The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 21000 and Pro Cinema 31000, 61000 Projectors

New Epson Pro Cinema 61000 Projector - Front

Epson Home Cinema 61000 Projector

I’m excited.  The season for new home theater projectors is upon us, starting with the CEDIA show, next week.  Unfortunately, this year looks to be one where many manufacturers are offering just minor improvements (and lower prices) on “new” models.  For that reason, something new – a new type of  panel – or chip, call them what you wish, and three new projectors built around it, sounds interesting, and promising.

All the fuss is about Epson’s new projectors sporting first generation reflective LCD panels or Reflective 3LCD as Epson calls them.  Their claim of 1,000,000:1 contrast certainly is going to get a lot of attention as they’re pretty much adding an entire extra 0 to the contrast numbers game.  For those not following the technology, previously all “LCD” projectors have used transmissive panels – light passes through them.  LCoS and DLP, use reflective technologies instead.  I’m not yet clear on how Reflective 3LCD compares with LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), I’ll find out more at CEDIA, as today, I was focused on the finished products – real projectors.

No, not so real that you can buy one today, but soon.  No ship date released, but unless the backorders are huge, I have every confidence you’ll have no problem having one under the tree for Christmas eve (or even installed before then).  So far, there are only a few sample projectors in the US, and they are all heading to the CEDIA show.

OK, there are three models:

All Epson Projectors with Reflective 3LCD share these traits:

Lens Features: The same 2.1:1 Fujinon lens Epson’s been using for a number of years, however, in these projectors, the lens will be motorized zoom and focus (and lens shift), instead of manual.  That means that all three can have, and do have, a lens memory feature similar to the one we’ve discussed at length, about the Panasonic PT-AE4000′s lens memory.  That’s a great option if you want to go 2.40:1 screen for all those Cinemascope movies, and you don’t have the thousands for an anamorphic lens setup. They also do support an anamorphic lens, with, or without, a motorized sled (2 anamorphic modes)  The lens is center mounted (less math needed to install it)

Pro Cinema 31000 reflective 3LCD projector

Angle view of the Epson Pro Cinema 31000 projector

Image Features: Dynamic iris, Super-Resolution (discussed in last year’s Epson reviews),  new improved CFI called FineFrame for smoother action, New Silicon Optix HQV Vida processing, expanded color space.

Performance Features: 1200 lumens, HDMI 1.4, lamp rated up to 5000 hours,  (in either full or eco power modes  - excellent)!

Warranties:  2 Years for the Home Cinema 21000 and 3 Years for the Pro Cinema 61000 and 31000.  Epson is offering a 2 day exchange  replacement program now called Home Service Program.

Side view of Home Cinema 21000 projector

Home Cinema 21000:  500,000:1 contrast for great blacks.  Of course only testing will tell how good. Figuring that the dynamic iris in these projectors is probably very similar to the ones in the lower cost UB projectors, with about the same iris action, then the 500,000:1 would represent about a 2.5 times improvement in native contrast (Epson claims 200,000 for the UB projectors).  That should translate into a quite visible lowering of black levels.  Most likely (just guesswork), that will allow the Epson to probably match and beat the JVC RS15 in terms of blackest blacks, on dark scenes, and perhaps rival the RS25.  (The JVC’s have been the 800 pound gorilla’s of deep blacks, and they do it without a dynamic iris.)  On mixed scenes, though, a dynamic iris isn’t as effective, so the JVCs (no dynamic iris), are likely to remain superior in terms of blacks.  No matter, the RS25 is currently more expensive than I expect any of these Epson’s to cost, and one cares about deepest blacks on mixed brightness scenes.  But, I digress…

Epson Pro Cinema 31000

The 31000 is basically the same projector with a couple of extra bells and whistles.  It offers the same 500,000:1 contrast. I won’t repeat all of the above about blacks and irises.  It adds ISF certification, comes with a spare lamp and ceiling mount, and as noted above, a third year warranty. And don’t forget, the Pro Cinema 3100o comes in a black case, and a cable cover.

How the projectors are sold, is another difference, with the Home Cinema version primarily sold online and in big box houses, and independent small dealers.  The Pro Cinema models will be sold by authorized, local, installing dealers, as has been traditional with previous Pro series projectors.

That brings us to Epson’s new flagship:

Epson Pro Cinema 61000 Projector

It is still basically the same as the other two, but offers double the contrast to 1,000,000:1.  It may be that this model has a better iris than the other two, since they do talk about a ultra fast dual layered iris only on the 61000 prelim info.  That should represent still another small improvement in black levels, compared to the 31000 and 21000 projectors. Add to it some networking capabilities, including remote notification, and apparently even more color and image management controls than the others.

The Bottom line?  Epson’s already dominated the $2000-$3000 home theater projector space in terms of best blacks, and now we’ll see if they can take black level performance up a notch or two, to do battle with the best projectors in the $3500 to $10,000 price range.

Other key things to learn: As we review these projectors in the coming months, I want to find out what the subjective characteristics of these new reflective 3LCD projectors are.  I am speaking  of imprecise terms including film-like, pop and wow, forgiving…  Each type of technology seems to add its own slight “coloration” or “feel” to the image.  Will they behave a lot like LCoS projectors? Brightness will be important, too.  Like the less expensive Epsons, these use what Epson calls a Cinema filter in its best modes.  That does cost some brightness, which is why Epson projectors typically are among the brightest home theater projectors at their maximum.  I’m hopeful that they will have the horsepower for a big screen like my 128″.  We shall see.

Reviewing this new series of projectors promises to be fun – and rewarding, so the only question that really matters first, is…who do I have to kill, to get one in here quick for review?  -art

News And Comments

  • Matthieu

    Finally a real improvement.
    Since your site is very famous, i’m hoping you will get those projectors as first to review.
    What I mis here, is 3D.
    I was really hoping that Epson would have add this in his newer line.
    Sony did this with the VW90 which will be showed there at the Cedia.

    Let us hope they forgot to mention. ;D

  • EeeCeeTee

    Art,

    While we’re all keenly interested in the the new Reflective 3LCD Epsons, please keep us updated on the 8500UB/8100 replacements when you have any new info on them.

    While I may crave an ‘R-LCD’ Epson, my budget might prefer an updated UB series while the new R-LCD matures. (Or perhaps a closeout 8500UB w/free 2nd lamp like Epson did when phasing out the 6500UB/6100, assuming the 8500UB/8100 replacements are only minor updates.)

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Patience. I felt that there was a great deal to say about the R’s being a all new series of projectors (my god, a motorized zoom lens on an Epson projector?) I’m meeting with them tomorrow… PS, there is some info in the blog right before it, I think, gotta run -a

  • Alex

    Art,

    How would you compare the 21000 or 31000 to the 8700UB? I am really comparing 21000 to 8700UB but I believe the demo at CEDIA only had the 31000. I am torn between waiting for the 21000 or picking up the 8700UB now and want to see whether the 21000 is really worth waiting for (my home theater room has been waiting for a projector for a few months)

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Alex. The 31000 and 21000 are essentially identical for demo purposes. Both have lens memory, etc.

      Well, those “R” projectors should be better. From what I can tell – from tidbits , they won’t be as bright as the UB at brightest, but probably will be a little brighter in its best mode. I’m excited to get one in… And I suspect that Epson may ultimately enter the 3D arena with the next gen of these projectors. DLP may be the least expensive way into 3D, but there are now several LCoS 3D projectors out there, and it seems Reflective tech is easier to do 3D with than the standard transmissive LCD panels.

      I’d wait… Let’s assume it hits, and is worth the approximately extra thousand. Would you be sorry? I find that those are the questions that help people the most – will you wish you had gone with the better projector – looking back in 6 months… That tells you what type of buyer you are. -a

  • Toknow

    Wow! These new Epsons sound great. So the UB line is going away?

    I am still on my first bulb for my ProCinema 1080UB after nearly three years. I can’t wait to see where the industry is when I burn through my second bulb in another 3-4 years.

    Sounds to me like the R-LCD is just Epson’s branding for their version of LCOS.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Toknow,

      First – I will get to the bottom of what the “R” series is about. That it is reflective like LCoS, there is no question. My initial inquiries were answered loudly by Epson that they are not LCoS panels. Someone there said – not silicon (the S in LCoS). If they aren’t using silicon, then they aren’t LCoS, no matter how similar. Those weren’t engineers though. I’m trying to find out if they have a white paper on the design…

      On the other hand, it means that the traditional LCD design may well start disappearing. Afterall, Sony pretty much decided to put their money on LCoS some 6 years or more ago. We’ll sort it out.

      Next. no, the UB is not going away, the 8700UB is the replacement for the 8500UB, etc. If I failed to include the UB in one of my articles, my understanding is the step up models – the 8700UB and the 9700UB — have the UB. on the other hand, no, they don’t seem to be using it with the R series, but I think I saw them use the “ultra-black” phrase in one of the sheets on the R projectors… -art ps. you better start upping the hours of use, get rid of that bulb in 2 – things should be most interesting in another 18 -24 months – especially in 3D…

  • Chris S

    Art, when do you expect to have your initial review of the Epson 21000 R projector up?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Chris,

      I wish I knew. Still no confirmed date from Epson. I’ve asked to see if they can free up one of their two engineering samples so I can get something posted before year end. It’s apparent, at this point, that the R series won’t be “in the stores for Christmas”, (or shipping this year, for that matter). Looks like a Q1 shipment, which means they will have had plenty of time from CEDIA, to further improve the projectors, we shall see. -art

  • http://ismysiteindexed.com Travis

    Art:

    I just wanted to drop you a line that I absolutely love what you do here with your reviews (and this blog). It’s the only resource I use when deciding what projector to buy – and I tend to upgrade every 2-3 years. Keep up the great work.

    Thanks for the head’s up on this 21000. I was about to pull the trigger on the 8700 UB when my guy over at AVS told me I might want to hold off for the 21000. I currently own the 1080 UB. I had never heard of the 21000 so the first thing I did was head over here. I’m glad I did because now I’m going to wait. I can’t wait for your review of this baby. It sounds promising.

    When you do your review, however, can you please make sure you do some comparison comments to this unit at the 8700 UB for guys like me who are trying to decide which of the two to buy?

    Travis

    P.S. Are there any other “good” LCoS” projectors out there right now in that $3,000 price range?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Greetings Travis.
      Yes, I will of course closely compare the 21000 to the 8700ub. The other LCoS competition will be fierce. I just posted the $3400 Sony VWPRO1 review (for that price, you get a spare lamp). JVC’s got their new HD250 – which appears to mostly be the same as last year’s RS15, but it’s only $2999, so, we have three new reflective liquid crystal projectors right there around $3K. Should be fun, if I can get these projectors in on a timely basis… -art

  • Chris S

    Art,
    Any updates from the slow pokes at Epson?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      I wish!!! Soon, we hope! -art

  • http://MarkleyCustomDrumCo. Dennis Markley

    Hi Art:

    Any more news from CES 2011 on the Epson HC21000/31000/61000 release dates? What’s the holdup? Rumor is problems in manufacturing the LCD-R panels…? Are they trying to cram 3D into the projector while we wait?

    Thanks Art!

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Dennis, still trying to find out the “why” of the delay. They have promised me “more” info next week sometime. We shall see if that means useful info. I can’t talk JVC out of their HD250 either, they’ve been shipping for two months but say sales are so good they don’t need to have the projector reviewed…

      On the other hand, the last company to tell me they really didn’t need a particular model reviewed, was regarding a projector that turned out to be exceptionally – mediocre! -art

  • Chris S

    Art, still no word on the availability of the Epson 21000/31000?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Still trying to find out when, and the cause of the delay. Heads will roll (it’s getting “old”). -art

  • Willie Hill

    Art,
    Do you have any other information on the Epson 21000. I was told that it could be out by Feb. but was also told it might be scrapped by one of their employees.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Scrapped? Well, that sure sounds unlikely, though I haven’t been able to learn what the delay is. Originally it was to ship sometime in Dec. That said, lots of projectors get delayed – especially those that are inherently new models, not retreads. I’ve been promised an update next week. I will keep you all posted. -ar

  • Willie Hill

    Art,
    Any more info on the Epson 21000? It’s now Feburary and no word. I have been waiting since December 17th , when it was going to be available, according to Epson. Do you have any info on the JVC 250? That might be the route I need to take. Any Help!!!? I am getting tired of waiting.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      No, but tomorrow I think I’ll switch to something just short of death threats. Or worse, I might just start mentioning the names and cell phones of Epson marketing managers…
      (naw, I’m not that cruel.)

      As to the HD250, I’m stuck – JVC says they are selling all they bring in, and can’t spare a unit for a review. My feeble attempts to locate a local dealer with one they can loan me for a week have turned up nothing. I might have to ask the folks at AVS…

  • Dennis Markley

    Thanks for staying on top of this Art. I’ve been waiting for the 21000 since September – 5 months already!! I really hope this is going to be worth the wait, and that the new tech will be reliable and awesome. The 8700 deals right now are very tempting, but I think I will hold out a little while longer until you have a chance to do your comparison.

  • Willie Hill

    Art,
    Do you have any information you can share on the DLA HD550B. I have been waitung on the Epson 21000 but need to go forward with my theater room project. Any advice?

  • http://Epson21000 John Quinlan

    Latest info on Epson 21000. Called Epson. 21000 will be available this spring.(April – June time frame).

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi John,

      And even that – April – June? as large a target as that is, is probably unsanctioned – an enthusiastic sales person or support person, who doesn’t really know but wants to provide some sort of answer. I say that because:

      I did get one of my key Epson “mucky-mucks” on the phone last Friday, and got NOTHING out of him…at least about the R series projectors like the Home Cinema 21000. Not “next quarter” nor “next week” nor “never” nor waiting till the fall. I got nad! Bupkis! Zero! Most annoying. If the delay is engineering or production related, Epson America, and Epson EU might not even have firm dates. If it’s a marketing decision – to delay – say due to the disappointing economy, even that’s a possible. But, I can only speculate, not one piece of solid “news” let alone be able to verify. (I trust you expect me to maintain standards at least as high as those two pillars of the Media: (cheap shot time):
      The New York Times formerly “all the news that’s fit to print” but more recently more of the “all the news that it suits us to manufacture” (they do seem to be get getting caught regularly), and that other pillar (who I don’t think get’s caught any more than the NYT?:
      The National Enquirer: which is/was something like “We check it, then we check it again”

      Best I can tell it wasn’t a great Q4 for the home theater projector industry (relative to predictions). Certainly, there were a lot less new models this year than the last few years, spanning any number of major brands. Epson, by announcing it’s R series, may be one of only a couple of companies to expand, the actual number of models (when they ship the “R”s). So, best I can tell, whatever is going on with the home cinema 2100, etc., I’m as clueless as everyone else. But I will break the story- when I find one! art

  • Willie Hill

    Art,
    I have a question I hope you can answer. I got tired of waiting on the epson 21000 and bought the JVC Hd 550. I also got a screen that is 135 in. which is rouoghly 117 wide by 67 tall. it is 16.9 format. I placed the projector a distance of 17 ft. 11 in. according to the projection calculator. The picture quality is excelent but I have a border on the top and bottom of the screen. When I zoom it it the picture goes beyond the border of the screen. My question is what am I doing wrong?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Willie,

      I’m assuming you are watching a typical movie that is made in Cinemascope – 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 mostly. Your screen, is a 16:9. All those movies will have the famous letterbox at the top and bottom. 16:9 is the resolution of HDTV, (and many new animated movies, some “regular” ones, etc. It is inherently a compromise between old style tv – 4:3 (which is 12:9), and Cinemascope 21:9 They came up with 16:9. So you get letterboxing on those movies, none on HDTV. on 4:3 (old TV, the letterbox is on the left and right… That’s all the way its supposed to be. To get rid of letterboxing on Cinemascope aspect ratio movies, people use a Cinemascope shaped screen – 2.35:1, and an anamorphic lens to stretch the image in most cases. Problem is, with a 16:9 projector (all home theater projectors, for purposes of this conversation) if you use a 2.35:1, when you want to watch 16:9 content, you are projecting content above and below the screen. There’s a work around if all the setup is optimal for using a Cinemascope screen accomplished by changing the zoom lens setting when going between 2.35:1 and 16:9 content. The Panasonic PT-AE4000 is an example of a projector that does that well. They call their solution Lens Memory. Few projectors offer it automated like Panasonic, but technically, you can do it with the right placement of any 16:9 projector with at least 1.5:1 zoom, but you won’t have much cholce where the projector has to go. -art

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  • Desray

    I m using 21000 aka EH-R1000 right now. I m quite impressed with the PQ.

  • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

    Hi Mike,

    Well, it’s not room size, but screen size, primarily. And, it always comes back to all the other standard issues. Darkness of walls, ceiling, and floor (and the reflectivity of the surface – ie is your paint average, very flat really flat… And that suh, is why we review them. Also higher contrast does tend to make a projector seem brighter. The 31000 looked great on a medium sized screen, in their pitch black demo room.

    Bare with me. I trust that I’m a better reviewer, than a reporter. I don’t take many notes at all at a show, but rely on press releases, they hand out (or post online), and I concentrate on what looks to be the most interesting aspects of the projectors.