Epson Cinema 550 Home Theater Projector:
Summary, Pros, Cons
The Epson Cinema 550 home theater projector, picks up a Hot Product Award for the things it does best, and for what it should do extremely well in the future. First, it is brighter than the competition giving it a real edge on viewing in less than fully darkened rooms, and is great for sports enthusiasts (or Discovery HD for that matter), also regular Hi-Def programming. It's performance on standard TV signals is typical, not the best but far from the worst. You know what they say, though - garbage in, garbage out. The difference between low res TV and VCR compared to Hi-Def (HDTV) and DVD is huge.
While the color handling is good, the out of the box settings needs some tweaking, get yourself a calibration disk, (cheap, easy to use, you can handle it), but even if you don't, the Epson does a pretty good job. Mostly you need to reduce the red slightly.
Sharpness on DVD's could be a touch better, but as pointed out in the Image Quality section, the slight difference in sharpness between projectors on DVDs will go away with the forthcoming new generation of DVDs and DVD players, which have the same native resolution as the Epson projector. On the other hand, the performance of the Epson Cinema 550 projector on Hi-Def resolutions is exceptional.
Perhaps the best way to express it: The overall viewing experience using the Epson Cinema 550 was excellent.
- Excellent "Living Room" mode for dealing with rooms with ambient light, yet produces very good color, and contrast balance
- Good color in Theater Dark modes, but requires minor adjustment for best color accuracy
- Brightest projector in its class
- The greatest range in lens shift of any projector we have tested, for maximum flexibility in mounting, or allowing the projector to be placed well below the bottom of the screen.
- Very quiet in Theater Dark modes
- 3000 hour typical lamp life in Theater Dark modes
- Excellent warranty with overnight replacement program
- Many user savable settings
- Excellent remote control
- Many preset modes for handling everything from darkest modes for best black levels, to bright modes for dealing with ambient light.
- Noisier than several other competing projectors in it's non Theater Dark modes
- Image slightly soft on DVDs (480 resolution)
- Black levels are good, but others exceed the Epson's performance
- Price Performance - a bit more than the primary competition, but worth it.
- Number and types of inputs
Overall, the Epson is excellent for users with mixed viewing requirements, (sports, HDTV, movies, and probably gaming), especially if you don't want to fully darken your room. DVD's are a little soft, but next generation DVD's (Blu-Ray or HD-DVD) should be much sharper. For those primarily interested in DVD viewing (today's DVD's), however other projectors do exceed its performance. While black levels and shadow detail are very good, a few others do better.
Epson has a long term reputation for build quality and reliability, and as noted, backed by a better than average warranty/replacement program. That said, all but the pickiest buyers should be thoroughly pleased with the Epson's performance. Like most new projectors, first time buyers will almost certainly be fully impressed, with the overall performance and flexibility.
We look forward to reviewing Epson's new ProCinema 800, a much more expensive projector, with higher contrast ratios and better black levels, that should perform much like the Cinema 550 but even better!
You can spend more on home theater projectors, and get better performance, but the Epson Cinema 550 home theater projector will be tough to beat, at its price.
Summary, Pros, Cons