Next up is Living Room. While the Dynamic preset is brightest, it also has a subtle green cast. Living room has more accurate and life-like color, deeper black, and a picture that is overall more appropriate for high-quality film and video. Our test sample measured 951 lumens in this mode. If you have a viewing room with some ambient light, such as a set of curtains that aren't quite opaque, Living Room is perfect. In this sort of environment, a 100" to 120" diagonal image is easy, while larger diagonal images are possible with better light control.
The Natural and Cinema presets both measure around 560 lumens, though they serve different purposes. Cinema mode is tailored for home cinema in a light-controlled room, and as such has the best available color balance, black level, and gamma. Natural mode is balanced towards a brighter picture and features lighter, more open mid-tones and higher color saturation. Neither one is too far from what we'd call the "ideal," they just have some slight differences between them.
In any of these preset calibrations, lamp power can be reduced to bring light output down by 22% and increase lamp life. For example, the Cinema preset is normally 556 lumens, and in Eco mode this drops to 434 lumens. If you have a light-controlled room, this is just about perfect for a 120" diagonal 16:9 screen--the image is brilliant and punchy without being so bright as to cause eyestrain or headaches.
Superb color. These days, plenty of home theater projectors can give you excellent color after calibration. It is still rare, however, to get good color out of the box. Enter the Home Cinema 8350, which only needs some slight adjustments to look its best. While all projectors are going to be a little bit different, our test sample's 6500K color temperature setting was actually closer to 5700K. Raising color temperature to 7500K in the menu system gave us a measured color temperature much closer to 6500K using our CalMan Pro calibration system. After this, there are some tweaks you can make to close the gap between the ideal and reality, but they are fine adjustments to gamut and color balance that really require a meter to perfect. In general, our test unit required a slight boost to green gain and bias, about three points each.
Placement flexibility. Epson's home theater projectors have always had excellent placement flexibility, and the Home Cinema 8350 follows in that tradition. The manual zoom/focus lens has a range of 2.1:1, just like the Home Cinema 8100. It can display a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 9' 9" to 20' 10", or a 120" diagonal image from 11' 9" to 25' 1". The 8350's zoom range is the longest you will find on any home theater projector. As far as lens shift goes, the Home Cinema 8350 has a vertical range of just under two picture heights and a horizontal range of 25% in either direction.
The combination of extensive zoom and flexible lens shift means you can place the Home Cinema 8350 more or less wherever you like, whether that is a rear shelf mount, a ceiling bracket, or even a low coffee table. Since the 8350 is white, ceiling mounting it flush against a white ceiling helps to make it less visible in the room. However, the rear shelf mount is a favorite due to easy access and lower installation and cable costs. It is easy to set up, since signal sources can be placed on the same shelves as the projector for ease of cabling. It is optically ideal since the lens shift can be kept closer to the neutral position.
Audible noise. This paragraph may be titled "audible noise," but in truth there isn't any. The Home Cinema 8350 is almost silent during operation, even in high lamp mode. It will be difficult for viewers to hear the Home Cinema 8350 during operation unless they are sitting with their ears up to the exhaust vent.
Sharpness and clarity. Of critical importance to any 1080p projector are image sharpness and detail clarity. The Home Cinema 8350 has extensive sharpness controls, but the default setting does not introduce any ringing artifacts or other markers of artificial edge enhancement. Fine detail from 1080p Blu-ray movies was rendered accurately and crisply.
Price. Last year saw the release of the world's first sub-$1000 1080p projectors, as well as several innovative, higher performance projectors between $2000 and $3000. Epson's Home Cinema 8100 bridged the two categories at $1500. The Home Cinema 8350 at less than $1300 is more competitive than ever, raising the performance bar on the low end. In terms of "bang for the buck," it is hard to beat.