UPDATE: The Epson Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB
Review has been posted.
Time to share some info about the four new Epson 1080p projectors. Not long ago, I got a briefing on them at Epson's facility in Long Beach, CA (only 40 miles from here). I got a decent look at the Home Cinema 8500UB in action. It will be replacing the 6500UB, in a couple of months or less.
I'll start with the Home Cinema 8500UB, and then touch on the Pro Cinema 9500UB, it's almost identical sibling. The Pro is sold only by authorized local installing dealers, while the Home Cinema 8500UB is available through authorized online dealers as well as local ones.
These new projectors represent the 3rd generation of Epson's "ultra-high" contrast projectors. That started with the original 1080 UB, which was replaced by the 6500UB and 7500UB, which, in turn will be replaced in couple of months by the new Home Cinema 8500UB and Pro Cinema 9500UB respectively.
The new Epson projectors physically look like the old ones.
The pricing, while not set yet, should be similar to the older models, and the official word
for the 8500UB street price, is "Sub-$3000."
These new projectors aren't available yet. Figure late October / early November.
Home Cinema 8500UB Home Theater Projector
1600 lumens (same as the 6500UB)
New - Dual layered dynamic iris
Improved electronic sharpness (same optics)
Silicon Optix Reon-VX image processing
4000 hour lamp at full power
Probably the two biggest differences between the new and the old, relates to contrast (and therefore, black level performance), and CFI - creative frame interpolation.
I must start with the contrast ratio. The number is stratospheric, at "up to 200,000:1"
That's more than double the 6500UB's, and I'm pretty sure, the highest number I've seen on any projector that's not a CRT.
How that translates into improved black levels, I'll have to wait and see. The room I saw it in wasn't ideal, a smallish conference room with white walls, and a relatively small screen. So while I can't say definitively how much improvement, I definitely figure any improvement is a great thing. After all, the older 6500UB has rather excellent blacks, bested only by a few, noticeably more expensive projectors, and these projectors could close the gap.
CFI: For those of you who have been following CFI (creative frame rate) discussions, when th 6500UB and 7500UB first shipped, their CFI (first generation), which is designed to smooth out jerky motion, had some issues. Epson released improved firmware about 90 days (give or take) after the products first started shipping.
The "fix" really improved the CFI in a number of ways, but, CFI is a really new thing in consumer displays, and there's still left room for improvement. CFI is nice to have, but, so far, for some content you are better off, turning it off, on projectors, LCDTV's and plasmas. No doubt the technology will continue to improve.
This time around, from what Epson showed me, their CFI has been improved in a number of ways. Perhaps of greatest import, in tough cases, the creative frame interpolation figures out when its normal workings won't improve the image, and it changes the way it works, or doesn't try to do as much, to avoid pesky artifacts. I like the idea: Better to shut down or scale back then to create artifacts far worse than what you are trying to eliminate.
Ok, check this out: There's a mode which splits the screen so that the CFI only works on half, so you can see the differences between with and without CFI.
And that is very cool! (and will make this reviewer's life a little simpler).
I didn't get much time to really play with the split screen, but it was definitely interesting, and I could easily see the CFI doing its thing. When I get one in for review, I'll put the CFI through its paces. I'm particularly curious to try Bourne Supremacy on the new CFIs. It's a challenge.
Back to the Home Cinema 8500UB, though.
Room and setup considered, the Epson 8500UB looked really good. No doubt the Home Cinema 8500UB will be a worthy replacement. I'm looking forward to a review unit, but no date yet.
The functionality of the projector should be almost identical to the 6500UB, with just a few changes on menus. And that takes us to the Pro Cinema 9500UB, which is more of the same, but with just a few differences.
Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB Home Theater Projector
There really are only a few differences between the two projectors:
The 9500UB comes in a shiny, piano finish, black case. It comes with a third year warranty, one year more than the 8500UB.
The Pro Cinema 9500UB supports an anamorphic lens setup. The Home Cinema 8500UB does not.
This projector is ISF certified, which means two modes for professional calibrators - ISF Day, and ISF Night, which are lockable, so the user can't mess with them. (All of the Epsons have 10 normal user savable settings, which is far more than most home theater projectors have.
If Epson follows tradition, and it seems they will, the Pro Cinema 9500UB will come bundled with ceiling mount and spare lamp, and, as mentioned before, be sold only by authorized local installing dealers. Price will be higher, of course.
Ok, that pretty much covers it.
I'm anticipating that the new Epson projectors will be able provide a readily visible improvement over the still impressive older models. Now that would be a very good thing!
We shall see. -art