Epson Pro Cinema 810 Home Theater Projector - Overview
02/08/2007 - Art Feierman
I'm a little late on this one, the Epson Pro Cinema 810 has been shipping for a couple of months already. But, as they say: "Better late than never".
The Pro Cinema 810 is the direct replacement for the Epson Pro Cinema 800 released at the end of 2005. The older unit had the distinction of being the brightest home theater projector (under $10,000 at least) on the market, giving a ready group of potential buyers - those wanting particularly large screens, and those dealing with more than a minimum of ambient light. The price tag on the Pro Cinema 800 was hefty - $4495 (although that included a ceiling mount and spare lamp), and put that model in competition with some very impressive DLP projectors.
This time around, the Epson, still every bit as bright as it's predecessor, no longer is the Epson Pro Cinema 810 the hands down brightest around, it has a number of challengers, including the slightly brighter Panasonic PT-AX100u, the Epson's less expensive sibling, the Cinema 400, and several DLP projectors that can't quite match this Epson's muscle in brightest mode, but are brighter than the Epson when all are in their "best" modes.
Physically, the only obvious change to the Pro Cinema 810 is a new lens. And that lens is also responsible for the biggest improvement. The old 800 was a bit soft, and the 810 is not!
The review unit I received has definitely been "around the block," the box well worn and covered in old shipping stickers. After working with the projector a bit, I discovered a problem. Checking in with Epson they tied the problem to the LCD's micro-lens-array (MLA), and that it is a problem corrected on production models - which means this one is several months old, and probably has been to several other reviewers.
I mentioned that the Pro Cinema 810 is very similar to the older 800. As an added bonus, but not surprising, is that the Pro Cinema 810 is selling for about $1000 less than it's predecessor - after you adjust for the lack of spare lamp and mount. This is a very good thing!
Epson Pro Cinema 810 Projector: Basic Specs
Cick for more complete projector specs: Pro Cinema 810
Technology: 3LCD front projector
Native Resolution: WXGA 1280x720
Brightness: 1600 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 2.1:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: 3000 hours in eco mode
Weight: 11.9 lbs.
Warranty: 2 years with replacement program for both years
Epson Pro Cinema 810 Projector: Physical Tour
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 a best of class 2.1::1, which means that the furthest it can be positioned from a give sized screen is over twice as far away as 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 810 home theater projector, to the left of the lens, is the front Infra-red sensor for the remote control.
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Moving to the top of the Pro Cinema 810 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 a bit less than most of the other LCD HT projectors, but still very respectable.
This allows you to mount the projector anywhere from an inch or so above the top of your screen's surface, to an inch or so below the bottom of the screen's surface. Both the Sanyo and Panasonic projectors have more range. This amount of range is about typical for the more expensive DLP projectors that have adjustable lens shift, like the BenQ PE-8720, which has almost identical flexibility. Note, using the horizontal lens shift will limit the maximum amount of vertical lens shift you can apply.
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A look at the control panel of the Pro Cinema 810 home theater projector, finds all the standard controls. 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. 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 regardless!
The back panel of the Pro Cinema 810 offers the normal range of inputs. In fact the Pro Cinema 810 offers the same setup as their lower priced Cinema 400. 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.
Tthe power cord also 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. Lastly, there is a rear Infra-red sensor for the remote.
There is 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).
The Pro Cinema 810 finish, like its predecessor, the Pro Cinema 800, is a a polished piano finish black, and a dark pewter look to the lens. Unlike its primary competitors, the look of the Epson has some real design, not the usual basic box. One of the most "stylin" projectors around at any price.
What really counts, though, is how it looks in the dark - how the projector performs, from an image quality standpoint.. So, click to the next page, and we'll look at the Pro Cinema 810 home theater projector's image quality.