Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector Review
Epson's Home Cinema 8700UB has replaced the Home Cinema 8500UB. Each year there are a few basically all new projectors, but most are simply minor improvements, sometimes minor additional features. The Home Cinema 8700UB is an improved and slightly refined version of the older projector, which was our top rated in the price range. The 8700UB is also less expensive than its predecessor. One improvement relates to the THX mode. Read on!
October 2010 - Art Feierman
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector Overview
Epson had a challenge in bringing out its fourth generation UB projector ("Ultra-Black"). What improvements could be made to a stable, top performing projector in its class, that would make the Home Cinema 8700UB able to maintain, or even gain ground over the competition? As it turns out, the Home Cinema 8700UB in terms of performance, isn't greatly improved, but it is a better projector. The best example of a subtle, yet effective change, might be the Epson's THX mode. Last year, with the older 8500UB, the THX mode locked users out of a lot of controls. We would have to start with a mode like Theater Black 1, and calibrate from there, whereas THX mode definitely looked a bit better to begin with.
This time, you can start calibrating the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB projector from the THX mode, and tweak or calibrate, and that's a plus. The THX mode, I should note, is excellent in terms of color. Most impressive. Speaking of impressive, the Home Cinema 8500UB - last year's model, received our Best In Class award, for home theater projectors between $2000 and $3500. That's our highest award for a Home Theater projector (we give out one in each of three price classes.) This year, the Home Cinema 8700UB is improved, and less expensive.
In the next pages, we'll try to tell you how much difference there really is, how the Epson 8700UB performs, and whether the competition should be nervous.
Below, Home Cinema 8700UB
The $2199 Home Cinema 8700UB has some siblings that should be mentioned. There is the more expensive Pro Cinema 9700UB ($3099). It comes finished in black, has a third year warranty, and more sophisticated anamorphic lens support. Other than those points, the two are pretty much identical. Note that the Pro's are sold by authorized local installing dealers, while the Home Cinema series is sold by authorized online dealers and some "big box" houses. On the lower end of the Epson 1080p lineup, for only $1299, comes the Home Cinema 8350. It is a slightly brighter projector but not a match for this Epson projector for movie watching. That's due to the Epson 8700UB's excellent black level performance, which will be discussed later in depth.
From Quantum of Solace:
The Epson UB projectors have always had excellent black level performance. The Home Cinema 8700UB claims 200,000:1 contrast ratio. That's the same spec as last year's 8500UB. I don't worry about contrast specs. Ever since the dynamic iris, they have been all over the map, though generally, higher is better. Still some 50,000:1's do better overall blacks than some 200,000:1's. Let's leave it at for now.
The Home Cinema 8700UB is typically equipped for a home theater projector, in terms of inputs, which will be covered on the Physical Tour page.
The Home Cinema 8700UB is shipping this month (October). Time to explore the finer points.
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Projector Highlights
- Essentially an improved Home Cinema 8500UB, at a lower price
- Improved "out of the box" picture quality
- Brighter than average "brightest" mode
- Excellent black level performance for its price
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Very low cost of operation
- Offers CFI - creative frame interpolation - for smoothing fast motion
- Excellent value proposition
- Street price approximately $2199
- Projector launched with a free spare lamp promotion, (that likely means they will stay with that promo)
Specs for Epson Home Cinema 8700UB
MSRP: $2199, MAP (est. street price) $2199
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: Manufacturer claim: 1600 lumens
Measured Brightness: "best mode": lumens, "brightest" 1100 lumens (pre-production unit)
Zoom Lens ratio: 2.1:1 Manual zoom and focus
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: up to 4000 hours at full power, up to 4000 hours in eco mode
Weight: 16.5 lbs. (7.4 Kg)
Warranty: 2 Year Parts and Labor, with 2 year replacement program
View full specifications: Epson Home Cinema 8700UB
Epson Home Cinema 8700UB Special Features
Home Cinema 8700UB Lamp Life
Epson states that the lamp is rated up to 4000 hours in either full power or economy mode. That's better than most. Industry standard is now a little better than the old 2000 hours at full power, and 3000 at low power. That said, there are still projectors claiming as little as up to 2000 hours in either mode. Epson keeps their lamps below typical price at about $299 last I looked. Bottom line, is that keeping yourself in lamps isn't the expensive burden it was just 3-4 years ago, when most lamps were $400 - $500 and 2000 hours was about as good as it got, at full power. The way our electric bills keep going up, the Epson lamp can only help.
Most lamps are rated 2000 hours at full power, and 3000 in low, or "eco-mode" power. That's been getting longer over the last couple of years, but 2000 hours is still the most common at full power. The Epson's claimed life is almost double that of most of its competitors.
This seems to be a dynamic feature, that has three settings for different amount of sharpening (resolution enhancement?) If one looks you can see a slight sharpening of the image, and a very slight hardening to surfaces. There's always a trade-off. I find the #1 setting, the lowest setting does provide me with a feel of a touch more sharpness, whereas any downside is off my radar, unless looking for it. I've been leaving it on for a lot of movie watching. I like it. I haven't really played with the higher settings, they might be fun for all digital content, like sports and Discovery HD type content..
2.1:1 Zoom Lens
Same old Fujinon 2.1:1 zoom lens that Epson's been using for 3 generations. Same old repeat for me. This lens has more range than any competitor, although there are a number of projectors (Panasonic, JVC mostly) with 2:1 zooms, which come very close. Bottom line is you get maximum front to back flexibility, short of having interchangeable lenses. In addition the Epson has extensive lens shift for height placement flexibility.
As with all lenses with this much zoom range, there's a big difference in brightness between wide angle and telephoto. (We do our measurements with the lens at the mid-point.) Wide angle (placing the projector the closest possible to fill the screen), will be a good 60-65% brighter than at full telephoto. Where you are mounting the projector will affect the overall brightness. Consider that in your calculations.
Image below - from Star Trek movie: