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Top Five Most Popular 1080p Projectors

Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB

The Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB is designed to appeal to the widest consumer base possible. It is exceptionally bright, so it can be used in ambient light. It has a long 2.1x zoom lens and full 2.9 picture height lens shift, so it can be installed pretty much anywhere. It is small and shallow in depth, so it can be placed discreetly on a rear shelf. And it is white, so if ceiling mounted it will blend in and become invisible against a white ceiling. As far as practical considerations are concerned, Epson has done a great job coming up with a projector that will appeal to the masses.

Key advantages

• Very bright. The Cinema 1080 UB is rated at 1600 ANSI lumens, and it does indeed measure 1600 lumens in its brightest configuration. Its Cinema Day operating mode still pumps out 800 lumens, which is a lot more light than most home theater projectors in anything close to a video optimized calibration. So if you want, or cannot get rid of, some amount of ambient light in the room, the Cinema 1080 UB should be considered a strong contender.

• Great lens flexibility. With a 2.1x zoom lens, you can place the projector anywhere from 10 to 21 feet from the screen to get a 100" image. With a 2.9 picture height lens shift, you can put the projector anywhere from a coffee table to a rear shelf to a ceiling mount, and not have to worry about tilting the projector to hit the screen. And this unit has the widest range horizontal lens shift as well, which means you don't have to set the projector perpendicular to the center of the screen if objects in the room will not allow it.

• Auto iris. To be candid, we aren't sure whether to list the auto iris as an advantage or a limitation because it is both at once. Its advantage is that in dark scenes, it will take black levels to very black. If the screen fades totally to black, as just before a credit roll, it looks like the projector has been turned off. This is how Epson justified the original 50,000:1 full on/off contrast rating that was part of its promotion at the time of release. Since that time Epson has chosen to publish a more conservative contrast spec. They now quote 4,000:1, which is the full on/off measurement with the auto iris disabled. In fact, we measured our test unit at 3,780:1

With this switch in the quoted spec (which we applaud by the way), official contrast ratings have become even more meaningless than they were previously. Why? Other vendors who market auto-iris enabled projectors will most likely continue to include the effect of the iris in their contrast ratings since it always yields a much higher number. So the specs are not apples-to-apples comparisons, and the consumer now has no clue what the spec is based on. On the other hand, if the rest of the industry follows Epson's lead on this, we'll be taking some healthy steps toward a more coherent set of contrast ratings.

But I digress. Back to the iris on the Cinema 1080 UB. The downside of the auto iris on this projector is that it is the slowest of the auto irises in this group of projectors. The iris action on the Panasonic AE2000, the Sanyo Z2000, and the Mitsubishi HC5500 is virtually instantaneous, and undetectable by the human eye. Conversely, in going from a bright to a dark scene or vice versa, the iris adjustment on the Epson takes one or two seconds to catch up. If you are using the Cinema 1080 UB in ambient light, this is an insignificant issue since the brightness of the projector trumps black level performance. But if you want an optimized dark room theater environment, the slow action of the iris may become an occasional distraction.

Limitations

• ANSI contrast. We measured the Cinema 1080 UB's ANSI contrast at 251:1, which is about the middle of the pack for home theater oriented LCD projectors. The Panasonic AE2000 measured 305:1, and it is in fact incrementally higher in actual contrast as you experience it on the screen. Meanwhile, the BenQ W5000 is quite noticeably higher in actual contrast.

• No anamorphic mode. For those interested in going to a super widescreen 2.35 set up with the addition of an anamorphic lens, an external video processor will be required since the Cinema 1080 UB has no onboard scaling to accommodate this through the HDMI port.

• Higher than average noise level in SD. If you plan to watch a lot of standard definition material, and DVDs in particular, the level of digital noise with this source is somewhat higher than it is on the other LCD products in this group.

The key competitive advantage offered by the Cinema 1080 UB is a bright and well balanced image that is great with some amount of ambient light. Since a large percentage of the home cinema audience has no ability or interest in setting up a darkened room as a dedicated theater, the Cinema 1080 UB is well designed as an attractive solution for the larger consumer audience.


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Review Contents: Intro and BenQ W5000 Epson HC 1080UB Mitsubishi HC5500 Panasonic PT AE2000
  Sanyo Z2000

Buy the BenQ W5000 online here:

 

Buy the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 UB online here:

 

Buy the Mitsubishi HC5500 online here:

 

Buy the Panasonic PT-AE2000U online here:

 

Buy the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 online here: