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PROJECTOR REVIEW BY ART FEIERMAN

Epson Home Cinema 6500UB

Last year we awarded the older Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, our Hot Product award, and more importantly, our Best In Class award for under $4000 1080p projectors. It should come as no surprise that this new top of the Home Cinema line projector, the Home Cinema 6500UB, an even better projector, would also earn our Hot Product Award.

Angstrom Suono Sonata 200

The Home Cinema 6500UB projector is one of two "flagship" models from Epson. The other is the Pro Cinema 7500UB. They are basically identical except for five things: The 6500UB lacks internal support for an anamorphic lens (you would need an outboard video processor like the DVDO Edge), The 7500UB has internal anamorphic lens support, it has a black casing, instead of the 6500UB's white case. The 7500UB also is ISF Certified (the addition of ISF Day and ISF Night memory modes, and different names for some of the preset modes). Finally, the Pro version comes with a three year warranty instead of two. There is also a difference in terms of where you can buy these projectors: The Home Cinema 6500UB is sold online, and through local dealers while the Pro Cinema 7500UB is local dealer only.

Finally, there is a price difference. The Home Cinema 6500UB is $3799 CDN initially, less a $200 rebate. the Pro Cinema 7500UB is $5499 CDN but comes with a ceiling mount and a spare lamp, which definitely reduces the upfront difference in price, but still ends up more expensive than the 6500UB.

This Epson, overall is excellent, especially its sharpness, brightness, and black level performance. There is, however, a definite issue relating to its implementation of frame interpolation, a "new" feature just starting to appear on a few home theater projectors. So far, besides the 6500UB and 7500UB, the only other home theater projectors with this feature are the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, the Panasonic PT-AE3000, and the Mitsubishi HC7000. Of those, the HC7000 uses only straight interpolation, the rest also offer creative frame interpolation to smooth out fast moving motion. Some other projectors do output 24fps at 48fps (2:2) and at least one other, I can think of, supports 96fps output from 24fps sources.

I will discuss the findings relating to the creative and 96fps (4:4) of the Epson, below, and elsewhere in this review. My take is that the verdict is still out on creative frame interopolation. I believe it has merits but whether it is a feature that most should consider as a critical one, I think not. That's just my take, however. I mention all this, because the Epson projector I have been reviewing has some serious issues with its frame interpolation. I've spent probably 20+ hours looking into these issues, have put out four blogs on it, and have received a lot of good feedback, primarily from folks in the EU, where the TW5000, the "international" version of the 7500UB, is already in the hands of many users. Here in the US, the first shipments are just going out.

Home Cinema 6500UB Projector Highlights

  • Best black level performance of the lower cost (under $3000 selling price) 1080p projectors
  • Very sharp image
  • Very good, but not exceptional at revealing dark shadow details
  • Creative frame interpolation for reducing motion blur, with 120 frames per second maximum frame rate, but some definite issues with many modes
  • Very good post calibration color accuracy
  • Excellent placement flexibility
  • Above average brightness in best mode for movie watching (and brightest of the 3LCD home theater projectors)
  • Extremely bright in brightest mode, with reasonably good image quality, only a few projectors are brighter, and they cost a lot more
  • Very good warranty - two years, with an overnight replacement program
  • Full support for HDMI 1.3b with 24 fps, Deep Color...
  • Good, not great, "out of the box" color accuracy - better than average
  • Slightly noisier than average, definitely quieter than the DLP projector competition, but noisiest of the 3LCD projectors
  • Great Price/Performance, even if you decide that the frame interpolation is not typically usable

Home Cinema 6500UB Projector - Special Features

Creative Frame Interpolation at 120fps and 4:4 (96fps) output

Basically the Epson has three main modes: Taking 24fps movies (typically from Blu-ray) to 96fps without any creative frame interpolation, creative frame interpolation to 120fps from 24fps source, with the creation of unique frames to smooth motion, and 120fps creative frame interpolation from 30/60fps source material.

The plan at this point, to deal with these issues, include being in touch with Epson, and in turn, their engineers in Japan. Unless there is something uniquely wrong with my review unit, which is unlikely considering all the blog comments I'm getting from readers confirming what I am reporting, Epson has issues that need fixing. Keep perspective though.

As mentioned above, I consider frame interpolation to be a secondary feature, far less important overall, than black levels, brightness, sharpness, and color accuracy. Most of us never missed it, and, so far, the Epson UBs are part of a very short list of projectors that do support 96 and 120 fps interpolation.

In a perfect world, Epson will solve this, and come up with a firmware fix. If they do so, excellent, but even with these issues, my enthusiasm for this projector remains strong. First, let me say, that whether on a projector, or an LCDTV, frame interpolation changes the look of the image, typically adding more depth. However, it can be over the top as is the case with the Epson, or, for example the PT-AE3000 when in its Frame interpolation Mode 2. This raises the big question of does the use of frame interpolation on movies change the image enough to effectively void the "director's intent". Since smoothing motion would make scenes in fast paced movies like Transformers look smoother, less action-like, would the director want to, knowing frame interpolation is in use, compensate, to put back more raw sense of motion.It's a good concept for debate, as is going on in my blog and on assorted forums.

Here's what's happening:

Blu-ray source 24fps: Engage Frame Interpolation and get an incredible increase in depth. It changes feel of the content of movies from "film-like" to "live digital video". That's huge, and definitely, while interesting to watch, not what a director would intend. As some put it, movies start looking like TV soap opera, or a live news feed.

In addition to this over the top depth, the Epson exhibits a lot of jerkiness in this mode. This is definitely more distracting than the consistent 3:2 pull-down we were used to, when watching 30/60 fps source material (like standard DVDs and movies shown on TV/HDTV.

There are two modes for 24fps. Just straight interpolation to 96fps, or the creative to 120fps. Both exhibit the same problem. the 96fps - 4:4, is a little better, but still not acceptable to a hard core enthusiast, and even the most "consumer" of us, will notice the jerkiness.

Blu-ray HDTV and other sources, outputting to the projector at 30/60fps: (turn off 24fps on a Sony PS3). Depth still increases tremendously, jerkiness seems to be less of a problem, but still there. The jerkiness might now be considered very watchable by some (definitely not all), but the depth on movies still is "over the top". Movies on HDTV channels though, tend to behave much like the 24fps source material, so the Epson is having a problem there, stripping it back to 24fps before adding frame interpolation.

Sports and most pure digital sources, however, do look very good, as you can tell from the image immediately below (shot in Living Room mode). I've watched extensive football, and some faster paced basketball, and haven't noticed jerkiness to be an issue.

I will continue to blog on this issue, with regular updates, so stay tuned. For my own personal use of the 6500UB while I have it, I plan, for my personal viewing (not analysis), I plan to use creative frame interpolation for sports, but probably little else.

Long Lamp Life: Epson TORL lamp

Epson has a new lamp. Like the last generation they call this a TORL lamp, but they claim significant improvement. Even without the increase in wattage from 170 to 200 watts, Epson says the lamp is more efficient - pumping out more lumens to the screen. The extra wattage, all by itself, adds about 18% more lumens. As a result of the new lamp, it's not surprising that the Home Cinema 6500UB - and the Pro Cinema 7500 UB - are noticeably brighter than the older 1080 UB projectors.

The other major benefit of the new lamp, is lamp life. Epson now claims 4000 hours life, whether in full, or low power. If Epson delivers on these claims, then the new Epson's have the longest life lamp, and the lowest cost of operation of any of the 1080p projectors out there, when they are all in full lamp power mode

Contrast Enhancement

This mode, found on the Advanced Image menu, provides three settings that dynamically increase contrast. Using the minimum setting it adds a little extra contrast - more wow and pop to the image. For a lot of watching, I liked this feature, although technically, it makes it a touch less film-like. I found the other two settings to be a bit over the top for movie watching of Blu-ray discs, but those settings can give you a better looking, more dynamic feel to movies off of standard DVD. I'd say the Contrast Enhancement also can be helpful if you are pushing the Epson in terms of screen size, by giving a little more life, to an image that would be marginal in brightness

Full HDMI 1.3b support

The Epson is "up to date" with support for Deep Color (coming) with its larger color palette, x.v. color with it's wider color gamut, and CEC (Consumer Electronics Control (protocol). All but a few current model projectors have full support. Most that do not, are models that have been on the market more than a year, although the BenQ W20000 and W5000, for example which are a year old or less, still only have 1.2 support. Then there are some Sony projectors just being phased out, that support 1.3, but not all of it (the VW40 and VW60 do not support Deep Color. Deep Color uses a larger color palette for smoother, more accurate shading, most noticeable in closeups of skin tones. The Epson Home Cinema 6500UB supports the full gamut of 1.3b features. Now we just need some Deep Color content to start showing up on Blu-ray disc, so the Epson can take advantage of it.