Home Cinema 3500 Projector - Overview
For the sake of clarity, although this review is titled the Home Cinema 3500 Projector Review, the projector Epson sent us, and that I worked with is actually a Home Cinema 3600e.
We titled this review the Home Cinema 3500 for two reasons: First, these two projectors are identical except for one feature - Wireless HD. All performance issues, picture quality, warranty, etc. are identical. The other difference is the price. The official street price of this projector is $1699, while the Wireless HD version (3600e) is $1999.
Secondly, the Home Cinema 3500 is one that most people are interested in, and will buy, since a relatively small slice of folks looking for a projector need a wireless HDMI solution. Thus, the HC3500 is the one most people will be searching for. We wanted you folks to find this easily. We will also release a one or two page mini-review focused on the HC3600e, that is built around this full review, but discusses on the Wireless HD feature, using it, and how that affects the overall value proposition.
Great, now let's get started!
The Home Cinema 3500 is the replacement primarily of the Home Cinema 3020, but, Epson also discontinued the old, and venerable HC8350. The Home Cinema 3500 and 3000 are the two closest new Epsons, so one would say that they also replace the 8350, although the differences are greater. The Home Cinema 3000 ($1299) the third new model, has a number of differences from the other two, so it will be reviewed separately, with a full review, when we receive one.
Consider the Home Cinema 3500 to be first and foremost, an incredibly bright home entertainment projector - rather than Home Theater. But, unlike most of them, it offers a lot of placement flexibility more typical of home theater projectors. Further, it has improved contrast specs, and we expected going in, improved black level performance, a feature considered most important in a home theater projector. Those black levels are improved, although still no match for Epson's UB series projectors such as the Home Cinema 5030UB ($800 more), which may be pretty bright, but are definitely home theater projectors by definition.
Certainly, you can consider the HC3500 to be an extremely bright home theater projector, but in that regard, it would have to be considered relatively entry level.
Simply stated, this is a great projector for rooms without great lighting control, but it also does a very respectable job in a fully darkened room/cave that folks think of as real "home theater."
We'll discuss the black level performance in depth in our Picture Quality pages, since that's a key feature that is often a key difference between home theater and home entertainment.
The Home Cinema 5030 comes well endowed with features. There's more zoom range than found on almost any other sub-$2000 projectors. Lots of inputs, plus both vertical and horizontal lens shift, and a pair of unusually powerful speakers.
The projector is smart enough to handle MHL (that will be discussed in Special Features), has multiple eco modes, and multiple picture modes. It should be noted that the HC3500 also has some pretty good color, right out of the box. You really can unbox it, plug it in, feed it a source, and start watching. Of course hopefully you'll have a proper projector screen, but even shining it on a near white wall, will probably blow away your friends. The Home Cinema comes with a much better than typical warranty and support program, for peace of mind.
I mentioned extremely bright. The Epson 3000 claims 2300 lumens, while the HC3500 and HC3600e claim 2500 lumens both white lumens, and color lumens. That said, the unit we have here easily measured higher than claim. That means plenty of brightness to tackle ambient light. No need for a cave to enjoy this projector, although, a dark room always makes for a better picture. Still I enjoyed quite a bit of college and NFL football, over two weeks, while allowing far amount of ambient light in the room. No problem!
Think of it this way: Pair the Home Cinema 3500 with a proper 100" diagonal screen, and you'll find this projector is probably brighter than most LCDTVs!
So, why anyone would want to watch their favorite sports team play on some tiny 40 or 55" LCDTV, which they could watch on a 100" or 120" or larger screen, always confuses me.
Note please, this isn't Epson's brightest home entertainment projector, but close. They have some adapted commercial projectors for the home with up to 6000 lumens. I'm personally installing the 5200 lumen Pro Cinema G6550 in my bright living room in the next few weeks. That series of home entertainment projectors are several times the price of this HC3500! But I digress!
Let's start off with a list of some of the key highlights of the Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector!