Epson Home Cinema 8700UB - Competitors
How does the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?
- Art Feierman
Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Epson Home Cinema 8350
When I first saw the improved contrast spec of the Epson Home Cinema 8350 I thought its blacks might have improved enough to seriously cut into the 8700UB's sales, by coming close to the 8700UB in performance. It was not to be. While the difference between the 8700UB and the 8350 is a little less than last year's duo, it's still a dramatic difference on a lot of dark scenes. As an added bonus, you do get some anamorphic lens support, and more significantly, creative frame interpolation, and a few other goodies. The 8700UB reigns supreme over the 8350. If you are buying performance, yes, the 8700UB is worth the difference, even though the Home Cinema 8350 is a bit brighter.
Here are a couple of comparisons showing the black level performance differences. Please note, the lower cost Home Cinema 8350 is on the left side:
And the same frame, but intentionally over exposed:
While you can seed the black level differences a bit in the sky and buildings, this isn' the type of scene where you really want great blacks. It's the scenes where most of the scene is very dark, and few bright areas at all, such as these:
And finally, our classic, overexposed, night train scene from Casino Royale:
As you can see, the black levels of the Home Cinema 8700UB (right) are clearly much darker than on the Home Cinema 8350. Projectors like the BenQ W6000, Panasonic PT-AE4000, and other more expensive models will be closer in blacks to the Epson 8700UB than the 8350.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. HC6800, HC7000
Little has changed. The Mitsubishi HC7000 I best describe as an elegant projector for smaller screens. If 100 inches or less, you get excellent black levels, a super quiet projector, and power zoom and focus. Although the HC7000 is aging, and could use some creative frame interpolation, and other goodies, it's a clean projector with a great image for smaller screens, and has the advantage of being an exceptionally quiet projector - a real plus if your average or smaller screen is in a small room where the audible noise is more of an issue.
I'll give the HC7000 this, I get emails from folks owning just about every different home theater projector out there in these price ranges, and while I don't get a large amount about the HC7000, it seems that HC7000 owners are particularly fond of their projectors. Seems the HC7000 is one of those that tends to almost always "exceed expectations."
The Epson of course has the extra lumens, and more dynamic features, but is manual in terms of lens, though it does have more zoom range.
The Mitsubishi HC6800 lines up differently with the 8700UB projector. First of all, it's more similar in price, than the more expensive HC7000, and it's far more comparable in terms of brightness. On the other hand, the HC6800's black levels are more like the 8350 than the 8700UB. The HC6800 has its strengths, but black levels are not exceptional.
Like the HC7000 this Mitsubishi HC6800 is exceptionally sharp for a 3LCD projector, sharper - slightly than the Epson. It also happens to be brighter than (in "best" mode) all the ultra-high contrast projectors I've been mentioning, except for the BenQ W6000.
Who should buy the HC6800? Those not hung up on black levels. My wife typically has watched at least 10 hours a week on our old Epson Ensemble HD system. She's hardly critical (I have to constantly remind her to switch to Theater Black 1 mode, for movie watching), but that makes her a more typical TV and movie watcher than most of us. If I was able to subsitute the HC6800 for the old Epson 1080UB (which would still have a black level advantage), Lori wouln't notice the change in black level performance, but she almost certainly would notice the extra brightness, and maybe would stop watching so much stuff in one of the Epson's brighter, but less accurate modes.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Sanyo PLV-Z4000
This battle is between two projectors slightly upgraded projectors for the fall 2010 season. There was very little in improvement between the Z4000 and the older Z3000, less than the improvement in the 8700UB over the older 8500UB. That said, the balance between these latest Sanyos and Epsons hasn't changed much since last year's comparison.
So what does that mean? The Epson still handlily produces better blacks (though not drastically better). The Sanyo PLV-Z4000, afterall, I still consider to be an ultra high contrast projector, even if at the lower end of that range.
The Epson Home Cinema also has more lumens to offer, approaching 500 in best mode, compared to the Sanyo's 320 measured. In brightest modes, it's the Sanyo coming up a little short of 900 lumens compared to the Epson being very close to 1200 lumens. Now the Sanyo has some interesting modes, including Brilliant Color, which is still a very usable movie mode, and with decent brightness. I'll give the Sanyo that, but have to remind you, that Brilliant Color on the Z4000 only puts it in the same general brightness range as the Epson in THX.
Both projectors are manual zoom and focus, both have basic support for an anamorphic lens. Epson's warranty is two years, (and they will honor the lamp warranty for the duration of the projector's warranty)! Epson provides a rapid replacement program, should your projector have a covered problem, under warranty. Sanyo, on the other hand offers a more basic warranty, but for three years, not two. I should note that the more expensive Pro Cinema 9500, offers three years, and their replacement program.
Both projectors - Sanyo and Epson, are a little less expensive than last year's models. Epson, however, is launching the 8700UB with an in the box free spare lamp offer. If you consider that (never mind the longer lamp life to begin with), the two projectors are pretty close in price. That considered, the Epson is going to be the projector of choice for most.
Finally, though, this Sanyo calibrates a lot nicer than the Z3000 did last year, but then so does the Epson, with a great looking THX mode, right out of the box. The Sanyo is a fine projector for under $1800, but the Epson just delivers more performance for the bucks.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. BenQ W6000
It's been so long since a W6000 has been in here, but it still remains a favorite of mine. The W6000 being a DLP projector has that DLP look and feel. I normally describe that as being particularly rich looking in terms of the darker colors. Skin tones once calibrated are most impressive. Although the W6000 has lens shift, and a 1.5:1 zoom lens, it's still no match in placement flexibility compared to the Epson, but it is close enough, that for most, the W6000 (placement wise) will work just as well as the Epson.
The Epson offers more features overall, than the W6000, but the W6000 has a couple of major strengths going for it. Most noticeably, overall brightness. Even with Brilliant Color turned off, we measured the BenQ at 866 lumens. But wait - turn on Brilliant Color, and bingo - a best mode that measured 1039 lumens - double that of the Epson.
That makes the W6000 the better choice for those into movies, and large screens.
When it comes to maximum brightness, again, the W6000 has the advantage. The W6000's brightest mode measured 1750 lumens - about 50% more than the 8700UB. Unfortunately, though, that Dynamic mode is very heavy on green, and allows almost no ability to adjust it. As a result, the Dynamic mode is strictly for when you need every last lumen. Football is watchable, but barely. I would use a calibrated Standard mode, which can yield 1250 lumens a few more than the Epson, and in that mode color is pretty good.
So, the W6000 overall, is a better choice for a larger screen, and though it does a great job on blacks for the money (it too has a dynamic iris), it still isn't as good as the Epson.)
The W6000 and the Epson 8700UB are two good alternatives. What you need to do, is figure out which makes the most sense for your room, screen size and type, lighting, and viewing habits... Have fun!
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Sharp XV-Z15000
The Sharp XV-Z15000, (another older projector) is similar in price to the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB. (I'll be repeating quite a few things below, from a previous Epson / Sharp comparison):
The Sharp, interestingly, isn't quite as sharp, overall, as the Epson. The Sharp, when reviewed, appeared to have optics that aren't quite as good as most, in that if you focused on the center of the screen, the sides and corners would be a little softer than with most other projectors. Don't get me wrong, at the point you focus on, the Sharp, is very, well, sharp. It's just that overall, the image will be a little softer. (Be sure to focus about 1/3 out from the center of the screen, with the Sharp, which will give you a nice image that seems sharp all the way from center to edge, just not razor sharp.
The Sharp has truly excellent color and skin tones. It has that DLP look and feel. I had to give a slight advantage to the Sharp over the Epson 8500UB, as far as color handling. While I haven't seen the Sharp over here in almost a year and a half, I'd say that the Epson 8700UB is now as accurate, at skin tones, and color overall. I'll still give the Sharp that slight DLP advantage that seems to allow dark colors to be very rich, but without seeming over the top.
When the Sharp was reviewed, I was very impressed with black level performance. It uses a dynamic iris, and is definitely what I define as an "ultra-high" contrast projector. No, its black level performance can't match the 8700UB, nor the older 8500UB and the 6500UB before it, but is pretty comparable to, for example, the Sanyo PLV-Z4000, and probably just shy of the Panasonic PT-AE4000. In other words, the Sharp does produce very nice black levels, blacker than almost all projectors at or below its price, but that black level performance, while in the same class as the Epson, is closer to the "bottom of the class" while the Epson is at the top, so far, for under $4000 projectors (though the new $3000 JVC, and the soon to ship Epson R series Home Cinema 21000, both around $3000, should outperform the 8700UB in terms of black level performance.
Brightness is no contest. While the Sharp is very average over all, the Epson, is brighter. Post calibration, the Epson beats the Sharp in "best mode" with almost 500 lumens vs. 355 lumens. In "brightest" mode, the Epson again is just plain brighter 1309 vs. 1099. That makes the Sharp not quite as able to handle large screen sizes. The Sharp was best at about 100 inch diagonal or less, in "best" mode, and can be pushed to 110", but unless you have the right screen, and the room is a dark one (walls, ceilings, etc.) 110" diagonal may be too much to tackle. In "brightest" mode, the Sharp is fine, and will do a really nice job on sports and general TV viewing with some ambient light, on the larger sizes of screens that match the projector (again, about 100" or a little larger). The Epson will, for example, do just about as well when comparing bright modes, on a screen 10 percent larger. That means for sports, the Sharp will look great on a 100 inch diagonal screen.
When it comes to the dynamic iris, the Epson has two modes, the Sharp, one. The XV-Z15000's iris action is a bit more visible than some, including, typically, the Epson, but overall, it's a pretty good one.
The Sharp makes an excellent lower priced 1080p projector with excellent color and impressive black level performance, that will appeal greatly to those sold on the DLP look and feel. It is one of those "a pleasure to watch" projectors. The Epson has the muscle, the better warranty, a lot more features, placement flexibility, and so on, but the Sharp's picture quality in general is every bit the match for the Epson, even though the Epson is definitely a bit better in terms of blacker blacks.
If you are a DLP (in terms of color, "look and feel" guy), this choice is going to be a really tough one! If you are about gadgets, and power, the Epson is the way to go. Both put a really good image on the screen.
Home Cinema 8700UB vs. JVC DLA-RS15 and DLA-HD250
JVC's RS15 is going away, to be replaced, in a sense, by two projectors. The new RS40 is brighter, and well over twice the price of the 8700UB (and offers 3D), but the new HD250 is more of a direct replacement. In fact, the JVC DLA-RS250, at $2995 (or was it $2999), seems to be extremely similar to the just replaced RS15. While its contrast ratio is a little lower than the RS15, it too should have awesome blacks with no dynamic iris. Overall, it should be at least a match for the Epson 8700UB at blacks.
I'm still waiting for a DLA-HD250 to review - JVC says something like: "Sorry, the demand is so high, we can't afford to set aside review units." That said, as noted, it really does seem to be only a slightly reworked RS15, for 1/3 less in price.
The JVC HD250 should prove to be brighter in best mode, than the Epson, not as bright in brightest, and it comes in the same case as the older RS15. The new RS40, RS50, and RS60 come in a bigger form factor.
There's nothing quite like having excellent blacks without needing a dynamic iris.
The Epson will still have more features, including dynamic ones, and a better warranty, but in theory, the HD250 is a step up projector, that most should favor, if they don't need the extra lumens the Epson can offer in Dynamic mode.
All considered, some 8700UB people will now spring for the HD250, whereas last year, those same folk would not have had the budget to spend twice for the RS15, compared to the older 8500UB.
Keep in mind, though, that Epson has a direct competitor for the HD250, and that's the new Home Cinema 21000, which will sell for about the same price or just slightly higher.
In that sense, the JVC HD250 and the Home Cinema 21000 are both more expensive projectors that will likely cannibalize some of the 8700UB's market share, by being what we expect to be slightly better projectors for about an extra $1000.
JVC lamps are a sore point with me. Assuming the HD250 still has a 2000 hour rating in either full or eco mode, and a high lamp replacement cost, the HD250 will have a cost of operation far, far, higher than the Epson. (It will go through four $400+ lamps (including the installed one) before you need to buy a single $299 lamp for the Epson (4000 hours, and a free spare lamp offer).
Translation: Over several years, the JVC will still cost more than double the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB, so factor that into your budget.
As to the RS40, when it ships... Nice, and bright, (and 3D) so I'm really excited, but it's just not a competitor, although we will compare it (and the HD250) to the Epson 21000 when we review them.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Sony VPL-HW15
Sony's VPL-HW15 will shortly be replaced, but we don't have a whole lot of info on the new model. Ultimately the contest is very similar to last year's.
The Sony provides a bit more elegant image, though this year's Epson has closed the gap somewhat. The VPL-HW15 has controls that enthusiasts and purists really will like. It's LCoS (Sony calls theirs SXRD), so pixels are completely invisible at any normal distance, rather than just below the radar. And, the Sony is particularly film-like. It's also a nicely styled projector, with a little more class - more like the JVC projectors, and some other more expensive models.
Where the Epson shines though, first of all, is in "brightest" mode. No comparison. The most lumens we could measure out of any mode that looked good was only 664 for the Sony, compared to just over 1200 for the Epson! That's HUGE!
"Best" mode, however, the two are very similar, with a very small advantage to the Sony - 536 lumens compared to 503 (that's only 6%, not enough to fight over, especially since the Epson's lamp likely will last about twice as long, and therefore after a few hundred hours it will be at least as bright as the Sony).
Both projectors use dynamic irises, and have excellent black levels. The VW15 relies on a dynamic iris for blacks, as does the Epson. The older Epson
Placement flexibiliy favors the Epson. The Sony has a mid-range zoom, 1.6:1, compared to the 8700UB projector's 2.1:1. Where that difference may be critical is for those who wish to shelf mount. The overall range of the Sony is short, for example, for a 100" screen (a very good size for the Sony), the furthest back the projector could be placed would be 16 ft 4 inches. That may not be far enough in many rooms, for rear shelf mounting. The Epson, by comparsion can be placed as far back (same 100" screen) as 21 feet.
The Epson projector definitely has a slightly more dynamic look - that "pop and wow" factor. The Sony is more subtle. In that regard, the Sony, is more like the JVC RS10 in picture, but the Epson is more fun. I don't know, if I didn't own an RS20, and was buying just one projector (I have two theaters), I might like the Sony better, but, I do really like the extra horsepower, features, and black levels of the Epson. The Epson pulls away from the Sony on those really dark scenes I so like.
Pricewise, the Sony will be a few hundred more, and the Epson has the better warranty, and much longer lamp life, which should make the overall cost of ownership of the Sony a lot more than for the Epson.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. Panasonic PT-AE4000
Unlike Epson, Panasonic did not update their flagship home theater projector this fall. The PT-AE4000 was reviewed just a year ago. Last year, when we reviewed the Epson 8500UB, the PT-AE4000 still wasn't available, so we compared the 8500UB to the PT-AE3000.
The PT-AE4000 bests the PT-AE3000 with an improvement in black level performance. The older 3000 was an ultra-high contrast projector, but not a match for even the 2 generation older Epson 6500UB. The PT-AE4000 improved on the blacks, but so did Epson, going to their 8500UB. The 8700UB doesn't improve on the 8500UB's blacks so there is no real change in black level performance, when comparing the 8700UB to the PT-AE4000, as opposed to comparing the 6500UB to the PT-AE3000. Both are slightly improved.
Panasonic still has more features than any other projector. Sporting power zoom and focus, it offers lens memory - the ability to use a Cinemascope movie shaped screen 2.35:1 or 2.40:1, without an anamorphic lens, and still allow you to show 16:9 and 4:3 content without content overflowing the screen top to bottom. For this feature you would need the new, more expensive Epson Home Cinema 21000 projector. The Panasonic also has some neat gizmos, notably their signal generator. Gadget freaks will just love this PT-AE4000.
That said, I have always favored the Epson UB to the Panasonic AE. I like the additional lumens, the more dynamic "pop and wow" factor of the Epson, and the superior black level performance. That said, in the past, I've always considered - generally, the two projectors to be head to head competitors, both slugging it out for the same customer, and generally of about equal performance. While I'll personally take this Epson Home Cinema 8700UB just about every time, compared to the Panasonic, I do fully understand why many favor the Panasonic. I'm not sure which is the better seller - possibly the Panasonic since it's one model, whereas technically Epson has 5 models between $1300 and $3200, to dilute the sales of any one model. Overall I considered the 8500UB and the Panasonic to be about equal. Two years ago, the PT-AE3000 and the 6500UB split the Best In Class award for the $2K - $3.5K range. Last year, the Panasonic was $1999, and competed in the Entry level class. The Panasonic took the Best In Class award in that class, while the Epson took it in the $2000 - $3500 range. Only about $300 separated the projectors.
This year, once again, they will be in separate classes for the big home theater report in March, assuming we don't adjust the price ranges.
Two excellent projectors. The Epson wins on warranty, cost of operation, and brightness. The Panasonic though has a nice accurate image as well, blacks that are fairly comparable, if not quite as good, and, as noted, lots of gadgets, including, a particularly smooth creative frame interpolation.
A tough call, choose wisely.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB vs. LG CF181D
Here's a different comparison, compared to the others. With the exception (above) of the comparison with the less expensive Epson 8350, all the other projectors are ultra-high contrast projectors.
Not so the LG CF181D. It's black levels, mind you, aren't bad, but more in line with the Epson 8350, than the Home Cinema 8700UB.
Where does that leave the LG? Right where it wants to be. The LG isn't going to slug it out with the Epson for blacks, but it is more than happy to get into a slugfest with the Epson.
The LG is about lots of comfortable, effortless lumens, compared to this Epson, or for that matter, almost any of the other $2000 range competition.
The LCoS driven LG, musters up a dazzling calibrated 898 lumens in best mode, according to Mike. When you need all the horsepower, 1380 lumens are under the hood (remember, we test with the lens at mid-point, not at full wide angle which is brighter).
That blows away the Epson's just barely 500 lumens in best mode, and also beats the Epson's approximate 1200 lumens at brightest. That said, the Epson will have slightly better color than the LG. The LG can match the Epson in bright mode color, but stepping down one mode (from Vivid), to Sports, and still retain over 1100 lumens.
Overall, though the LG gets a major win in brightness. Also, the LG just seems to "be comfortable" It just seems brighter - less like it's straining to put an bright and colorful image on the screen, with modest ambient light, whereas the Epson seems to run out of energy, when the ambient light is up enough that the LG is still doing fine.
The LG is one killer family room projector for the money. In a dedicated home theater, the Epson's blacks will appeal to those of us into max picture performance, but the LG will be loved by those that just want a nice bright image, and don't quibble about black level differences.
Give the LG a close look. If you are a movie enthusiast, though, with good lighting control, I figure you'll pick the Epson, but if you want that bonus room, or family room rocking, the LG is at least as good a choice. Remember, just because there are a lot of black level performance fanatics out there (like me), doesn't mean that you are. Consider, most people never change modes on their LCDTVs (yes, there are movie/cinema modes, mid-modes and bright modes, just like on projectors. If you are one who never fiddles with your TV / LCDTV / Plasma, then the LG just might be the right one for you. Remember - what are you watching - how much light - how big a screen... is all part of the equation.