Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Projector Review - Image Quality
The image quality of the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, really dazzled me, almost from the first moment I started watching it. Is it "perfect"? No, but it seems to be, overall, a step up from the similarly, and lower priced competition.
Before we get going, something new for you. Normally, in every review I point out the limitations of the photos I post, and why. To cut back on redundancy, going forward, I'm providing a link to a "short" page that will discuss limitiations, of the images, and why. Click here to read about it. I strongly recommend everyone reading my reviews take a minute to look this page over.
Lastly, I'll be adding a few more images and commentary over the next few ays. Thanks -art
Home Theater Projector: Skin Tones
If colors are off slightly on a projector, for example; a red that seems to have a touch of orange in it, and so on, most of us hardly notice, or never notice at all. On the other hand, if a skin tone is "off", and doesn't look reasonably natural, that is something most of us will take note of.
As it turns out, after the usual basic grayscale adjustments, the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, turns in extremely good skin tone performance. In fact, after adjustments, I found it's skin tone handling to be almost identical to my JVC RS1, except that the Epson images tend to have more "pop" (eye-popping appeal), appear a touch more dynamic. Many will prefer that, others, might like the JVC's images as being less spectacular, and as some might say - "more film-like". Contast, saturation, and other aspects affect these differences. The key is, what you like.
I've got a quick analogy for you regarding the above. I've had a recent discussion with some people about the Panasonic PT-AE2000U. The theoretical "best" and dimmest mode, is their Cinema 1. They also have a significantly brighter Vivid Cinema mode. Purists would tend to favor Cinema 1, but many - dare I say most - would choose Vivid Cinema - for it's higher saturation, and brighter image. Even with Pure Cinema likely having less shadow detail, many will prefer it.
And the point of this, is, you can choose to go with the more perfect image, because you seek "perfection", or you can go with the image you enjoy watching most. Long time ago, i was involved in high-end audio. It was never surprising, but take two similar sounding, quality speakers, and play them both for someone, and if one is slightly louder than the other, almost all people will favor it. Even if one speaker is significantly better than the other, if the better one is played a little bit softer, people will pick the other.
And for that reason, many people will choose to ignore "best mode" and instead favor a almost as good, but brighter, slightly compromised mode.
Enough, let's look at some images, starting with the usual Gandalf (above) and Arwen photos from Lord of the Rings. These two, like the image following them - a sepia like image from Sin City, are all from standard DVDs (SD-DVD). After that, unless noted, everything is off of Blu-ray DVD (or HDTV).
Please remember, as well, that skin tones will vary, depending on the lighting (daylight, night scenes, florescents, incandescent lighting), not to mention the director's preferences. Many movies intentionally shift colors, consider The Matrix with its strong greens, or Lord of the Rings, where the color balance in the Shire, is different than in Gondor, which is again different than in Mordor, or Rohan, or Rivendale.
Ok moving to hi-def discs, let's start of with this image from Hitch, followed by one of Johnny Depp from the first Pirates movie.
From Aeon Flux, here are several images under widely varying lighting conditions:
Obviously the skin tones of each of the three images above of Aeon, varies radically from the others, based on the different lighting, plus the effect the director wants to show you.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate is this next series of images from the most recent Bond flick, Casino Royale. I should note that the Blu-ray DVD has excellent production qualities making it a stunning movie for viewing.
Here are four different images of Bond - under four different lighting conditions:
Florescent lighting in an airport:
A very dark room:
And lastly, in the shade, on a sunny day (let's call that "filtered sunlight"):
Each of these four scenes above shows widely varying color structure to Bond's (Daniel Craig's) skin tones. Yet, each is very believable, considering the lighting environment. I think, in particular, the airport image, really makes the point. He looks like he's being illuminated in strong florescent light.
Before we move on, here are a coule more images, this time from House of the Flying Daggers - a movie with spectacular colors, but one that definitely has a look and feel to the color balance, that is not quite natural.
Epson HC1080UB Projectors: Black Levels and Shadow Detail
Amazing! Who would have thought? For years, black levels have been the achilles heel of LCD projectors. With their typically dramatically inferior contrast levels, LCD projectors have had to rely on technology "cheats" to tame the black level beast. A combination of "AI" to analyse and adjust each frame, combined with dynamic irises, and sometimes dimming lamps, that can dim and brighten the image frame by frame, has allowed LCD projectors in the past, to do a pretty good job, most notably on scenes that have no really bright areas. If a scene does have a really bright white, then it can't stop down the iris, to lower the black levels, without making the white, dimmer as well.
Even some DLP projectors use dynamic irises in the same way, to further improve their black levels.
Now, here comes the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, with its brand new "D7 C2Fine organic LCD panels", and it seems the world as we know it, has just been turned upside down!
Even with the Dynamic Iris turned off, this Home Cinema 1080UB, produces excellent black levels rivaling the best of the DLP projectors, and when the Iris is engaged, I do believe it produces an image overall, that on most scenes, is superior to all but the very best of the DLP's, (such as the $12,000 list Sharp Z20000).
The "reference standard" for black levels of the under $10,000 projectors, most reviewers would agree, would be the JVC RS1 - at least until the brand new RS2 came along.
I am not going to claim that the Home Cinema 1080UB matches the RS1, let alone the RS2. But, I must emphasize, that it comes extremely close to the RS1 (which has been my own home theater projector for the last 10 months). Closer, in fact, than any other projectors I've reviewed, with the possible exception of the Sony VW50 and VW60. Now I didn't have the opportunity to view them side by side, but my belief is that the Epson actually does a better job than the more expensive Sony VW50 - the Pearl.
And that from a sub-$3000 home theater projector is outstanding.
Let's look at the usual crop of images for black levels and shadow detail.
The first image, from The Fifth Element, of the starship, just slightly overexposed, shows not only a beautiful star field, revealing virtually all the stars in the scene, but still demonstrates that the blacks are those "inky" blacks that are so desireable, rather than showing the slightly lighter grays, that most projectors produce on this scene. Remember, this as a standard DVD, so there is definitely softness in the enlarged version):
Another good image is this one from Casino Royale. The first image is just slightly overexposed, trying to capture the overall look of the scene, while the second image is significantly overexposed. In the second image, you can make out details in the furniture in the background, lost by most projectors. Yet, despite the significant overexposure, again, blacks remain nice and black!
Here's a very dark scene from Sin City (SD-DVD):
Now, here's an interesting side-by-side shot, of the two new Epson projectors. The image on the left is the HC1080UB, while the one on the right, is the less expensive, 720p resolution, Home Cinema 720. This image, the default startup screen of the Sony Playstation 3, has been dramatically overexposed to show you the levels of the "blacks". The difference, as you can see, is startling. While the Home Cinema 720 has good black levels for a 720p projector, it is not even close, in performance to the Home Cinema 1080UB. The images are sufficiently overexposed, that, the whites are "blown out" and smearing - looking overlarge, and very blurred.
Here's another pair, this time from Casino Royale, again, in fact, the same image as shown earlier. It is easy to see, in these overexposed images, what a startling difference in the quality of the picture, because of the Home Cinema 1080UB's much lower black levels. You can also see the loss in shadow detail on the HC720 by comparison, but look at the overall image for "richness". The HC1080UB still is keeping the blacks very close to black, while the HC720 has nothing on the image that remotely resembles black, rather medium dark grays:
Quite obviously, you want to be watching the projector on the left (budget allowing), the Home Cinema 1080UB.
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB - Shadow Details
As with black levels, the shadow detail abilities of the HC1080UB are excellent. Once again, I did plenty of viewing, side by side, compared to the Home Cinema 720, as well as a huge amount of time switching back and forth in my theater room, comparing it to the JVC DLA-RS1.
Our first image, from SD-DVD - Lord of the Rings, is a cropped area (lower right) from this night scene in Gondor. Thanks to nice, black, "blacks", there is plenty of detail in the darkest areas (the image is overexposed so you can see what the camera would have normally lost). Although, unfortunately, the exposures vary quite a bit, you can really see some differences.
First, is the Epson, followed by the same image on the Sony VW60 (Sony's newest, SXRD 1080p projector (LCoS, like JVC, rather than LCD or DLP). After that, the JVC RS2, RS1, the Mitsubishi HC4900 and HC6000, and, then the lower resolution Epson HC720, and, lastly, the Panasonic PT-AE2000U; probably the Epson's closest competitor. Look at the details in the background on ther right - at the mountains and what's below them, as well as the colors that come out in the buildings, and the area in front of the steps:
Projectors: Epson HC1080UB (left), Sony VW60 (right):
Projectors: JVC RS2 (left), RS1 (right):
Projectors: Mitsubishi HC4900 left - (lowest priced 1080p), HC6000 (right)
Projectors: Panasonic PT-AE2000U (left), Epson HC720 (right)
Next on our list, is this second image from Lord of the Rings. The thumbnails below show a "normal" exposure. Click on the thumbnails for larger, overexposed images, and look for details in the shed on the right, the wood in the structure on the right, and the plant growth along the bottom. Just two images this time, the left is the Epson, the right, The Optoma HD8000 , a slightly more expensive DLP projector, but then almost identical to the Optoma HD80, which is less than the Epson. The Optoma HD80 is a "classic" DLP 1080p projector, with very good black levels for a typical DLP projector.
By the way, ignore the color shifting in the dark areas. I've already explained elsewhere, that when I severely overexpose images, with long time exposures, color shifts are significant, and don't accurately reflect what you see on the screen.
From Space Cowboys, this image of Clint is in a very dark room only illuminated by a down facing table lamp. The first image is the Epson, of course, while the second one is from the JVC RS1 ($5400), and the best until recently. The third one, is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U.
In the images above, look for details in the blinds in the back, and the richness - blackness - of the blacks. You will note, that the shadow details are similar on the JVC and Epson, but the Pansonic comes up a bit short, by comparison. Unfortunately, it's impossible to get exactly the same exposure.
Moving to another Blu-Ray movie, here is a night scene from Aeon Flux:
Click on the image for larger cropped version:
For comparison, here is the same, from the Panasonic PT-AE2000U:
Here's the re-entry image from Space Cowboys. Click on the thumbnail image for an overexposed version, and look for the details on the right side. This image is found on most recent reviews. In this case, the Epson is on the left, and the equally new, and almost 3 times the price, JVC DLA-RS2. You can see from the fringing on the stars on the left, that the JVC is the more overexposed of the two. It also reveals a bit more detail in the areas on the right. Even with identical exposures, the JVC definitely has the edge, but the Epson, for a fraction of the price, is doing a great job on this scene!
Now for a more balanced scene (where dynamic irises are not very effective). The left thumbnail when clicked on shows a cropped area. This scene has extremely bright areas, and dark. Look at these overexposed images to details of the satellite on the left side. The left thumbnail is the HC1080UB, the right one, the $8000 JVC RS2 (as with above, the thumbnail images are generic). The two are strikingly close to each other. That makes the value proposition on the Epson even more impressive!
OK, a recent image for your consideration. This from Casino Royale on Blu-ray disc.
This image of the resort at night looks great, but when you click on the thumbnail images below it, you'll get a significantly overexposed version. Look to the bushes, and most importantly the building's roof. The image below gives you an idea of how the building is lit up, but click on the three thumbnails, for the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, and the right one for the JVC RS2. The third one, is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U.
Now these are the type of scenes where black levels and shadow detail become so important:
Bottom line: Amazing, with the Home Cinema 1080UB, 3LCD technology seems to have not just finally caught up, to DLP technology, but in most cases surpassed it in terms of black levels and shadow detail. In reality, the Epson HC1080UB, rivals the older and newer more expensive Sony LCoS projectors, and isn't that far behind the JVC RS1. The RS2, however, is a cut above, and the best to date!
Epson HC1080UB Home Theater Projector: Sharpness
The thumbnails below when clicked on, show a drastically cropped area of just the logo and dts-hd area. The five thumbnails are for the following projectors:
Top left: Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, Middle, Sony VW60, Top right: Panasonic PT-AE2000U
2nd row left: Sanyo PLV-Z2000, middle: Optoma HD8000, right: Mitsubishi HC6000
All of these projectors produce a good, sharp image, but there is variation. The Epson does very well. Most importantly, both the image sharpness, combined with other aspects of the projector's image quality, give you a feeling of an extremely sharp image. In none of these cases, do I adjust the various sharpness controls on the projectors, so, of course, with some tweaking, you might get a sharper looking image, but likely it might cause some ghosting on edges, and so on. The Epson isn't the sharpest of the field, but easily produces a sharper image than the more expensive Sony VW60, or the direct competition Panasonic, while the even lower priced Sanyo, seems to be slightly sharper.
Our last sharpness image is a close-up of this computer monitor from Space Cowboys on Blu-ray. You can click for larger images to compare the readability,
Click on the top left thumbnail for the Epson, on the right one for the Sanyo Z2000. On the second row, click the left thumbnail for a large, cropped version of the original frame on the VPL-VW60, and the middle for the Panasonic. On the right, the Sharp XV-Z20000.
Consider how readable the various text is in the light horizontal areas near the top, and in the box just above the hand. I was almost tempted to put up a 720p image just for comparison, but why depress those who own 720p projectors? The difference between all of these, is slight, compared to a lower resolution projector.
Bottom line: I'd say the Epson is slightly sharper than average, of all the 1080p projectors reviewed so far. It does have a slight, visible advantage over the Panasonic, as well as the two LCoS projectors shown, the JVC RS2, and Sony VW60.
Let's just say, that sharpness, is definitely not a problem.
Projector Overall Picture Quality
This really is, probably the real bottom line. The viewing experience on the Home Cinema 1080UB, once tuned, was truly excellent. The best way to put it, is that, compared to my more expensive JVC RS1, the Epson is more different, than better or worse. Since the Epson is close on black levels and equally close in shadow detail, both projectors produce striking, better than you are likely to ever see in a movie theater, picture quality. (Most of us can get our rooms darker than movie theaters are allowed to be, these days.)
The Epson really is a projector with a lot of "wow". Colors are really eye-popping, and scenes have excellent depth and richness to them. I'm sometimes tempted to lower the color saturation a bit, (I already run it below the default levels), but on the other hand, the way I have it set, it just looks great!
Here are an assortment of general images - all kinds of scenes, and, finally, many normal, rather than very dark ones. All are from Blu-Ray hi-def discs, unless otherwise noted. Enjoy:
Pretty "WOW" yes?
Viewing - HDTV
Images to be posted shortly!
As soon as we start talking HDTV, the game changes. Now ambient light becomes an issue, because most people don't want to watch TV, and especially sports, "in a cave".
"For your consideration, here are a number of HDTV images, starting with football. In all cases, unitl noted, room lighting was daytime, afternoon (my side windows face south - the sun), with the motorized blackout shades mostly, or full down, and the usual light leakage, making the room one of low to moderate light - you could read a newspaper (shades fully down), but would almost certainly turn up the lighting if that was your plan. With the door shades partially open, you can easily read."
Picture Quality - Bottom Line:
Fantastic! Certainly so, for one of the lower priced 1080p projectors. The Epson has it all, excellent black levels, and shadow detail, great looking skin tones, a very sharp image, and always, with well balanced overall picture quality. A handful of projectors can best the Epson in some of these areas, but really, so far, only the JVC RS2, seems to be a significant step up, thanks to it's best in class black levels.
If I replaced my JVC RS1, with the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB, I'd hardly notice, if at all during normal viewing, only if I was "watching my equipment" instead of enjoying the content. That's saying a lot!
Next is the General Performance page, which covers a lot of territory, from menus and remote control, to projector screen recommendations, brightness, measurements and adjustments.