Epson Pro-Cinema LS9600e Projector Review – Special Features

EPSON PRO CINEMA LS9600e PROJECTOR:   Laser light engine, Lens memory, Wireless HDMI

Laser Light Engine

Two blue lasers are the core of the LS9600e”s light engine.  One laser directly provides the light that illuminates the LCD-R chip that produces the blue image.  The 2nd blue laser illuminates a rotating phosphor wheels that in turn emits yellow light.  That yellow light in then separated into its red and green component colors which are then used to illuminate the LCD-R chips that produce the red and green sub-images respectively.  The red, blue and green sub-images are then merged to produce the full color image that is projected onto the screen.

Ultimately the laser system works much like a traditional projector where a lamp produces white light that must be separated into the 3 primary colors (i.e., red, green, blue,) which are then used to illuminate the projector’s 3 display chips before the 3 sub-images are combined to create the full color image take is projected onto the screen.

There are several obvious advantages to laser engines, but so far they are still pretty rare, and mostly on the business projector side of things.  Epson LS-series represents the first mainstream consumer home theater projectors that have incorporated this technology.

Perhaps the most obvious advantage that a laser light soruce has over a traditional  lamp-based projector is the life of the light source – Epson claims 30,000 hours in Eco mode and 17,000 in high powered mode.  As long as it gets close to that, consider that about “forever” for most true home theater applications.  At 30 hours a week that’s 20 years in Eco mode.  20 years ago you probably had a 27 inch TV and were watching movies on VHS tapes or maybe Laserdiscs if you were a true videophile (the first DVD’s didn’t arrive until a year later).  No lamp replacement costs, which, are still upward of $300 (to $500)  per lamp for most lamps  among the competing home theater projectors in this price range

The second major advantage is maintaining consistent color over a very long time.  Lamp based projectors have always suffered from lamps slowly shifting their color slightly over time.  Ideally one should calibrate a lamp based projector every 500 hours or so, but except for the fanatics with their own calibration gear, that’s not likely due to cost.  With this laser system the color should have perceptible (to human eyesight) change for years.

 

Lens Memory

The LS-series are Epson’s first projectors to include lens memory.  Which JVC has offered since late 2011 on their projectors and Sony on it first native 4K projector (VPL-VW1000) in early 2012.  I do still consider lens memory a special feature since most home theater projectors, including almost all sub-$4K (MSRP) models (I can think of only a couple of exceptions), and many more expensive models, also lack this useful feature.

If you are going to use a regular 16 x 9 aspect ratio (regular HDTV format)screen, then lens memory may be of little value to you.  However, If you plan to use a wide aspect ratio “scope” screen (typically with an aspect ratio in the range of 2.35:1 to 2.40:1), then lens memory is becoming almost an essential feature for when going between viewing TV or movies in regular 16 x 9 HD format and then when viewing widescreen ‘scope’ movies in the wider aspect ratio.

The traditional, but expensive, alternative has been to use an external anamorphic lens (A-lens) that is moved into the projector’s light path, just in front of the projector’s own lens, for viewing ‘scope’ movies then moved out of the light path for viewing ‘normal’  16 x 9 content.  While using an A-lens does have some advantages, but also some disadvantages, when Panasonic first introduced lens memory several years ago it was a real innovation and that’s why a few other manufacturers now offering this feature.

I find Epson’s implementation of lens memory to be perhaps the best to date, as it appears to be both very fast and very accurate.  I set up two lens memory positions with one for projecting a 1.78:1 (i.e., 16×9) image and the second for projecting a 2.35:1 image.  When going between these two image formats I had different settings for lens zoom, focus, vertical lens shift and horizontal lens shift.  The LS9600e was able to perform its motorized gymnastics to go between these two image formats in just about 5 seconds.

Wireless HDMI

Epson has been offering wireless HDMI on some of their 3LCD home theater projectors for the past couple of years and LS9600e uses that same system.  For most new home theater installations a wired HDMI connection is usually what is used.  However, the are situations when having a wireless HDMI connection can be useful, if not essential.

One example would be when replacing an older ceiling mounted projector that does not use HDMI and for which your home theater is only wired with other types of incompatible in-wall and in-ceiling cables.  For such installations, it may be very difficult and/or very expensive to have the existing cables replaced with HDMI cables and this is where wireless HDMI makes things easy.  The range of the wireless HDMI signal depends on the geometry between the projector and the supplied wireless HDMI box.  Epson lists the maximum range as 32 ft. under optimum conditions and 16 ft. with a more realistic geometry for when the projector is ceiling mounted and the wireless HDMI box is just a few feet above floor level.

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