Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector - Performance
10/04/2009 - Art Feierman
In this section we consider the brightness, sharpness, and image noise of the Epson Home Cinema 8100 home theater projector. Also considered are the physical attributes of light leakage and audible noise.
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Brightness
All considered, this Epson should prove to be just about average in brightness in its best movie mode (Theater Black 1). When you need maximum lumens, though, the Epson appears to be the brightest of the "serious" under $2000 projectors. This combination should make the Home Cinema 8100 a really good choice for those of us who plan to view a mix of movies, sports and general TV viewing, on average sized screens from 90 to 110 inch diagonal, with the extra lumens in its "Dynamic" mode, allowing the Epson to provide a very watchable picture with sufficient ambient light to get sports fans out of the "cave" and into an environment more suitable for watching sports and TV with friends.
This review is based on an early pre-production projector. Since there is really nothing about the Home Cinema 8100 compared to the 6100 it replaces, that would suggest that it not be the same in terms of brightness (same claim from Epson, same panels, same lamp...), I assume that a full production 8100 will match the brightness of the older unit. Our test unit, however comes in 10%+ less bright than the 6100 in last year's review. Until I get in a production version of the Home Cinema 8100, for final calibration settings and measurements, I'll assume that this unit is not as bright, by virtue of being pre-production.
Here are our measurements for the different preset modes:
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE:
Dynamic= 1288 @ 7314
Living Room= 1136 @ 8345
Natural= 480 @ 6233
Theater= 437 @ 7377
Theater Black 1= 344 @ 6292 (low lamp) 2 (461 w/Normal Lamp)
Theater Black 2= 325 @ 5526 (low lamp)
x.v.Color= 352 @ 6303
Lumen Output (Low Lamp, Dynamic): 976 @ 7533
Note, we published measurements for Theater Black 1, and 2 for both low and full lamp power. While I expect most folks to run Theater Black 1 (best mode) at full power, Epson has those modes defaulting to eco (low) power, so we are showing lumen measurements for both.
Overall, eco-mode drops power output by just over 25%, compared to high lamp power. Note, unlike most other projectors, according to Epson, there is no significant increase in lamp life, by using low power.
Pre-calibration we measured these color temperatures (target is 6500K) over the grayscale range.
30 IRE – 6513K
50 IRE – 6652K
80 IRE – 6649K
100 IRE – 6556K
The Calibration page will provide the settings we used. That includes basic settings as well as gain and offset. We will revise, with numbers from a production projector when available, if there is a noteworthy difference.
Keeping in mind that this is a pre-production projector, the color temp range for Theater Black 1, was pretty "all over the place", not as good as we normally expect, nor as good as on any recent full production Epsons. I expect, once again, that the full production unit will measure much tighter, with its different color tables.
Color Temp over IRE Range (Pre calibration):
Theater Black 1:
30 IRE – 7013K (dark gray)
50 IRE – 7010K (medium gray)
80 IRE – 6633K (light gray)
100 IRE – 6292K (white)
The Home Cinema 8100 has the same Fujinon lens used on past Home and Pro Cinema series projectors, with its 2.1:1 zoom range - the greatest (by a little) of any projectors out there. Because of the wide range of the zoom, you can expect different lumen measurements depending on whether the lens is in wide angle (projector closest to the screen), mid-point, or telephoto (projector the furthest from the same screen size).
Wide Angle (zoom out): 560 lumens
Mid-zoom: 480 lumens
Telephoto (zoom in): 350 lumens
In other words, relative to the mid-point where we do all our normal measurements, if you are placing the projector closer, at the wide angle point, brightness will increase by 17%. If you place the projector at maximum distance, brightness will decrease by 27%.
Since wide-angle on the Epson lens is pretty much about the same placmement distance as mid-point on most DLP projectors, please consider that, if you are ceiling mounting fairly close (in about the same place you would mount a typical DLP projector with its 1.2:1 zoom), then this Epson projector will be brighter still, compared to the DLP, than the basic lumen measurements would suggest.
More information and measurements can be found on the Home Cinema 8100 Calibration page.
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Sharpness
The overall sharpness of the Epson Home and Pro Cinema projectors is generally on the sharper side of average. Most single chip DLP projectors will look a tad sharper (though not all). This is primarily due to the Epson being a 3 chip, or 3 panel projector, which means the panels need to be aligned, and are never perfect. That's not a problem for single chip DLPs although it is a comparable problem for the expensive 3 chip DLP's which have the same issues as the Epson would, relating to convergence.
The pre-production projector sent me has more misconvergence than I would expect on a production unit, with almost a full pixel shift. Even so, the pixel shift was not visible at normal seating distances.
No doubt, however, it is taking a slight toll on perceived sharpness. Nonetheless, the Home Cinema 8100 is still typical in sharpness. A little extra sharpness would be nice, especially on all digital content like HDTV sports and high quality HDTV programming like Discovery-HD. For movie viewing, however, film adds its own softness to the content, so the slight differences between sharpness of two projectors is mostly overlooked on movies.
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right: Home Cinema 8100, Optoma HD20, BenQ W6000, and Sharp XV-Z15000. I haven't seen any projector under $3000 projector do better than the BenQ when it comes to trying to read the type on the on screen menus in this scene, but the Epson Home Cinema 8100 still looks really good, and there really isn't any small type readable on the BenQ, that can't be read on the Epson Home Cinema 8100.
Epson Home Cinema 8100: Bottom Line Sharpness
The Home Cinema 8100 offers typical sharpness for a 1080p projector. While you will find sharper projectors out there, most are more expensive.
Although single chip DLP technology has an inherent advantage, many of the lower cost DLP projectors, due to other reasons, aren't as sharp as they could be, making for a pretty level playing field. For example, consider these three DLP projectors: The Mitsubishi HC3800 (a direct competitor) is slightly, but visibly sharper, but that's not true for the low cost Optoma HD20. The more expensive Sharp XV-Z15000 is about the same overall sharpness. The Sharp, can focus a touch sharper, at the focus point, but doesn't hold the sharpness as well as you move away from that point to the sides and corners. By that point, the Epson is slightly sharper.
Not to worry. Some sports fans may be willing to pay more for a little extra sharpness, but they will be hard pressed to find any similarly priced projector that's sharper, and can claim to be even close to being as bright as the Epson when comparing bright modes. One thing I am pretty certain of - extra brightness is a big "feature" for sports fans.
The whole Home Cinema and Pro Cinema series Epson projectors are very clean when it comes to light leakage. There is neither any noticeable light leaking out of the vents, nor is there any detectable light around the image, that is visible during any viewing, including very dark scenes. Bottom line: No issue at all.
Epson seems to contract out for its image processing (as do most projector manufacturers). I believe the Home Cinema 8100 is using Silicon Optix processing (I know they use Silicon Optix Reon-VXfor the 8500UB.) Bottom line, the processing in the 8100 seems certainly clean enough. I noticed no issues worthy of reporting. (I should mention, that I do use the Silicon Optix test disc for evaluating.)
The Home Cinema 8100 is moderately quiet. It claims 22 db in low power, and, relative to that, is probably about 27 db at full power. That's a good bit quieter than many home theater projectors (a lot of the DLP projectors are in the 30 - 33 db range at full power). In other words, the Epson is typically quieter at full power, than many DLP's running at low power.
Certainly there's no comparison between the Epson and its closest competitor, the Mitsubishi HC3800, which is definitely noisier. The lower cost Optoma HD20 is noisier still.
As is usual, there is a faint rumbling sound to the Epson dynamic iris. I barely ever spot it, and I recommend to users, if they find it noticeable, that they may be able to damp that by putting a small amount of insulator between projector feet and shelf, or projector bottom and ceiling mount, in case the shelf or mount are amplifying the sound. Most people however, won't need to bother, but for those particularly noise adverse, it's a suggestion. At least one end user reported back that this adivce helped them out.
Most 3LCD projectors in competition are actually slightly quieter, than the Epson (all's fair, the Epson's are typically brighter), but, the Epson audible noise should be fine for the vast majority. Also, some of the 3LCD projectors that are quieter, are also significantly less bright, allowing the Epson to run in low power and still be just as bright or brighter. In low power mode, the Epson should be as quiet as most other projectors running at full power (Mitsubishi HC6800 and HC7000 being obvious exceptions, and both are a lot more money).