Projector Reviews

Class: Medium Priced 1080p Home Theater Projectors: $2100 – $3500

Best In Class Award (tie): Epson Home Cinema 6500UB Projector

The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB projector.

The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB projector is Best In Class!In a sense, I guess Epson could be said to be losing ground. Last year, the 6500UB’s predecessor has this Best In Class Award all to itself, but this time, the Home Cinema 6500UB ends up in a tie. This is discussed in greater depth in the Home Cinema 6500UB vs. PT-AE3000 head to head article that is part of this comparison.

OK, down to business. First, this Epson is a definite jump in performance over any of the projectors in the lower price range class. Nothing there even comes close. Among the projectors in this class, there is some very interesting competition, but none of them can beat out the Epson, overall, although different projectors have different strengths.

Despite the Epson 6500UB’s less than stellar start (CFI and de-focusing issues), when you look at everything, it is definitely hard to beat. A projector with the image quality it offers, can handle a little criticism, so we’ll get to that further down.

The first and perhaps most important strength of the 6500UB, is its ability to do better black levels than any other projector anywhere near its price. The Panasonic and the Mitsubishi HC7000 come close, but that’s all. Black levels have been the “holy grail” for years. Epson set the black levels standard for “affordable” projectors with their 1080 UB, last year. The 6500UB, by comparison, is only slightly better, but enough so, to keep it a noticeable distance ahead of the competition.

Color accuracy out of the box isn’t bad, but, as with almost all projectors, gets a significant improvement with calibration.

What is spectacular is the combination of the Epson’s post calibration color accuracy, combined with the excellent black levels. The end result is a dynamic, rich image with plenty of lumens, and lots of “wow” factor. Epson UB owners (including the older 1080UB) who have emailed me, generally rave about their choice.

OK, so you have to spend a lot more for better black levels. What about the rest of the projector’s image quality? Shadow detail is very good, but can be bested slightly by a number of projectors. While color accuracy after calibration is excellent, the Epson picture lacks some of that subjective term “film-like”. Instead, you get a picture with a little more “pop and wow factor”. Dark scenes are just spectacular compared to almost all of the competition, thanks to the dark, rich blacks, and rich dynamics of the projected image. On normal scenes, some may favor slightly, the more muted “film-like” look of, say, the Panasonic PT-AE3000, but, for example, both do very good skin tones. Let’s put it this way: On the wrong scene, the Epson image can be a touch “over the top”, while, by comparison, a projector like the Panasonic, can be thought of, as going the other way – a little bland looking.

The next key aspect of the Home Cinema 6500UB is brightness. As is typical of 3LCD projectors, it is not overly bright in its “best” mode, but in its “brightest” mode it is a “light canon”. Further, you can get some really good image quality results by calibrating one of the intermediate modes, such as LivingRoom. Epson uses a special color filter in its “best” and similar modes (TheaterBlack1…) and that eats up a lot of lumens.

Still, and perhaps more to the point, it is the brightest in both “best”, and “brightest” modes, of all the 3LCD projectors in this price class. While there are some DLP models that are brighter in their “best” modes, none come anywhere close to matching this Epson, when you need maximum lumens for tackling ambient light.

I do believe brightness, (strangely), is often an area that is not given the importance it deserves. Extra brightness of 20-30% can mean you can handle a screen a couple of sizes larger. More to the point for many, is that they start with a projector that is bright enough, but as the lamp dims over time, they find themselves a bit underpowered. The Epson has lumens to spare, in most environments.

You also can’t beat the Epson for its placement flexibility! The combination of 2.1:1 zoom and lots of vertical and horiztonal lens shift can’t be beat by any projector covered in this report, regardless of price, although a few units pretty much are equal to the Epson.

Epson offers a much better than average warranty. Two years parts and labor, plus an overnight replacement program for both years. (I’m a big fan of having that replacement program). Epson also has a superb reputation for support and service.

Although the 6500UB has been tagged with two issues, neither is a deal breaker. One issue relates to their implementation of Creative Frame Interpolation, and the other to a de-focusing issue. I’ve blogged at length about both of these, so I’ll keep this short. Epson has tried to do more in terms of creative frame interpolation, than the other two projectors with CFI (the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and the Sanyo PLV-Z3000). Unfortunately, where Epson have tried to “boldly go, where no other projector has gone before”, they ended up with some modes that are not really usable. The 6500UB tries to take a 24fps movie and add 4 created frames between each original to achieve 120fps with no motion blur. Sorry Epson, the final product just isn’t very watchable. (Only Panasonic has even tried creating FI with 24fps (blu-ray movies), and they only add one frame.) The end result, however is this. Epson’s FI works just fine for sports coming in off of your HDTV, and their 4:4 (taking 24fps to 96fps) works very well for movie watching. Just don’t try using it with 24fps off of disc, or movies on 24fps coming across at 60fps on HDTV. You likely won’t like the effect, which I refer to as a “live digital video” look to movies, and what some others call a “soap opera” look. With 40+ under $10,000 home theater projectors out there, and I believe, only 3 even messing with CFI, it’s hard to take points away for a weak implementation of an option almost none of competition even offers.

I also mentioned de-focusing, which appeared in most units, but to varying amounts with the initial shipments in January. Now a month or so later, Epson already advises that they have identified the problem, changed manufacturing to correct it, and will take care of anyone with an earlier unit, who has enough de-focusing to be unhappy with it.

Before we start on the Panasonic PT-AE3000, which shares the Best in Class award, let me interject my own preference. Of the two, I personally favor the Epson, although I fully understand the reasons many others have cited for choosing the Panasonic over the Epson.