Home Theater Projector Review: Epson Home Cinema 1080UB LCD Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
Check out how the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB fared in our comparison report.
View Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB vs. JVC DLA-RS1x projector comparison.
View Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB vs. Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector comparison.
View Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB vs. Sony VPL-VW40 projector comparison.
View annual winners.
The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB receives our Hot Product Award. And, in this case, I think the correct term is: "it's a no-brainer." Yes, I know I give out a lot of Hot Product Awards, but that's because most projectors are very good, and rarely does one surface that is better at just about everything, than any of the competiton. You might find a DLP projector you think is best at picture quality, but because they typically have almost no zoom range, and no lens shift, it might not work for you. if a projector is going to be the best for at least a small but significant group of people, it gets our Hot Product Award.
The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB isn't one of those, that only is best for a "small" group. This is an exceptional projector for the money. it mostly rivals the best other projectors out there at 1.5 to 3 times the price. That's not to say it's perfect. But, it does offer great picture with great black levels and shadow detail, and unlike the DLP's that dominated in those areas, it offers placement flexibility that should meet just about everyone's needs.
Guess what? That's going to make it a lot harder for me to give out Hot Product Awards for the few remaining 1080p projectors I'll be reviewing of this generation. Even so, the Epson doesn't do everything, for example, no support for an anamorphic lens for full screen Cinemascope (no letter box).
In early February ('08) look for my 2nd annual 1080p projector comparsion report. In this report I give out my Best in Class, and Runner-up awards. For those of you looking for a reviewer to say "Buy this one". That's the closest you'll get from me. It will be very in-depth, with lots of one on one comparison.
Because the Comparison Report is only about 3-4 weeks off, I'm going to keep my comparison comments short in this section. Still, it should provide you plenty to consider. Keep in mind, many of these other projectors support anamorphic lenses, which will be a reason for some to pass on the Epson Let's get started:
HC1080UB projector vs. Panasonic PT-AE2000U
The Panasonic PT-AE2000U is a very good projector, and one that I like to describe as very film like. It also has some great controls (including their waveform generator) for those who like to play around with their hardware, almost as much (or more) as watching content. The Panasonic does produce a most enjoyable "film-like" image to watch. The Epson HC1080UB, though, in my opinion, has the advantage in almost every area. it's sharper, has better blacks, at least as good in terms of shadow details, and its zoom has a little more range. (And don't forget the better warranty.) The typical Epson HC1080UB image has richer colors in dark areas, which generally leads to descriptions such as "eye-popping color", or wow factor. By comparison, the Panasonic image might be described as natural and laid-back, and the Epson - rich and dynamic.
One particular advantage of the Panasonic, though, is its support for an anamorphic lens for those wanting a Cinemascope 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That's one thing the Epson doesn't do! The Panasonic also has a bit more vertical lens shift range, but that will only appeal to those ceiling mounting, with high ceilings.
As I said elsewhere, the Epson is rather noisy for an LCD projector. The Panasonic on the other hand, is one of the very quietest. If noise aversion is your thing, that's a big plus for the Panasonic.
From a standpoint of personal preference, my vote is definitely for the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB. I really enjoyed watching the Panasonic, but I loved the Epson.
HC1080UB vs. Sanyo PLV-Z2000
I know I didn't comment much about the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 in the rest of the review, but it is a projector to be reckoned with. If anything, its image is slightly sharper than the Epson, and it does a very respectable job, overall, although the Epson has much better black level performance. I really liked the Z2000 when I reviewed it, and with it, you get an overall excellent picture, at a price well below the Epson - at this time, probably about $600 or so less, and that works out to about 25% less.
Keep in mind that the Epson is especially bright, and the Sanyo less than average in brightness. In fact in brightest mode, the Epson is almost 3 times as bright. Like the Epson, the Sanyo does not support an anamorphic lens.
If you've got the bucks, you'll get more bang from them with the Epson.
Like I said, I'm trying to keep this short. Optoma dominates the 1080p DLP space, at least in terms of projectors widely available. And these Optomas are not all alike, but they share many of the same picture quality attributes. So, here goes.
All the Optoma's have very limited zoom lenses, and no lens shift. That puts you pretty much into two choices - ceiling mounting, or on a table. Since they aren't especially quiet, and we're talking 1080p projectors here, I'll assume you are ceiling mounting. The Epson of course can go just about anywhere, so, no contest, in terms of placement flexibility.
The Optoma's typically need serious tuning out of the box - but then, you've read my reservations about this Epson as well. it's just that a simple adjustment gets the Epson very good in most modes. You'll normally need a calibration disc to do the same for any of the Optomas.
OK, let's get serious here. In my opinion, the Epson equals or beats all of the Optoma projectos in terms of black levels, and shadow detail (remember - I'm not doing side-by-sides). The more expensive Optoma's at least, however, the HD81 and HD81-LV are at least as sharp.
And nothing shipping yet, short of a 3 chip DLP projector ($10K+ for 1080p minimum), can match the Optoma HD81-LV for brightness. There are definitely a number of folks who will wisely favor - for their room and tastes, the HD81-LV over the Home Cinema 1080UB. That said, the Epson, overall, is more than a match for any of the others.
The entry level HD80, however, like the Sanyo, is significantly less expensive. I believe the Epson is the better value, but the HD80 will definitely appeal to those who like the DLP look, and have a limited budget. The HD8000, basically the same as the HD80 but sold through local installing dealers is more expensive than the Epson, but technically, it competes with the Pro Cinema 1080UB, the ISF certified Epson which is also sold only through local installing dealers. The Pro version of the Epson is $3999 (with spare lamp and ceiling mount) so still several hundred dollars more than the HD8000.
I'll start with the HC6000, which is significantly more expensive than the Epson. The Epson has the Mitsubishi in almost most areas, making the Epson the winner between these two, especially considering the heftier price of the Mitsubishi.
The HC4900 on the other hand, offers every bit the value of the Epson. With the street prices I've been hearing about on the HC4900, it's selling in some cases, for barely half of the Epson. The HC4900 overall, is a good sharp projector, but with mediocre black levels compared to other 1080p projectors. That said, it's black levels are about the same as most of the LCD 720p projectors, and you can buy the HC4900 for not much more than a 1080p. It's a great value proposition for those that want 1080p, and have a 720p budget. I imagine the HC4900 is selling extremely well. The Epson simply does not compete directly against the HC4900. The Mitsubishi is a great projector for its price, and the Epson a definitely better projector for more!
Wow, tough call. The Epson is definitely less expensive (look out, the last 1080p projector arriving for review is the just announced VW40, which I assume is a straight replacement for the VW50 Pearl. With a $2995 price, the VW40, or a well discounted VW50 will provide an interesting alternative to the Epson. The Sony's have always been very film like, but I don't think the VW50 (and the yet unseen VW40), will be able to best the Epson at black levels or shadow detail. The Sony's though are in the same class in this regard. The Epson though, is sharper. This is going to be one of those personal taste calls. Keep in mind that the Sony VW50 is not quite as bright in best mode, and not even close in brightest modes. Let's say the Sony is a major competitor for the purists, and those interested in movies, and less concerned about HDTV and sports.
The VW60, is simply a slightly improved VW50 in my book, with slightly better black levels. It is more money, but still less than the JVC's, so some will see it as a step up. Also the VW60 is slightly brighter in best mode, and no where near as bright in brightest...
All Sony's support anamorphic lenses
Remember I own an RS1, and have been considering an RS2 to replace it.
The JVC RS1 until just a couple of months ago, has been the generally considered best overall 1080p projector selling for under $10,000. Even with the price drop to $5295, most people will have a hard time justifying the extra $1500+ over the Epson. That said, the JVC, I think, is still the better projector, despite the slightly softer image sharpness. It has a slight advantage in both shadow detail and black levels, and is almost perfect out of the box. I'll still consider it a step of from the Epson, but, the Epson is the better value proposition. Those really into the last ounce or two of performance will still want the JVC, and can easily justify the price difference. The JVC will also appeal to those with larger screens. Ultimately it is still much brighter in best mode than the Epson.
The RS2, while not as bright as the RS1, is also still about 100 lumens brighter than the Epson in best mode, although no match in brightest mode. Again, the movie purist can't help but love the RS2. Nothing can touch its black level performance (of the many 1080p projectors I've reviewed). You pay more for the best, and the JVC is going to be worth its $7995 MSRP, to a significant number of people who are not intimidated by the price. When it comes to anamorphic lenses, the RS1, like the Epson does not support it.
I've missed a few, but you'll have to live with it, until the comparison report comes out.
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Projector: Pros
- Above average brightness in best mode
- Extremely bright in brightest modes
- Truly Excellent overall picture quality (after adjustment)
- "Eye-popping" color - plenty of "wow factor", especially with dark rich colors
- Especially good handling of skin tones (after adjustment)
- Incredible black level performance compared to anything in its price range
- Excellent shadow detail
- Good documentation - some decent explanations of features, controls
- Very good menus
- Wide range zoom (2.1:1) and lens shift with extreme range, give it the most placement flexiility of any 1080p projector
- Excellent warranty
- 1080p 24fps support, 2 HDMI 1.3 inputs with Deep Color support
- Nice styling
- Very good remote with lots of range
- 10 user savable settings!
- Seven preset modes
- 12 volt screen trigger for those with properly equipped motorized screens
- Epson has excellent reputation for reliability and support
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Projector: Cons
- A bit noisy in high power lamp mode
- No support for an anamorphic lens
- Projector must be unmounted (if ceiling mounted) to change lamp
- Would like to see a 3rd HDMI input (but that's pretty rare)
- Pixel visibility just barely decernable at closer than average seating distances (I mention this only because while I don't see it as an issue, it has more visible pixel structure than all both a couple of the other 3LCD projectors. The LCoS and DLP's have completely invisible structures at normal seating distances.
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp life
- Size and weight
- User manual
- Control panel
- Assortment of inputs
Epson Home Cinema 1080UB Summary: The Bottom Line
Do I really need to keep writing, at this point?
This is now my personal favorite lower cost 1080p projector. The Epson Home Cinema 1080UB is really short on "flaws", and really strong on picture quality, brightness, and warranty, to mention a few.
Other than its lack of support for an anamorphic lens (which can be dealt with by buying an outboard processor, I believe), I see little downside.
To make it an even better value, I guess it could cost less, (everything could), but from a standpoint of what you get for the money, I feel it offers the best value proposition of any of the sub-$10,000 1080p projectors, for those seeking more than entry level performance.
I said at the beginning, that this is one of those rare "rave reviews" of mine, and I think I delivered on that promise.
If I were to compare it's performance in terms of cars, I might say that this is a BMW M class, for the price of a Toyota Camry.
If you are spending less than $3000 at the time of this writing (1/08), the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB is definitely, in my book, the king of the hill, and the one to beat. It's going to give noticeably more expensive projectors a serious run for the attention of those who have the bucks, and are willing to spend more, because, this Epson is serious competiton for most costing significantly more.