The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB Projectors – Details

UPDATE: The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB Review has been posted.

Greetings all,

Time to share some info about the four new Epson 1080p projectors.  Not long ago, I got a briefing on them at Epson’s facility in Long Beach, CA (only 40 miles from here). I got a decent look at the Home Cinema 8500UB in action.  It will be replacing the 6500UB, in a couple of months or less.

I’ll start with the Home Cinema 8500UB, and then touch on the Pro Cinema 9500UB, it’s almost identical sibling.  The Pro is sold only by authorizedShown: Epson Home Cinema 8500UB. 9500UB Identical except black finish local installing dealers, while the Home Cinema 8500UB is available through authorized online dealers as well as local ones.
These new projectors represent the 3rd generation of Epson’s “ultra-high” contrast projectors. That started with the original 1080 UB, which was replaced by the 6500UB and 7500UB, which, in turn will be replaced in couple of months by the new Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB respectively.

The new Epson projectors physically look like the old ones.

The pricing, while not set yet, should be similar to the older models, and the official word for the 8500UB street price, is “Sub-$3000.”

These new projectors aren’t available yet.  Figure late October / early November.

Home Cinema 8500UB Home Theater Projector

1600 lumens (same as the 6500UB)
New – Dual layered dynamic iris
Improved electronic sharpness (same optics)
Silicon Optix Reon-VX image processing
4000 hour lamp at full power

Probably the two biggest differences between the new and the old, relates to contrast (and therefore, black level performance), and CFI – creative frame interpolation.

I must start with the contrast ratio. The number is stratospheric, at “up to 200,000:1″ That’s more than double the 6500UB’s, and I’m pretty sure, the highest number I’ve seen on any projector that’s not a CRT.

How that translates into improved black levels, I’ll have to wait and see.  The room I saw it in wasn’t ideal, a smallish conference room with white walls, and a relatively small screen.  So while I can’t say definitively how much improvement, I definitely figure any improvement is a great thing. After all, the older 6500UB has rather excellent blacks, bested only by a few, noticeably more expensive projectors, and these projectors could close the gap.

CFI:  For those of you who have been following CFI (creative frame rate) discussions, when th 6500UB and 7500UB first shipped, their CFI (first generation), which is designed to smooth out jerky motion, had some issues.  Epson released improved firmware about 90 days (give or take) after the products first  started shipping.

The “fix” really improved the CFI in a number of ways, but, CFI is a really new thing in consumer displays, and there’s still left room for improvement.  CFI is nice to have, but, so far, for some content you are better off, turning it off, on projectors, LCDTV’s and plasmas.  No doubt the technology will continue to improve.

This time around, from what Epson showed me, their CFI has been improved in a number of ways.  Perhaps of greatest import, in tough cases, the creative frame interpolation figures out when its normal workings won’t improve the image, and it changes the way it works, or doesn’t try to do as much, to avoid pesky artifacts.  I like the idea: Better to shut down or scale back then to create artifacts far worse than what you are trying to eliminate.

Ok, check this out:  There’s a mode which splits the screen so that the CFI only works on half, so you can see the differences between with and without CFI.

And that is very cool!  (and will make this reviewer’s life a little simpler).

I didn’t get much time to really play with the split screen, but it was definitely interesting, and I could easily see the CFI doing its thing.  When I get one in for review, I’ll put the CFI through its paces.  I’m particularly curious to try Bourne Supremacy  on the new CFIs. It’s a challenge.

Back to the Home Cinema 8500UB, though.

Room and setup considered, the Epson 8500UB looked really good. No doubt the Home Cinema 8500UB will be a worthy replacement.  I’m looking forward to a review unit, but no date yet.

The functionality of the projector should be almost identical to the 6500UB, with just a few changes on menus.  And that takes us to the Pro Cinema 9500UB, which is more of the same, but with just a few differences.

Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB Home Theater Projector

There really are only a few differences between the two projectors:

The 9500UB comes in a shiny, piano finish, black case.  It comes with a third year warranty, one year more than the 8500UB.

The Pro Cinema 9500UB supports an anamorphic lens setup.  The Home Cinema 8500UB does not.

This projector is ISF certified, which means two modes for professional calibrators – ISF Day, and ISF Night, which are lockable, so the user can’t mess with them.  (All of the Epsons have 10 normal user savable settings, which is far more than most home theater projectors have.

If Epson follows tradition, and it seems they will, the Pro Cinema 9500UB will come bundled with ceiling mount and spare lamp, and, as mentioned before, be sold only by authorized local installing dealers.  Price will be higher, of course.

Ok, that pretty much covers it.

I’m anticipating that the new Epson projectors will be able provide a readily visible improvement over the still  impressive older models.  Now that would be a very good thing!

We shall see.  -art

News And Comments

  • Bjorn

    Ouch, so I’m assuming that means no 2.35/16:9 anamorphic memory settings on the new Epsons then? :-(

    That’s a huge disappointment as this is THE model I was mostly looking forward to. While the 8500 does sound like a clear improvement over the 6500 it apparently lacks the one critical feature that I really want in my new projector.

    Please confirm this if you can. Thanks for the first look Art, and this would surely have topped my wishlist if it hadn’t been for that :(

    Oh, the link to the first look on your front page says 6500ub btw…

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

      Hi Bjorn,

      It’s a marketing thing for Epson. Since they have the 8500UB for the online sales, and the 9500UB for the local dealers, they need two different prices, and two different feature sets. This has been consistent for them, the Home series does not have anamorphic support, the Pro series does.

      Pricing wise, people probably pay a premium of about $400 – $700 net for a “Pro” after backing out a conservative (lower) value of a ceiling mount and spare lamp. Then you get the extra year warranty, the anamorphic support, the black case, and the ISF, for that difference.

      Not likely to change anytime soon. -art

  • Mike R

    Hi Art,

    I suspect Bjorn was actually wondering if Epson might have incorporated the zoom memory that exists in e.g. Panasonic PT-AE3000/4000 in either of the new models. The setup with v-stretch for anamorphic lens support only being available in the “Pro” model in the Epson lines has been the standard for some while and not likely to change anytime soon, exactly for the reasons you mentioned. But introduction of zoom memory could have been done to either Epson line in this year’s models.

    I had also hoped that more manufactures would take after Panasonic and introduce the anamorphic zoom memory function in this year’s models, and maybe even do it a little bit better than Panasonic has done, e.g. with discrete commands for switching between stored zoom/focus/digital-shift setting modes and no stupid text on screen while the change occurs. Well OK the automatic detection and switching between 16:9 and 2.4:1 in the new Panasonic PT-AE4000 seems like a step in the right direction for them, otherwise first reports of the new Panasonic specs are a bit disappointing, so additional choice in manufacturers with stored zoom/focus/digital-shift function would be very welcome this year.

    We can only hope that at least one more manufacturer (JVC please!) will eventually introduce the zoom memory function so we that like this very convenient function will have at least one other alternative than Panasonic in the sub $10 000 projector arena.

    -Mike

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

      Hi Mike,

      Yep, I missed Bjorn’s original focus. Regarding Epson, bottom line is simple: Epson is still running a manual lens, so no chance! (Unless you want to climb a ladder if ceiling or high shelf mounted.) Having a motorized zoom (and re-focus) is key. (Focus because with a lot of projectors, the focus may shift slightly from using the zoom frequently.)

      We are seeing more 1.5:1 zooms on DLP projectors, but most aren’t motorized, so, they are dead in the water, (like the Epson), from the memory perspective. One example is the new BenQ W6000. So far, of the usual brands, I think it’s still only Panasonic. Well, good for them!

      It’s a nice feature (anamorphic lens emulation). We shall have to see. Plan B, of course, as I just wrote back to Bjorn, is to go with a masking system, if you already have a fixed screen – you might, for example check out the Carada, which supposedly will work with any 2.35:1 – 2.40:1 fixed screen.

  • Bjorn

    Hi Art, seems I didn’t make myself clear. I was referring to the very popular feature on the Panasonic AE3000 where you can easily switch between 16:9 and 2:35 via memory settings on the projector, without having to use super-expensive anamorphic lenses.

    After the AE3000 included the feature last year a lot of reviews and people on forums were talking about/hoping that the other manufacturers would follow with a similar implementation of the feature this year, unfortunately it seems Epson didn’t think think about it that way.

    I have a 2.35 Stewart Firehawk screen, and while I love watching movies in 2.35 filling up the whole screen it is a bit of a hassle having to manually switch between 16:9 and 2.35 on my current pj (the Sanyo PLV-Z4) so the AE3000 really has an amazingly simple and awesome feature for those of us with 2.35 screens.

    Apparently this years AE4000 has an even more improved anamorphic feature where it automatically senses aspect ratio, and if I read correctly also has a new type of lens that can utilize 2.35 anamorphic in full pixel quality. Guess I’ll have to wait and see what’s up with that…

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

      Hi again,

      Yep, missed something there. The “anamorphic lens emulation” feature is very nice (and perhaps the ultimate reason I put the PT-AE3000 in a tie for Best in Class with the Epson 6500UB (which I personally favor). I’ll learn more about the PT-AE4000, probably in a couple of weeks during a call scheduled with Panasonic. That last thing, about the lens – sounds interesting, but don’t see how they will accomplish that without its own anamorphic elements? More to look into. -a

  • Scott Richardson

    Our new house is almost finished being built, and I was only days away from ordering the 7500 (5000 here in Australia). So glad I didn’t. I’m happy to wait the 6 – 8 weeks for the new ones to come down under… and I’m tempted to just go for the 8500 rather than the 9500… I don’t think I’ll be going anamorphic just yet.. as I play too many games and watch a lot of regular TV which is all 16:9.

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

      Hi Scott,

      Sounds like a plan, the 8500UB looks to be a truly impressive improvement over the 6500UB. As to anamorphics, few people go anamorphic in these price ranges, where the lens/sled is more than the projector. Even if you decide, for less than an anamorphic setup, (assuming you are using a fixed screen, you could go with a motorized masking system for a fixed screen, and still spend less. There are some trade-offs, but, know that there is a solution for getting rid of the letterboxing for cinemascope movies, without going the lens/sled route. -art

  • Dallen

    Hi Art. Do you have any more info regarding the other cheaper Epsons? In particular what sort of step up(if any) from previous models like the 6100/ tw3000?
    Thanks.

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

      Hi Dallen,

      I posted a blog earlier today, about the Home Cinema 8100. That is the 6100′s replacement, and it looks to be a bit less expensive (depending on any closeout rebates on the 6100. Double the contrast ratio for better blacks, same brightness, and an anticipated MAP price – Minimum (online) Advertised Price – of $1599. Some other minor improvements too. -art

  • kimon

    Art, can you tell me if either the 6500 ub or the 8500 ub will be capable of displaying Real D 3D movies? If not, are there any other front projectors that can?

    Thanks, Kimon

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

      Greetings Kimon,

      I’m just starting to follow 3D. Let’s say that DLP is in the forefront right now, in that due to 3LCD and LCoS projectors using polarization schemes, the way things are, with specialty 3D, they usually use 2 projectors. One with DLP projectors.

      The thing is this, there really isn’t any usable standard, to my knowledge, for consumer 3D. As a result, I’m figuring it will be at least 2, perhaps 3 years before we really see any 3D hitting the home at all.

      Personally I suspect that 3D in the home will be driven by gamers. I think the details will settle out in two years, but don’t count on anything today working with whatever forthcoming standard emerges for 3D movies in the home. If nothing else, 120 hz (fps) seems to be the minimum, and probably 240 hz would make more sense? So far, few projectors are even doing 120 hz, but more each year. We’re just seeing the first batch of 240 hz flat panels on the market (lcdtv and plasma).

      That’s about all I can guess at now. I’ll be speaking with several projector manufacturers working closely with 3D, including projectiondesign, and Digital Projection, JVC, and so on. -art

  • Ted

    Art,

    Are the contrast ratios the same for both the 8500UB and 9500UB? The European models seem to have different contrast ratios, hence my confusion. :)

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

      Hi Ted,

      The 8500UB and 9500UB show identical “up to 200,000:1″ contrast ratios. The 8100 and 9100, are both 36,000:1.

      I haven’t followed any of the EU threads so I’m not sure what’s going on elsewhere in the world, but they usually only have one “UB” and one regular 1080p projector. I’ll ask at my meeting with Epson at CEDIA. Look for a blog or two from the show, later this week. -art

  • Dallen

    So Art, one more question for you. (a bit off topic). With the Panny ae4000 announcement, is it fair to say we won’t be seeing an ax300 from them ever? Seems Panny have gone all high end on us. Epson seem to be on a better course as far as consumer choice and budgets go. Any thoughts?

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

      Greetings,

      I don’t think we’ll hear anything about any new 720p from Panasonic. It’s getting to the point where 1080ps are down to $1000, and 720p’s are already, perhaps no more than 15% or maybe a little more, of the whole HT projector market, in terms of revenues. And as you’ve probably read, since you put up your comment, so far, there’s no word that Panasonic will sell the PT-AE4000 in the US! -art

  • Jon

    How does the 8500UB compare to the RS2 (I’m deciding between the 2) – thanks.

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  • Neal Neuman

    DO you have any opinions between the Epson 8500 and the PT-AE4000 as to the contrast ratio? I have a nice dark basement, currently happy with the PT-AE1000 that I have, but want to up grade. Will the Epson be much superior to the panasonic, or only in a lab scenario??

    Thanks!

  • Robert Sévigny

    I have enjoyed the Epson 1080UB for almost two years. Will I see a big improvement going to the 8500UB especially black levels. It would be very interesting to see a comparison between the two.

    Thanks!

    Robert

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

      Hi Robert,
      No, I don’t think you’ll see a big difference. The 1080UB can still hold its own with just about all the other LCD projectors. They are still in the same class, but the 6500UB is definitely better. Let me put it this way, I’d say, that I wouldn’t make the trade up, just for the black levels. While you can rationalize that, I would say, consider it, if you want some of the other goodies, like CFI. Mind you, that’s off the top of my head. I really should look as I still have the 9500UB review unit here, and I have the 1080UB in my Epson Ensemble. -art

  • http://robgsev.site90.com/Cinema/Cinema_RobSev.pdf Robert Sévigny

    Thank you for the quick answer. In your reviews, the 6500UB was better than the 1080UB and then one year later, the 8500UB is better than the 6500UB (mainly for black levels). So I would really like to see a comparaison shot between the 1080UB and the 8500UB.
    There are probably many other users of the 1080UB that like me are looking to improve their cinema every other year.
    Also I can still have a good price selling my 1080UB so may be it’s a good time to update.
    Thanks again

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

      No question, the 8500UB has better blacks. That said, it’s incremental. Personally I doubt I’d take the financial hit of upgrading, solely for the bit better blacks. If CFI appeals to you, etc. then maybe. Otherwise I’d say maybe wait one more year. I have a 1080 UB in my Ensemble HD – my second theater. True, it’s mostly used by wife and daughter, not me, but still, I as also an RS20 owner, realize that the improvement from 1080UB to 8500UB in blacks is relatively small, compared to say the 8500UB to the RS20. -art

  • Ryan

    I have had the 6500UB for about a year now. I was really let down about the CFI when I first got my projector. With the firmware updates it is a lot better but still too many artifacts. I am seriously considering trading in my 6500UB in exchange for the 8500UB if Epson will allow me. I’m the type of consumer who loves the CFI. I love how the images pop with the 6500UB and am very interested in seeing the 8500UB. I know you did a review on the 6500 CFI and you just posted on the 8500UB and I understand how the 8500UB works, but is there really a BIG difference. Would I just be wasting my time speaking with Epson? I would be willing to spend a couple hundred $$$ to get the upgrade. Thanks again for all the reviews you have done in the past. You were very instrumental in my decision making.

  • http://www.rambergart.com pete ramberg

    Art – when you have a chance to respond:

    I have an epson 8500ub recently installed (incredible with a 130″ wall painted with ‘screen goo’), but don’t understand its refresh rate.

    1.When accepting a 24p signal, the ‘info’ menu says the refreash rate is 24hz – but it is using 4:4 pulldown, so is the refresh rate actually 96hz?? Also,

    2. engaging CFI (which is disabled when using 4:4 pulldown) on a 60p signal shows 60hz as the refresh rate in the ‘info’ menu. How can it be interpolating new frames on a 60 hz source at 60 hz refresh rate? Does it increase the refresh rate to 96 or 120hz?? Thanks when you have time. I asked Epson, but heard nothing back…

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

      Hi Pete,
      As you’ve probably guessed, Epson is referring to the provided signal entering the projector. All this other stuff, CFI, 4:4, etc. are shall we say – the Epson modifying the either 24, 30 or 60 hz input signal. One could argue that when you have 4:4 selected that it should say: 24–>96, but hey… they don’t, or when CFI is on and you have a 60i signal it could say 60–>120.

      Ultimately though, that’s the story, Info shows you what the projector sees, before it starts playing with it, and changing the data.

      BTW, all 60, goes to 120, if it goes anywhere.
      24 fps goes to 96 for basic FI (no creative), or 96 (I think, short of checking) with CFI it also goes to 96 (the original 6500UB before the CFI fix took 24 to 120, and it was just too much… work. -art

  • Brent M

    Hi Art,

    I was wanting to know the best distance to mount the 8500ub for a 100″dia. screen? I know the range but would you recommend going all the way back to the 21′ of the range or would say around 15′ be good enough. Any help or comments would be great! Thanks in advance for any advice:-)

    Brent

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

      Hi Brent,

      There’s no “best” place. full wide angle is brightest, but will have the most optical distortion (slight curvature, etc.), minor stuff, Full tele, the dimmest, and the least curvature. Wide angle positioning will give you more roll off in the corners and sides with high contrast and high gain screens, further back, less. And, where you sit will determine where the projector will be quietest. You’ve got enough lumens for a good job rear shelf mounted for movies, so it’s up to you. If going wide or tele, probably avoid going the maximum, if you can, back off 5 or 10% if possible just figuring that the lenses are not going to be at their very best at the extremes. -art

  • Ed W

    Hi Art,

    I have a new basement theater install, and I’m trying to decide between a 16:9 or a 2.35 screen. I do not have the current budget to obtain an anamorphic lens sled, but I do enough room to almost match the vertical dimensions of a 100″ 16:9 screen of 48.8″ and a 115″ 2.35 screen of 45″.

    I’m intrigued by the Panasonic AE4000 anamorphic memory setting. Would there be enough lumens to cover a 115″ 2.35 screen (as your wonderful reviews focus on 16:9 screens)?

    Would the Epson 9500 UB (with it’s higher lumens) be another alternative if I manually alter the zoom and focus?

    Your insights are appreciated! Thanks -Ed

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

      Probably too much of a pain in the ass to use the Epson or any other that’s manual.

      As to the Panny, sure, just mount close to the widest angle zoom you can, allowing for the fact that your overall zoom range is cut down by roughly half? since you need to be able to zoom in/out to support both aspect ratios. Still that should buy you more lumens than the mid-point based measurements we do. In a pinch, and espeically as the lamp dims, don’t forget you have a number of modes, some are brighter and still offer an excellent image.

      Let me know how it turns out. -art

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  • julio

    Epson PowerLite Pro Cinema 9500 UB vs. Sony BRAVIA VPL-VW85
    I have a 133″ da-lite high contrast screen, I am looking for a projector and I am reading good reviews from this two projector.

    Let’s suppose they cost the same

    Which one would have the best picture quality? For this screen size
    Which one would you buy?

    Thanks you

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

      Julio, you have a problem. Unless that screen of yours is brighter than my 128″ Firehawk neither projector has the lumens in best mode, to really do a great job. The Epson I don’t think can fill your screen all the way in best mode, even with a new lamp. The Sony, with an extra about 100 lumens in best mode, has the best chance. The Epson can crank out lots more lumens than the Sony, over double, in brightest mode, but if you want best color, the Sony delivers more high quality lumens. Epson’s Livingroom mode will get you more than 1100 – lots of lumens, but you’ll have good, not great color, etc.

      You may wish, if they also possibly work (placement, etc), want to consider the InFocus SP8602, or even the low cost BenQ W6000. -art

  • Brandon

    Hi Art,

    I just sold my Panny AE3000 to make room for a better projector. I have been debating on just going out and getting the Epson 8500. I’m not a big 3D guy, so the new 3D projectors is not really high on my list. Since I used my projector for basically sports and blu rays, do you think I should just wait until Oct or Nov when the new projectors will be available or just I just go with a really good projector in the Epson 8500? Do, you think another projector in that price range will improve so much that I should wait?

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

      Tough call, I do, however believe that Epson’s about out of 8500′s one of their larger dealers – you may have noticed is out, as they pulled their 8500 banners last week when they ran out (and that would indicate Epson’s about out too.. I’d wait, but then… ya neva know.

  • Brandon

    Thanks Art, I’ll take your advice and wait 6-8 weeks.

  • Nic

    I don’t get it…most comments and replys say the 8500 is very good, you should get it. Yet, as to Julio, you say nyet.

    Was that just cause of the screen? What about the lack of powered lens…is this a deal breaker.

    Thanks, obviously I’m not quite capable of digesting this info, so speak as you would to a child. Thanks.

    PS. I can get the 8500 new in the box for 1250.

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

      Hi Nic,

      I’m pretty consistent on one thing – I do not feel the Epson 8500UB (or the 8700UB for that matter) is bright enough to fill a high contrast gray screen at a 133″ diagonal size, in it’s best mode (THX or Theater Black 1). The Sony is 20% brighter. Now, make that a white screen with 1.4 gain, and I favor the Epson as a better value, and both can do the job.

      I like the Epson on HC grays – up to about 110″ diagonal. YOu can push beyond in a good room, but remember by the time that 4000 hour lamp has 3000 hours on it, you will likely have lost a full 1/3 of your brightness.. And that’s my objection. I otherwise favor the Epson for the better blacks, lower price, longer range zoom, etc.

      One note, I speak assuming the projector is mounted mid-zoom to further back. If you are mounting your projector close, say 14 feet from a 133 inch, you’ll have at leat 50% more lumens than mounting it 25 feet back. That’s the usual with zoom lenses.

      Bottom line, my concern relates solely to screen size (and related issues like room brightness).

      BTW at $1250 for an 8500UB – GRAB it! it’s a steal. -art