Epson Home Cinema 8500UB Projector - Performance
10/22/2009 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB Brightness
The Home Cinema 8500UB is about average brightness in its best movie watching mode. It is, however, probably produces the brightest image with good color, of any sub-$5000 projector. It's not the absolute brightest, as, for example the BenQ W6000 can muster up a few more lumens, but to get respectable color out of the W6000, it ends up definitely not as brlght as the Epson, with comparable color performance.
We do our measurements at the mid-point of the zoom lens'es range. The projector will measure brighter with the lens in wide angle (projector closest to the screen), and dimmer when at full telephoto. Most people shelf mounting have their lenses set somewhere between mid-point and full telephoto.
First, here is a list of each mode (at factory default), showing lumen measurement and the color temperature of white (100 IRE). The mode names listed below are first for the Pro Cinema 9500UB then the 8500UB after the slash mark. Here are the equivalent names on the Home Cinema 8500UB. The bold modes below are the ones we worked with and calibrated:
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE, Lamp mode on Normal lens at mid-zoom:
Vivid / Dynamic = 1316 @ 6365
Cinema Day / LivingRoom = 1175 @ 6833K
THX / THX = 503 @ 6505K
Cinema Night / Theater Black = 470 @ 8111K
HD / Theater Black 1 = 478 @ 6779K
Silverscreen / Theater Black 2 = 424 @ 5391K
x.v.Color / x.v.Color = 484 @ 6728K
Of note: Silverscreen / Theater Black 2 mode is optimized for black and white movies. All modes by Vivid / Dynamic and Cinema Day / Livingroom utilize an additional color filter to optimize color. This is why the Epson's brightness jumps so much more than other projectors, when going from a "best" to "brightest" mode. With most projectors, brightest mode is 15% to 75% more lumens than "best", with the Epson it's almost 3 times as bright!
To calculate the brightness of any mode at wide angle, increase the lumen measurements above by 30.5%. To compute brightness at maximum telephoto, decrease mid-point brightness by 25%. For example, Vivd measured 1316 lumens at mid-zoom, 1718 in wide-angle, and 987 in full telephoto.
In our "best" mode (we calibrated the provided THX mode, and saved it to User 1), the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB / Pro Cinema 9500UB measured 498 only 5 lumens less than uncalibrated, and within our measuring accuracy.
Pre-calibration we measured these color temperatures (target is 6500K) over the grayscale range. Overall a little warm, but very good for an out of the box mode:
30 IRE – 6304K
50 IRE – 6354K
80 IRE – 6403K
100 IRE – 6505K
Post calibration the numbers were even better, with the projector staying within 100K across the range from 20 IRE to 100 IRE. And, overall, almost perfectly averaged at 6500K
When it comes to bright modes, we measured (after a "quick-calibration") 1168 lumens in Livingroom mode (8500UB) / Cinema Day mode (9500UB), compared to 1309 in Dynamic / Vivid. The lower powered mode did have a bit better color and a more saturated look, but even the brightest mode looked pretty good.
Those numbers were measured by Mike after he did the "quick-cal". In addition though, since he calibrated it, I tweaked the Dynamic / Vivid mode by eye, adding some contrast (at the cost of crushing a little highlight detail), and minor increase to saturation, and a bit of green
My attempt did not raise the lumens by any significant amount - at most 10 lumens), but did allow for an overall brighter looking image for my sports viewing, by raising up the brightness of of the grayscale in lower ranges. In other words, I was able to end up with the same lumens, but an image easier to watch when a lot of ambient light is present, with just a bit of crushing of the near white objects.
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB Sharpness
I expected the Home Cinema 8500UB to be the same level of sharpness as the older 6500UB. For the most part I was correct. On the first page, I discussed Epson's new feature - Super-resolution. There's no doubt it is an interesting sharpening filter. It seems to work better than the usual edge sharpening, although it's definitely doing some of that. Basically, ir uses color separation and edge sharpening, then to test its ability to do that without distortion, it reinserts the softness back in, and compares to the original. If it isn't successful, it recognizes that the sharpening isn't accurate, and it adjusts.
Overall, I found that while it does add a little noise to the image, it does improve the sharpness. I really like it for watching those great HD channels like Discovery, Blu-ray discs like Universe and Planet Earth, and anything else that's well produced. On movies, I also consider it acceptable, but I'll generally be a little more reluctant to use it. After all, film based content is softer than digital content, and that minimizes the difference in perceived sharpness between projectors.
So far, I've used it quite a bit. It's one of those nice extra goodies. It's there when you want it, and has to be considered a plus, especially on digital content. When viewing the Epson with Super-Resolution on, side by side with the BenQ, which I consider especaillys sharp, it seemed to cut the difference in sharpness to less than half.
Top left: Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, Top Center, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Top right: Sony HW15
2nd row left: Panasonic PT-AE3000, middle: Optoma HD8200, right: Vivitek H9080FD (pricey LED source DLP projector)
Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right: Home Cinema 8500UB, Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, Sony VPL-HW15, and Sharp XV-Z15000. I haven't seen any projector do better than the BenQ when it comes to trying to read the type on the on screen menus in this scene. There may be other comparable, but I haven't seen better. (Some much higher end projectors, which have optics that cost more than this projector, may well beat this BenQ.)
Epson Home Cinema 8500UB: Bottom Line Sharpness
Without the Super-Resolution feature, the Epson is pretty typical in sharpness among the 3LCD and LCoS projectors, but not as sharp as most single chip DLP projectors. With the Super-Resolution feature, the Epson steps up a bit, and produces a crisper image, that's particularly appreciated on digital content.
Light leakage has never been a problem with the Epson Home and Pro series 1080p projectors. The Home Cinema 8500UB leaks a minor amount of light out the front vent. It's off angle and insignificant. No worries!
Epson uses Silicon Optix Reon-VX processing which is highly regarded. The Epson projector did really well on our assorted image noise tests, but then, we use the Silicon Optix HQV test disc, so I would hope so. Seriously, the Epson is pretty clean. Of course the more special features you kick in, the more noise they are going to generate.
The Epson projector is about in the middle of home theater projectors in terms of noise. It is generally quieter at full power than just about any DLP projector, and usually a fair bit quieter. It's on the high side of average in noise, among the other LCD projectors, and the LCoS ones as well.
Epson claims 22db in low power, and that's believable. Figure about 27 db at full power. To put that in perspective, I believe the quietest projector around is 18 db at full power, and the loudest DLP's run around 32 - 34 db.
Epson's dynamic iris makes a low rumbling noise that isn't very loud or noticeable in my opinion, but I do know that it bothers some folks. I rarely, if ever notice it when the Epson is in the main theater - about 4 feet behind my seat. In some cases, I believe mounts or a rear shelf can resonate a bit with the low frequencies. I've noticed that by putting some soft drink coasters between the projector and the table it sits on, helps reduce the rumbling. Again, however, it is low frequency and to me definitely a lot less noticeable than the fan noise.