Projector Reviews

Epson Home Cinema 1080UB being reviewed – First thoughts

1/5/08
First, Happy New Year to all!

I had hoped the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB would arrive a week or two ago, so I could complete the review prior to leaving for The CES show on 1/7/08. Alas, it finally arrived late on the 3rd. I’ve already logged a number of hours on the 1080UB, and I’ll say to start, it is most impressive.

At CEDIA in September, the look I had at the pre-production of the Pro Cinema 1080UB (I think it was the pro version – months ago), impressed me. Claimin a 50,000:1 contrast spec, this Epson, even considering it uses a dynamic iris, it has led me to hope that the Home Cinema 1080UB will prove to have the best black level and shadow detail performance yet, from any LCD projector. (And possibly challenge the best of the DLP’s and, dare I say, the JVC LCoS projectors?)

I haven’t measured, or calibrated the grayscale balance, as I had to finish off the last review, which just happened to be the Home Cinema 720, but while I’ve been writing up the HC720, I’ve been watching the Home Cinema 1080UB!

And so far – Wow would be a good word. Black levels are definitely VERY good. Last night my family watched The Departed, which just arrived from Netflix (in Blu-ray format). Plenty of dark in that movie, and the UB performed excellently.

After the movie ended, and the rest of the family called it a night, I put on some segments of The Departed, again, and switched back and forth between the HC1080UB, and my RS1, in my theater room. Unfortunately in that room, I can’t switch quickly, since, if I leave the JVC on (mounted up high), it still sends a small amount of light to the screen, which of course would affect the UB’s image. Since I have to shut the projector down, it takes at least 5 minutes after power up, before the image is relatively stable, in brightness, etc.

But, I digress. The important point is that the black levels in the letterbox areas, is actually very close between the two. My JVC seems to be a little brighter with both in best modes, and to have a bit lower gamma overall, but the Epson may well prove to be competitive with the RS1, if not as good at black levels and shadow detail, at least fairly close, and defintely more horsepower in brightnest mode.

Oh, if only the Epson had arrived last week. Then, I would have had the JVC RS2, the Sony VW60 and a Panasonic PT-AE2000U all sitting in my testing room for comparison. Unfortunately, the last of those shipped back early on Wednesday, and hours after Fedex left, then I get the email saying the Epson would arrive the next day. Alas!

Right now I’ve got the Steelers Jacksonville playoff game on, and like other Epson home theater projectors, it is bright, dynamic, and overall a great projector for sports.

Tonight I’m going to do some measurements and adjustments, and also shoot a few side-by-side images against it’s little brother, the Home Cinema 720. I can tell you right now, that while there are similarities, the HC720, isn’t particularly strong on black levels, and the 1080UB, most certainly is.

Also on tonight’s agenda, I’ll be viewing a few segments from the usual movies I use for the review. My goal is to post some additional comments tomorrow evening (Sunday night), because I won’t be able to finish the review until I get back from the show.

One last thing. Epson is offering up two versions, the Home Cinema 1080UB, with fairly wide distribution, and a local dealer Pro Cinema 1080UB. Generally, when they do this, it is the same basic projector, but the Pro version which sells for a lot more, has different presets, and is ISF Certified, including the two ISF modes for calibrating Day and Night settings.

For those of you setting their clocks by my reviews (which are usually a couple of days late), I’m hoping to publish the full review on Tuesday or Wed, the 15th or 16th.

And, one more time Happy New Year! -art