Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector Review
The Home Cinema 8100 is Epson's lowest cost, "entry level" 1080p home theater projector.
Update 6-30-11: We recently reviewed the Epson Home Cinema 8350, the replacement of the Home Cinema 8100. Click here to read the projector review of this new Epson projector.
October 2009 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector Overview
The first thing to point out about Epson's new Home Cinema 8100 which is due to start shipping in the US, in late October, is that it is what we call around here, an "evolutionary" model. The Home Cinema 8100 is, in most ways, essentially identical to the Home Cinema 6100 it is replacing. Certainly it is physically, virtually identical (are the side panels a slightly different color) to the older model.
While there are no major breakthroughs - new features, or significant new levels of performance, the Home Cinema 8100 has a couple of distinct advantages over the 6100.
First, of note, Epson announced a doubling of contrast from 18,000:1, to 36,000:1. This was not accomplished with new LCD panels, (Epson continues to use organic panels in the 8100 and 9100) but with an improved double layer iris. While this does over all sightly improve black level performance, the operative term is "slightly". Still, the older model had some of the best black level performance on the market under $2000 this past year, so any improvement to an already very good performer in its price class, is a plus.
The other major advantage is a new lower price. The Home Cinema 8100 starts its life at $1599 MAP pricing, that's $400 less than the 6100 when it launched - a 20% drop.
Epson sells its Home Cinema series, including the 8100 and 8500UB through a few select, authorized online dealers, some big box houses, and local dealers. Epson also sells the Pro Cinema 9100 and 9500UB, but strictly through authorized local installing dealers. The major differences between the 8100 and the "UB" (ultra-black), is the much better black levels of the UB, plus creative frame interpolation and a few other goodies. The two series (Home and Pro) are similar, with these basic differences:
The Home Cinema 8100 and 8500UB come with 2 year warranties, lack anamorphic lens support, sell for less, and come finished in white. The Pro Cinema 9100 and 9500UB, come finished in black, support an anamorphic lens, have a 3 year warranty and are ISF certified (with two additional, and lockable, savable memories). The Pro series usually sells for hundreds more, but come bundled with ceiling mount and spare lamp.
But, this is about the Home Cinema 8100, so let's get started.
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector Highlights
- Good skin tones, over all very good color
- Replaces Home Cinema 6100 (last year's Best In Class award winner), with slight performance improvements at a reduced price
- Black levels are better than average for an entry level class projector, but not the best
- Superb placement flexibility (the best out there), although no support for an anamorphic lens
- Average brightness in "best" movie mode, enough to fill 110" diagonal screens in "best" mode, with good brightness
- Brightest of the entry level projectors in brightest mode (for dealing with ambient light)
- Lowest cost of ownership - lower cost lamp ($299) with exceptional 4000 hour life (in any mode)
- Two HDMI 1.3 inputs
- Outputs 24fps to 48
- Excellent warranty including 2 years of replacement program
- Very good price performance
Specs for Epson Home Cinema 8100
MSRP: MAP $1599
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 1800 lumens
Measured Brightness: "Best mode": 461 lumens, "Brightest" 1288 lumens*
Zoom Lens ratio: 2.1:1 Manual zoom and focus
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 4000 hours at full power, 4000 hours in eco mode
Weight: 16.5 lbs. (7.4 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor, with 2 year replacement program
* pre-production projector tested. Past experience would indicate that full production projectors typically will generate 5-15% more lumens
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Special Features
Home Cinema 8100 Lamp Life
The Epson Home Cinema 8100 is rated at 4000 hour lamp life, in both low power (eco) mode, and at full power. This is noticeably longer than the lamp life of most projectors (2000 hours at full power, 3000 at low). This can significantly reduce the long term cost of ownership of the Home Cinema 8100 compared to that of projectors that start out costing several hundred dollars less. (Consider - at full power, at 4000 hours you will be buying your first replacement lamp, whereas with most projectors you'll be buying your second by that many hours, at a cost typically of $275 to $375 depending on brand.
It's almost impossible to beat the placement flexiblity. This Epson's Fujinon 2.1:1 zoom lens has more range than any other projector under $5000 (except other Epson's with the same optics). In addition, the 8100 has more vertical and horizontal lens shift than most other projectors. Together, the placement fexiblity is such that it will work in almost every room that any other under $5000 projector can work in, and a lot, that others can't.
OK, this isn't a feature, but rather an update. The original Epson 6100 had a bit of a heating problem. Many projectors would go slightly out of focus over the first 20-25 minutes as the projector warmed up, and came to full temperature. This was rectified with design improvements a couple months after initial shipments. Epson not only solved the problem but upgraded or replaced the original units for any who noticed, paying all shipping charges. (Now that's good support.)
The point is, the Home Cinema 8100 I'm working here exhibits no defocusing either. I would therefore presume that this particular, old issue is behind Epson, and not a concern with the Home Cinema 8100.
Improved Dual Layer Dynamic Iris
This is the primary area of change this year, with a new dynamic iris doubling the contrast from 18,000:1 to 36,000:1. While a doubling of contrast is a small improvement, any improvement in the hunt for better black levels is always appreciated.
Lots of Memories
Yes, watching your new Home Cinema 8100 should bring your family lots of memories, but that's not what I'm talking about. The Epson has 10 separate User Memories you can save your favorite settings into. I really like that - most projectors have one to three memories.
The great thing about 10 is that you can really get everything dialed in. For example, on my older Epson 1080UB (2nd theater), I've got three different Theater Black 1 variations saved in memory, along with 2 Dynamic's and 3 Livingroom settings.
Here's why: One of the TheaterBlack1's is what I would call, my very "best" mode. But I have another, slightly tweaked to allow for just a little ambient light. A third one is more for HDTV use when I want the best color. That one has the dynamic iris turned off, allows for a touch of ambient light, a slightly lower gamma, and looks absolutely killer on great hi-def content from channels like Discovery-HD, Sci-HD, PlanetGreen-HD, etc. The three Livingroom settings - one with iris on, two off (on for movies when I need brightness over best color). You get the idea.
Bottom line - It's nice of Epson to give us lots of memories!
Image below - from the trailer for this past summer's new Star Trek movie: