Projector Reviews

Runner-Up: Best in Class ($1000-$2000): Epson Home Cinema 3500

Epson has three projectors in the current Home Cinema 3000 lineup.  The two we’re discussing here, the Home Cinema 3500 and the 3600e are identical except for price and the addition of wireless HDMI (which explains the difference in price).  The third, the HC3000 wasn’t reviewed, but is basically the same with the biggest difference being the lack of built in sound system/speakers, and being a few hundred dollars less.

I don’t really like calling these home entertainment projectors, but that’s perhaps the most appropriate description.  Calling them that tends to mix them in with a lot of under $1000 projectors, and these guys certainly have the brightness to earn that designation, but also a whole lot more going for them.  Hey, I also refer Sony’s $9999 VW350ES as the worlds most expensive 4K Home Entertainment projector.

We measured almost 3000 lumens at full wide angle, and even in the best color modes, at mid-zoom, still managed almost 2300 lumens.  That crushes, for example, the Optoma HD161X also picked up an award in this price range.  With Epson (3LCD) that means you are getting that many color lumens, as well as white ones which means a lot of pop and wow, even near maximum brightness.

As a side note, an award winner in the lower price range, the BenQ HC1200, a DLP projector, claims 2800 lumens, but delivers only about 1750 color ones (about 2/3, much better, btw than most DLP projectors).  When there’s more than minimal ambient light present, that BenQ will definitely wash out first.  Get the picture (or “get the better picture?”)

Now if you are shopping Epson, and you want to go dedicated home theater projector, I would still recommend – if the budget allows, either Epson’s Pro Cinema 4030 (our top award winner in this $1000 – $2000 price range), or the more expensive Home Cinema 5030UB.

2015-2016_award_1000-2000-BESTINCLASS-RUNNER-UPThat’s because while the black level performance of these 3xxx projectors is better than the older 3000 series, and the 2000 series, it’s still a big jump to the others.

The HC3500 is a projector you should just love in a family room with “decent” light control, filling, perhaps a 120″ diagonal screen with that football game, or some action oriented movie – perhaps a Transformers – try that in 3D on this projector – it’s got the brightness to do 3D on a fairly large screen, something few other projectors can.

Out of the box color is at least very good, typical of Epson.  If you calibrate it, it gets modestly better.  Skin tones are impressive even without calibration.  We do publish our settings, if you are  “into” the difference.

Why the Home Cinema 3500 and 3600e won their award

The HC3500 and siblings are not entry level projectors.  That Epson offers a half dozen models below these in price and features, should make that clear.

You get a dynamic iris for enhanced black levels, even if not truly “ultra high contrast” performance.  Then there’s CFI – creative frame interpolation for smooth motion which is especially great on sports.

I really like the wireless HDMI feature on the Home Cinema 3600e, btw.

This projector also offers Epson’s detail enhancement feature set including Detail Enhancement, and Super-Resolution, and these are the least expensive Epsons to sport their pixel alignment capabilities for a sharper image.  That is, Epson’s very “focused” on the perceived sharpness of these projectors.

Into “new school” content – Netflix, HBO Go, streaming sticks like Roku, Amazon Fire, and Google Chromcast, no worries, HDMI one has MHL for working with those, and working wirelessly with many smart phones and tablets.

There’s hefty ruilt in audio for those wanting a quick setup, or use the projector on the go (or the backyard movie night).  I don’t think you’ll find more capable sound built in than in these, but a good surround sound system, of course is superior.

Not bad as gaming projectors go, either.  The input lag times aren’t great, but acceptable for most serious gamers, and all of the rest of us.  On the other hand, exceptional brightness is a definite gaming plus.

The list of features goes on and on, so consult the full review for more info.  Don’t forget – two year warranty, with two years of rapid replacement program.  That sure beats the 1 year parts and labor so common in this price range.  Most of us don’t think about it, until we need it.  And then, we love the difference.

Compared to the Optoma (or the Epson Pro Cinema 4030) these are more living room/ family room, with those more purist oriented.  If the 4030 is out of reach price wise, I lean toward the HD161X for the cave, but these two Epsons for your other room environments.  The Optoma does have one other advantage advantage, which is being a few hundred less, more in line with the built in speaker-less HC3000.

Suffice to say, although we picked a pure home theater / cave projector for the top award in this price range, these two Epsons are at least as good in terms of being general home projectors in other rooms as the Pro Cinema 4030 is as a pure dedicated home theater projector – at least at these price points.