Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 3500 Projector Review – Picture Quality 2

EPSON HC3500 PROJECTOR REVIEW – PICTURE QUALITY – Page 2:  Dark Shadow Detail, HDTV and Sports, Overall Picture Quality

Dark Shadow Detail

As we have come to expect from the previous Epson series, and the lower cost HC2030, Epson projectors tend to be very, very, good at revealing all the dark shadow detail.  Note that  it’s tougher to notice on more expensive projectors with much darker black levels, as everything dark, is darker, but the HC3500’s blacks are good for the price but still short of better, more expensive home theater projectors.

For your consideration this player has several of our favorite images for considering whether the darkest detail is visible at all.  Look to the large dark area bottom center left of the Hunger Games image of Katniss and Rue sleeping, also the shrubs on the far side of the tracks (lower right) in the Bond night train image.  If you want to see how the HC3500 compares on the train image, you can check out the same areas on the group of those images from other projectors on the previous page.

Home Cinema 3500 on HDTV and Sports

While the HC3500 does a very respectable job in projecting movies, especially for its price, the projector excels at HDTV and sports – that is, watching content in less that pitch black rooms.

I mean, just look at these images above!

The ones taken with low ambient light levels (none were taken in a fully darkened room), are awesome.  And when we let lots of light in, this Epson still hung in there pretty well, when many others would be just too washed out.

The combination of massive brightness, a dynamic looking image, a sharp image, and very good color (far better than most would care about when watching football, or for that matter, Mad Money or Saturday Night Live) makes the HC3500 a great choice for your TV viewing, or mine.

I’ve watched two full weekends of football, a episodes of BlackList, lots of The Tonight Show, CNBC, and a couple of sitcoms.

What makes this Epson so great is that it cruises in rooms with significant ambient light that are a real challenge for most of the competition.

I’ve repeated the three images from the SNF opening showing different levels of brightness using Living Room mode.  The most washed out one was taken with more ambient light in the room than any previous home projector but one, yet handles it fairly well.   Note also that Dynamic mode is a full 1/3 brighter than Living Room.  Few projectors we’ve reviewed in their Dynamic modes can even match the brightness of this Epson in Living Room.  Brightness to spare!

As an example we reviewed the BenQ HT1075, a less expensive and another very good projector (it’s more in line, price wise with the Home Cinema 3000 which we’ll review separately.  While that BenQ is really bright, at the end of the day, this Epson’s roughly 20%-25% brighter.  In a fully dark room, that difference means a screen size 10% larger, but an extra 20-25% in a lit room can be the difference between good, and “OK.”

Following that image, note the football stadium image.  Obviously it’s night time around the stadium.  The same maximum amount of ambient light was there for this image.  Sure, it’s taking a bit hit in the dark areas, a chunk of the “pop” is gone, but you still have a rather viable image.   BTW, if I had a 50″ LCDTV where the screen was, with this much light, you probably would have at least as much quality loss watch the TV because of the glare since the windows are not far from straight back.

Many of the football images and all the other HDTV images were taken with the window shutters mostly closed – and rear lights on, so some, but not a lot of ambient light, but you can tell which photos were taken with lots of ambient light.  If you pair this projector with the right type of screen, it should be able to tackle some way less than ideal rooms.  You might even check out our old video looking

Overall Picture Quality - Home Cinema 3500

Uncalibrated the HC3500 looks good, right out of the box if you are looking at color accuracy.  Black level performance is respectable for the price, but not the best – there are a couple of pure home theater projectors around the price that offer better blacks, but are otherwise a fraction of the brightness.   Sharpness, thanks to Super-Resolution, is downright impressive.

Combine the Home Cinema 3500’s abilities in terms of color accuracy, sharpness, black levels and other performance areas, and you end up with a projector whose overall performance is far more impressive than one would expect, if you clinically considered at each aspect of performance separately.

Let me put it this way.  At one point last weekend I briefly switched back and forth between the Home Cinema 3500 and the Sony VPL-VW1100, Sony’s true 4K projector.  My friends ultimately conceded that the Sony produced a sharper image (but not dramatically so), but they preferred the Epson, at only about 7% of the price.

Why?  because I let a decent amount of ambient light into the room because around here we don’t like watching football in the dark.

Simply put, the Epson was putting up about 2500 lumens on the screen, while the Sony was barely half that amount.  Brightness matters – a lot.  Had I darkened the room, I have no doubt everyone would have agreed in a heartbeat that the Sony was far superior, but when switching from one projector to another that’s half as bright, with ambient light present, means that the ambient light is going to do far, far more damage to the Sony’s picture than the Epson’s.

Personally, I’d still rather have the Sony, but no one’s buying one for me!