Posted on October 22, 2008 By Art Feierman
For those seriously looking at one of the Ensemble HD’s, and who like to read as much as possible before buying something like this, I recommend you visit the originalEnsemble HD 1080 review, as it goes into a lot more detail about many aspects of the product. On this page, we look at what the 6500UB version offers, compared to the original 1080 version, as well as what it brings to the party compared to the two less expensive Ensemble HD systems, the ones built around the Epson Home Cinema 720 and the Home Cinema 6100.
First of all, compared to last year’s 1080 version, the new 6500UB version is $100 less, at $6899. While that doesn’t represent much of a price drop, keep in mind that it is the Ensemble HD with the 6100 projector in it, that is the direct comparison. Epson did not offer the older 1080UB last year. Had they, then the 6500UB would be its replacement.
So, what do you get for that $100 less? First of all, drastically better black level performance. The 6500UB and the old Epson 1080 are not remotely in the same league. While the old 1080 had roughly average black level performance, the 6500UB offers the best of any projector we’ve seen to date that sells for under $4000, and it beats many selling for several times its price.
In addition, you get a new lamp rated more than twice as long as the older series (at full power), and 1/3 longer if you plan to run at low power.
If that weren’t enough, the newer Ensemble HD 6500UB’s projector offers CFI – creative frame interpolation, and also regular frame interpolation to 120hz.
The Epson 6500UB projector not only won our Hot Product Award, but also our Best In Class award for projectors selling (standalone) in the $2100 – $3500 price range. In other words, you get a top performing projector as the heart of the system.
In terms of image performance, the included Home Cinema 6500UB is perhaps the best performing projector currently selling for less than $3500. The serious competition for the 6500UB would be the Panasonic PT-AE3000, the Sony VPL-HW10, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Mitsubishi HC7000, the Sharp XV-Z15000, and the BenQ W5000, although I personally favor the 6500UB over all of those, there are trade-offs – no projector in that price range is best at everything. The Epson also has the advantage of being the brightest of those when comparing brightest modes, so better able to handle ambient light. In “best” mode, it is still one of the very brightest.
Thanks to the sensational black level performance of the Home Cinema 6500UB, not one of those projectors mentioned above, can best the Epson in terms of achieving the blackest blacks. To outdo the Epson in that regard, there are only a few projectors on the market, and almost all of them are at least twice the price, such as the JVC DLA-RS10 and RS20, the Planar PD8150, and perhaps, the Sony VPL-VW70. In other words, this is one fine projector to include in this “instant” home theater.
A number of the projectors just mentioned can produce slightly better skin tones, and naturalness of the picture, but the Epson, on the other hand, is one of the most dynamic looking of all the projectors. In other words, it’s got that “Pop and Wow factor” that many consider more than a fair trade-off, against a slight loss of “film-like” quality. That’s pretty much the way we described the Home Cinema 6500UB in it’s own review.
The 6500UB version sells for $900 more than the 6100 version. One could argue that it isn’t as good a value, as the street price for the stand alone 6500UB is only about $600 more than the 6100, and that’s a fair way to look at it. That said, a better way of looking at it, is this – if you can appreciate the performance and feature differences (no CFI or FI on the 6100), many people will agree that from a performance standpoint, it’s still worth the $900 extra.
This comparison is, perhaps more interesting, as it represents a dramatic difference in price. The 720 version is only $4699, so there’s more than a $2000 difference. Again, no contest in black levels, and of course the 720 version is only 720 resolution, but for those on a tight budget, you do get more bang for the buck with the lower cost version.
Better still, if the money is tight now, you could two step it.
You could do it this way – you could buy the 720 version, and later decide to buy a 6500UB (or, if it fits the cradle, the replacement for the 6500UB in a year or two). Consider that buying an Ensemble HD 720 now, and a 6500UB projector a year later, would only end up costing you only a few hundred more dollars total, (plus taxes of course). After doing that, you’d have the Home Cinema 720 to put in another room, or to sell off on ebay. A used Epson Home Cinema 720 would likely fetch around $400 – $600 online, in 6 months to a year.
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