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Epson 1080UB - Convergence Issue - Is it a real problem?

Most of you have seen the back and forth, about the reported convergence problem on some Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB and Pro Cinema 1080 UB projectors.  One of the forum dealers reports a very high failure rate based on their QCing of Pro UBs.  On the other hand, four medium to large online dealers of the Home Cinema 1080 UB, which should have the identical light engine, report only normal return rates. Here's what I just posted on AVSforum, after querying 4 Epson dealers, and having spoken with Epson..

Greetings! this is my follow up on earlier postings and my promise to shed whatever light I could.

Sorry, this is LONG! -art

Before I get going, I've spent a lot of time on this. If the Epson Home and Pro Cinema 1080 UB's were an average product, with a dozen other competitors out there, believe me I wouldn't be spending all this time on it. However, the Epson is considered by most reviewers, to certainly be the best performing LCD projector around, and many of us favor it over the best of the price comparable competing DLP and LCoS projectors.

Personally, it is my top pick, and the one I recommend most highly to my friends. So, I've definitely got a bias.

OK, here's what I have back so far, re convergence. I've had responses from four dealers - however these are all Home Cinema 1080 UB dealers - which Epson tells me, as far as the light engine is concerned, is identical to the Pro version.

Unfortunately, one of the larger of the four dealers hasn't given me any firm numbers. I'm still asking and they are still checking to see what they can do.

I've received feedback from Epson, and it significantly conflicts with the numbers AVS is reporting, however I'm still asking (not that I'm likely to get it), for a ballpark return rate. As of early last week, my Epson contact was not aware of any quantity of projectors being returned from dealers (like AVS), but then, since they (AVS) buy (I think) through distribution, and I think, from Jason's email, most were still at his place, they aren't back in Epson's system yet.

However, here is the general info I have received back, including 3 of the 4 dealers polled.Combined they (3) have sold a minimum of about 180 units and a maximum of about 250. I expected none of them would give me absolute numbers, so mostly I asked for their sales to the nearest 50 units. (One dealer did give me precise numbers). Of those the three dealers report a combined return rate from Epson owners as, as high as "less than 4%", and as low as "less than 2%".The fourth dealer (possibly the largest of the 4 - definitely with sales of 100-200 units so far indicated emailed me back that "there has been no significant percentage of issues with the new Epson UB models". - that is a quote from them.

So, from a standpoint of regular, Epson authorized AV resellers of the 1080UB, with combined sales of somewhere between 280 and 350 projectors sold, can probably safely be said to be less than 5%, and perhaps far less.Now, of course the dealers could be lying, but I find that unlikely. I've known some of the people I work with at these companies for at least 3-4 years and in some cases much longer.

Let me come back to that in a minute.

Consider - first, a 2-4% failure "DOA" rate, for whatever reason, isn't a great rate, by any means, but on the other hand, it also sure isn't a 50% failure rate either.

Second, Many people with issues, may not report back to the dealer they buy it from, but rather go directly to the manufacturer. Let's consider that:

From my own experience, is based on being a dealer over many years, most notably with older Panasonic HT projectors (AE700u, AE900U), Sanyo (Z3, Z4), lamp problems with BenQ PE7700's (ultimately almost all lamps failed before 1000 hours and most in the 300 - 600 hour range, before BenQ found and fixed the problem, and replaced or repaired everyone's projector, that was sold in the first 7-8 months after launch.)Based on that (and multi-years of sales of 200+ home theater projectors a month), I believe that at most, somewhere between half and 2/3 of customers may never notify the dealer, and go directly to the manufacturer. At any rate, that's my best guess.

Therefore, if we take worst case - "less than 4% return rate" from the big Pro AV dealers, and my worst case (2/3 of the customers will never notify their dealers), that still leaves a maximum failure rate of "less than 12%". Now that definitely wouldn't be pretty, but still far shy of Jason's 50% number.

In addtion, in speaking with Epson product management, they have told me that they have not seen any dramatic problems with the 1080 UB projectors, overall, and indicated (no numbers - I'm still trying to get a DOA rate), that they are not hearing back of any wide scale problems.

Perhaps most importantly to those of you reading this, Epson did want me to pass on that year after year they are the top rated projector manufacturer for reliability and support. (This was certainly true, when I was a dealer), and that they are extremely focused on that, and that is why they have the best warranty, and that their goal is to make sure that their customers are properly taken care of. (Based on the general feedback from AVSforum, that seems to be the case of just about everyone who has sent in their units.)

So, what could cause such a huge difference in unacceptable units, between Jason/AVS, and some of the much larger dealers out there (two should be much larger, one slightly larger, and one smaller?

1. AVSforum customers are more demanding than consumers (of projectors) at large, and as a result, Jason is being overly picky - QCing out units that are converged well enough that a typical home theater buyer wouldn't notice a convergence problem at normal or even slightly closer than normal seating distances. Just follow the threads - many people are asking something like - "here is the misconvergence on my projector... I can't see any problem when normally watching it, but is it defective - should I return it?"

Now, personally, I suspect this is at least part of the case, but it would be for good reason. Everyone reading these threads should understand by now that many AVSforum posters represent, the pickiest of all customers (and this has always been the case. As such, Jason is wise to set his QC standards to a level that would reject any projectors that are likely to come back from the pickiest owners. (ie anyone with a misconvergence of even a 1/2 pixel in each direction or even perhaps more, but less than a full pixel). I don't think anyone is going to argue that a 1.5 or 2+ pixel misconvergence is not a problem). As you can see from the threads on the forums, some are definitely complaining about convergences that they admit can't be seen from normal seating (except maybe with a test pattern) and not on normal content.

(Side note, as a dealer, probably back in the 2003-2004 (or perhaps it was 2002-2003) time period, I did some advertising on AVSforum. I was a dealer sponsor (with the little microbanner on the AVSforum masthead, some regular banners running, and also text ads on the bottom of the pages). We didn't advertise there for long (probably around a year, maybe less), quite simply because our experience was that many AVSforum folks really were hyper-critical compared to the rest of our customer base, and we ultimately considered advertising on AVS to be a poor choice for us, we felt that the complaint rate/return rate, was much higher than the rest of our customer base, and was eating up too much of our resources. In other words, we concluded that we were "happy to give up the potential biz from AVSforum advertising, because it consumed too much of our resources." (source - me!)

2. Jason told me that his QC'ing was across what I seem to recall was 7 separate shipments of projectors, which tends to make his problems based on a particular batch seem unlikely.

3. Because AVS is selling the Pro version, they are getting them from distributors ( I'm almost certain), rather than directly from Epson's warehouses. (of the 4 dealers I polled, three get their shipments directly from Epson). This means that most Pro dealers projectors have an extra shipment in the loop. (Epson - Distributor - Dealer, vs Epson - Dealer) This leads to more chance of damage (afterall, convergence is a very physical issue, as is unevenness in background color). Perhaps the carrier(s) used to get the projectors from the distributor, to Jason's warehouse, is particularly brutal on the boxes...? Since larger shipments (20+) are most likely to be shipped on wooden skids, heavy impacts would not necessarily mean that boxes are in any way damaged.

4. I know from reading the forum threads, that one local dealer pointed out that letters had just gone out to dealers, reminding them that they are not allowed to sell the Pro online. Certainly the postings show that AVS has sold units all over the country. The point raised was that AVS's decision to stop selling the Pro because they weren't going to be allowed to sell it any more... Take all that with a grain of salt (although it does sound like great dealer "spin". (If I can't sell it anymore, if I bad mouth it, it is easier to move customers to what I can sell.)

Problem with that theory, is that, first, Jason has said something like, that Epson is aware of their selling and has no problem with it. The second issue, is that AVS seems to be widely considered to be credible, both by customers, and industry.

BTW my product management contact at Epson, (whom I'm still hammering for some approximate return rate data), isn't particularly aware of AVS and they way they sell. He's not aware of any Pro dealers being allowed to ship nationally, but then, he's a hardware guy, and not a sales marketing type.

Anyway, draw your own conclusions.

Next, where does this stand now? It's still one hell of a projector. As a consumer you have basically several ways of looking at this:

1. Assume the failure rate out of the box is approaching 50%, but Epson is replacing at no cost to the consumer, units being sent in with "convergence problems". So at worst case, you might have to ship yours back in, and get another.

2 Assume that the larger direct dealers numbers are more accurate - somewhere between 2% and 12% depending on the ranges you choose above, and realize there is still a very small chance that the projector you buy will have a problem, but still know Epson will stand behind it.

3. Buy some other projector that also meets your needs, even if not quite as good, or is more expensive, but in some ways better, because it has no QC issues reported on avsforum. (you know the drill, Sony VW40, BenQ W5000, JVC RS1, Panasonic PT-AE2000U, Optoma HD81-LV, etc.4. Spend a lot more for the local dealer - highly QC'd products from brands like Marantz, Runco, Vidikron, SIM2, etc... Of course spending 3-5x for a projector that may not be significantly better (if at all, in some cases), probably doesn't work for most of you.OK, that's it for now. If I get better numbers from dealer 4, and anything more concrete from Epson, I will, of course update!

Disclosure.Some or most of this, I think is in my profile here, and some or most is also on my website under About/Contact Us.

For your convenience though, here's what you get, when you consider my writings. This is my background, draw your own conclusions:

1. I started and owned what was the first online reseller of projectors: Presenting Solutions. We sold our first projectors online in Feb of 2005.2. My company sold over 20,000 projectors online.3. Due to near disaster with the collapse, followed by 9-11 and the recession, my company suffered financial problems. In 2003 another company bailed us out: Alliant Solutions. They renamed the website from to I continued to work for the new company (part time) until Dec. of 2005, primarily in online marketing, sales training, and working with large accounts.

4. Although I had registered in 2000 (I think, you can check), I really didn't start putting much content on it until the 2nd half of 2003, when Alliant took over and I went to part time there.) At the end of 2005, I really started doing far more reviews, as became my full time company. What you see is what you get.

5. Long time ago, I was an Epson employee - way back in 1982-1986. They were the same hard core engineering focused company back then (when they owned about 80% of the world's dot matrix printer market), as they are today, as the #1 projector seller in the world (their numbers). They, of course, make the LCD panels for all other brands, except Sony, who no longer sells panels to other manufacturers.As such, I have always liked Epson. I honestly believe that their combination of warranty, customer support and service, is unmatched.They were also my largest product line for many years, although in the last couple of years I was involved, they were surpassed in the Home theater segment, by BenQ Optoma and Panasonic. BTW, we also were authorized for JVC, Marantz, Sanyo, and a few others.

As my daughter would say: "whatever".

Enough, back to work for me. -art

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