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Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector Review - Performance

Posted on October 30, 2014 by Art Feierman
EPSON HC3500 PROJECTOR REVIEW - PERFORMANCE:  Brightness and Eco, Color Temp pre and post Calibration Brightness, Sharpness, Image Noise and Audible Noise
Epson HC3500 Brightness by Mode (midpoint on Zoom)
Mode Lumens (White) Color Temp (100 IRE)
Dynamic 2776 6334K
Living Room 2110 7788K
Natural 2297 6466K
Cinema 2277 1539K

Major League light cannon!

As you look at these high lumen numbers above, remember that they are with the zoom lens set for mid-point.  If you place your projector at the closest position to fill your screen, you will get another boost - with Dynamic topping out at 2900, roughly 15% above their 2500 lumen claim

Placement distance doesn't though make a huge difference.  Even at the other extreme: 16 feet from a 100" screen instead of 9 feet 10 inches, the Epson still manages 2453 measured lumens.  That's only a reduction of 15%, a modest amount for a 1.6:1 zoom.

You can expect that same 15% drop between wide angle and telephoto to be the same, no matter what mode you select.

I should mention at this point, that there are three additional modes not shown in this table. Two are 3D modes which we don't measure, since other factors besides raw lumens determine how bright a 3D image looks.  The third is interesting - it's Auto mode, which relies on the light sensor on the top of the projector.  Mike did measure it, but realize, when he's running is tests, the room is fully dark, so no way to accurately see how much the brightness varies as the ambient light increases.

Mike measured Auto mode as 1559 in a dark room with the lamp in Eco mode.  I suspect that it was the projector that decided on Eco mode, because the room was dark, but Mike hasn't yet clarified that point. That does make sense, since even 1500+ lumens is a whole lot of brightness in a dark room, enough to easily fill a 150" diagonal screen.

I've posted on the same table above,  the color temperature for white for each of the modes.

This Epson has 3 lamp modes - High, Medium and Eco.  As I reported in the Special Features section, switching from High to Medium results in a drop of almost a perfect 10%, and going all the way to Eco, results in a much greater drop of almost 30%.   I like the Medium setting, you give up only the slightest brightness, but the fan runs noticeably quieter.

Color Temp Pre and Post Calibration, Calibrated Brightness

 

Color Temp of Natural Mode - Pre and Post Calibration
Brightness (IRE) Color Temp Post Cal (K) Color Temp Pre Cal
100 IRE 6479 6466
90 6466
80 6532 6426
70 6475
60 6584
50 6555 6620
40 6549
30 6410 6424
20 6452

Post Calibration the Color Temp range is very nicely tight right around the target of 6500K.  In fact the entire range of 20 to 100 IRE stays within a 200K temp range, which is excellent.   You can see from the 4 ranges measured pre calibration that even without calibration Natural is relatively on the money.

Of course even a perfect 6500K doesn't mean that Red, Green, and Blue are perfectly balanced, only that they combine for 6500K.  As an example, Dynamic mode is also pretty close to 6500K, but has the usual significant green cast typical of brightest modes.

Once fully calibrated the Epson Home Cinema 3500's Natural mode still manages a dazzling 2245 lumens, only 50 lumens less than pre calibration!  2245 lumens calibrated is huge.  It's more in line with portable business projectors than those for home.

Gamma is also excellent.  Mike measured an average of 2.18 with the normal target being 2.2.  That's extremely close.  Epson provides controls to adjust gamma as needed, for example, some folks like a brighter mid-range which might be a gamma of 2.0 or even 1.8.

Sharpness and Super-Resolution

Epson's overall sharpness without the use of Super-Resolution is good - very typical of what you would expect from a 3LCD projector in this price range.  It has panel alignment which digitally adjusts and helps out, but the real beauty of the HC3500 is the application of Super-Resolution.

This image player has a number of images for your consideration.  Included in them are the scrabble coffee cup, where the full image is shown, then a close up, then a close up of the same image from the BenQ HT1075.  Now inherently single chip DLP projectors (like the BenQ) have the advantage, but look at the difference between these two!

The Epson's Super Resolution is only at its halfway point - a setting of 3 out of 5, yet that coffee mug's scrabble letters/numbers are definitely a bit more readable.  No question, the Epson looks sharper than the BenQ, it was pretty obvious when doing my side by sides of the two projectors a few days ago.  Nice!

There are also several close-ups of a PS3 icon.  Following the Epson, are the BenQ again, the Optoma HD25-LV, the Panasonic PT-AE8000, and, just for fun, Epson's LS10000 which is almost $8000 (and uses pixel shifting and can input 4K content), and Sony's true 4K projector, the VW600ES!   Super-Res may not match what a true 4K projector can do with 1080p content, but it does help.

Finally, a sequence of the same football field image with settings on Super-Resolution of Off, 2, 4, and 5.  You have to admit, it really makes a difference.  Note, the Super-Resolution on the HC3500 is not as sophisticated as the version (firmware upgrade) just released for the more expensive 5030UB, 6030UB, and 4030.

Bottom Line is that you aren't likely to find any projector that seems sharper than the Epson Home Cinema 3500 without spending at least hundreds more!

Image Noise and Audible Noise

When it comes to image noise, general background mosquito noise is modest (better than a typical DLP projector), and there are no obvious issues with motion.  It handles slow pans (24fps content) better than some far more expensive projectors.  All considered, the only real image noise aspect to discuss relates to Super-Resolution. It's simple, as companies apply more and more sophisticated image processing, such as Super-Resolution, you'll find that upping the setting adds more noise - artifacts.  But at the same time, these companies like Epson are creating these capabilities because image noise from more simple sharpening methods is worse.  You'll have to be the judge when setting your Super-Resolution.  If you are watching an intentionally grainy movie, you'll probably want to use a lower setting.  But otherwise, I find that settings of 2 or 3 are pretty clean. Even 4 is usually fine.  5 - sports - not movies!

Audible noise can be an issue with the Home Cinema 3500.  Epson claims 35 db at full power, and that's nothing to celebrate.  Generally many home entertainment and some home theater projectors are in the 32 to 36 db range, but fairly quiet is more like down below 28 db.   In other words, most projectors under $2000 and some over, tend to be audibly a bit noisy.

Certainly the Epson becomes very quiet in Eco mode - fan noise is a non-issue there.  But full  power is on the noisy side, and won't be satisfactory to anyone who is particularly noise adverse.

I find that the compromise I like is to run the Epson in Medium lamp mode.  That costs only 10% of brightness, which is at the most, a "slight" drop in brightness.  It seems to reduce noise enough to get down to the 30 db range (we don't measure audible noise), which is a little quieter than most home entertainment projectors at full power.  For movie viewing in a dark or near dark room, just use ECO mode.  Even in Eco mode Natural - calibrated should work out to over 1500 lumens!  That's easily bright enough for a 150" diagonal screen in a mostly dark room.  Congrats to Epson for adding an intermediate lamp mode for this projector.  I think it will be appreciated by a lot of owners.

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