Posted on March 14, 2008 By Art Feierman
Battle of two technologies. In this comparison, we have my favorite mid-priced Epson projector, the Home Cinema 8500UB, going head-to-head, with the BenQ W6000 an extremely bright, and impressive new replacement for last years’ W5000. Disclosure: I currently own the older version of the Epson 8500UB – in my 2nd theater. Not that many years back, I owned a BenQ PE8700, then the PE 8700+ (different DLP chips), then followed those both with the even better PE-8720. In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I’m a fan of both companies’ projectors.
It’s DLP against LCD. Each has its strengths and weaknesses compared to the other, but both are truly impressive for the money. Both are first class projectors for the money. The Home Cinema 8500UB projector took top honors, our Best In Class award for the $2000 – $3500 price class, while the W6000 projector picked up one of the two Runner-up awards. We’re talking serious product here, for serious enthusiats as well as the casual home theater viewer.
I really am impressed with both of these projectors. I often muse about what projector I would buy if I had to give up my much more expensive JVC. I’ll discuss that toward the end of this page. I mentioned above, the awards won by these two. I should also point out that while the BenQ W6000 is a rather impressive improvement over last year’s W5000, it won the same award as last year. Although the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB only improved slightly compared to its predecessor, the 6500UB. It was enough to hold the top spot. The key thing to note this year, is that this year it was close enough that I did give the W6000 some really serious consideration for the top award (Best In Class).
The BenQ W6000 is an extremely bright DLP projector, it has a dynamic iris to improve black levels. It also has adjustable lens shift, a real plus for a lot of people. With DLP projectors, lens shift is typically only found on more expensive models. That is something that is now changing. The zoom range of the lens, though somewhat limited, compared to many LCD and LCoS projectors is better than last years, and the combination of more zoom and lens shift, dramatically improve placement flexibility.
The W6000, like many previous BenQ projectors, definitely possesses those rich, deep, darker colors and sense of depth that DLP projectors are well regarded for.
The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB replaces the older 6500UB, and is the 3rd generation of Epson UB projectors. The Epson 8500UB is an LCD projector, and the one with the overall best black level performance (tied with it’s almost identical twin the 9500UB). The Home Cnema 8500UB offers truly dazzling placement flexibility. If you can’t make this one work in your room, you are probably going to have to give up, and staple a a flat panel TV to your wall instead.
Black levels of the Epson are, simply stated, the best of any projector in the mid-priced Class. Sharpness is good, but it is still in the “average”, as opposed to “sharper still” classification we use in this report. The Epson projector, in “best” mode, is the brightest of the 3LCD projectors in this report (tied with other Epson variations), but there are projectors that are brighter. In “brightest” mode, however, the Epson has some real competition this year, starting with the even brighter BenQ W6000! The Epson’s picture always impresses. It’s not the most natural looking, but it makes up for that with that “pop and wow” look. The purist may look elsewhere because of that, but most enthusiasts report to be, well, very enthusiastic, as numerous owners have told me just that. (Of course, purists, too, will love the Epson’s black level performance.
Time to get into the head-to-head. Let me just say, whichever of these two particularly good projectors works best for you, you should end up at least really pleased.
Immediately below, a side by side comparison, the Epson image is smaller so that the two would be about equally bright:
These two projectors are not even similar where it counts. The Epson wins hands down, but, that said, the BenQ can prove to be surprisingly flexible. The Home Cinema 8500UB has a 2.1:1 zoom and lots of lens shift, that should allow ceiling or shelf mounting, in almost any room. By comparison, the BenQ W6000 has only a 1.5:1 zoom range. BenQ was pretty smart about it. Since they do have vertical lens shift, it is practical to shelf mount the W6000. Most DLP projectors have relatively short throw zooms, so they place fairly close to the screen (typically 11 – 13 feet from a 100″ screen). That almost certainly means that you can’t place them far enough back to sit on a shelf.
The BenQ W6000’s zoom, however is longer throw than most DLP projectors, and can sit as far back as 17.7 feet back from that 100 inch diagonal screen. The Epson can be as far back with that same 100″ diagonal screen as 20.9 feet, thanks to it’s zoom with greater range. Despite the Epson’s advantage, my guess is the well more than half of the folks thinking about rear shelf mounting, will find that the BenQ will work for them.
Lens shift also favors the Epson, with greater range. Both projectors offer vertical and horizontal lens shift, though, for most, it’s the vertical lens shift that counts. BenQ, though will less vertical range, still allows the projector to be placed vertically, anywhere between the bottom and top of the screen surface. That should work for just about everyone. If, though, you have a very high ceiling, and are ceiling mounting, with the Epson, it can mount higher, so you would need a shorter pole hanging down.
Both home projectors have manual lenses this year. In the past, the equivalent BenQ projectors had motorized lens functions. This year, I tend to think of BenQ as surrendering the cost of motorized lens features, in exhange for other benefits, such as more range for the zoom lens. Works for me!
The BenQ’s zoom lens is center mounted (keeps life simpler for mounting), while the Epson’s lens is offset. Not a big deal, just pay attention to your math, if you are mounting the Epson, in terms of offsetting the mount so that the lens is even with the center of the screen. Alternately, you can use a little of the Epson’s horizontal lens shift. Doing that, however, will reduce the maximum vertical lens shift a bit.
The BenQ has internal support for an anamorphic lens. The Epson 8500UB does not, but their almost identical, but more expensive version, the Pro Cinema 500UB does.
The BenQ control panel is on the top, while the Epson has it on the right side (when looking from the front). Both projectors can change out their lamps without unmounting from a ceiling mount. Both projectors have their input panels in the back. The selection of inputs and outputs is pretty much the same, both have two HDMI 1.3 inputs, composite video, S-video, an RS-232 for command and control of the projector, and a 12 volt screen trigger. Both have one component video input with the usual three color coded RCA jacks. Both have an HD15, the standard connector for analog computers, which can double as a second component video source with an adapter. Both have one 12 volt screen trigger. The BenQ also has a USB port.
The first image below is the BenQ W6000, and below it the input panel of the Home Cinema 8500UB.
Both have filters. The BenQ however really requires little maintenance. They recommend dealing with the filter only once every 1000 hours of use. Epson asks for more frequent care.
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