epson offers the better color accuracy. Both, of course can use a good end user calibration, which improves the Epson slightly, and the Sanyo a good deal. One note, the limited color controls on the Sanyo do make calibrating it properly, a much more difficult challenge, as Mike - who calibrates all these projectors for me, has reminded me of, repeatedly. He can't understand why these two 1080p Sanyo's have less color controls than their lower cost 720p PLV-Z60. Neither can I.
What do you get for your extra money? First, in most ways, the PLV-Z700 and PLV-Z3000 are the same - placement flexibility, warranty, general features, so I won't repeat any of that.
You get the least expensive of the "ultra high contrast" 3LCD projectors with the Sanyo. Let's start with black levels, as that is the most significant difference between the Epson 6100 and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000. When reviewing the Z3000, it had the poorest black level performance of the "ultra high contrast" projectors, so the first thing I was curious about with the Epson, is whether it's best of the lower cost 3LCD home theater projector black level performance could rival the Z3000. As it turns out, it cannot! While the Epson is good, the Sanyo is definitely a step up, even if the Sanyo isn't a match for the more expensive Home Cinema 6500UB.
Then there are the "advanced" features - essentially support for higher frame rates (96 or 120) and creative frame interpolation. The Sanyo has both, and implements their creative frame interpolation very well (better than the first versions of the 6500UB). That gives the Sanyo a plus for sports viewing, and, if you like creative frame interpolation on movies, there as well. The "live digital video" look to Sanyo's creative frame interpolation is there, but not as severe as the Epson 6500UB's.
So, with a longer warranty on the Sanyo (though no overnight replacement), and a relatively small difference in pricing, why consider the Epson?
The bottom line answer to that question, is brightness. The Sanyo, PLV-Z3000, is typically Sanyo, in that it is one of the least bright 1080p projectors in "best" mode. It's Pure Cinema mode defaults to only 326 lumens. With changes to the dynamic lamp settings and turning the dynamic iris off, and using it fixed and mostly open, the Sanyo gets up to 445 lumens. Essentially, the Pure Cinema mode, is no frills. Doing what I just mentioned essentially puts you in Creative Cinema mode - things like dynamic irises in full operation.
Still, that 445 lumens is almost exactly two-thirds the brightness of the Epson in its best mode. Not quite a "best mode" Sanyo also offers up their Brilliant Cinema mode, which when maximized with the iris fixed, gets up to about 520 lumens, still well short of the Epson. (Without the dynamic iris feature engaged, the Sanyos black level performance definitely decreases, but remains better than the Epson)
The Sanyo does better in brightest mode. We clocked it at 1453 lumens, but the Epson is still more than 1/3 brighter!
So there you have it, you can have the same sort of features (and newest LCD panels) as the 6500UB, in the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, but for a price that is slightly closer to the Epson Home Cinema 6100, than to the 6500UB.
The question is - do you need the lumens of the Epson? If so, You'll choose the 6100, or spring for the more expensive 6500UB. Otherwise, it comes down primarily to whether you can afford the extra for the Sanyo over the 6100. Keep in mind, that you can expect twice the lamp life with the Epson, so over 3-4 years, that could save the heavy user the cost of two lamps, and a lighter, "movie only" user, the cost of one lamp. (We figure about $350 a lamp average, for projectors in this class.
It's a very interesting choice. For those of us, with screens larger than 100" diagonal, (without going to high gain screens), the Epson is the way to go, but if you are a small screen person, 100", 92", 84", etc., well the Sanyo has the advantage, in my opinion!
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. BenQ W5000
Whoa! I almost forgot about the BenQ W5000, as when it was released, it was a far, far more expensive projector than today. Right now, it seems to be selling online for about the same price as the Epson. The BenQ, at the moment, has to be the best overall projector among the lower cost DLP 1080p models. As such, it not just competes with the Epson Home Cinema 6100, but also with the more expensive Home Cinema 6500UB. Last year, due to price, in our comparison report, it competed very well, with the more expensive class of projectors including the Sony and JVC LCoS projectors, costing even more than the old Epson Home Cinema 1080UB.
By comparison, the BenQ W5000 today, is a steal. Well, dropping the price in half, really improves the BenQ's value proposition, but lets run through how it stacks up against this Epson.
Black level performance: The Epson is about as good as it gets, among the non-"ultra high contrast" 3LCD projectors, but still can't match the black levels of the BenQ. Nor can it match the shadow detail (never a particular strength of the Epson projectors). These two areas are where the BenQ has a distinct and real advantage.
Overall picture quality: Out of the box, both projectors are definitely better than average. The BenQ shows a slight shift to green however. This is not hard to correct, and both projectors look even better after a basic calibration. Of greater note, is that the BenQ offers that DLP look that many enthusiasts really swear by, and does win in both shadow detail and black levels. Combine all of that, and though the Epson has a very well balanced quality picture, the BenQ overall, is a bit better!
When it comes to brightness, the BenQ easily holds its own with the Epson in "best" mode, although to get it to match the Epson, the BenQ's manual iris needs to be about fully opened. That does degrade black level performance slightly, but still leaves the BenQ with better black levels.
Kick on the W5000's Brilliant Color and their best mode (Cinema) gets brighter still. I favor Brilliant Color off for the best, most natural picture quality, but the point is, that the BenQ can actually push out more lumens in a good "best" mode, than the Epson 6100 projector.
The original BenQ W5000 projectors exhibited more image noise than most projectors, enough to be considered an issue. Since then, BenQ has improved firmware, and while the W5000 still has more image noise than average (and the 6100 in particular), it is in line with DLP home theater projectors in general - which generally seem to display a bit more image noise than projectors with other technologies. (I've never been clear on exactly why that is, but from general observation it is true.) I no longer see the image noise aspect of the W5000 to be a real issue.
One notable downside to the W5000 is that it's HDMI inputs are HDMI 1.2, not HDMI 1.3 (a or b). The BenQ has no problem with "talking" to devices that output 1.3, so you always get the picture. The lack of 1.3 really only comes into play in one area, and that is the support for a future feature we haven't yet seen on Blu-ray discs, which is Deep Color. Deep Color means greater color depth - a much larger color palette. Deep Color will improve gradients slightly, give more detail in subtle shading such as skin tones (in a close up of a face, you can see (looking very closely, that more shades are called for). When we start seeing Deep Color is a good question. Is it a really big deal. No. Is it something you want for that extra little image performance - sure. Can you live without it? Absolutely, we've gotten by just fine without it so far. Still, the older HDMI may factor into the decision process of some folks.
When it comes to maximum lumens, the BenQ is typical of DLP projectors, in that it lacks a huge increase in lumens. The BenQ measured a best of 755 lumens in its Dynamic mode with Brilliant Color off, but that's not really important. When you want lumens, the nice things that Brilliant Color adds in dynamics, etc., are where you want to be. Thus, when you want brightness, I recommend Dynamic mode with Brilliant Color on. it's a very good "brightest" mode image. With Brilliant Color on, the BenQ manages 1270 lumens, which is definitely respectable, and on the high side of average, but no match for the Epson Home Cinema 6100 which after calibration was still much brighter. The BenQ at its brightest, is about 35% less bright than the Epson, and that could be a deciding factor for many.
Placement flexibility: DLP's are normally very limited, with 1.2:1 zooms, and no lens shift. The BenQ W5000, however, is better than that. True, it still has that basic 1.2:1 zoom but it is fairly long throw, allowing the projector to be placed as far back as 16.1 feet (for a 100 inch diagonal screen). This, combined with lens shift - a feature found on very, very few under $10,000 DLP projectors, will allow many to shelf mount in the rear. The Epson has a great wide range zoom, and more lens shift, but the BenQ should do the job - ceiling mounted or rear shelf mounted, in most rooms. If it works in your room, that negates any Epson advantage in this area.
No contest on warranty. Epson's two years, with replacement program easily bests BenQ's one year parts and labor. I always recommend buying a 2nd year 3rd party warranty with any home theater projector that comes only with one year.
While the Epson is a very well rounded projector, bright, good black levels, good out of the box color, respectable shadow detail, etc., the BenQ is definitely it's equal overall. The BenQ W5000can't match maximum lumens, placement flexibility or warranty of the Epson, but will be favored by many hard core enthusiasts for its cut above picture quality.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6500UB
OK, this is pretty obvious. The two projectors are fundamentally the same, except for price, black level performance, and advanced features.
The approximate selling price difference at the time of this writing - is about $700 (considering current rebates). The real question therefore, is what do you get for your extra money.
The primary benefit you would be paying for with the Home Cinema 6500UB is a substantial improvement in black levels. The 6100 has good black levels - a touch better than typical of the lower cost 1080p projectors, but the Home Cinema 6500UB is in a totally different class, when it comes to black levels.
If you are looking for the superior image performance that comes with those much blacker blacks, and the cost difference doesn't intimidate you, definitely spring for the 6500UB!
Essentially, except for black level performance and the "advanced" features I'm about to mention, the two projectors are essentially identical. Physically they look the same, have the same lens, lens shift, and general placement flexibility. The brightness of the two are also essentially identical, with any reported differences being well within the normal variation one would expect even with the same projector, due to slight differences in lamp performance.
That takes us to the unique "advanced" features of the 6500UB. The UB uses newer panels, responsible for the significant difference in black level performance, but we've covered that aspect. The other two advanced features tie to the 6500UB's ability to output the image at the faster 96 and 120 frame per second speeds, enhancing the image from your source, of either 24fps or "30/60" fps. The first of the two primary features found in the 6500UB, and not found in the 6100, is the 4:4" ability, to output at 96fps. This helps deal with a motion blur aspect that is related to how our eyes work, and which, like rainbow effect, affect people differently. The second feature is Epson 6500's creative frame interpolation, which inserts unique frames in between the those of the source, to smooth out the motion of fast moving objects on the screen.
Right off the bat, Epson has some issues with their 4:4 and frame interpolation, which I have discussed with their engineers, and they are looking into.
The bottom line is this, some of those modes (4:4 and various frame interoplation options) do have issues, but properly working they do make a difference. I do like the 6500's frame interpolation for sports, for example. For movie viewing, though, most of their (and other similarly equipped projectors) also have a general impact on the image, making it a lot less "film-like" and makes movies appear more like a "live digital video" source. This is almost certainly NOT "what the director intended", even though interesting and different.
As a result, working well or not, I consider frame interpolation, in general to have pluses and minuses. Let's say it is certainly a plus that the 6500UB has them, and better still if Epson can successfully address some of the issues, but for most people, at least for movie viewing, the verdict is still out on frame interpolation. Nice to have, but at this point in time, not a feature I consider as a signifcant one. (certainly not, compared to things like black level performance.
I recommend the 6500UB over the 6100, as worth the dollar difference, regardless of the frame interpolation. If you have the bucks, the 6500UB is simply a step up in performance.
Home Cinema 6100 vs. InFocus X10
Another DLP projector to consider. I reviewed the X10 at the "beginning" of this year's home theater season, early September. Since then, I've tackled the reviews of probably 15 new models, so, I'm a little rusty. (That projector had to go back to InFocus immediately following the review.)
The X10 is a very classic DLP - limited 1.2:1 zoom, no lens shift, so the placement flexibility advantage is all Epson.
At the time of the review I was a bit underwhelmed with the X10's black level performance, and that shouldn't be surprising, as InFocus has three more expensive 1080p DLP projectors in their lineup. All considered the Epson gets the advantage in black levels.
The reverse is true in terms of shadow detail. The X10 is excellent, and definitely reveals more very dark detail than the Epson. While I favor better blacks over better shadow detail, that's not the case for everyone.
Audible noise also favors the Epson. the X10 is a typically, fairly noisy DLP projector. The Epson may not be much quieter when comparing both at full lamp power, but the difference should be appreciated by some.
Overall picture quality. As is typical of InFocus projectors, the X10 is very film-like with very natural skin tones. The Epson by comparison is more "pop and wow" and a little less film-like as a result. Both are most enjoyable to watch, but the purist will favor the X10, despite the Epson's advantage in black level performance.
Brightness is a trade-off between these two projectors: Keep in mind we primarily focus on the maximum brightness in each mode, with a projector that has a manual iris like the X10. Close down that iris, and you should get a slight improvement in black level performance, but closing the X10 iris all the way down will work only for smaller screens, as you can expect to lose a full half of the measured lumens. With the irs wide open, the X10 cranked out an extremely impressive (bright) 810 lumens, in "best" mode. That's about 20% more than the Epson 6100. We measure "best" mode on the X10, with Brilliant Color turned off. Brilliant Color makes the image less film-like, and more dynamic, but even more so than the Epson. I wouldn't recommend Brilliant Color on, as the best way to go for movie watching.
When it comes to brightest mode, the Epson wins, as the X10 musters only 940 lumens in its brightest mode with Brilliant Color off. "Brightest" mode, though, is all about cuttting through ambient light, so we recommend Brilliant Color on. With it on, the X10 projector manages brighter than average performance, with just over 1300 lumens. That still is a signifcant step down from the Home Cinema 6100, but is still brighter than most of the competition.
Pricing: The X10, is supposedly only available through local dealers, and when purchasing through one of those, expect to pay several hundred dollars more than for the Epson in the US. On the other hand, we can find a few online prices for the X10, down below $2000, but when we do see those, it's not normally from dealers we recognize. Generally, the price point for the X10 should be about $2300, which puts it about half way between the Epson 6100 and the 6500UB.
Pricing, therefore, will be a key determining factor. I really liked the X10, but for the black level performance. Still, it is their twice as expensive IN83 that really rocks me.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Panasonic PT-AE3000
The decision here is all about black levels, price and features. Let's face it, Panasonic's PT-AE3000 is one of those "ultra high contrast" projectors, so it technically competes with the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.
As such, I'm going to keep this one very short. The Epson wins the battle of brightness, both in best and brightest modes. The Panasonic, however, easily bests the Epson in terms of black levels.
Both have excellent placement flexibility. Epson comes with their excellent warranty, while Panasonic officially has a basic one year warranty. That said, Panasonic currently, and usually, offers a second year warranty in the form of a rebate. Your dealer will know if that "rebate" is running.
While the 6100 is very good out of the box, the Panasonic, slightly better. Shadow detail, never a strength of Epson, while good, is not quite as good as the Panasonic. The end result is that the Panasonic has both better black levels and shadow detail.
The Panasonic also offers a very good implementation of creative frame interpolation. I've discussed the shortcomings of such things above, but overall, having them is a plus.
The Panasonic's zoom and focus is motorized, and this allows Panasonic to do what I call "pseudo anamorphic lens emulation". With this feature you can go with a 2.35:1 screen for viewing most movies (Cinemascope shape), without letterboxing at top and bottom. This feature does have limitations compared to using a real anamorphic lens, most notably that with a real lens, you use all the pixels, not the roughly 80% used with a standard lens. Therefore you get a brighter, and technically sharper image. The sharpness difference also comes from using all the pixels. Panasonic lets you save lens setups in its lens memory, so you can easily start with that 2.35:1 for movies and switch to 16:9 or 4:3 for other content, on your 2.35:1 screen. Note, the way Panasonic does it, the letterboxing is still there - it's just off your screen. If you have white walls, you will see that light on dark scenes.
Bottom line. The Epson is less, better warranty, and brighter. The Panasonic for the extra roughly $500 at this time, is a step up product, that really only suffers by comparision if you need maximum brightness. Of course if you can afford the Panny, then you are probably looking at the extra $200 or so for the Epson 6500UB.
Wouldn't it be nice if the choices were all simple and clear? But then, what would I do for a living?