Home Cinema 6100 vs. InFocus X10
Another DLP projector to consider. I reviewed the X10 at the "beginning" of this year's home theater season, early September. Since then, I've tackled the reviews of probably 15 new models, so, I'm a little rusty. (That projector had to go back to InFocus immediately following the review.)
The X10 is a very classic DLP - limited 1.2:1 zoom, no lens shift, so the placement flexibility advantage is all Epson.
At the time of the review I was a bit underwhelmed with the X10's black level performance, and that shouldn't be surprising, as InFocus has three more expensive 1080p DLP projectors in their lineup. All considered the Epson gets the advantage in black levels.
The reverse is true in terms of shadow detail. The X10 is excellent, and definitely reveals more very dark detail than the Epson. While I favor better blacks over better shadow detail, that's not the case for everyone.
Audible noise also favors the Epson. the X10 is a typically, fairly noisy DLP projector. The Epson may not be much quieter when comparing both at full lamp power, but the difference should be appreciated by some.
Overall picture quality. As is typical of InFocus projectors, the X10 is very film-like with very natural skin tones. The Epson by comparison is more "pop and wow" and a little less film-like as a result. Both are most enjoyable to watch, but the purist will favor the X10, despite the Epson's advantage in black level performance.
Brightness is a trade-off between these two projectors: Keep in mind we primarily focus on the maximum brightness in each mode, with a projector that has a manual iris like the X10. Close down that iris, and you should get a slight improvement in black level performance, but closing the X10 iris all the way down will work only for smaller screens, as you can expect to lose a full half of the measured lumens. With the irs wide open, the X10 cranked out an extremely impressive (bright) 810 lumens, in "best" mode. That's about 20% more than the Epson 6100. We measure "best" mode on the X10, with Brilliant Color turned off. Brilliant Color makes the image less film-like, and more dynamic, but even more so than the Epson. I wouldn't recommend Brilliant Color on, as the best way to go for movie watching.
When it comes to brightest mode, the Epson wins, as the X10 musters only 940 lumens in its brightest mode with Brilliant Color off. "Brightest" mode, though, is all about cuttting through ambient light, so we recommend Brilliant Color on. With it on, the X10 projector manages brighter than average performance, with just over 1300 lumens. That still is a signifcant step down from the Home Cinema 6100, but is still brighter than most of the competition.
Pricing: The X10, is supposedly only available through local dealers, and when purchasing through one of those, expect to pay several hundred dollars more than for the Epson in the US. On the other hand, we can find a few online prices for the X10, down below $2000, but when we do see those, it's not normally from dealers we recognize. Generally, the price point for the X10 should be about $2300, which puts it about half way between the Epson 6100 and the 6500UB.
Pricing, therefore, will be a key determining factor. I really liked the X10, but for the black level performance. Still, it is their twice as expensive IN83 that really rocks me.
Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Panasonic PT-AE3000
The decision here is all about black levels, price and features. Let's face it, Panasonic's PT-AE3000 is one of those "ultra high contrast" projectors, so it technically competes with the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.
As such, I'm going to keep this one very short. The Epson wins the battle of brightness, both in best and brightest modes. The Panasonic, however, easily bests the Epson in terms of black levels.
Both have excellent placement flexibility. Epson comes with their excellent warranty, while Panasonic officially has a basic one year warranty. That said, Panasonic currently, and usually, offers a second year warranty in the form of a rebate. Your dealer will know if that "rebate" is running.
While the 6100 is very good out of the box, the Panasonic, slightly better. Shadow detail, never a strength of Epson, while good, is not quite as good as the Panasonic. The end result is that the Panasonic has both better black levels and shadow detail.
The Panasonic also offers a very good implementation of creative frame interpolation. I've discussed the shortcomings of such things above, but overall, having them is a plus.
The Panasonic's zoom and focus is motorized, and this allows Panasonic to do what I call "pseudo anamorphic lens emulation". With this feature you can go with a 2.35:1 screen for viewing most movies (Cinemascope shape), without letterboxing at top and bottom. This feature does have limitations compared to using a real anamorphic lens, most notably that with a real lens, you use all the pixels, not the roughly 80% used with a standard lens. Therefore you get a brighter, and technically sharper image. The sharpness difference also comes from using all the pixels. Panasonic lets you save lens setups in its lens memory, so you can easily start with that 2.35:1 for movies and switch to 16:9 or 4:3 for other content, on your 2.35:1 screen. Note, the way Panasonic does it, the letterboxing is still there - it's just off your screen. If you have white walls, you will see that light on dark scenes.
Bottom line. The Epson is less, better warranty, and brighter. The Panasonic for the extra roughly $500 at this time, is a step up product, that really only suffers by comparision if you need maximum brightness. Of course if you can afford the Panny, then you are probably looking at the extra $200 or so for the Epson 6500UB.
Wouldn't it be nice if the choices were all simple and clear? But then, what would I do for a living?