OK, the review has progressed quite a bit, and the initial "shock and awe" has worn off. This blog will primarily address the creative frame interpolation and 4:4 pull-down, as we have discovered some real issues.
I've emailed Epson, and my contact is still checking emails, and likely will forward to Japan, so I may have some good answers before Epson America folks return in January.
Before I start on the main issue. A clarification regarding the optics. Seems that the 6500 UB, per an email I just received, does have the same optics as the older 1080 UB. To explain the noticeable increase in sharpness, Epson suggests that it is in part (or mostly) due to improved image processing. That the 6500 UB is sharper than the 1080 UB I have here, however, is definite. And the improvement is significant (or significant, relative to my general position that while there are differences in sharpness between "average" sharpness projectors like the 1080 UB, and Sharp ones, like the 6500 UB, InFocus IN83, the Mitsubishi HC7000 and BenQ projectors, that all are relatively sharp, and that sharpness differences should be only a minor factor, and definitely not a deal breaker.
OK, frame interpolation time.
So far I have only really worked with 24fps source material on Blu-ray. Here's what I'm finding:
1. If frame interpolation is turned on, regardless of whether 4:4 is engaged or not, the artifacts that make the image look like a live digital video source, incredible depth, but jerky, and definitely a long way from "film-like". The effect is impressive, but wrong. There is more than enough jerkiness to the image for me to say, so far, that having frame interpolation turned on, with a 24 fps source is not a viable option.
Note: If 4:4 is turned on, you cannot get into the frame interpolation menu - it's grayed out. It does however show the last setting. Whether it's still working or not, I haven't been able to determine, but it seems to be still running. Better to turn 4:4 off, then enter Frame Interpolation, turn it off, then go and turn 4:4 back on.
2. 4:4 On, with frame interpolation showing off (still grayed out). Finding some definite artifacts, very noticeable in the card game scenes of Casino Royale, especially with slow panning. There is a "blurring" worse than having 4:4 off. white shirts, heads, etc. seem almost to be losing frames, as there is a much larger jump in changes to the faces/shirts, etc, as the slow moving objects move due to the slow panning.
I'll be viewing more different scenes, for this, including other movies, but very evident on that scene, and if consistent, I'd have to recommend not using 4:4???
I will be doing some side by side observations with the PT-AE3000 and the Sanyo Z3000 specifically to compare how they do regarding these issues.
Conjecture: I haven't tried this yet, but will in the next session in the testing room: I plan to turn 24fps off on the PS3 to feed the "old fashioned" 30/60fps to the projector. This may well prove to be a much better result. My guess is that Epson really focused their creative frame interpolation around 60fps to 120fps, in which case the Epson may do a very good job with that setup, one better than feeding it 24fps.
No. I'm still not completely sold on frame interpolation anyway. Black level performance, for example, is far more significant in my opinion than various frame interpolation schemes. Frame interpolation, motion blur, etc. seems to be like Rainbow effect on DLP projectors. Different folks have different sensitivities.
More on all this, in the final review.
The Answer: Absolutely not!
The Question: Has this 4:4, frame interpolation situation significantly changed my initial opinion of the Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB? No, it's still a real improvement over the 1080 UB, and a great projector. However, I'd sure like to find a way to see creative frame interpolation, or 4:4, or both, work really well with 24fps source material.
OK, and on the very bright side: The Epson lamp is rated 4000 hours (according to an email back from Epson), whether in low or full power!!! NOW That is impressive!!!
Forgetting that issue, it's still sharper, image has better depth, longer lamp life (double in full power mode) and has better black levels. And if feeding 30/60fps instead of 24fps, solves the issue above, and produces a better solution than feeding 24fps with 4:4 and frame interpolation off, then bingo, another benefit.
In other words, it still looks to be a cut above the competition, but of course there are always trade-offs.
You don't want to buy the best projector, you want the one that's best for you, and often they aren't the same. Still, this has to be on everyone's short list.
Enough for now, time to start the family activities.
Everyone - happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, or a great holiday - which ever you prefer. In other words:
Happy Holidays! -art