The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB Finally Posted

Hi folks,  Well, I had intended to get the Epson review up for you all by about 7 or 8pm here on the west coast, but, just too much to do, to complete it, so finally, it made it live just after midnight.  Enjoy.

As usual, this is first pass, there may be some “artifacts” left over from the review I used as a template, the recent BenQ W6000, which is a direct competitor, and therefore the competitive images in the W6000 review belong in the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB projectors review.  And there’s plenty of proofing to do.

There are I think 2 or 3 images actually discussed that aren’t there yet, they seem to have wandered off.  I’ll find them.  I’ve got a bunch of side by sides to add, with the new Epson vs the 6500UB, and also the BenQ.  Of course, when the Panasonic PT-AE4000 arrives, I’ll be doing a whole pile of those side-by-sides, as well, although I am likely at that point to write a single piece on Epson vs Panasonic, and save them for that article.  In such a case, I’ll update this Competitors page (not yet written), with a link to that comparison.

I liked the older models, I definitely like the newer ones better.  CFI is much improved as discussed, oh, nevermind, go read the review.

News And Comments

  • Bjorn

    Way to be ahead of things Art ;-)

    Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB posted 11/22…

    ehm anyway I’ll just go read your review now instead…

  • Peter Miller

    Thanks Art,

    Great review as always. I think this would have to be one of the most anticipated reviews this year, so well done for burning the midnight oil and posting it as soon as you did.

    Now we’re all waiting for the AE4000 shootout so we can go Christmas shopping and buy some new “toys”

    Peter

  • John Thacker

    Nice review, Art.

    Hmm, Epson’s now claiming that the “under $3000″ price might be $2500 or under? I have to think that the Panasonic AE4000 street price of $1999 affected their original plans.

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

      Hi John,

      You are dead on. No question about it. Originally, the pricing was to be “under $3000″ at CEDIA, although I suspect that Epson would have launched with a small rebate, ie. $200, or a $2799. I think that the post CEDIA announcement of the Panasonic at $1999, definitely impacted.

      And in the same way, the $999 announcement of the Optoma HD20 (and the Vivitek and BenQ $999ers), has affected the pricing of the Mitsubishi HC3800 and the Epson Home Cinema 8100.

      Good for us, tough on the manufacturers. Home theater projectors have never really been a real winner from a profit standpoint for most manufacturers. -a

  • Myles

    Well, Art, thanks for getting that review up. I’m on the east coast and I made frequent trips to my computer last night…hitting the refresh button. I finally gave up around midnight my time. Glad I didn’t wait too long.

    Nice to see it here this morning. Now we just have to wait for the comparison with the ae4000.
    avforums has a review of the ae4000 and they show contrast improvement over the ae3000.
    Could be a close race!

  • Adam

    Your review states that the Epson “has more placement flexibilty than any other under $5000 projector I can think of”. The Panasonic has slightly more lens shift, while the Epson has slightly more zoom–which I think makes them pretty much equal in terms of flexibility. Of course, depending on your setup, it is possible that either the Epson or the Panasonic might work for you from a placement perspective while the other one would not.

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

      OK, how about “as much as, or more than any other…”

  • Drew

    Art,
    If you only watched HD sports, which projector would you pick between the benq 6000, epson 8500, or rs20. Please throw out brightness and price. Thanks.

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

      Hmm, disregarding brightness and price? Well, OK, but to me brightness is a key.

      That said, I’ll have to go with the JVC, well, actually the newer JVC RS25, since it adds creative frame interpolation, which I do like for sports, and it’s got the best color overall. If you are talking only the RS20, not the RS25, I’d take the Epson. it’s brighter modes have pretty good color and can be further tweaked. The BenQ, on the other hand, is tempting, for it’s image sharpness, which bests the other two. Tough one. I can tell you that right now, I’m watching the Penn State – Northwestern game, on the RS25, with CFI on low (it has low, high, and off choices). Looks good, but I must admit I was tempted to swap in the Epson 9500UB for the extra 400+ lumens. (I probably would have, but hey, I’m officially reviewing the RS25 right now.

  • Adam

    Art,

    Could you comment on how calibration changes when you switch to low lamp mode?

    Thanks!

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

      Hi Adam, hey, one calibration, is all you get. (and a “quick cal” which is just a slight improvement in color without sacrificing too many lumens, for a bright mode.

      Well, since we only calibrate one mode, its always the high lamp setting. In most cases, there is a small color shift at low lamp, and sometimes there is a modest difference in the overall grayscale curve (from 100 IRE to 20 IRE).

      In the case of this Epson, we measured THX “out of the box” at high power, with a white color temp of 6505K. By comparison, switching to low lamp, the color temp increased to 6730, a slight shift toward a cooler image. I have no measurements for the lower IREs. -art

  • Titus

    Hi Art,
    Thanks for the great review!

    Just to get things in perspective, how would you compare the Epson 8500 in BRIGHT mode (Dynamic or Living Room) to the Mitsubishi HC3800 in BEST mode?

    I want to watch movies on a 135″ screen, so I need some significant brightness. I am wondering if it makes sense to even think about getting the Epson if I can only use it in bright mode.

    Thanks!

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

      Hmm, good question. I’ll see if I can get to that tonight. I’m shooting a youtube video teaser about the HC3800 review, to put up, and I’ve got the Epson right here too. My guess is that color will favor the Mitsubishi with our current settings in brightest modes, where are a compromise by choice. I’d guess that in your situation you’d want to tweak the Epson for best color in a brightest mode. The big difference between best and brightest is the color filter in place in those “best” modes. I suspect you could get similar brightness and roughly comparable color, between the two projectors) which case the big difference would be black levels, which the Epson would still handily be superior at.

  • Leffe

    Art,

    This is a little off topic, but I was wondering if you have ever seen or tested the Black Diamond II 1.4 gain screens from SI. I ask here because I am contemplating pairing an Epson 8500 UB with SI’s 113″ 16:9 version and was wondering if you had any thoughts on the screen or the combination of this screen with the 8500UB. I really like the idea of having the ambient light rejection of the Black Diamond material so I can keep the lights on during sports/parties etc.

    Thanks!

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

      Leffe,

      Greetings! Actually, I’ve wanted to test one of the “black” screens for some time. I spoke with SI at CEDIA, and we discussed them sending me one. That said, I’ll probably try to have it arrive next month sometime, but top priority is getting through the reviews of the JVC DLA-RS25, the Panasonic PT-AE4000, the Optoma HD8600, and the JVC DLA-RS15, (and the Sony VPL-VW85 if I can get my hands on one soon.)

      As soon as I know more about when, etc. I’ll mention it in a blog. -art

  • Jeff Hurst

    Your article has really helped me feel better about waiting for the new 8500UB, as the improved image processing sounds very worthwhile. The sharpness enhancement and reduced motion blur were very interesting. Glad to hear they’ve improved CFI enough to make it useful more often. Thanks for the late nights and dedication to quality.

  • Matthieu

    Hi Art.
    I’m following this with great interrest.

    The blacks from the Epson are much better on your comparison photo’s against the BenQ W6000.
    But will I see that overall more threedemensional look of the Epson in my livingroom?

    I have a room that can be fully darkened with our large darkened blinds BUT on the inside, our viewingside is light grey. We have a shiny white floor, a white ceiling, and light blue wallpaper.
    So when the scene is dark it will look good, but when the scene has brighter parts, than that will light up my room and the reflections will washout the black in that picture.

    Will the Epson still give me that better picture than the BenQ W6000, or wil the Epson loose his benefits.

    Thank you so much.

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

      Yes, you’ll still get an advantage, but both will obviously degrade in terms of blacks. Anything you can do to darken those walls, floors, will make a bigger difference, though than the difference between the two projectors. ie. Let’s say you darken your room surfaces 75%, and you’ll end up with blacker blacks, on the W6000, compared to not darkening your surfaces, and using the Epson. In terms of blacks you’d be better off with the BenQ and darker surfaces, even though ultimately the Epson projector produces blacker blacks.

      I went through the same thing here in my house. My testing room has medium dark walls, darker than average ceiling and a lot of dark woods, etc. For several years, though, my main theater (our great room) simply had off white walls and ceiling and gold carpet. Since we use that room all the time, not just for home theater, going really dark – ie. near black, was never a viable option as far as Lori (the wife) has been concerned.

      The solution I came up with, was to “design a relatively dark room that still felt like a nice great room and not a cave (unless fully darkened). Thus, in our house, as you’ve probably seen in many images in reviews, my walls are now a fairly dark rust color with a faux look to it. The ceilings, which at first glance, look white (since they are the brightest surface in the room), are actually now 5 or six shades down from white, and are actually a lot closer to a mid-gray than white.

      Lori was very skeptical until the job was completed. Turns out she loves it, and we’ve gotten plenty of complements, as the room for general use) is rather striking looking. -a

  • Henry Mazel

    Thanks for the review of the UB8500/9500. I was very interested in the competitors section and I see you added it. The only one missing is the one I wanted to see most — the Benq W6000. Will you be posting the UB8500 vs the Benq W6000?

    Thanks

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

      Hmm, thought I did cover it. I’ll check and add. *Hey, it’s those late nights…”

  • Jeff Hurst

    Darkening the room can make a massive difference, as can taking the show outside. I bought one of those $300 Gemmy 12ft inflatable screens and borrowed a projector for neighborhood “Movie Night”. On a nightime indoor test the image looked OK, but outside in a dark field it looked amazingly better! I honestly couldn’t believe it was the same projector. That’s when it dawned on me how badly the screens own reflection off the ceiling, walls, and floor was washing out the color. You can spend a lot of money making a home theater into a Movie Palace, but if all you care about is image quality then some flat black paint and 59cents/ft dark grey commercial carpet can make a big difference. I went pretty extreme, but even just a dark rug near the screen would help.

  • Darryl Lowe

    Hi Art,

    I read the review on the 8500…great review! There is only one thing that I can’t seem to find anywhere regarding that projector…what are the ANSI Black levels rated at, and how do black levels compare with other projectors when looking at blacks in the majority of scenes that have average light levels..?

    I’ve read one review that compares the Pan4000, and it says that while the 8500 is best for darker scenes, the majority of scenes have better blacks & color saturation on the Pan4000…?

    Thanks,
    Darryl

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

      Hi Darryl,

      OK, first, I don’t do ANSI, nor do I plan to. (I get asked at least once or twice a month. Actually I’m not that big on specs either, and favor the subjective approach. Over the years, the reviews have grown to have lots of measurements, and calibration settings. Ultimately that grew out of my desire, and requests from readers, as to how we ended up setting up the projectors after calibration. And, I’m pleased to say, that one of the things we get the most thanks for, are our calibration settings recommendations. They aren’t perfect, of course, but in almost every case, provide a slight, to significant improvement in picture quality, compared to just pulling one out of the box and hooking it up.

      Back to ANSI. If you read a lot of reviews, you’ll quickly discover that subjective analysis tends not to follow ANSI when it comes to black level performance. right off the bat, the use of irises basically changes almost everything. Sure, you could turn off the iris on the Epson, and the Panasonic, but you won’t. So why worry about ANSI, the iris actions and design will have a huge difference.

      Now, about the blacks being slightly blacker on the Panny, than the 8500UB, in bright and mid-brightness scenes. 1. Can’t comment, because I won’t have the PT-AE4000 here until Friday. 2. Assuming it’s true, it is a relatively minor aspect in the grand comparison of these two projectors. If the difference in blacks was dramatic on say a bright scene with skyscrapers, and a black helicopter in the foreground, then maybe, but, the reviewer you are quoting – Evan – indicates only a slight difference. Which means, ok, maybe there will be a touch more pop to the image.

      But the real difference is not when dealing with those types of scenes, and is far, far more significant:

      I’m talking about dark scenes, and really dark scenes. Here even a slight difference in black level performance can be rather dramatic. I could break out any number of side by side images from last year’s reviews to demonstrate. And will do so with the Panny vs Epson, next week.

      When you have a really dark scene, ie. the train scene I use from Bond, or many of the space scenes from Space Cowboys or The Fifth Element, or dark scenes in The Dark Knight or Hunt for Red October, just modestly blacker blacks can mean the difference between a dull scene and a vibrant one. That was certainly obvious last year, when we compared the 6500UB against the PT-AE3000 and Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (and BenQ W5000, etc.) If the Panasonic’s blacks in dark scenes have improved a lot more than the Epson’s have, it may be a real horserace, but, if the Epson (or any projector) still maintains an easily visible difference on dark scenes, that’s where (all else considered) you want to be putting your money.

      We shall have to see how good the Panasonic PT-AE4000 at all levels, compared to the Epson, as certainly, again this year, the latest versions of these two projectors will dominate the under $2500 marketplace.

      Much fun. I’d dig out a couple of old side-by-side images, but I’m just too slammed. You can probably find them in the old Epson 6500UB review.

  • Darryl Lowe

    Thx Art!

    That makes perfect sense…that where people would notice the most difference in blacks, is in darker scenes, not mid/lighter scenes.
    As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, the fact that most scenes in movies are usually not dark, would make for an even more dramatic change in darkness for ‘blacker projectors’, than if a movie was to have half or more scenes that are dark. I know it may be subjective, but I think the less dark scenes there are in a movie, the more shock effect there is in those scenes, when using projectors that have more noticably blacker blacks.

    So if what I’ve read in other reviews is true, than this year Epson will still maintain an advantage on both brightness and blacks/contrast, which is two points up for the 8500. Now I really can’t wait for your review, because if you find the same difference in blacks & brightness that others have, the Epson will win in those particular areas … though I don’t want to presume anything, as your measurements & your conclusions may differ from other reviewers, whereby you may find less difference in ‘blacks’ between the 2 projectors than other reviewers do (in dark scenes), or you may find the Panny is brighter than others say it is..?

    Though, if all holds the same with Epson maintaining better blacks and brightness, as other reviews have shown, the only thing that might make a difference is that the Pan4000 seems to be $500 less than the 8500. How that will play out in the market place, and whether it makes the Pan4000 better or equal in terms of “value for your dollar” & what you recommend as the best ‘bang for your buck’, I am eager to find out, and thus I will be waiting with baited breath for your review.

    I really appreciate you taking time to respond during what I presume is one of your busiest times of the year, and I really appreciate & value all your ‘extremely in-depth’ reviews.

    Regardless of which projector comes out on top this or any other year, the Epson/Panasonic competition makes it very exciting.

    Darryl

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

      Hi Darryl,

      Thanks. Not much to add at this point. You seem to be following and concurring with my take as to why black levels are far more critical in dark scenes. That’s a good thing, since Evan’s article tends to play down the huge difference that can be found in those dark screens, compared to the relatively minor differences a similar advantage in blacks has in a brighter scene. That is my point. Well, the Panasonic is arriving Friday, complete with engineer and product manager. Should be fun. (and I get a free meal out of it to boot!). Yes I will do one blog about it before the weekend ends, if at all possible. Monday at the very latest. -art

  • Matthieu

    I think you’re waiting for the production model of the BenQ W6000 to finish the Comparison between the two, am I right?
    What I’m very curious about is;
    Is the Epson in Livingroom mode still better than the BenQ in Best mode.
    I ask that because I need the Bright picture alot because we will use two beamers for 3D projection, and the polar filters on front of the projector and the glasses take away alot of light.
    For the Epson we use Circulaire polarfilters and glasses, for the BenQ lineare polar which are cheaper, but it is possible now to do 3D with LCD projectors now.

    It would have been better to use shutter glasses and feed the Epson or BenQ 120 frames a second, but that’s not possible I think.
    They can interpolate 24 f a sec. to 120 but not eat actually real 120 frames a sec or am I wrong about that.

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

      The BenQ in “best” will have richer colors and more accurate skin tones. The Epson’s livingroom mode is pretty good, but, remember, does not use the filter that Epson slides in place for all best modes, and improves color accuracy. I’d personally rather watch a W6000 in “best” than an Epson in Livingroom, but I’d rather watch an Epson in best than a BenQ in best. -a

  • Brent

    Quick question Art – I have the opportunity to buy an Epson 8500 at a great price. I currently have the 8100 that I bought from a local big chain a week ago and can return it with no restocking fee. I got a great deal on the 8100 as well though, so the difference is going to be about 700 (even though I’m getting the 8500 for under 2k.) My last pj was a panny ptax100u so the increase in sharpness and vividness between the panny and the 8100 was already significant, as well as the black levels. My theater room is partially light-controlled – some of the ceiling is painted black (specifically in front of the pj screen) and I own an entry level 92″ Elite screen. Will you please give me your opinion on whether the 8500 will be a significant upgrade vs the 8100? I have no way to demo the unit unfortunately. Nobody on the forums seems to want to give their 2 cents (probably because they haven’t actually seen the two units…) THANKS!

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

      Presuming you will be watching a lot of content at night, and that you can fully darken so you have no real ambient issues, then yes, the 8500 is, by my measure well worth the difference. Hey, if you are watching a football game, or a movie showing a daytime scene of Central Park, the two Epsons should be near identical.

      But if your room darkens, and you are looking at a night scene or any really dark scene without a lot of bright areas, then the difference is going to be rather dramatic.

      I would expect a greater improvement in blacks going from the 8100 to the 8500UB than the improvement going from the Panny to the 8100. -art