Posted on March 14, 2008 By Art Feierman
As I pointed out at the beginning, these two are almost identical in most ways. I’ve already mentioned the slight differences in the colors of their case end caps. Inside the box, there is one really significant difference, and that’s the 3LCD panels. The UB uses Epson’s latest inorganic panels, while the 8100 uses older inorganic panels. I won’t get into the differences, but let’s just buy into the idea that the newer inorganic panels have several advantages, including life expectancy (while holding consistant color), although the differences are long term.
More significantly though is the far greater black level performance of the Home Cinema 8500UB thanks to the inherently better contrast of the inorganic panels.
Neither projector supports an anamorphic lens. Although the more expensive Pro version of the 8500UB, the Pro Cinema 9500UB does offer the support. (It’s extremely unlikely that someone would want to combine the 9100 with an anamorphic lens that costs about as much as the projector, when for $700-$800 more you can have a much better projector, as well. Seems a bit of a waste to add anamorphics to a medium performance projector like the 8100 or 9100. It’s like putting $350 a piece tires and $800 a piece alloy wheels on a Ford Fusion. Would make more sense on some high performance Shelby Mustang.
I’ve touched on the big difference already – it’s the black levels. While the Home Cinema 8100 has very good black levels for an entry level projector, and is really only beaten in this regard by one, maybe two under $2000 home theater projectors (definitely the $1999 Panasonic), the other possible ultra-high contrast projectors under $2000: Sanyo’s just announced PLV-Z4000 (a minor upgrade it would seem, to the aging PLV-Z3000). The Sanyo looks like it may street price for about $1995, which is still a good $500 more than the Epson Home Cinema 8100. It may also be possible to find the Sharp XV-Z15000 around $2000, and it too has better blacks than the 8100. BTW, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB does have better black level performance than the Panasonic and the Sharp, and I think I can safely assume, the new Sanyo as well, making the Epson 8500UB a first class alternative to these others which are only about $300 less. The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB street prices for about $2299 or a little less.
Immediately below: From Casino Royale (Blu-ray disc), the night train scene. As you can see, the exposures are such that the blacks (letterbox) look about the same, yet the lower image, the 8500UB is brighter overall. That’s what happens when the blacks are matched. If we set the images so that the trains were of the same brightness, then the blacks would be far darker on the 8500UB. Also notice the additonal pop and wow – the dynamic look of the 8500, in the trees, especially on the right top. This is what happens on an essentially all dark scene.
One more pair for your consideration:
Again the lower image – the 8500UB – is a bit brighter, yet despite the rather noticeable brightness differences easily seen on the solar panels and the main body of the satellite, with the 8500UB, you can see that the star field is brighter on the Epson, but the blacks are definitely darker. The end result is a much more dynamic looking image at normal exposures.
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