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Epson Home Cinema 6500UB - First Look!

Greetings home theater projector fans, And happy holidays from our family at  The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB has finally arrived.  (OK, I had to drive to Long Beach, CA, to pick it up, and a Home Cinema 6100 projector too.) Mike was able to measure and calibrate the Home Cinema 6500UB projector immediately for me, so I got to view it all weekend. Two things before I get started about the 6500UB.  One, I do love blogging, I can be less serious - or perhaps, I should say; I can get away with writing with more humor, and enthusiasm, than in the more formal reviews, which makes First Looks, more fun to write.   Darn, now I can't even remember what the second thing was.  So let's talk Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB. Whoa!  I remember.  I wanted to say that the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB review has been the missing piece of the puzzle for many of you shopping for home theater projectors between $2000 and $4000+.  That's not to say there aren't a few more important reviews to come - notable, the other Epson - the 6100, and the JVC RS10 and RS20, but this is the one many have been waiting for - those trying to choose between the four powerhouse LCD based 1080p brands - Epson, Sanyo, Mitusbishi and of course, Panasonic, as well as the top competing DLPs. While I will not have the full Epson Home Cinema 6500UB review posted in time for you guys to order one, and have it under your tree for Christmas, it will publish this coming weekend, so at least last minute Hanukah shoppers can get one and put it under their Hanukah bushes. Let's get started: OMG!    Looks like Epson has done it again.   That's my initial reaction after a good 12+ hours of watching movies and sports, plus an extra 3 hours last night, watching the Epson side by side with the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and then the JVC RS1.   I don't know where to start, so let's begin with some basic stuff, and I'll save the really fun - performance stuff, for further down this page.  The Home Cinema 6500 UB, is physically larger than the old 1080 UB, boxier, and definitely not as pretty.  It's still off white, like its predecessor.  It's still noisier than most other 3LCD projectors, and still a touch quieter than the average DLP competitor.  Actually it seems to have improved a bit, especially in low power mode, but a few of you who are particularly noise adverse, will no doubt object to the fan noise at full power. No surprises in terms of inputs - same old, same old.  A new remote though!  Not sure if I like it better or worse than the old one, but it's got a good, bright, backlight. (I hate dim ones, really I do.) Brightness - look for lower lumen measurements as we have just switch light measurement gear, for a more accurate setup, however, the 6500UB, is essentially the same brightness as the older UB.  If anything, it might have a slight advantage in "best mode", but brightest - Dynamic seems to be pretty much the same. But, to do a paraphrase - "It's the picture, stupid."   Which is what everyone wants to hear. It's this simple:  Wow!  - and Pop too! This projector has depth to the image like I cannot recall seeing on any fixed panel projector that I've reviewed.  In the "old days" we always liked the depth of DLP projectors - those rich saturated colors especially the darker ones that just seemed to give additional life to the image.  Well, the Epson seems to be doing just that, but at a new level. From the moment I started viewing movies with the Home Cinema 6500 UB, I noticed the extra depth to the pictures.  It's almost like movies shot with film were displaying that crispness and depth of 1080p content shot digitally, without film.  This was consistently apparent on Men In Black (the first one), and, in Casino Royale, the Venice chase scenes never looked so alive.  They look almost like a live news cam tracking Bond and the scenery as he dodges through Piazza San Marco - St. Marks Square. Tremendous depth! And if that wasn't impressive enough - The Dark Knight was dazzling.  Dark Knight is partially shot in IMAX, and those scenes are nothing short of breathtaking, in terms of depth.  The clown scenes at the beginning, and the IMAX night scenes of Gotham looked outstanding! I've already taken a number of side by side images from Dark Knight, Casino Royale, and Space Cowboys, with the Epson, vs. the Panasonic PT-AE3000 and also the JVC DLA-RS1.  You'll see some in the full review, and more in the late January 1080p Projector Comparison Report. Color Accuracy:  Hmm, the Epson, post calibration looks very good.  It needs just a bit more tweaking, to remove a slight yellowish caste to the whites, but that will get worked out.   Black Level Performance:  It's even better than the 1080 UB.  Not drastically, but definitely a little better. The difference between it, and the Panasonic is significant. True, the Panasonic does a very nice job on black levels, but the Epson is definitely a step up in performance, in this regard!  This Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB can even rival the JVC DLA-RS1, on some scenes, when the dynamic iris is most effective. Overall, though the RS1 still has a slight advantage, but that's the least expensive projector that I can think of, that has an advantage, and it's definitely not a big difference.  (The JVC RS20 - due to arrive this week, should make for a very interesting shootout.) Image sharpness:  Wow, an major improvement here - thanks primarily to a new optical system sporting a high quality Fujinon lens.  The Home Cinema 6500UB is very sharp - compared to average for the 1080 UB.  Neither the JVC nor Panasonic is as sharp.  I'll be doing side by sides tonight with the IN83 and probably the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 (the Mitsubishi HC7000 has gone back to Mitsubishi).  I expect the Home Cinema 6500 UB to match the InFocus in terms of overall sharpness, and crispness of the image. Overall Picture Quality:  Extremely impressive, although, once again, this Epson doesn't have the most natural "film-like" image, it, like the older 1080 UB does look a little "hard", but that look translates to lots of "pop" and "wow" - a dynamic, and striking picture, that immediately impresses.  The Panasonic looks lackluster, by comparison.  Again, it produces an extremely sharp looking image!  I believe the sharpness, and the black levels are the two major ingredients for all that depth I keep talking about. Feature set:  The Epson, like the other "top of the line" 3LCD projectors offers up to 120 frame per second interpolation, and it does creative frame interpolation to smooth fast motion.  Like other projectors doing creative frame interpolation (Panasonic, Sanyo PLV-Z3000, I believe I'm seeing occasional artifacts from the creative frame interpolation, so some will prefer not to use it, and for those that do, there are three modes, so I'm still figuring out which is the best solution, and which, if any, are a bit, "over the top." The manual zoom and focus Epson Fujinon lens has a 2:1 zoom ratio, and there is plenty of lens shift, as with the older Epsons. So far, I'm pretty much blown away.  Some of the shock will no doubt wear off, and I might not be quite as impressed by the end of the week, as I am now.  Still, my preliminary opinion is that the Epson 6500UB - and therefore also it's Pro Cinema 7500UB sibling (which does support an anamorphic lens), like the 1080 UB last year, positions itself as the best overall, of the 3LCD projectors.  Last time around, the 1080 UB, was great, but had three slight weaknesses:  Very average sharpness, not as film-like (natural) as some others, and noisy (audibly). With the new Home Cinema 6500 UB, sharpness is now excellent and no longer an issue.  The "film-like" issue is still there, but the great depth to the image changes the dynamic - things look more real - and you start wondering if the end result isn't better - than film-like.  Afterall, film is a tool to capture real-life.  If you can make the final image more real, and less film-like, you are more faithful to reality, if less faithful to what the "director intended".  An interesting trade-off.   And then there's those great black levels - for a projector that is selling in the US for $2999 - less a $200 mail in rebate.  I realize that in the rest of the world, there is a single model - basically the Home Cinema 7500 UB - (since overseas, they are black (like the 7500 UB), and support an anamorphic lens. It's been a fun start with the Epson.   One more thought - football - college and pro - especially those coming over cable in 1080i resolution looks truly great.  The LivingRoom mode provided both brightness, and very good color balance, while Dynamic, as expected, a bit over the top in color, to fight ambient light, provided better color balance than the quick calibration we did to the older 1080 UB.  One of my regulars for football was over yesterday.  He rarely pays any attention to my projector rambling, or, for that matter, the image quality, just the game (as it should be).  This time, though, he was telling me repeatedly:  "Wow!", Which one is this (projector)? It looks great! I can't think of any way that the 6500UB doesn't match, or outperform, the 1080 UB, and that, right there, is saying quite a lot about the Home Cinema 6500 UB. BTW, with Mike's new metering, the 6500UB measured low 400 lumens in Theater Black 1 (post calibration), and mid 1200 lumens in Dynamic.  Since I found LivingRoom to be a great setting, I should report that this UB produced just over 1000 lumens in LivingRoom mode, as well.  Overall it's brightness in different modes is not significantly different than the older 1080 UB, that based on normal viewing. One last thought - movie watching in Theater Black 1 ("best" mode).  As with the 1080 UB, about 110 inches diagonal in a darkened room, with a typical screen is pretty much the largest screen size I can recommend.  If you want larger - you'll need a high gain screen, or other magic.  Trying to stretch Theater Black 1 across all 128 inch diagonal of my Firehawk G3 definitely resulted in a dim look to images.  I couldn't watch enjoyably at that size. OK, that's more than I intended to share, at this point.  On the other hand, I'm thinking it is enough for those sitting on the fence, trying to make a last minute decision.  BTW, I'm slammed this week, sorry, but I won't be answering emails relating to the Epson until after the review is posted.  I've got a SIM2 arriving tomorrow, and hopefully the JVC RS10 as well.  Too much to do before CES.   Again, happy holidays - and I must say, to the wives and significant others out there -  a Home Cinema 6500 UB really would be a spectacular gift for under the tree.  -art

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