Epson Pro Cinema 800 Home Theater Projector - Overview
I was excited about getting an Epson Pro Cinema 800 home theater projector (Epson didn't have a "sample" unit available, but I was able to borrow one from a local dealer's first shipment), almost immediately after completing the projector review of the impressive (and Hot Product Award Winning), affordable Epson Cinema 550. I found the Cinema 550 projector to be an excellent value, and expected the Pro Cinema 800, to make for another interesting review.
I wasn't dissapointed, and will start by saying thatthe Epson Pro Cinema 800 easily earned it's Hot Product Award, being the best LCD home theater projector I have yet tested. If you value my projector advice, and this Epson projector is in your budget range, you will have it on your short list.
In fact, it's real competition is not other LCD projectors, despite the fact that some have similar specs (notably contrast). The competition is from the lower cost DLP projectors that use the latest, Darkchip3 DLP processor. Optoma's H78DC3 and H79 as well as the significantly more expensive InFocus Screenplay 7210 and BenQ 8720, are the real competition.
Enough said, let's get started on the Epson Pro Cinema 800 projector review.
Basic information: Epson Pro Cinema 800:
Brightness: 1600 lumens in brightest mode
Technology: 3 LCD
Lamp Life: 2000 hours (bright modes), 3000 hours in its Cinema modes
Zoom Lens Range: 1.5:1
Lens Shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Quietest noise level: <26db (in Cinema Day and Cinema Night modes
DVI or HDMI input: Yes (HDMI)
ISF Calibration (see more about this under Image Quality)
Typical Selling Price: $4500.
Warranty: 3 years parts and labor, with an overnight replacement program, for minimum down time. (That's one year longer than the Cinema 550.)
I'm going to cheat, here, and use the exact same text that you may have read in the Epson Cinema 550 review. Why? Simple, with the exception of the color finish - the Pro Cinema 800 projector is finished in a shiney black case, while the Cinema 550 comes in a cream colored off white, the two projectors are physically identical.
They have the same layout of lens and lens shift, the same control panel on the top, and the same inputs and outputs on the back. The remotes, are the same, as well (except for color - the 800's remote is black, not white). I have replaced the photos of the Cinema 550 projector with those of the black Pro Cinema 800, but the general physical tour text remains the same.
First, a comment on Pricing. The Epson seems to be selling for right for $4499. But that price is a bit deceiving. The Pro Cinema 800 comes in a larger box than the Cinema 550, because inside its box, is a ceiling mount, and a spare lamp. Between the two, you have t a $500+ value, making the real value price of the Pro Cinema 800 less than $4000. Also, compared to the Cinema 550, the Pro Cinema 800 projector comes with an extra year warranty (three years), with overnight replacement, easily the best warranty in the industry.
From the front, the lens is mounted off center, with a manual focus ring, and a tab on the inner ring to control the zoom in and out. The zoom is 1.5:1, which means that the furthest it can be positioned from a give sized screen is 50% greater than the closest. You can see the front exhausts (on the first image above) which fire the hot air out at an angle away from the lens. Underneath there are two adjustable (screw thread) feet, to control projector angle.
Facing the Epson Pro Cinema 800 home theater projector, to the left of the lens, is the front Infra-red sensor for the remote control.
Moving to the top of the Epson Pro Cinema 800 projector, and just behind the lens, are two dials to control the vertical, and horizontal lens shift. The lens shift range on the Epson is noticeably greater than on competing models, which, if needed, provides you the ability to mount the projector several feet above the top of your screen. (People with high ceilings will really appreciate that.). Alternately, if you are putting it on a table, the projector can be well below the bottom of the screen. The lens shift supports all positions in between, so you can mount the projector on a shelf in the back of the room, anywhere from below the screen to well above the screen top.
A look at the control panel of the Epson Cinema 550 home theater projector, finds all the standard buttons. From the left, Power, Source, then the Menu button and the 4 arrow keys. In the center of the four keys in the Enter button, and to the top right of them, the Escape button which moves you back toward the top level of menus. Lastly is the Aspect ratio button which switches between the usual multiple modes. One somewhat unusual finding regarding the aspect ratio. When watching Hi-Def 16:9, the Auto mode (or Normal) deliver a screen filling image. However, when you switch to DVD sources, the Auto and Normal give you an undersized image. No problem, for DVD, it looks like you simply select the Zoom aspect ratio, and you are all set, but this is not typical of most projectors. By the way, the up and down arrows double as keystone correction controls when the menus are not engaged. Of course, you should avoid using keystone correction, due to the distortion, and since the Epson projector has an incredible amount of lens shift range, I can't imagine anyone needing keystone correction anyway!
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The back panel image of the Epson Pro Cinema 800 shows the normal range of inputs. There is a single HDMI, one component video input (3 RCA jacks, color coded Red, Green and Blue), a computer input, a SCART input (for some parts of the world), one S-video, one composite input, and a 12volt screen trigger. Lastly there is an RS-232 for "command and control" of the projector from computer, etc.
Also the power cord plugs into the rear, and there is a hard power switch that must be on to be able to power up the projector from the top panel button or the remote, and there is a rear Infra-red sensor.
There is also a single rear foot - not adjustable, to give the projector a 3 point stance for stability (better than four points, if the rear ones arent adjustable).
Even more than the Cinema 550, the Epson Pro Cinema 800 physical design is admired greatly by almost all who see it. It is a beautiful, sculpted case, that is further enhanced by the black "piano" looking finish. In this regard, it is a far more impressive looking projector to look at, compared to other popular home theater projectors like Sanyo's PLV-Z4, Panasonic's PT-AE900u, Optoma's H78DC3 and H79 projectors, even the the InFocus Screenplay 7210, which spent some effort on styling.
So, this Hot Product Award winning projector has a lot of styling, and features going for it, but it's time to see how the projector performs, so please click to go to the Image Quality section.