Conference Room Shootout:
Epson Pro Z8455
You should get the Epson Pro Z8455 if you need a well-balanced picture with spot-on color and don't mind spending a bit more money to get it. If expected use includes a lot of high definition video, the Pro Z is the best choice unless you need the incrementally brighter picture offered by the competition. You should also consider the Pro Z8455 if you are concerned about your audience's susceptibility to color separation artifacts (aka the rainbow effect) as the Pro Z8455 is the only non-DLP projector in the shootout and therefore the only projector completely free of rainbows.
Great video performance. The real key to the Epson Pro Z8455 is its excellent video capabilities. In addition to color that can be easily calibrated to the ideal 6500K, the Pro Z8455 has the best video feature set available, and is the only projector that includes either an automatic iris or frame interpolation capability. As a result, film and video look smooth, sharp, and high in contrast on the Pro Z8455.
Outstanding ease of use. The Epson Pro Z8455 is designed to make both use and maintenance as simple as possible. The projector's menu system is simple and straightforward, while the remote control has large, clearly-labeled buttons. On the maintenance side, the projector is designed to make life easier for whoever is tasked with replacing lamps and filters. Every user-serviceable compartment on the Epson Pro Z8455 has a cover attached with thumbscrews or simple plastic clips, meaning that you need no tools to perform regular maintenance tasks like changing lamps or replacing air filters. The removable lamp cover is tethered to the projector itself, making it impossible to drop. The result is a completely tool-free maintenance experience, something that installers will appreciate all the more after they drop their first screwdriver down a 20-foot ladder.
Liquid cooling. Bright projectors tend to be loud projectors, more so if they use two lamps. To combat audible noise, the Epson Pro Z8455 uses an internal liquid cooling system to regulate temperature. As a result, the projector is quieter than many of its competitors.
Light output. The Epson Pro Z8455 is rated at 7,000 lumens, and it will hit that mark. However, doing so requires you to turn brightness and contrast all the way up, and the result is not a very watchable picture. The brightest usable setting is Dynamic, which we measured at 6100 lumens. Dynamic emphasizes green but is a suitable choice for content that does not require perfect color accuracy. Also notable is that Dynamic on the Epson Pro Z8455 has more accurate white balance than the high-brightness modes on many competitors. In fact, if you bump the Color Temperature control down to 6500K, the result is a good option for the display of color-balanced graphics in ambient light.
In its Theater mode the Pro Z8455 only produces around 1725 lumens. While it is normal for a projector to shed most of its light output in a dedicated theater mode, you might expect more than 1725 video-optimized lumens in theater mode from a projector rated at 7000 lumens.
Then again, the competitors in our shootout don't have the Pro Z8455's Presentation mode. Presentation mode, at around 4,000 lumens, has color fidelity equaling that of Theater mode and black levels that are still very deep while still outputting a significant amount of light. The end result is that the Epson Pro Z8455 is a flexible projector in terms of light output, in that it can be set to produce a lot of light, or relatively little, or anything in between.
If less light is required, Eco mode reduces light output by roughly 23% while increasing estimated lamp life from 2,500 to 3,500 hours. Eco mode does not appreciably reduce audible noise because the projector is so quiet to begin with.
Contrast. An auto-iris makes the Epson Pro Z8455 the Shootout's contrast king. Static dynamic range rivals the DLP competition, but the iris brings black levels to a depth that is second to none. Keep in mind that contrast in the absolute sense is only really important when a projector has little or no ambient light to compete with, so the Pro Z8455's outstanding black levels will only really be visible once the lights have come down.
Color. Out of the box, the Epson Pro Z8455's white balance and color gamut are already quite good, especially for this class of projector. The most notable thing about the Pro Z8455 is that, with a little bit of fiddling, every image mode can be calibrated to 6500K, usually without doing more than five minutes' worth of adjustment. That is true for Dynamic mode, as well. Simply adjust the projector's Color Temperature slider down to 6500K (the brighter modes default to 7500K) and you're all set.
This allows you to pick the mode that provides the right amount of light output for your application and then adjust color to match. The brighter modes like Dynamic and Presentation lose some light output if you color-optimize them, but it's only about 500 lumens, and a change of 500 lumens in a 4,000- to 6,000-lumen image is hardly visible.
Sharpness and clarity. While the Pro Z8455 is not the only projector in the shootout with Super Resolution (the Mitsubishi UD8350U and NEC PX750U have smart sharpening systems as well), that system helps to keep detail tack-sharp and text perfectly clear. While the Epson Pro Z8455 is a three-chip projector and the other projectors in the shootout are all single-chip, our test sample did not give any ground on sharpness of detail.
No single-lamp mode. The Pro Z8455 is the only projector in the shootout that doesn't have a single-lamp mode. In other words, you're always running both lamps. The projector will still run if you remove one of the lamps, but this is much less convenient than the simple menu option offered by its competitors. On the other hand, if you have no need or desire to operate your projector at half-power, this will not be a concern. The Pro Z8455 does of course have Eco mode, which reduces lamp power and drops light output by roughly 23% while extending lamp life from 2,500 to 3,500 hours.
Largest projector physically. The Pro Z8455 is the largest, heaviest projector in the shootout, and therefore the most difficult to mount. While none of the projectors in the group are exactly small, the Z8455 will require the sturdiest ceiling mount or the largest shelf of them all. It is also the only projector that includes a specific warning against trying to lift it on your own.
Expensive. The Pro Z8455 isn't cheap. The projector itself retails for $19,999. That price does not include a lens (lenses range in price from $1,399 to $2,899). So the Pro Z8455 is the most expensive of the four models we tested in this Shootout. If you are looking for a budget-friendly option, you'll have to weigh whether the image quality advantages you get on the Pro Z8455 are worth the extra cash.
If you're after a WUXGA projector to handle a variety of data and video applications, the Epson PowerLite Pro Z8455WU NL is an outstanding option. This powerhouse's advantages in color, video performance, contrast, ease of use and maintenance make it extremely attractive for video-heavy applications in particular. It comes up a touch short on light output compared to its competitors, and it carries a premium price tag, but the picture quality is hard to beat.
Special Note: We wish to extend our thanks to ELITE SCREENS for donating the screens we used for the side-by-side comparison evaluations in this shootout, and for the assistance in setting them up. Their contribution to this project was much appreciated.