The Art of Home Theater Projectors

CEDIA Home Theater Projector Sightings –

Greetings, from CEDIA in Atlanta!

OK, I’m going to blow through a whole bunch of projectors (and things) I saw yesterday, and today.  I had hoped to get you all a good amount of detail on the new Epson “R” projectors, and have it posted by now, but I’m still awaiting an email. Tomorrow I hope, I’ll have it for sure come monday.  Here goes.  I run through the projectors pretty much in the order of my meetings.  Yes, it started with Epson.

I should note, that several movies were extremely popular for demoing.  Most widely used were Alice, Despicable Me, Monsters vs. Aliens, plus more animations.  Fortunately, I was only subjected to parts of Transformers 2, twice the whole show.

Epson demo’d the Home Cinema 9700UB.  The 9700UB like a number of other projectors here at the show, is a minor update of a very competitive projector, the now discontinued 8500UB.   The only noteworthy new feature is the addition of two anamorphic lens modes.

For those buying the Home Cinema 9700UB, you’ll only get one anamorphic mode.  That will mean you need a motorized sled to more the lens out of the way for 16:9 and 4:3 content when you are using a 2.35 or 2.40:1 screen.

The Epson demo room, like all the other little theaters, was a nice sized box of a room, and all black surfaces.  That’s perfect for demoing if your room is like that – black ceilings, walls and floors.   Stuff in 15+ people at a time, and it got hot in there.

The PC 9700UB looked just great in those conditions.  The Blacks were extremely black (same spec as the 8500UB – 200,000:1).  Basically, it looked like what I expect an Epson UB to look like.  It will, most likely, sell in the mid-$3500 range, and come with a ceiling mount and a spare lamp (now claiming up to 5000 hours).  Did I mention the 8700UB at launchcomes with a spare lamp?  I’m pretty sure of that, but I will confirm, and find out if that’s permanent, or a launch promo.

They didn’t demo the Home Cinema 8350 or Pro Cinema 9350, but as posted, Lori advises that an 8350 arrived at my place for review, while I am here at the CEDIA show.  Unlike the 8700UB and 9700UB, there is a significant performance increase in Epson’s entry level 1080p projectors.  These two now have Epson’s C2Fine panels, that’s the first time a “UB” panel has gone into their least expensive 1080p.  It Should pay off nicely.  With a 50,000:1 spec, it should behave in terms of black level performance, about the same as the original Epson 1080 UB, a few years ago.   That ups the ante’ in the under $1500 market space, in terms of performance, but that’s good.  You might note that in my most recent review of the Mitsubishi HC4000, that projector – a direct competitor to the 8350 – received a performance upgrade from the Darkchip2 to the Darkchip3.

The great news is that the Epson will be “under $1300″ (yeah, we all know what that means – probably either 1299 or 1295, but you never know, they might surprise us with something lower, but don’t count on it.  Epson did not set a price for the Pro Cinema 9350 either.  Like the other Pro, it will come with spare lamp and mount.

Look for Epson to fill their channel with these guys in the next month.  My understanding is that most of the large dealers are out of 8500UB’s, so, btw, unless there is ananamorphic lens in your near  future, I’d point out that if you can find a great deal on an 8500UB before they are gone, short term, that would be better investment, than the 8700UB, which will be “under $2300″.  I mention this because one of you commented on a blog mentioning a price well under $2K…

NEXT up, the Epson Pro Cinema 31000.  Looked really great.  Hard to judge, ultimate black levels in an unfamiliar (and darker than usual environment, but I’d conjecture that they look really good.  In pounding Epson for info, I’m waiting to hear back if it uses the same iris as the UB series.  If so, then the contrast jump from 200,000 on the UB, to 500,000 on the 31,000 would indicate about a 2.5x improvement in native contrast…  (which isn’t huge, but definitely significant.  (You know, like going from 400 lumens to 1000, except not that noticeable.  They showed, Alice of course, and I’ll give them a bravery award for talking about the great depth of the image when shown on the Pro Cinema 31000, when that movie (3D in theaters…) was being shown in 3D in hundreds of booths (projectors and LCDTVs).  BTW, I did think the skin tones were better than anything I’ve seen on an Epson before.  (For those of you following my reviews, you know I’ve never given top grades for Epson’s skin tones.  Not bad, but they are, perhaps, my favorite Epson issue to complain about.

Enough of Epson already.

Next was JVC.   If you don’t mind (and to keep the search engines happy, my thoughts on the new JVC’s will be in the next blog, which I’ll start as soon as this is up. It will post before I check out, in an hour… gotta get home, ya know!  -a

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