Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. BenQ W5000
Whoa! I almost forgot about the BenQ W5000, as when it was released, it was a far, far more expensive projector than today. Right now, it seems to be selling online for about the same price as the Epson. The BenQ, at the moment, has to be the best overall projector among the lower cost DLP 1080p models. As such, it not just competes with the Epson Home Cinema 6100, but also with the more expensive Home Cinema 6500UB. Last year, due to price, in our comparison report, it competed very well, with the more expensive class of projectors including the Sony and JVC LCoS projectors, costing even more than the old Epson Home Cinema 1080UB.
By comparison, the BenQ W5000 today, is a steal. Well, dropping the price in half, really improves the BenQ's value proposition, but lets run through how it stacks up against this Epson.
Black level performance: The Epson is about as good as it gets, among the non-"ultra high contrast" 3LCD projectors, but still can't match the black levels of the BenQ. Nor can it match the shadow detail (never a particular strength of the Epson projectors). These two areas are where the BenQ has a distinct and real advantage.
Overall picture quality: Out of the box, both projectors are definitely better than average. The BenQ shows a slight shift to green however. This is not hard to correct, and both projectors look even better after a basic calibration. Of greater note, is that the BenQ offers that DLP look that many enthusiasts really swear by, and does win in both shadow detail and black levels. Combine all of that, and though the Epson has a very well balanced quality picture, the BenQ overall, is a bit better!
When it comes to brightness, the BenQ easily holds its own with the Epson in "best" mode, although to get it to match the Epson, the BenQ's manual iris needs to be about fully opened. That does degrade black level performance slightly, but still leaves the BenQ with better black levels.
Kick on the W5000's Brilliant Color and their best mode (Cinema) gets brighter still. I favor Brilliant Color off for the best, most natural picture quality, but the point is, that the BenQ can actually push out more lumens in a good "best" mode, than the Epson 6100 projector.
The original BenQ W5000 projectors exhibited more image noise than most projectors, enough to be considered an issue. Since then, BenQ has improved firmware, and while the W5000 still has more image noise than average (and the 6100 in particular), it is in line with DLP home theater projectors in general - which generally seem to display a bit more image noise than projectors with other technologies. (I've never been clear on exactly why that is, but from general observation it is true.) I no longer see the image noise aspect of the W5000 to be a real issue.
One notable downside to the W5000 is that it's HDMI inputs are HDMI 1.2, not HDMI 1.3 (a or b). The BenQ has no problem with "talking" to devices that output 1.3, so you always get the picture. The lack of 1.3 really only comes into play in one area, and that is the support for a future feature we haven't yet seen on Blu-ray discs, which is Deep Color. Deep Color means greater color depth - a much larger color palette. Deep Color will improve gradients slightly, give more detail in subtle shading such as skin tones (in a close up of a face, you can see (looking very closely, that more shades are called for). When we start seeing Deep Color is a good question. Is it a really big deal. No. Is it something you want for that extra little image performance - sure. Can you live without it? Absolutely, we've gotten by just fine without it so far. Still, the older HDMI may factor into the decision process of some folks.
When it comes to maximum lumens, the BenQ is typical of DLP projectors, in that it lacks a huge increase in lumens. The BenQ measured a best of 755 lumens in its Dynamic mode with Brilliant Color off, but that's not really important. When you want lumens, the nice things that Brilliant Color adds in dynamics, etc., are where you want to be. Thus, when you want brightness, I recommend Dynamic mode with Brilliant Color on. it's a very good "brightest" mode image. With Brilliant Color on, the BenQ manages 1270 lumens, which is definitely respectable, and on the high side of average, but no match for the Epson Home Cinema 6100 which after calibration was still much brighter. The BenQ at its brightest, is about 35% less bright than the Epson, and that could be a deciding factor for many.
Placement flexibility: DLP's are normally very limited, with 1.2:1 zooms, and no lens shift. The BenQ W5000, however, is better than that. True, it still has that basic 1.2:1 zoom but it is fairly long throw, allowing the projector to be placed as far back as 16.1 feet (for a 100 inch diagonal screen). This, combined with lens shift - a feature found on very, very few under $10,000 DLP projectors, will allow many to shelf mount in the rear. The Epson has a great wide range zoom, and more lens shift, but the BenQ should do the job - ceiling mounted or rear shelf mounted, in most rooms. If it works in your room, that negates any Epson advantage in this area.
No contest on warranty. Epson's two years, with replacement program easily bests BenQ's one year parts and labor. I always recommend buying a 2nd year 3rd party warranty with any home theater projector that comes only with one year.
While the Epson is a very well rounded projector, bright, good black levels, good out of the box color, respectable shadow detail, etc., the BenQ is definitely it's equal overall. The BenQ W5000can't match maximum lumens, placement flexibility or warranty of the Epson, but will be favored by many hard core enthusiasts for its cut above picture quality.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6500UB
OK, this is pretty obvious. The two projectors are fundamentally the same, except for price, black level performance, and advanced features.
The approximate selling price difference at the time of this writing - is about $700 (considering current rebates). The real question therefore, is what do you get for your extra money.
The primary benefit you would be paying for with the Home Cinema 6500UB is a substantial improvement in black levels. The 6100 has good black levels - a touch better than typical of the lower cost 1080p projectors, but the Home Cinema 6500UB is in a totally different class, when it comes to black levels.
If you are looking for the superior image performance that comes with those much blacker blacks, and the cost difference doesn't intimidate you, definitely spring for the 6500UB!
Essentially, except for black level performance and the "advanced" features I'm about to mention, the two projectors are essentially identical. Physically they look the same, have the same lens, lens shift, and general placement flexibility. The brightness of the two are also essentially identical, with any reported differences being well within the normal variation one would expect even with the same projector, due to slight differences in lamp performance.
That takes us to the unique "advanced" features of the 6500UB. The UB uses newer panels, responsible for the significant difference in black level performance, but we've covered that aspect. The other two advanced features tie to the 6500UB's ability to output the image at the faster 96 and 120 frame per second speeds, enhancing the image from your source, of either 24fps or "30/60" fps. The first of the two primary features found in the 6500UB, and not found in the 6100, is the 4:4" ability, to output at 96fps. This helps deal with a motion blur aspect that is related to how our eyes work, and which, like rainbow effect, affect people differently. The second feature is Epson 6500's creative frame interpolation, which inserts unique frames in between the those of the source, to smooth out the motion of fast moving objects on the screen.
Right off the bat, Epson has some issues with their 4:4 and frame interpolation, which I have discussed with their engineers, and they are looking into.
The bottom line is this, some of those modes (4:4 and various frame interoplation options) do have issues, but properly working they do make a difference. I do like the 6500's frame interpolation for sports, for example. For movie viewing, though, most of their (and other similarly equipped projectors) also have a general impact on the image, making it a lot less "film-like" and makes movies appear more like a "live digital video" source. This is almost certainly NOT "what the director intended", even though interesting and different.
As a result, working well or not, I consider frame interpolation, in general to have pluses and minuses. Let's say it is certainly a plus that the 6500UB has them, and better still if Epson can successfully address some of the issues, but for most people, at least for movie viewing, the verdict is still out on frame interpolation. Nice to have, but at this point in time, not a feature I consider as a signifcant one. (certainly not, compared to things like black level performance.
I recommend the 6500UB over the 6100, as worth the dollar difference, regardless of the frame interpolation. If you have the bucks, the 6500UB is simply a step up in performance.