Epson Home Cinema 8100 - Review Summary
A summary of the Epson Home Cinema 8100 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
10/04/2009 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector - The Bottom Line
To create the Home Cinema 8100 projector, Epson simply made minor improvements to the 6100 it replaces. The 8100 is not some great new projector, but really, the latest version of an already very good one. The Home Cinema 8100 has very good skin tones, very good black levels for a projector its price, and overall is a contender for best entry level projector so far this fall.
Better still, the starting price of the Home Cinema 8100 is $400 lower than the 6100 was a year ago. True, the street price of the 6100 has been falling, so the 8100 isn't much less today, but then, a newer, slightly better model for less is never a bad thing.
The Home Cinema 8100 is probably at its best as a projector for people wanting to watch both movies and other content, such as sports and HDTV.
With the Home Cinema 8100's brighter than average maximum lumens, the projector can deal with more than the absolute minimum of ambient light. Have a group over for football. You'll be able to enjoy the company in a reasonably lit room, not a cave like environment, and still have a bright, well saturated image. While a couple of other similarly priced projectors come somewhat close in maximim brightness, most quite noticeably less bright. Although the Home Cinema 8100 measured only high 1200s, we expect production units to measure a couple hundred lumens brighter, as that would be consistant with the older Home Cinema 6100 and 6500UB. There is no reason for the 8100 to be any less bright.
While I do think that the Home Cinema 8100 is a rather excellent projector value, I must confess to being just a little disappointed. I had hoped for a little more in black level performance. Yes, the 8100 can produce a blacker black, on the darkest scenes than the older 6100, but on the usual fairly dark scene, best I can tell, it may not be delivering a blacker black, or one only slightly better than the 6100.
My take is that Epson could further improve the iris action to lower the blacks in those scenes where there are bright areas, but not too bright. This is something Epson may find it's able to do as a firmware change, but we are talking a very slight difference. Certainly there is no flaw in their design, improving the blacks in that manner would also mean slighty more image compression, a trade-off.
Perhaps it's just I like seeing major advances, and Epson saved what significant improvements it has up its sleeve for the Home Cinema 8500UB, which when it ships, will sport new improved creative frame interpolation, and several other tricks. Well, perhaps that's why the new 8500UB is not less expensive than the old 6500UB, while the 8100 is less than the old 6100. More goodies, less price drop.
The Home Cinema 8100 is definitely one of the best sub-$2000 projectors we're going to see this year. Its predecessor, we rated higher last year, than a few other projectors including Sanyo's PLV-Z700 which are not being replaced this year.
The Very Bottom Line on the Home Cinema 8100 projector:
One of a couple of great choices out there. For those needing a bright projector for sometimes dealing with ambient light, and for working with a mix of source material, it's a first class choice. The Home Cinema 8100 however, is limited a bit in brightness in its "best" mode, so for those who don't want to compromise picture, the Epson is limited a bit in screen size. For movie viewing in "best" mode, I would not normally recommend going larger than a 110 inch diagonal screen.
If you are highly critical of picture quality, you'll probably find the Home Cinema 8100 to be of very good quality, but may find something better. That's why I distinguish between "purists" and "enthusiasts". The movie purist, will probably look elsewhere, but the typical enthusiast will have to put the 8100 on their very shortest list.
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: Pros
- Likely to have good "out of the box" picture quality with finished units
- Really good color accuracy post calibration in "best" mode, despite being an pre-production! Well saturated colors, dynamic look and feel
- Very good black levels for a projector in its price range
- Bright: Expect over 1400 lumens in "brightest" mode
- Very good skin tones
- Average brightness in "best" mode
- Realy good for movie watching, and downright great for sports and HDTV
- Projector lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector (door is on the top, though well hidden)
- Very low cost of operation thanks to long life lamp 4000/4000 hours (low/high lamp mode), and longer warranty than most
- Excellent backlit remote with very good range
- Interpolates 24 fps content to 48 fps
- Great placement flexibility - almost unmatched
- Excellent warranty and support
- 12 volt screen trigger
- Impressive price performance
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: Cons
- Black levels, while very respectable, are not a match for many much more expensive projectors some of which are far better in this regard (the "ultra-high contrast) projectors
- Average in audible noise, but that could be a "con" for some, who are very noise adverse
- It is more expensive than several other "entry level" projectors
- Although 24 fps is converted to 48 fps, other projectors offer up to 120 fps
Epson Home Cinema 8100 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- About average brightness in "best" mode
- Styling - it's white and a box, with minor attempts at styling
- Audible noise
- Documentation (unknown, Epson's is typically good, but not stellar)
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